It’s all part of Arkane’s goal to empower players to take an improvisational approach to almost any situation in Dishonored 2. "We’re not just setting up a room-hallway-room-hallway situation where a player follows along a beaten path and at the right moment they see a particular scripted scene and they get to the end of the game just like everyone else,” says Creative Director Harvey Smith. "We set up a space – above them, behind them, to the sides of them, in front of them – and try to simulate as much of it as possible. Then we try to give the player enough ‘flexible verbs,’ and turn them loose to play at their own pace.”
With Dishonored 2 releasing globally on November 11 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, here’s a sneak peek at some of the new customization options in the game.
Playing With Powers
In Dishonored 1, you took on the role of Corvo Attano, the Royal Protector who was framed for the assassination of Empress Jessamine Kaldwin. Early in the game, Corvo is marked by the Outsider and granted supernatural powers. You could then customize your experience by using Runes to purchase additional powers and upgrades.
In Dishonored 2, one of the first choices you’ll make is whether to play as Corvo or Empress Emily Kaldwin. While Emily has her own set of unique powers – offering a completely novel experience – Corvo also has something new to offer. "We not only wanted to see Corvo’s original powers come to life in our new engine,” says Lead Designer Dinga Bakaba. "We also focused on developing interesting tweaks or improvements to every single one of them.”
These improvements come in the form of a full upgrade tree (in contrast to a single upgrade for each power). "We did a lot of brainstorming about how we would upgrade the powers, how we wanted to see them change and evolve,” Smith says. "Take a power like Possession, which was a fan favorite from Dishonored 1. It allows the player to get into a lot of trouble and approach situations in a lot of interesting ways.” In Dishonored 2, Corvo can now upgrade this ability so he can possess sleeping people, or possess corpses, or chain from possession to possession. "We’ve gone deeper on the upgrade tree,” Smith continues. "So players who like that power from Dishonored 1 are really going to love it in Dishonored 2.”
Same goes for Emily, who also has full upgrade trees for her powers. "It’s not only about expanding the powers, but expanding them in ways that are fun – that allow for creative play,” Bakaba says. One example that Bakaba shared: He’s seen playtesters upgrade Domino – which links together the fates of two characters – so they can connect multiple characters, then summon a Doppelganger, link their own double to several enemies, and kill their Doppelganger to take out their foes. "It’s mind-blowing what our playtesters have already done with her powers,” Bakaba laughs.
Also noteworthy: While some powers roughly correlate to each other (Emily’s Far Reach and Corvo’s Blink are both mobility powers, though they have some significant differences), most are unique to each character. Emily’s Domino, for example, is unlike anything in Corvo’s arsenal. She also has Mesmerize, which will put characters into a temporary stupor. While this one might seem similar to Corvo’s Bend Time (which slows and even stops time), the differences are substantial. "Whenever a character is out of the effect of Mesmerize, he loses his short-term memory,” Bakaba explains. "So he basically doesn’t even remember that he was in combat with you one second before. That’s not the case with Bend Time. You cannot erase people’s memory.”
Of course, those seeking a different kind of challenge can choose to have no powers at all – an option woven into the game’s story that’s triggered by refusing the Outsider’s gift. "You say no to the Outsider,” explains Level Design Director Christophe Carrier. "What does it mean for you? It means that you won’t have any powers throughout the game. And for us level designers, it means that you should be able to do everything the other guys could do with the powers, but it will be more difficult. You have to go through – or around – more enemies. Or you have to find a solution to a puzzle. Or you have to find hidden pathways. It was a very big challenge for us, but at the end of the day you can finish the game without any powers.”
Bonecharms also return from the first Dishonored. These carved pieces of whalebone are often carried by superstitious sailors as a means of protection – or just to keep them warm at night. But for Corvo or Emily, Bonecharms have real power. And now, in Dishonored 2, those powers have been extended and enhanced as well.
"We really like Bonecharms as a small way to add to your character,” Smith says. "Let’s say you find yourself swimming a lot, or you possess animals, or you like to leap onto people from great heights. However you play, whatever you find yourself doing a lot, there’s generally a Bonecharm you can find that will augment it.”
New to Dishonored 2 is Bonecharm crafting – an ability you can purchase with Runes you acquire in the world. "Bonecharm crafting isn’t available by default,” Bakaba explains. "So investing in crafting – or not – is yet another character customization choice.”
"You can acquire Bonecharms in the world, sacrifice them, and then use the raw whalebone and the traits to make your own,” Smith explains. "Some of them are quite powerful, especially if you put them in combination with other Bonecharms and the powers that you’ve upgraded.”
While you can harvest only one trait from each Bonecharm, you can eventually upgrade your crafting skills so you can create Bonecharms with up to four traits – including the option to stack the same trait. "You can make Bonecharms that are really cool and complement the way you play,” Smith says. Plus, if you upgrade your gear, you can carry more Bonecharms, giving you additional flexibility to enhance your playstyle – even swapping out Bonecharms as needed when facing specific situations.
Just be warned: Depending on how you craft your Bonecharms, you might end up with a Corrupted Bonecharm, which will carry both positive and negative traits. Craft wisely – and be on the lookout for Black Bonecharms as well…
As before, you can upgrade your tools, weapons and gadgets. Your crossbow can become more powerful, or fire different bolts. You can extend the radius of your spring razor mine. You can invest in your boots to enhance your stealth. But Dishonored 2 also introduces a new level of upgrade: Masterworks.
First, though, you have to find the right Masterwork Blueprint. Then you’ll have a choice to make – and when it comes to the crossbow and pistol, these choices are unique for Emily or Corvo. For example, if you find the Masterwork Blueprint for Emily’s gun, you can upgrade it so it shoots with bursts of three bullets at a time – or you can make it fully automatic, so you’ll never have to reload. "You can actually turn it into a named weapon,” Bakaba says.
And if you find the same blueprint for Corvo’s gun, your choice is between a sniper rifle (scope and all) – or a short-range but powerful shotgun. "This time the final upgrade layer is unique to each character,” Bakaba says. "It’s a really interesting way to give them each their own personality.”