Breaking Down The New And Enhanced Powers Of Dishonored 2
With a steadfast dedication to the principles of simulation gameplay, Dishonored encouraged players to experiment with the vast array of superpowers it put at their fingertips. The complex ballet of interconnected systems gave players the flexibility to move through game spaces as they saw fit, taking lives at liberty, avoiding confrontation altogether, or liberally mixing play styles.
Dishonored 2 builds off this foundation, enabling player creativity with a bevy of new and enhanced powers that continually challenge the boundaries Arkane Studios creates for its world. “One of our favorite moments in development is when either someone in the game-design team or someone on the QA team comes forward and says, ‘Do you know what I did today?’ and you hadn’t thought of it,” says creative director Harvey Smith. “Then we have to decide whether to bulletproof it or further support it, but those combinatorial mechanics that can be put together in ways that are creative for the player; it’s just something that you should be able to do in games, and it’s one of our goals.”
Countless YouTube videos showcase the beautiful ballet of destruction possible for those who master the supernatural abilities, but players who preferred stealth felt limited in their approach. With Dishonored 2, Arkane wants to make sure you feel powerful regardless of your strategy.
“Last time, the non-lethal play was something that came through development, and we embraced it,” says lead designer Dinga Bakaba. “This time we knew from the start, so there is a lot of non-lethal options. I think it’s really cool because it makes you feel like some kind of Batman.”
Players also have more agency over how their powers evolve over the course of the game thanks to a new system that offers more than one upgrade to each of the abilities.
“After talking to thousands of Dishonored players over the past few years, one of the things we really wanted to do was branch out all of the powers into a tree so if you are a non-lethal player you can take the power and express in the direction of non-lethal or stealth,” Smith says. “Every tree is different. Some go in a straight line and then branch. Some fan out wide.”
Read further for a closer look at the powers bestowed to Dishonored 2’s two playable characters.
Marked by The Outsider, Emily Kaldwin is granted supernatural powers to use in her quest to take back the throne of Dunwall. While she shares some abilities with her father, Corvo, the majority of her powers are brand new to the series.
When Arkane started Dishonored 2, it didn’t begin with the idea of making a unique navigational alternative to Corvo’s Blink skill. But as it tinkered with Far Reach, it realized the supernatural grappling hook bestowed to Emily could double as a creative movement mechanic.
This ability is a bit more versatile, but not as instantly powerful as Blink. The skill is not a teleportation power; you must physically grab something to pull Emily toward it. Emily zips across the screen quickly when moving, but enemies can still spot her during transit so you need to time your movements carefully. “For people who played the first Dishonored, there is an adaptation time,” Bakaba says. Smart players will survey their surroundings to find exit strategies should their cover get blown; since you can’t Blink out of sight, you may have to use Far Reach three or four times to lose your pursuers.
Far Reach isn’t just a movement mechanic. Players can upgrade the power to grab items and pull them to Emily, making scouring a room for items a much faster experience. Emily can also turn this power on its head and move out of the way when the grabbed item is hurling toward her to target an enemy instead. We saw this move during the demo when Emily flung an explosive canister of whale oil at a guard. Upgrade the power enough, and you can eventually pull enemies toward you to either use as a human shield or for a quick assassination.
Crowd control is a lifesaver when moving through an environment packed with guards. Emily’s Mesmerize skill essentially puts enemies in a distracted dream state. Though unaffected characters can’t see it, the world tears open in front of the target to reveal a vision so powerful it stops them in their tracks and garners their complete attention. “It’s like an unspeakable horror is happening to them, but they kind of like it,” Smith says. As they stare into the void, the characters will make strange remarks.
Stealth-oriented players can use Mesmerize to move through busy rooms undetected, or those with bloodlust can take advantage of the distraction to quickly assassinate the enemies. Upgrades allow the power to affect up to four targets at once.
Another skill with crowd control applications, Domino is the most impressive new power we saw during the Dishonored 2 demo. This skill allows you to link the fates of multiple characters together, and whatever you do to one character then affects the others in the same way. The more upgraded the power, the more targets you can link together.
During our demo, Bakaba linked four guards together, set an arc mine, and then drew one guard over to its vicinity. When the mine exploded, all four enemies hit the ground instantly.
“I think Domino is one of the most open-ended powers,” Bakaba says. “It's also a QA nightmare, as you can imagine.”
Another versatile power with lots of applications, Shadow Walk allows Emily to transform into a much smaller, shadow-like entity that is much harder for enemies to spot in the world. While using the power, Emily moves much closer to the ground, and can whisk through small openings similar to when Corvo possesses a rat.
Making a lethal strike cancels Shadow Walk, but using it strategically to eliminate a particularly threatening target can greatly aid your cause. As you upgrade the power, you can gain the ability to make more than one lethal strike before the power cancels out.
We didn’t see this Emily power in action during the demo, but Bakaba alluded to it when referencing the combinatorial possibilities the new powers afford.
Doppelganger creates a clone of Emily she can use for misdirection. But its most interesting application we know about is using this power in tandem with Domino. If you tie several enemies together and link them to your doppelganger, you could kill or incapacitate your clone to remove the threats. This even works against elite guards.
Read on to learn about Corvo's supernatural enhancements.
The grizzled lead character from Dishonored returns as a playable option in the sequel, but don’t expect to start the game with all the powers you ended up with last game. Though Arkane wouldn’t divulge specifics, something happens to Corvo that causes his powers to essentially reset, so you must relearn these deepened and extended powers. “Playing Corvo feels like going home in a way,” Smith says.
Corvo’s teleportation power is back, but with a few new applications to make it more dynamic.
Those who played the Knife of Dunwall remember that Daud had a modified version of Blink that allowed him to freeze time as long as he wasn’t moving. This is one of the upgrade paths players can take with Corvo’s powers.
Arkane also added some combat upgrades for Blink. One permutation allows you to use your momentum from a teleportation to attack an enemy by violently kicking him forward. You can also assassinate enemies through windows or over ledges using the power.
Dark Vision returns as a power for both Corvo and Emily, but it looks different this time around. Arkane’s art team worked to find colors that made gameplay elements pop while avoiding invasive elements that make it feel less like you’re a Navy SEAL using night vision.
Arkane also changed how the power works. Now when you activate Dark Vision it sends out three pulses eight seconds apart. When you move the next pulse happens from your new location, so the spheres can overlap. This gives you a larger snapshot of what is going on around you.
Karnaca isn’t suffering from a plague like Dunwall was in Dishonored, but Corvo preserves his ability to sic packs of rats onto enemies. The swarm consumes bodies completely, leaving no messy cleanup after a kill. This is important if you want to keep bloodfly populations low in Karnaca, as they lay eggs in corpses. Because bloodflies treat corpses as hosts, they are openly hostile to rats and will attack them on sight.
In Dishonored 2, you can upgrade the power to have a larger swarm or even wield two devastating swarms at once.
This supernatural ability allows Corvo to possess animals and eventually humans in Dishonored. Clever players eventually learned the power could be used unconventionally as an escape tactic, jumping off a building and quickly possessing a pedestrian walking on the street to break the fall. Dishonored 2 introduces some new variations to give the power more applications.
Skill-tree options include again upgrading Possession to take over humans or increasing the duration of the possession. The most notable enhancement is the ability to chain possessions together, allowing Corvo to jump from one host to another in quick succession. Another upgrade allows Crovo to possess a dead body, which could be a great way to lose a tail or gain a new perspective on a room.
One of the most powerful abilities in Dishonored allowed Corvo to temporarily slow or halt time. Players could use this to set up attacks, disappear from view of enemies after spotted, and slip past dangerous checkpoints undetected. With Dishonored 2, the team wants to give players more flexibility in how it operates.
“We found before that if you had Bend Time level one it just slowed things down, which was this cool kind of ballet of motion,” Smith says. “Bend Time II was much more useful, as it stopped time altogether. But sometimes you wish that you could still advance it a little.”
One of the upgrades in Dishonored 2 allows you to advance time a little bit as you go. We saw this ability combined with Devouring Swarm to make an enemy disappear in record time.
Visit the Dishonored 2 cover story hub by clicking on the link below to read more about Arkane's highly anticipated sequel.