A fledgling franchise is launched with high hopes of not only reaping monetary gains, but also pleasing it's fan base and garnering a following that is excited for future installments that may come. In today's environment, it's rare to see a game developed as a “one-off”, the hope is always for a sequel to come, or indeed a prequel, however sometimes they fall flat and fail to live up to the magic that the initial game captured.
Which leads us to Dishonored; a stealth action-adventure game that was released in 2012. In brief, this game was a huge success. Its emphasis on player choice was one of its key reasons for being so popular; missions could be completed by a variety of methods, from stealth to all out rip-n-tear, it was completely up to you. Each level felt vast as well, with a singular narrative that drove the story on and kept up the intrigue. Coupled with a unique visual style that borrowed from elements of steam punk as well as more modern and quirky technological developments, the game really set itself apart from others on the market.
With any sequel, you expect tweaks to be made to how the game feels and operates, usually for the better. With Dishonored 2, there was one big alteration; protagonist choice. You could return as the familiar masked avenger from the first game, or play as his daughter, which opened up entirely new possibilities. Straight away, this is “sequelling” done correctly; the game has given the player an opportunity to keep things familiar, with the offering of the original hero, but also subtly edges you out of your comfort zone towards the new, female and younger character, who opens up an entire new world of powers and exploration. This also provides another great bonus; replay-ability. Now, there is a genuine reason to replay the game; seeing the action from another perspective, with entirely new powers. It's rare in today's age that a game has an honest reason for visiting again, but here, it's more than merited, and that's again offered with the “New Game +” mode, which enables you to start a fresh game at an increased difficulty, but with all powers acquired, offering another fresh challenge. There also felt a bigger emphasis on stealth in the second iteration; there's a whole ream of different variations of nonlethal options in combat. Drop headbutts, slide chokes, parry chokes, all very useful and not present in its predecessor.
With any sequel, usually the expectation is to be bigger and better and this again, is where Dishonored 2 shines. The vast levels are packed with enemies, secrets, fun Easter eggs and more, giving a full and complete experience. The content on offer is really extended from the first game and this includes how the enemies are scattered around and react to you. I personally found it much harder to sneak through areas than I did in the first game and to that end the A.I. feels a lot more intelligent and harder to trick, which is a good thing. In keeping with Dishonored, each level felt enclosed in it's own right, yet part of a wider world. This helps develop the story but also keep things relevant in the moment, you never feel rushed and can explore every nook and cranny in order to gather upgrades and loot. The game encourages this too, with new “bonecharms” that offer unique abilities and allowing for further customization and benefits. Then when you add in the new mechanic of bonecharm crafting (optional, but well worth it), I can safely say that it will be unlikely any two players will have identical character builds, which again really helps the game stand out and provide that replay value that is so hard to capture.
Apart from the aforementioned heroes, there are new enemies and characters to interact with in the second game. “Bloodflies” are some of the most horrifying creatures I've ever seen in a game, their presence filled me with dread the moment they burst onto my screen and what's more; they're deadly if not treated with caution. One stand out enemy in the first game were the “Tall Boys”, who unfortunately did not make a return in the second game. However, their spiritual successors, the Clockwork Soldiers surpassed them with their gangling, haphazard and almost deliberate awkwardness. They really felt like a threat and posed a huge threat, no matter which kind of run (stealth or otherwise) you were completing. Circling back to our hero from the original, Corvo, he was given a gruff “hero voice” this time around. I honestly preferred the silent and strong approach he was given in the first game and to this end, moments felt bigger with him, such as when his mask is taken off to reveal his identity to the Lord Regent.
With the way Dishonored 2 builds upon the foundations laid down by the first game, this is another sequel that does the job correctly. It made everything more spectacular, bigger and intricate and added some seriously impressive replay values, such as the dual protagonists and New Game + mode. This is an example of how to do sequels and I'm eagerly awaiting the next installment of the franchise.