The GG series, published weekly, highlights Good Games everyone should play at least once, with links out to fantastic writing. GG #1, on Hades (2020 — PC, Switch), is here.
I panicked last month when I saw that Dishonored 2 (2016, PC, Xbox One, PS4) was leaving the Xbox Games Pass, halfway into my first-ever play-through of it. But then Microsoft, which makes the Xbox, bought Arkane Studios, which makes Dishonored. That apparently means Dishonored 2 will stay on the Games Pass for a while longer, perhaps even forever, and that’s a wonderful thing, because it’s possibly the best assassin game ever made.
What is it?
A supernatural assassin game with massive, intricate maps. As either Empress Emily Kaldwin or her father Corvo Attano — they both have different magical powers — you’re dropped into a level and given objectives, which usually involve killing specific targets. How you make it happen, and how you take out the dozens of enemies guarding your objective, is up to you: You can go in all stealthy, back-stabbing and retreating to the shadows, you can rush your targets blasting shotguns and throwing sticky grenades, or you can call in a plague of rats to devour your foes.
What makes it so good?
First, the freedom of the levels. They’re full of secret passages and rooftop routes to new areas, and the abandoned rooms, houses, and vaults hide upgrades for your powers. Sneaking past enemies, or murdering your way through them, to reach these power-ups is a compelling puzzle in itself, and upgrading changes your abilities in meaningful ways, making you feel like you’re constantly becoming a better assassin.
Second, the flexibility of your powers. The staple is a teleportation-style ‘blink’ that lets you cross gaps and reach new heights, but at the more complex end, Corvo can bend time, and Emily can link enemies, chaining their fates together, so that if she kills one, they all die. With a full arsenal of upgraded powers, a room of enemies becomes your twisted playground: Get an enemy to shoot you, pause time, possess a different enemy, and walk them in front of the bullet, before un-pausing time to watch the friendly fire unfold.
And third, while I haven’t been blown away by the story, the world is genuinely interesting to learn about. Little details in the environment — the graffiti scribbled on walls, the whales being harvested for their oil in the docks, the letters to loved ones left on decaying dressers — make it believable, and it means you want to press on and find out more.
Where can I buy it?
If you want to play it on PC or Xbox One, my advice is just to subscribe to the Xbox Games Pass collection of 200+ games, which, depending on what version you get, is around £10 / $15 a month — but you can get your first month for £1 / $1 here. If you want to actually, you know, own it for good, it’s less than £10 / $10 for the Xbox One version on Amazon, or £10 / $14 at Green Man Gaming for PC.
(If you don’t know much about the Game Pass, read my colleague Ben Gilbert’s piece here on why it’s the best option for streaming games).
On PS4, you can get it for around £14 / $16 on Amazon, or a little more on the PlayStation Store.
Extra life… (bonus questions and links to brilliant writing)
Best power in the game?
Emily’s Domino, the one that links enemies together. It creates funny, creative moments, like this.
I’ll be boring and say the one everyone always says: Clockwork Mansion, a big house in which rooms transform when you pull levers. I don’t want to ruin it by saying more, but check out the ‘Y’ article below if you don’t mind spoilers.
Links to great writing about Dishonored 2:
X: Kirk McKeand (@MckKirk) for Eurogamer on how Dishonored 2 hides its best details in the periphery.