My impression of Dishonored 2 has been uneven at best. The fiction behind the gameplay, and the narrative drive for actually, you know, playing have done little for me. That’s usually my bread and butter, but it’s honestly fine; the powers and level design and the ways the two combine are incredible. And there’s no better example of this than the game’s Clockwork Mansion.
But first, we must set the stage: Dishonored 2 tasks the protagonist — either displaced empress Emily Kaldwin or royal protector Corvo Attano, her father — with spending their time tracking down enemies and allies in the city of Karnaca. The initial ask here is to find and rescue Anton Sokolov, an inventor from the first game that’s been kidnapped.
After a couple false starts, Sokolov is eventually tracked to the home of Kirin Jindosh, an inventor that was once a pupil of Sokolov but now serves the Bad Dudes. None of this is particularly relevant to my argument, though Jindosh does have a sweet name. It’s important to know who Jindosh is, though, because he’s the sole reason the Clockwork Mansion exists.
Jindosh’s big claim to fame is Clockwork Soldiers: bird-looking machinations with the ability to slice and dice like no tomorrow. They serve as some of the game’s more difficult enemies with few weak spots and the ability to see ahead and behind. But that’s not the only product to which he’s applied his clockwork-leaning sensibilities. He’s given his own home a particularly bizarre twist.
Basically, levers strewn about the place cause certain segments to shift, retract, or spin. The mansion has several configurations, with specific rooms often having two or even three different versions of themselves depending on what button’s been pushed. Just watching as the whole mansion shifts and changes is amazing on its own.
And then you realize that you can snake your way through the whole thing.
In a move reminiscent of Portal, I made my way through the Clockwork Mansion while making note of the elements that moved and how neat that was to see. It didn’t even dawn on me that I could actually make use of the movement, or that I’d have to in order to advance. It continued to elude me until a nasty electric pylon blocked my path.
There’s a room not far into the Clockwork Mansion that is essentially empty save for a giant crackling pylon filled to the brim with electricity in the middle of it. Through trial and error, I had little hope that I’d be able to traverse the room without being shocked to death. In essence, I was forced to reconsider how to move forward. That’s when I saw what looked like a service area behind a window, and hopped into a behind-the-walls area of sorts. Suddenly, I existed between the spaces of Jindosh’s little project.
The rest of the Clockwork Mansion feeds on this kind of constant sense of discovery. Pulling levers in one room causes the floor and walls to change position, but too swiftly for you to actually get to the other side. Suddenly, Emily’s Far Reach is invaluable, with the ability to quickly cover the distance and swiftly slide through the shifting corridor before it’s completely closed.
Compared to other areas in the game, the Clockwork Mansion makes the best use of the game’s setting and mechanics together. Other spots may lean on the setting, and yet more rely on mechanics, but never are the two more in tandem than in Jindosh’s creation. The game actually might be worth playing for this experience alone.
Photos via Arkane Studios, Nicholas Bashore