The shapeshifting clockwork mansion was one of the first things we saw when Dishonored 2 (opens in new tab) was revealed: a wall-moving, floor-raising building that changed around new hero Emily as she hunted down her target. Now we’ve seen it in playable form and it’s actually way more interesting than the original reveal. An animated M C Escher drawing of a level, shifting like a stage transitioning between sets.
The mechanisms driving it are exposed, with pistons and gears slotting and sliding floor beams into place or lifting and tiling walls, so that rooms seem to fall apart into new shapes as you move through them. Impressive engineering that’s all the work of ‘Grand Inventor’ (by royal decree), Kirin Jindosh, a former student of Dishonored 1’s inventor Anton Sokolov - the prisoner Emily is now here to rescue.
Emily, as the new playable character, has a very fast and mobile style of play through this new area. Moves like Far Reach replace Corvo’s teleporting Blink with a physical transition, creating a greater sense of speed as she rushes in a blur from point to point. While her Domino power - which links enemies to share a fate - means entire rooms can be cleared in one hit. It’s quite the sight to watch four guard’s heads pop off in one go because you Dominoed them all together and beheaded one.
All these powers come into play as Emily makes her way through Jindosh’s constantly shifting mansion. It’s a little like trying to escape the inside of a Rubic’s cube while someone else solves it. A task that’s not helped when Jindoish activates his clockwork soldiers - four-armed, sword wielding robots that attack while replaying crackly recordings of his description of Emily like a targeting mantra.
This was played as quite a combat heavy, clearly high chaos section, with a mix of Far Reaching to new areas and drop attacks to get the upper hand on the hardy robots. You can fight them head on with swordplay and guns but using the environment to land heavier hitting, or more stealthy, blows makes life far easier.
However, once the robots have been smashed (levering their heads off with a sword only makes them angrier), it’s good to see the game’s non-lethal leanings rise to the surface. Alone and defeated, Jindosh is dumped into an electric treatment chair of his own making for what looks like a permanent session of electroconvulsive therapy; Emily musing as the sparks fly that maybe death would have been better.
That ended the Clockwork Mansion demo, but as a final teaser in my demo we saw a brief section of a Royal Conservatory level where Emily infiltrated a coven of witches loyal to Delilah (the leader of The Brigmore Witches from the previous game’s DLC). This was more a taster than anything else, giving us a brief look at the conservatory: a huge museum-like room full of giant stuffed owls, occult artefacts, and patrolled by slightly undead looking witches.
While Emily explored the area - revealing pasty witches in faded clothes lounging around in the chandeliers - her eventual attack, which included an upgraded slash that cut one victim in half at the waist, ended with her being wrestled to the floor and stabbed. Presumably that’s not a shock twist and we’ll get to see more of how this new level ties the new and old games together when Dishonored 2 comes out on November 11 this year.