Dishonored 2, the stealth action game from Arkane coming November 11th, solves one of the things I struggled with most in the 2012 original: The feeling that I was playing it wrong by actually using all the clever, gruesome tools at my disposal. This was partly due to the built-in morality system, which conditions you to approach combat with stealth and restraint, lest the dark Dickensian game world devolve into a hazardous, plague-ridden clusterfuck. Also, there's the not-so-minor fact that you're mostly fighting human people whose lives you can actually peek into using the Heart, one of the many mystic artifacts at your disposal.
Dishonored 2's solution, or at least part of it, is simple and ingenious: robots. They're referred to in-game as "Clockwork Soldiers" by mad scientist Kirin Jindosh, and you can annihilate them without paying a karmic fine or feeling like a homicidal monster. In fact, these spindly, scissor-handed horrors of steel and hardwood will completely dismantle you given half a chance. So you should not feel bad. You can witness this sort of slaughter in the video above.
I got to play a single level of Dishonored 2 at an event this week: the Clockwork Mansion, home to the deranged Jindosh. The object is to kill or capture him, and, if you want, rescue a returning co-star from the original Dishonored. The mission is unique to the series in that there's no pretense of infiltration. The big bad Jindosh knows you're there and knows what you want, and as you creep through his lair's baroque, ever-shifting floorplan (think Chris Nolan's Inception with cogs and wheels), his chilling commentary keeps you constant company. He doesn't give away your position, but he delights as you run into the obstacles he's laid. On top of his Clockwork Soldiers, these include Dishonored's dreaded, insta-death walls of light, and the numerous, hapless human guards that you can't help but feel a little sorry for.
Emily and Corvo, both of Dishonored 2's super-powered playable protagonists, were available for the mission, each with their own load-out of supernatural abilities. Corvo's selection was straight out of the first Dishonored. Emily's were all new, though as a Dishonored vet, their applications felt second nature. Given that this was a preview event and there were no consequences, I employed them all to vile ends. My transgressions were numerous. Among other things, they include:
– Disabling a robot with a stun mine and stabbing him right in the groin.
– Linking the consciousness of two aristocrats via Emily's "Domino" power and sedating them with a poisoned crossbow bolt, administered to the head.
– And, somewhat puzzlingly, instantaneously killing a distracted guard by shooting her in the knee.
Co-director Harvey Smith said in an interview that the moral disposition of the people you kill in Dishonored 2 would influence exactly how your karmic scales tip – that this time around, you should actually pay heed to the Heart's mutterings. I knew this going in, but yet in the heat of things, it didn't occur to me once to break out the Heart and take a target's measure. I guess it goes to show.
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