Rating: M for Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, and Suggestive Themes
Available for: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
This post will contain spoilers for a Low Chaos!Emily playthrough of Dishonored 2. I have not yet played Corvo’s route, so opinions in this post will be without whatever knowledge comes in that playthrough. For that reason also, no Corvo spoilers in the comments please! I’ll make a post for his story once I’ve finished that route.
Arkane Studios’ Dishonored 2 (2016) picks up 15 years after the ending of Dishonored, with Emily Kaldwin seated firmly on the throne and her father Corvo as Royal Protector. Upon the anniversary of her mother’s death, Emily is suddenly usurped by a woman claiming to be her long lost aunt, Delilah. Depending on who you choose to play as, either Emily or Corvo will be forced to flee from Dunwall and escape to Karnaca, located in the southernmost isle of the empire and Corvo’s birth city. As you progress through the game, your chosen protagonist will take down Delilah’s closest associates before returning to Dunwall to take back the throne.
Something that immediately stands out upon playing Dishonored 2 is the new voice acting for the protagonists. This gives Corvo and Emily the opportunity to react to the world around them and truly gives a perspective on their personalities. I’m not yet sure if this is the case for Corvo, but Emily also has a journal where she gives further commentary on her situation and how she feels about the decisions she’s made. The first Dishonored game put a lot of the story and focus on the characters surrounding Corvo, but here, Dishonored 2 brings the focus back to the protagonist, allowing them to have their own character arc and development.
Sequels tend to come with a nostalgia attached to them, particularly for the characters who make returning appearances. Along with that, there’s a nostalgic purity that latches onto these characters, if you remember them fondly. Dishonored 2 doesn’t give you the opportunity to settle into that position. When we last saw Emily, she was a young girl placed in a terrible situation but still kind and good and with a determined mischievous streak. Now, 15 years later, we start seeing flaws in her character and how she has decided to rule over the Empire, or her lax rule as it were. Through an early conversation with Corvo and reading through letters in Emily’s safe room, you start finding that Emily is doing everything she can to avoid the title and responsibilities she holds. Newspapers reveal that it has not passed the Empire’s attention, either. These real consequences result in a great setup for her character arc.
Naturally, Emily is eager to take back her throne and save her father, but she soon realizes it won’t be just a matter of taking back her throne but proving to her people that she is worthy of having the throne back in the first place. One particular journal entry indicates Emily’s exact concerns over the matter as she worries that Delilah might make a better Empress than her and might be worthier of the position. Throughout her journey, Emily comes face-to-face with the hardships the people of the Empire face in their daily lives and some of the injustices her targets have brought upon the people with their positions of nobility. She is quick to condemn them, but other characters are just as quick to remind her that she let these injustices slide when she was on the throne.
Dualities of revenge and redemption play a lot into the story of Dishonored 2, with Emily’s non-lethal options involving either bestowing retribution or in some cases, a chance at redemption. Dr. Hypatia is an example of one such case of redemption (the allusion to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was not lost on me), where the non-lethal option allows you to cure her of her condition and help her to return to her work. Contrarily, Breanna Ashworth is not granted such forgiveness, her non-lethal option will strip her of her magical abilities and her connection to Delilah. The game seems to take on a trend that some are worthy of forgiveness while others will receive a harsh punishment for their crimes, and at first glance, you would expect that Delilah would fall into the latter category. Delilah, who has committed no small list of crimes in order to see and rule the world as she wanted it, does end up getting some of what she wanted in the end. A non-lethal option will trap Delilah in an alternate world where she is respected and adored by the people of the Empire. It would seem surprising that Emily would give this to a woman who all but destroyed everything, but Emily’s Low Chaos personality seems to be far more forgiving in regards to some cases.
I absolutely loved Dishonored 2. I didn’t know how much the voice acting would add to the overall story, but it did so very much. It was a joy to watch Emily’s character grow as she realized her own flaws and set out to correct them all while fighting for her throne. Playing her perspective seemed so personalized to her arc, so I’m eager to find what the story has in store for Corvo as well. I highly recommend both Dishonored and Dishonored 2 to anyone who hasn’t played before.