Dis­hon­ored 2 PC, PS4, Xbox One

How Arkane is build­ing a new world of su­per­nat­u­ral as­sas­si­na­tion


De­vel­oper Arkane Stu­dios

Pub­lisher Bethesda Soft­works

For­mat PC, PS4, Xbox One

Ori­gin France

Re­lease Nov 11

Kar­naca isn’t Dun­wall. Dis­hon­ored 2’ s new city is part Barcelona, part Ha­vana, and – thanks to Arkane’s still-ex­tra­or­di­nary art di­rec­tion – part it­self. The first game’s rain-slicked dock­lands and sheer im­pe­rial palaces have been traded for tall, sun-baked ter­races and colo­nial man­sions nestled in thick trees. Kar­naca sits in a bay in the shadow of a moun­tain, and your first view of it comes from the sea, from the dock of an old iron­clad ship, the Dread­ful Wale, which forms your head­quar­ters be­tween each mis­sion.

As an out­post of Dun­wall, how­ever, Kar­naca fea­tures a few of the same faces. You’ll en­counter fa­mil­iarly thick-set guards, this time in ser­vice to the Grand Duke of Serkonos. These colo­nial sol­diers wear short­sleeved mil­i­tary shirts, be­tray­ing deep, an­gry­look­ing tan lines. Dis­hon­ored 2 re­tains its pre­de­ces­sor’s eye for de­tail, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to faces, bod­ies and fashion. A new en­gine en­ables a new level of de­tail, and this new place en­ables a greater di­ver­sity of eth­nic­ity, gen­der and cul­ture.

This is re­flected in the two pro­tag­o­nists. At the be­gin­ning of Dis­hon­ored 2 you’ll play as Em­press Emily Kald­win in Dun­wall – she was ten years old in the first game and is now 25. Af­ter some­thing goes dra­mat­i­cally and vi­o­lently wrong, she’ll find her­self fight­ing back to back with Corvo At­tano, the first game’s lead. You’ll then pick which char­ac­ter you’d like to con­tinue play­ing as, and that’s who you’ll be for the rest of the game. They un­der­take the same mis­sions and en­counter the same over­ar­ch­ing plot, but pro­vide dif­fer­ing ap­proaches and themes. Cre­ative di­rec­tor Har­vey Smith de­scribes

Dis­hon­ored 2 as the “sec­ond half of the orig­i­nal story”, the cul­mi­na­tion of the events that started when Emily’s mother was as­sas­si­nated. He ex­plains that the char­ac­ters present at that cru­cial mo­ment are a fam­ily unit – Dis­hon­ored 2 makes it ex­plicit from the out­set that Corvo is Emily’s fa­ther, some­thing that was heav­ily im­plied in the first game. Here, Corvo is “a man com­ing home”, as Smith puts it. Kar­naca is his home­land and he’s getting old. Emily, by con­trast, is ex­plor­ing both parts of her le­gacy, Em­press and su­per­nat­u­ral as­sas­sin, for the first time. Both leads are now fully voiced – Emily by Erica Lut­trell and Corvo by Stephen Rus­sell, the orig­i­nal Gar­rett in the Thief series. “We were com­mit­ted to Emily up front,” Smith tells us, “but we had a nostal­gia for Corvo. We wanted to give him a voice and see what he was like.”

The mis­sion we’re shown takes place in the Dust District, a part of the city that sits at the end of the Wind Cor­ri­dor. This is a huge cleft in the moun­tain that chan­nels wind – and dust from the sil­ver mines – out over the bay. The Dust District, as you might have in­ferred, is choked by it. Huge wooden wind­break­ers line the out­sides of build­ings

while mas­sive el­e­vated pipes rat­tle in the sky above. This is more than an en­vi­ron­men­tal de­tail: it’s key to the way the mis­sion plays. Fre­quent, pro­ce­du­rally gen­er­ated dust storms sweep through the area her­alded by a dis­tant horn. When a storm hits, vis­i­bil­ity is re­duced and sound is muf­fled, both help­ing and hin­der­ing your in­fil­tra­tion at­tempt.

Each mis­sion will have a con­ceit like this, Smith says, and each will pro­vide the op­por­tu­nity to play en­tirely non-lethally. In the Dust District, for ex­am­ple, you have two tar­gets – a church Overseer and a gang leader. The two fac­tions are at war, the map divided be­tween their re­spec­tive strongholds and the no-man’s-land be­tween them. Both have the in­for­ma­tion you need, but how you get it is up to you. In the first in­stance, Emily in­fil­trates the church, kills the Overseer and car­ries his body to gang ter­ri­tory. This al­lows her safe pas­sage to her other tar­get, who trades the body for the in­for­ma­tion she needs. In an­other ap­proach, Corvo takes the war in the opposite di­rec­tion.

The pro­tag­o­nists have dif­fer­ent pow­ers, but nei­ther is more weighted to­wards a par­tic­u­lar ap­proach than the other. Corvo has most of the same abil­i­ties as in the first game, though they fit into a new up­grade sys­tem that al­lows for branch­ing cus­tomi­sa­tion. He can leap from pos­sess­ing one per­son or an­i­mal di­rectly into an­other, for in­stance, and can also pos­sess flies for greater mo­bil­ity.

Emily, how­ever, plays in an al­most en­tirely new way. In­stead of Corvo’s point-to-point tele­por­ta­tion power, Blink, she has Far Reach – a longer grap­ple that al­lows her to pull her­self to dis­tant spots. It’s more than a cos­metic dis­tinc­tion. Far Reach is phys­i­cal in a way that Blink isn’t; grab­bing a part of the scenery and pulling your­self to­wards it con­serves mo­men­tum, al­low­ing you to tran­si­tion into leaps, slides and drop take­downs. It can also be used to grab items, pull en­e­mies to­wards you, or to fling ob­jects back over your head to­wards pur­suers.

Since Emily can’t pos­sess an­i­mals, her stealthy move­ment op­tions are very dif­fer­ent to Corvo’s. Shadow Walk al­lows her to trans­form into a ten­tac­u­lar smoke form to crawl down walls and un­der ob­sta­cles. In this mode she can also per­form dis­mem­ber­ments rem­i­nis­cent of The Dark­ness. Her other of­fen­sive pow­ers are more sub­tle: Domino al­lows her to ‘link’ char­ac­ters so that what hap­pens to one hap­pens to the lot of them, while Mes­merise cre­ates an oth­er­worldly obelisk that en­trances guards. Us­ing Dop­pel­ganger she can cre­ate a full du­pli­cate of her­self, which can ul­ti­mately be up­graded to fight on her be­half. As ever with Dis­hon­ored, it’s the free­dom to com­bine abil­i­ties that makes them ex­cit­ing. Smith gives the ex­am­ple of the cor­nered player who, as Emily, cre­ated a wounded dop­pel­ganger of her­self. She then linked the dop­pel­ganger to her pur­suers via Domino be­fore slit­ting the dop­pel­ganger’s throat to kill all of them at once.

In ad­di­tion to these new at­tack­ing op­tions, it should be eas­ier to take a non-lethal ap­proach. In the first game, getting seen meant ei­ther los­ing your pur­suer or killing them. Now, there’ll be ways to sub­due guards through com­bat – a hu­man-shield grab that tran­si­tions into a choke, and a non-lethal vari­ant on the drop as­sas­si­na­tion that lands knee-first rather than sword-first.

The Chaos sys­tem – which al­ters the world and the story based on the vi­o­lence of your ac­tions – will work in much the same way, but will be less pun­ish­ing for these ad­di­tions. Arkane wants Dis­hon­ored to be ul­ti­mately a game about deal­ing with the con­se­quences of your ac­tions but is happy to pro­vide more tools to give play­ers op­tions in that re­gard. “My favourite player is not the one who gets it per­fectly,” says lead de­signer

Dinga Bak­aba. “My favourite player is the one who im­pro­vises when he fails.”

Arkane’s ap­proach to this se­quel is less about cor­rect­ing mis­takes and more about build­ing on a now-proven for­mula. If the first game rep­re­sented a com­mer­cial risk – a new, idio­syn­cratic world sup­port­ing a com­plex, sys­tems-driven game – then Dis­hon­ored 2 is what hap­pens when such a risk pays off. Kar­naca isn’t Dun­wall – it’s what the peo­ple who made Dun­wall made next.

It’s less about cor­rect­ing mis­takes and more about build­ing on a proven for­mula


Har­vey Smith, cre­ative di­rec­tor

Corvo At­tano re­tains the pow­ers that de­fined him in the first game, but ben­e­fits from new up­grades. In ad­di­tion, Arkane has re­visted all of these old abil­i­ties to iron out long-stand­ing bugs and re­li­a­bil­ity is­sues

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