Once you get past the buzz that a live action trailer generates, it is a different task to break down what it means for the game. At a glance, the task of the new live action piece for Dishonored 2 is to push awareness of the game onto a greater audience, yet there is much more happening here.
Firstly it frames the story as something personal, and it ties our viewpoint to Emily Kaldwin, the heir to the throne from the first game. The passage of time since the original Dishonored will not be a surprise for those that have been following the development of the sequel, but the tie to the first is great. Dishonored 2 will let players once again play as Corvo Attano, but it is the character of Emily that is the lead of story and marketing. That is no different here.
The second thing the live action trailer does is creates a sense of place. There are details in the environment of Carnaca that will help it come to life inside the game, but rather than being a series of maps or levels, a live action trailer brings it more thoroughly into our world and how we relate to our environment.
That also gives the Dishonored 2 marketing a chance to show off some marvellous architecture that might be real, computer generated or somewhere in between. The costume of characters is another way that it pushes for the realism of the game, as we see the designs made real. Having the mechanical constructs there too is a continuation of the same.
The newest piece of information that comes from the trailer is the information around Delilah, the witch who has taken the throne. Her identity might have made its way into some marketing prior, but even at the playable demo at EB Expo this year, this aspect of the story hadn’t been a part of it. Putting a human face on both Emily and Delilah makes the stakes personal, turning the reclamation of the empire into a goal that is more relatable.
The live action trailer also ties back to the game itself by showcasing some of the special abilities and combat from Dishonored 2, their style and choreography mirroring their gameplay equivalents. It might not be an exact duplicate (and that’s something we couldn’t know for sure at the moment), but it adequately conveys the grace of Emily.
Bethesda themselves are no stranger to the use of live action trailers, with the fantastic Wanderer video they put together for Fallout 4 last year generating tremendous amounts of excitement, but the presence of their games tends to convey that larger than life atmosphere.
The Bethesda booth at EB Expo in Sydney this year was set up for Dishonored 2, and was adorned with in-situ posters from Carnaca, official cosplayers dressed as Emily, and a great big throne-slash-photo-op.
They’ve used the same approach for previous games at different conventions, with a well-considered nod to The Evil Within’s horror maze two years ago.
This piece of live action is just a taste of that setting, but it doesn’t come close to replicating what hands-on time with the game feels like.
You would no doubt agree if you’d been fortunate enough to try it out, but if you have not, it’s a mere seventeen days until Dishonored 2’s release on November 11.