Dishonored 2 Written Review

Truly great stealth games are few and far between. And for good reason. It’s essentially a genre about patience, with little room for procedural error. Fortunately, Dishonored 2 avoids these common pitfalls by placing player choice in the forefront of its design. Offering a myriad of exciting methods to complete a single objective. Combined with an enthralling revenge story and imaginative industrial world, Dishonored 2 is a rewarding multi-layered experience.

Taking place 15 years after the previous entry, Dishonored 2 continues the story of Royal Protector Corvo Attano, and his daughter, Empress Emily Kaldwin. The once chaotic capital of Dunwall has transformed into a peaceful city.  But Emily’s authority comes under question when Duke of Cercovos reveals the discovery of Delilah Copperspoon, sister of the previous Empress and rightful heir to the throne. With a successful coup ousting the former ruler, Emily and Corvo must embrace the dark supernatural powers of the void, to extract revenge of their conspirators and regain control of the crown.

Yes, that’s a lot of pronouns. But Dishonored’s economic storytelling quickly informers both fans and newcomers. Within the first cutscene, players are introduced to all of the game’s antagonists, setting the stage for the missions to come. But their personalities and backstories are further fleshed out as players invade their well defended sanctuaries. With plenty of scattered notes and background dialogue explaining their motivations. Building the anticipation of a face to face encounter. And always tying back into the central narrative.

Though this devotion to world building often leaves Emily and Corvo as blank slates. And while this certainly allows the audience to project themselves, the protagonists come off as circumstantial motivators rather than true characters.

But this approach does empower players to decide their own technique. Dishonored 2’s first person gameplay emphasises stealth, but outside of a few very select instances, there are no failure states. Feel like getting up close and personal? That works fine. Want to snipe guards from a distance? There’s nothing holding you back. Instead Dishonored offers two paths for success, a pacifistic style where enemies are knocked out, and a chaotic a style where opposing forces are brutally cut down. As a stealth games, reloading saves takes around 16 seconds. Not exactly an issues, but just long enough to be noticeable.

It’s remarkable is how balanced the gameplay is regardless of your preference. Providing enough challenges to overcome through vicious murder or restraint. Though the elimination of key targets is more satisfying in the non-violent method. Where powerful enemies are stripped of their most valuable possessions, leaving them broken and helpless.


But Dishonored’s most brilliant design choice comes in the form of the bone charms, selectable perks that influence your playstyle. And void powers. Where players are able to summon a swarm of vicious rats to consume soldiers, teleport high above the street to avoid detection, or temporarily identify threats through walls. And this is where character selection plays a key role, with Corvo and Emily featuring unique supernatural abilities.

For my first playthrough, I relied heavily on the Empress’ quick dash to navigate rooftops and perches, knocking out individual guards along the way. But in my ruthless replay, I resorted to Corvo’s barbaric wind powers to kill several enemies at once.

While the dialogue and cutscenes are nearly identical for both characters, the difference in capabilities and chosen method drastically altered my approach. There were a surprising amount of locations and side missions I only discovered in my second run, which were every bit as detailed as the direct path.

And exploration of the open labyrinthian stages is highly encouraged. Enhancing the void powers and acquiring new bone charms is only possible by tracking down and obtaining them throughout the large hub worlds. While their positions can be always be with seen a tap of a button, locating their exact spot is a fulfilling puzzle in and of itself.

This is largely due to the diverse environments. Gloomy hospitals, lush mansions, and haunting manors each feature their own vibrant color pallet, ranging from oppressive greys to inviting oranges. The impressive lighting engine allows for several fast moving creatures to alter shadows without dipping the 30 frames per second performance.

Though on occasion, I did notice some odd surrounding statistic and objects passing through solid matter. While the characters are well performed and designed, their stiff faces can be a bit distracting.

Still, the long draw distances from the city’s rooftops and real time environmental transformations more than make up for these small blemishes.

Dishonored 2’s doesn’t rely on consequence. If there’s door blocking your path, you can find another way or simply blast it down. In either situation, the result is largely the same. But it’s through this open model that players will find their own solutions, without having to compromise their chosen strategy.

Only the most diehard completionists will discover most of what Dishonored 2 has to offer. But even then, a second playthrough feels mandatory, with numerous opportunities to practice Corvos growing powers. Dishonored 2’s dedication to player empowerments keeps it’s gameplay fresh and revenge ever sweet.

Mafia 3 Written Review

Ah, the 1960’s. A time fondly recalled as a period of peace, love, and understanding. Mafia 3 paints a very different picture of the decade, with open racism, widespread corruption, and brutal street violence. It’s a game that eviscerates nostalgia, leaving only the cold, painful, issues of the day.

Taking place in 1968, decorated special forces soldier Lincoln Clay has just returned home from Vietnam. Uncertain of his future, he quickly resumes his working for his adopted father, before attracting the eye of the powerful Italian mafia. After turning down a generous offer from the  Marcono organization, the mob murderers his entire family, leaving Lincoln for dead. By a miracle, he survives, and immediately begins work on avenging his fallen friends.

Mafia 3’s gameplay is centered around a series of very simple and uneventful missions. To take down the mob, Lincoln will go after their sources of income. Each criminal racket is given a cash value, tasking Lincoln to destroy contraband, interrogate knowledgeable mobsters, and murder important figures. Once their resources have been dwindled the zero, a final mission is unlocked to take on a capo. There are brief moments of car and boat combat, which strangely enough, control the same, but vehicles are mostly used to drive to the next location without incident.

If that sounds dry and repetitive, it’s because it is. Mafia 3 unfortunately lacks structural diversity. The industries and final bosses are flat out interchangeable. At some points I completely forgot what black market I was taking over. There’s just nothing recognizable from one to the next.

Which is also a problem in the vehicle based side missions. Drive over there. Get the thing. Bring it back. Do it again.

But it’s saving grace comes from it’s sublime gunplay. Splattering brains and ripping abdominis are beautifully rendered in high impact animations. Precise pistols, powerful rifles, masochistic machine guns and gratuitous shotguns, cruelly cutting down those in your path. With molotov cocktails and grenades taking the overkill to a new high. Safely ducking from incoming bullets before exacting swift bloody revenge is grotesquely satisfying.

What’s interesting about Mafia 3’s generic objectives are the alternative methods of approach. As the story progresses, Lincoln will gain access to portable banks and weapons dealers, expanding his destructive arsenal and abilities, as well as hitmen to aid in the battle. Many of these are unlocked by doing favors for friendly syndicates, and dividing the obtained markets fairly.

One of my personal favorites are the silenced pistol and machine gun. Allowing for stealthy invasions and disturbingly efficacy knife takedowns.

Still, the majority of Mafia 3’s campaign a monotonous series of identical missions. And that’s a shame. Because the all too rare special story events highlight an unreached potential. Trudging through a spooky carnival at night and blasting back security in a bank heist, make breaking down rackets all the more dull.

It’s strange how little development is given to these capos, as there are a wealth of story beats and cut scenes for the rest of the ensemble. And these scenes are very well directed and performed, the extra attention given to facial reactions drives home the relationships and personalities of the characters.

Radio commercials and news broadcasts intermix real world events of the time with Lincoln’s recent activities, creating a believe, though more action driven world. And the soundtrack cleverly mixes black artists pop songs with with white rock bands. Such as The Supremes’ You Keep Me Hangin On and Vanilla Fudge’s cover of the same song.

Race and racism is a constant theme in Mafia 3, with plenty of racial and ethnic slurs pepper throughout. What’s fascinating is Lincoln Clay’s indifference towards the civil rights movement. While many others of all ethnic backgrounds comment on prejudice, Lincoln is solely focused on murdering the Marcono family. Even when faced against a representation of the KKK, Clay simply doles out vengeance as he did before.

Race is rarely in a topic and video games and fortunately Marfia 3’s smart dialogue and documentary style cut scenes give a proper context to the attitudes of the era.

Though it’s hard to take it’s story seriously when there are so many distracting visual hiccups. These become especially obvious while driving. New Bordoh, Louisiana is a fairly empty open world from a gameplay standpoint. But it’s faithful design of every district and wilderness environment is impressively realistic. That is until time and  weather conditions transform locations into a unrecognizable series of objects.

At it’s best, Mafia 3 looks fantastic. With weighty models, careful lighting, and authentic architecture. But more often than not, the strange use of brightness ruins the experience. With areas looking too dark or washed out to see. During sunrises and twilights, the entire screen takes on a bizarre orange glow. It’s shockingly problematic.

To be clear, this is a slight recommendation. Mafia 3 is an odd pairing of compelling characters and story with junk food gameplay. And while the gun mechanics and engaging story make it worth experiencing, the awkward visuals and limited activities are undeniably determinantal. But at it’s core, it’s a darn fun third person shooter.