Dishonored was perhaps my favorite game on the Playstation 3. It’s one of few non-Nintendo games that I remember being really hyped about even from the trailer stage. My college roommate and I saw and advertisement for it and both talked about how awesome it looked. When I ended up being the one who got the game, after I finished it he played my copy. We both loved it as much as we expected. There are a lot of things that make Dishonored special – incredible lore that feels unique and original, the ability to approach challenges in varied ways – but for me one of my favorite things about the game was how cool I felt playing it. Stalking dudes in the shadows and taking them out unnoticed, warping out of sight just in the nick of time, using Dark Vision to analyze complex security systems and then rewiring them to serve me – the payoff of finding your strategy and implementing it to get around problems feels SO nice. When a second Dishonored was announced – one featuring one of my favorite characters from the game as the new protagonist – I could not wait for the release of the game.
Unfortunately, it wouldn’t take long for me to feel that my personal experience with Dishonored 2 was cursed.
For Christmas of 2016, my wife and I were gifted money by my family. We’d put a lot of games on our wish lists so everyone decided just to give us the cash and we could pick which ones we were most excited about. I placed an order from Amazon for Pokemon Moon for myself and Pokemon Sun for my wife, put in all our information, and hit send. Unfortunately I’d forgotten a game that my wife had asked me to order, so I created a new order for that game and then tagged Dishonored 2 along with it. I’d just put in all my info so I just did the one-click order and BAM, job was done.
The Pokemon games came to our apartment a week or so later with no issues. We continued to wait on the other games, and after a couple of days it seemed odd that they hadn’t arrived. I put that order in the same day, right? So I go to the tracking page on Amazon and imagine my surprise when it says that the package had been delivered. It obviously wasn’t in my mailbox, so where could it be?
Remember how during my second order I clicked the “one-click order” button? Turns out that even though I had updated our information during the first order, I hadn’t set our new address as the default address for my account. So my copy of Dishonored 2 and my wife’s copy of GTA V were sitting in a mailbox at our old house. The next day I called the post office, who said they would check and see if it was still in the mailbox and ask the new residents of the house if they had received a package meant for someone else. Long story short, Amazon couldn’t do anything because it was technically my fault that I sent the package to the wrong address and the post office couldn’t do anything if the people at the house claimed they didn’t get the package. So my first copy of Dishonored 2 never made it to me.
Skip ahead a few months. My wife and I are checking out some games at a local GameStop and see a couple that we’re interested in. Before purchasing them, I decide that I want to check their prices online – surely they’re cheaper on Amazon, right? They were, so I placed an order for the two games we’d decided on: inFamous Second Son and Dishonored 2. I made sure to manually enter my address information (even though after the last incident I had deleted all previous addresses) so that I wouldn’t have to worry about the games shipping to the wrong address.
Once again, the order tracking showed that the package had been delivered, yet I had no package. This time, the address information was correct. So I followed the steps on Amazon’s website. There are a certain number of hours you are supposed to wait before reporting an item as undelivered, just in case an error caused the notification to pop up too soon. You’re then supposed to check and see if the package was given to anyone nearby to hold for you. I checked with the landlord at my apartment and no, no package had been left with her to be given to me.
Turns out instead of trying to redeliver the package during a time when my wife and I were home, the Amazon delivery person had just left a package with two video games sitting outside of the door to my apartment. In the middle of a building where 12 other households live and walk by all the time. People we don’t know and have no meaningful relationship with. If you’re thinking “wow, that seems like a recipe for disaster,” you’d be right. I never saw that copy of Dishonored 2 either.
Luckily, Amazon was reasonable about the whole incident and refunded my payment in full. I purchased inFamous 2 digitally and placed one last order for Dishonored 2, this time having it delivered to my grandmother’s house. It was delivered there without incident and I finally got my hands on a copy of the game. I’d been burned a couple of times, though, and with a number of Switch games holding my attention at the time, it was only last week when I finally dusted off the cover and booted up the game.
I wish that I could tell you that my troubles were over. That the title of this post about me being “terrible at Dishonored 2” was simply referencing that I am terrible at purchasing and acquiring the game. But alas, that is not the tale I am here to tell. Instead, I’m here to tell you about how I have utterly failed to obtain that feeling of power and stealth that defined my experience with the first game.
With any new game you play (that doesn’t autosave near-constantly), it is common to have an experience that makes you rethink how rarely you save the game. For me, that happened during the game’s tutorial mission. Having decided to play a low chaos game in which I did not kill a single person, I made my way through Dunwall Tower while choking out every guard who got in my way. My first target, a guard captain by the name of Ramsey, had two elimination options: I could kill him, or I could lock his unconscious body into a well-protected safe room with rations for a full month while everyone tried to figure out how to get him out. I decided to lock him in the safe room. I knocked him out at the bottom of a staircase and carried him up to the next floor where the safe room was located. I unlocked the door, walked inside, and sat him down to seal the door shut again. Problem is, I hadn’t put him far enough away from the door, and as the bookcase sealed I heard a sickening crunch. Then a bloody little HUD icon popped up informing me that Ramsey had been “eliminated.”
Having not saved the game once, I had to restart the mission in order to undo his death.
Things didn’t go any more smoothly for me when I made my way towards Karnaca. While jumping into the water to pick up a hidden rune, I was eaten by piranhas not once, not twice, but four different times before I figured out how to get around their ugly mugs. I have been stabbed, shot, beaten, and eaten more times in just the first full chapter than I ever remember in the original game. It seems that a guard is waiting for me around every corner, and the powers I chose appear to be useless against their onslaught.
I don’t know how I get myself into these situations. While trying to get a particular rune on the Karnaca docks, I managed to get myself into a position where every exit was protected by guards. I had no way to get out of the space undetected, yet I had somehow managed to get into the space without anybody noticing. My spacial awareness is simply terrible. While trying to investigate the Addermire building, I used Far Reach to zip past a group of guards and accidentally smashed my face against a Wall of Light, dying instantly in a flash of electricity and red mist.
Now there are a few practical reasons why all of this might be happening. The first and perhaps most relevant reason is that I am playing this game a lot more haphazardly than I did the original. When I played Dishonored for the first time, I was in college. It was during the summer and Dishonored was the only new game I had to play. I had time to kill and the luxury of being patient – standing still for a few minutes to wait on a guard to disappear wasn’t an issue. Now, anytime the game isn’t actively in motion I can just feel the other games I own calling out to me: “why, Ian? Why are you sitting on a balcony watching this Overseer deliver a full-length sermon to a crowd of people when you could be playing with me instead?”
My second problem is poor Rune investment. In the original Dishonored, you had a limited selection of powers with only two tiers of advancement – the initial tier you purchased, and then a more capable version of the power. Additionally, during a low chaos playthrough of the game, many of the powers weren’t particularly relevant – you could totally ignore things like Windblast, Devouring Swarm, and Shadowkill because you’d never be using them. For something like 5-6 runes, I could be running around Dunwall with the fully-upgraded forms of both Blink and Dark Vision and easily stealth my way around most early challenges.
Dishonored 2 doesn’t work like that. Because this game has power options that are both more varied and have more tiers of capability, it takes a lot more runes to max them out. I have attempted to play this game the same way I played the first, focusing primarily on my Far Reach and Dark Vision and upgrading them as much as possible. That costs a total of 15 runes – almost 3 times the cost of the equivalent purchase in the first game. With many of those runes, I could have purchased new powers that gave me more creative options when dealing with enemies. While specialization over versatility may have served me in the past, it isn’t the most effective way to play Dishonored 2.
My final problem is perhaps a bit less practical than the others, but in this case it is no less relevant: I honestly think I am misremembering a bit of my experience with the first game. Or rather, I am remembering what it felt like when I finally succeeded but not so much focusing on all the mess-ups before that. Because in the few moments in Dishonored 2 so far where I did do something really cool, it made all of the mistakes that led up to that cool moment worth it. I felt like an action hero in Dishonored after I mastered the game mechanics, but BEFORE that I was blocking instead of attacking while trying to choke out guards and accidentally frying people with Arc Pylons during a no-kill run.
So that’s my story, adventurers. I think I may restart the game and make wiser decisions with the runes I collect, and perhaps if I’m still having trouble after that dial down the difficulty a bit. I’m curious now to hear from you: have you played Dishonored 2? Do you feel like it’s tougher for you than the first game was? Have you ever played a game where you feel like the world (or Amazon) is conspiring against you to prevent you from playing it? Let me know in the comments below!