Sequels aren't unoriginal by default. Movie sequels are always met with criticism before they've even been made, and the disdain for them that's ingrained in our culture spread to video games long ago. In gaming however, sequels are rarely beset by the same kind of problems.
Video game sequels offer opportunities to refine and build upon mechanics, and more often than not improve on the originals. In 2013 Arkane Studios released Dishonored, an instant cult classic, but it was a game that would clearly benefit from the increase in scope and depth a sequel would bring.
Dishonored 2, out today (11 November) on PS4, Xbox One and PC, is building on everything that was so good about the original: its steampunk-inflected setting, its storytelling potential and the powers of its protagonist, or, in the case of the sequel, protagonists.
Mechanically, Dishonored is a spiritual successor to stealth classic Thief spliced with supernatural abilities. These work wonderfully when strung together to create often-mesmerising displays of balletic violence, and its levels are open-plan test-beds for exploration and experimentation. This continues in Dishonored 2.
The focal point of the game's fourth mission, roughly two to three hours into the game, is The Clockwork Mansion, and it's where the player – as either Emily Kaldwin or Corvo Attano – must eliminate Kirin Jindosh and rescue an old ally called Anton Sokolov.
There are streets and buildings beyond the mansion that also form part of the mission area, but the objectives and bulk of the action take place inside the manor's twisting form. When you first enter you may think little of it, but throughout the building there are levers. Once pulled, these alter rooms by shifting floors, ceilings and furniture, turning the environment itself into a puzzle.
Enemies may appear or disappear, new routes may open up, and if quick enough, moving between the shifting architecture will gain players access to the "space behind the walls" of Jindosh's pristine estate.
The result is a fitting playground for players in which they are dared to discover new routes and methods to achieve their goals. Players can lure enemies to harm, find the whale oil canisters powering electrified barriers, traverse halls in only a matter of seconds. Best of all, the mansion stands as a great mission setting regardless of its ability to turn itself inside out.
As you first enter the mansion, an entire confrontation with Jindosh in which the clockwork concept is introduced, can be bypassed fairly simply. Do this, and he won't be able to track your movements through the building so easily.
Should you not do this, you'll seen meet Jindosh face-to-face. He sizes you up and challenges you to best his mechanical maze, before morphing the room you're in to introduce two clockwork soldiers. If quick enough, players can nip between the structural seams to find a shortcut that'll bypass a large chunk of the house.
If you've ever seen the very best Dishonored players make light work of worlds and scenarios that will have taken months to develop and fine-tune, then you already know the potential of such mechanics in the hands of Dishonored 2's community.
The Rubik's Cube quality of the building, and its Clockwork Soldier custodians, appear only in this level, and that just makes it more special. While not every mission has its own specific twist like this, in a later one the player has to traverse two timelines within a single location, creating new challenges and ways to meet them.
These twists accommodate and complement the variety of techniques players have at their disposal for completing mission objectives, and brings to mind the philosophy Respawn Entertainment elected to use when developing Titanfall 2's exemplary single player campaign.
Our Dishonored 2 review will be published in due course, but we've played enough to have high hopes. If the game can match the high of The Clockwork Mansion again before its end, it'll be a very special game indeed.