‘Dishonored 2’ has flair
Sequel to the critically-acclaimed 2012 stealth adventure gem, “Dishonored 2” (Rated M) may be this year’s best game for straight-up imaginative flair. Set in a beautifully detailed world of steampunk intrigue, the “Dishonored” series has more original ideas per digital square-foot than any other franchise out there.
Players return to the crowded city of Dunwall, a grimy Victorian metropolis in some parallel-universe where magic is real and technology has spun off in strange new directions. This time around, players can choose to play as Corvo Attano, protagonist from the first game, or his daughter Emily, who has inherited dad’s proficiency with supernatural stealth. Each character has a unique set of abilities and the story line shifts dynamically with every choice you make.
The bulk of the new story takes place in the coastal city of Karnaca, a Mediterranean riff on the game’s alt-history themes. Once again, “Dishonored” gives the player plenty of choices in terms of both mechanics and morality. You can play through the entire story without killing anyone or anything, relying on sneakiness, dialogue and strategic thinking. Or you can go full frontal assault, employing a wide range of weapons both mechanical and magical.
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“Dishonored 2” ratchets up the fun in all directions, introducing new clockwork monstrosities and a never-ending procession of lethal traps, puzzles, obstacles and environments. Like the first game, the story moves through a linear sequence of levels, but each is designed to encourage exploration and experimentation.
Few other series blend story and gameplay this skillfully and “Dishonored 2” is the kind of game that can eat up those late-night hours. Plan accordingly.
A couple of odds and ends for the year: A few months back, developer Codemasters dropped “F1 2016” (Rated E), the latest iteration of the long-running Formula One racing simulator. This is a game that requires dedication, and for those very serious about their racing sims, general consensus is that it’s the best F1 title yet.
For casual gamers, the game is worth dipping into just to experience the state-of-the-art verisimilitude of high-end sim design. The physics engine on this thing is incredible, and by incredible I mean utterly unforgiving. Acceleration, braking and turning generate a sense of real inertia that you can feel in your stomach – a testament to how thoroughly the graphics (and sound) are tricking your brain.
The system also runs realistic background algorithms on fuel consumption, tire wear and track conditions. Push too hard early and you’ll be dealing with an empty tank or blown tires on those last laps. “F1 2016” is a nice game to keep on hand for dipping into now and again, when you feel the need for speed.
‘Really Bad Chess’
On the mobile tip, one of the year’s best and weirdest smartphone games is the aptly named “Really Bad Chess” (Rated 4+), which treats mankind’s most venerated strategy board game with total disrespect. It’s a lot of fun. The twist is simple enough: The game uses all the same rules as standard chess, but randomizes your starting pieces each time you play. You might get six bishops and three knights in one game, nine rooks and two pawns the next.
The elegant balance of chess is, of course, utterly destroyed – but that’s the point. By introducing elements of luck and improvisation, the game becomes much faster and more aggressive. It’s a lark for serious chess players and a not-half-bad intro for beginning players just looking to learn about chess’ pieces and rules.