Dishonored 2 has always felt a bit strange to me from a gameplay perspective. There has always been a nebulous wrongness with how the game plays when compared to Dishonored 1. Not in the larger-scope, the games are very similar in structure, although Dishonored 2 does seem to have larger levels on average. Rather, the strange differences I noticed were purely in the way the character controls. So naturally, I took a couple hours to sit down, record gameplay footage, and then go through frame by frame to see how different they are. As a disclaimer, this is obviously not a rigorous scientific study. I only did a handful of takes and then scrubbed through footage in premiere. Some variation is entirely possible, but I did my best. (All tests done on PC at 60 fps.)
Sword Swing, No Hit
Just slashing at thin air, the sword swings in both games take 60 frames to complete and return to idle.
Sword Swing w/ Hit
This was where I expected there to be a difference, and it turns out I was right. In Dishonored 1, the time from starting an attack to it connecting is 15 frames. In Dishonored 2, that time is 18 frames. 3 frames seems small, but that is a 20% slower attack which certainly feels noticeable. That’s a difference that adds up, especially in fast-paced combat with tight margins. Maybe not so noticeable in a stealth run, but it can have a big impact on open combat.
Jumping (tested with the agility upgrades in each game)
The base jump in each game, as measured from the time a jump begins until the crosshair returns to the same height (I’m not counting landing/recovery) is 40 +/- 1 frames. The jumps take the same time overall, but in Dishonored 1, the time until the apex is 15 frames, while in Dishonored 2 the time to apex is 20 frames. So, while the jumps take the same amount of time, Dishonored 2’s is a bit weightier: you don’t spend as much time at the top, instead coming right back down while D1 seems to give you 2–4 frames where you aren’t really going up or coming down, and since everything after the apex is 25 frames instead of 20, the fall is naturally slower. D2’s is more realistic, but I don’t like the way it feels as much.
Interestingly, the double jump shows the opposite behavior. Overall, the D1 double jump is longer, taking 70 frames compared to D2’s 60 frames. In D1, the upward portion is also the longest bit, taking 40 frames to reach the apex and then 30 to return to land. D2 is evenly split, 30 up 30 down.
What this means essentially is that D1 is just a bit gamier all in all. The jumps are fudged a little bit to give you more air time and allow for adjustments / positioning that aren’t realistic, but feel nice. D2 is more realistic, but from the first moment I played I noticed that the jumping just felt a little too weighty and quick, at least compared to the first game.
So why even bother? Well, mostly personal curiosity. I was certain the games felt different, I just wanted to know how different. I don’t think I’m alone either. Much of the discussion about how Dishonored 2 stacks up as a sequel often centers around a feeling that things are just a little off. On paper, it seems like a superior game, but many fans of the first don’t find it quite as enjoyable. Now, this could obviously come down to a whole host of other reasons, but it’s reassuring to know that the strangeness I felt in the movement wasn’t just my imagination. On top of this, there is one other nitpick I can offer.
In D1, hitting the crouch button while sprinting results in the character entering a long slide which ends with you crouched. In D2, the behavior is nearly identical, except you end the slide standing rather than crouched. This is a minor thing, but makes a huge difference to me. In D1, I know I can sprint and slide behind low cover and end up in cover. In D2, if I don’t remember to smash on the crouch button then I slide behind cover and immediately pop upright like I want to make sure my mom just saw how cool that slide was. It’s small, but frustrating enough to throw me off every time.
That said, they’re both tremendous games. I mean, I don’t usually spend hours scrubbing through footage and counting frames for games I don’t like.