• Dishonored 2 Review

    Dishonored 2 uses "Void Engine" which is a modified version of id Tech 5. Not a good engine, and Dishonored 2 is the worst showing of it. It also uses DirectX 11, Havok and Wwise. One performance aspect stands out immediately; the initial loading screen after launching the game (just loading the main menu) is incredibly long, right around one minute for me, but then it is followed by about 25 seconds of splash screens that cannot be skipped, and then another very quick loading screen, so all in all it takes me right around 90 seconds to get to the main menu. Loading saves is very quick.

    Graphics configuration is excellent. Adaptive resolution is a new trend and it is customizable here. Another new trend (or to be a trend) is HDR, which this game lacks. Thankfully triple buffering is included, which cuts down on input lag with V-Sync. A frame rate limiter is present and has a maximum limit of 120 FPS because physics are glitchy beyond that. Sadly, the FPS limiter is in increments of 60, and can't be used with V-Sync. We really need increments of 1, so that people can cap the frame rate to just below the refresh rate value, reducing input lag when using V-Sync or in the case of variable refresh rate, preventing V-Sync from taking over thus avoiding lag.

    Like its predecessor, it goes for a unique "painted" art style. You see it on all the models, everything does look painted, and it results in a stunningly beautiful art design and gorgeous visuals... when graphics glitches don't interfere. Shadow glitches, texture flickering, ambient occlusion glowing. Personally, these graphics glitches were the biggest flaws of the game to me.

    Severe ambient occlusion glowing along the spiked fence, courtesy of NVIDIA HBAO+.

    The amount of ambient occlusion glowing/bleeding is particularly funny because NVIDIA users can force NVIDIA HBAO+ into the first game via drivers with no consequence. They use entirely different engines of course, but ambient occlusion should be better in the sequel, not worse.

    Anti-aliasing forms included are FXAA (low/high) and TXAA, with a TXAA sharpening setting as you can see above. Neither method is very effective, the game is visibly aliased at 2560 x 1440 on all settings, TXAA being the best obviously.

    No AA. And some people who game at sub-1440p claim that 1440p doesn't need anti-aliasing? Pfft. Even 4k DSR at 27" needs anti-aliasing.

    FXAA low.

    FXAA high.

    TXAA with 12 sharpness. By far the best. Large structures like the big pipes on the center building look mostly straight now. Still quite aliased though, and notice how the bars on the fence below the railroad have become very hard to see.

    Dishonored 2 doesn't have the object or texture quality of other games due to its unique painted art style, although it does make some attempts at providing authentic looking materials. The lighting and shadows are very nice, the latter often appearing well above average but shadow glitches and sometimes flickering off screen do occur. View distance within accessible terrain is very good, although in some places there is a lack of detail when looking across a great distance at inaccessible terrain.

    Character models are good but not amazing by 2016 AAA standards, and the same for animations.

    One annoying visual aspect is the overdone lens effects that are always forced on. It makes sense for Corvo since he wears a mask with glass lenses, but Emily is always looking through her own eyes and this is a first-person game. These effects are visible in the screenshot below.

    Performance tells another story. Beta patch 1.3 improves it drastically, but it's still all over the place and consists of constant frame pacing issues that are impossible to escape from. The frame pacing issues are less severe with beta patch 1.3 (and 1.2 improved upon it too), but they're still present. As a result of this issue, 60 FPS in this game for example is less smooth than 60 FPS in another game. The same applies to all frame rates and G-SYNC doesn't remedy the issue.

    With an i7 6700k @ 4.6 GHz, 16GB DDR4 3000 MHz RAM, and a GTX 1080 running at 2000 Mhz usually, at 2560 x 1440 my frame rate is typically between 75-100 outdoors but it jumps up to 120 in some places. Indoors it is usually 65-90, worse than outdoors for some reason (seems to be caused by lighting reflections). It is very inconsistent and given the game's not-so-advanced graphics technology, there is no good reason for it to run below 120 FPS ever on such a system. I would much prefer Dishonored's Unreal Engine 3 again, with the same visuals even since I can run that at 2560 x 1440 with 2x sparse grid supersampling and forced HBAO+ and never go below 120 FPS. A game like Dishonored and Dishonored 2 needs fluidity more than any other.

    Funny thing is, another game that is in such need of fluidity and smoothness is this year's Shadow Warrior 2, which also has frame pacing issues. I personally have trouble tolerating anything less than 120 FPS with blur reduction (backlight strobing) enabled in games like these.

    Dishonored 2 tends to use 6.5 - 7.5 GB VRAM on my PC, and allocates up to over 10.5 GB RAM.

    Audio glitches exist too. On stereo and 2.1 systems, for many NPCs in Karnaca, turning so that they're off screen causes the sound of their voices to disappear. In other words, even in stereo/2.1 mode (taking from Windows, it has no direct setting for this), the game will output some sound to (in this case) non-existent surround channels. I've even encountered voices disappearing off screen on my 5.1 surround setup. I can't really explain that one.

    The sound also uses some auto focusing to emphasize the protagonist voice over everything else, and sometimes other voices over everything else too, dimming the environment, but this effect can also be glitchy.

    Glitches aside, sound quality is good but not great. It has little in the way of replicating distant sounds, and surround panning isn't as natural or seamless as other games.

    The voice acting is surprisingly not very good. Random NPC voice acting is at times awful ("Hey, what's that noise??") and Corvo's voice actor isn't exactly on point. The soundtrack is very good at least, with some tracks from the first game reappearing in Dunwall. The game isn't excessive with its use of music, it mostly uses wonderful, subtle ambient tracks.

    Comments 4 Comments
    1. Grompz's Avatar
      Grompz -
      Thanks for the review Jester. It seems that the storytelling in general is deserving a mention into the 'Biggest Letdown' categorie for the 2016 GOTY Awards so far.
    1. Jester's Avatar
      Jester -
      That does seem to be the trend. There's this game, then Deus Ex: Mankind Divided which suffers from Square Enix splitting it up into three games resulting in some discombobulation and rushed/unfinished subplots and characters. Then Tyranny which seems like someone's first RPG creation.
    1. Jester's Avatar
      Jester -
      I have to say, they really cleaned up their implementation of id Tech 5 for Dishonored: Death of the Outsider. No apparent optimization issues and it runs surprisingly well on Ryzen. Almost always getting 120 FPS (V-Sync target) at 1440p max details. Of course, anything less would be ridiculous with a GTX 1080 Ti, so this is not so much praise as relief.

      But on a loosely related side note, it is downright awesome to be able to play an immersive, super fluid game like this with analog movement on the Wooting One keyboard. It's a real game changer.
    1. Charcharo's Avatar
      Charcharo -
      id Tech 5 is such an infuriating experience lol.
      The Evil Within 2 uses a modified version of it and it still has issues. id Tech 6 or GTFO for modern games IMHO.