So, on a whim, I decided to spend my Christmas vacation revisiting the world of Dishonored, one of my favorite franchises to date. Since I have not gotten around to setting up my PS3 in my new place and probably never will, I started with replaying Dishonored 2 for PS4. Read my review here and my Three Ways To Play here.
Suffice to say, I enjoyed it very much. So much, actually, that I felt the need to revisit the adventures of my favorite villain to date, the assassin Daud, in the Dishonored story DLCs The Knife of Dunwall and The Brigmore Witches.
Dishonored – Revisited
For those who are new to Dishonored, this is an action/stealth game where you are free to choose your approach – assault, ghost or inbetween – but will feel the consequences of your actions most acutely and in sometimes surprising ways.
The setting is classic Steampunk, with tyrants using elaborate machines to rule a roughly 19th century island empire.
The hero of Dishonored, Royal Protector Corvo Attano, falls from grace in the beginning of the game, for the alleged murder of the empress Jessamine Kaldwin. Hence the title Dishonored. He then embarks on a mission to recover not only his honor, but the throne to the empire for the true heiress, Emily, who is like a daughter to him.
If you are interested in playing this game without spoiling yourself, I suggest you stop reading now.
The setting of Dishonored
The city of Dunwall, where this game takes place, is the capital of the empire and Dunwall Tower, where the empress resides, the first monumental building we set eyes on. Dunwall is an industrial place, home to whaling fleets and slaughterhouses. See, whale oil is what powers this steampunk-style world and the sight of giant whales being transported into the busy harbor on ugly ships is both unsettling and morbidly fascinating.
Dunwall itself is being ravaged by a plague that turns people into zombies and rat packs into feral killing machines. Infected citizens are therefore confined to the Flooded District, some find their way into the underground canals. Gangs rule the streets around the harbor and the rich and famous live the good life in impressive city mansions.
With the empress’s death, a new ruler, the Lord Regent, takes the throne, and he rules with an iron fist, maintaining that the boldest measures are the safest. His rule is enforced by whale oil-powered security systems and an unforgiving host of guards who are equipped with sabers and pistols. Also, the Order of the Everyman has a lot of influence on the isles and their Overseers make sure that the Outsider, an entity of the Void, cannot take hold in the city. People perceived as practicioners of his magic are severely prosecuted by the Order. To do so, the Overseers employ music based on mathematics to counter magic itself. Which is one of the most fascinating concepts I have ever come across.
This is the world hero Corvo Attano is facing as he is cast out, from the safety of the Tower into the streets as a wanted outlaw. His mission: find heiress Emily, who has been kidnapped during the initial assault on her mother, and eliminate those who enabled the Lord Regent’s coup.
The world of Dishonored is painted in vivid colors
Visually, Dishonored is a rare gem very different from games trying to achieve near-realistic perfection. Bright colors, predominantly yellow, green, whites and red, rich and sometimes rather elaborate clothing and shiny palaces with stately paintings present a stark contrast to the bleak, grey world of the poor, where gangs roam and the horrors of the rampant plague await. Art plays an important part throughout the franchise, by the way, and it is no wonder that one of the geniuses behind the machines that power this world is also a gifted painter. Walking, or creeping, through the houses and mansions of Dishonored, you will frequently come across his paintings and be able to collect them.
The characters of Dishonored
Corvo Attano may be the – unseen – hero of the game (the game offers only a first person perspective), but this story comes alive mainly thanks to the supporting cast. Allies and enemies will react differently to your actions. Some will reward you for good deeds and some will outright betray you, if you go to far.
Emily, daughter to the late Jessamine Kaldwin, is Corvo’s emotional anchor and guiding light. She is a sweet girl of ten and adores her protector. The feeling is mutual and occasionally you will have to make choices that will affect how Emily views Corvo. At one point, she will gift him with a crude child’s painting, which will show either the girl’s smiling face or Corvo Attano standing on a pile of corpses.
There are a handful of men loyal to the throne, Admiral Havelock, Lord Pendleton and former Overseer Martin, who have made the abandoned Hound Pits Pub their headquarters. There they plot against the Lord Regent, supported by their servants, genius inventor Pietro and former sailor Samuel, who is Corvo’s trusted boat chauffeur and also offers insights.
There is the Bottle Street gang under the leadership of one Slackjaw, who are at war with a mysterious old lady.
There are the Whalers, a gang of assassins practicioning black magic, led by none other than the infamous Daud, called the Knife of Dunwall.
And then, there is the Outsider. That black-eyed boy, god or demon, grants his mark and the supernatural powers that come with it, to those he deems worthy and, above all, interesting. Corvo becomes the latest of his chosen few.
The magical powers of Dishonored and the effects of High and Low Chaos
The Outsider’s gift grants Corvo a set of potent magic powers that can be either used to destroy, maim and kill or to stealthily circumvent obstacles. The same goes for the arsenal (crossbow, pistol, saber, grenades, traps, crossbow bolts, bullets) you can choose from.
Among the powers Corvo now has access to are teleportation, possession, a way of slowing time and therefore events around himself, the power to summon a pack of rats that devour his enemies and the power to hurl wind at his opponents to knock them off their feet.
Powers can be combined, too. For example, if you want to get past a guard, you can first slow time then use the teleportation power to reach your chosen destination with noone the wiser.
To upgrade powers or acquire new ones you need to find runes. They will be gifted to you in exchange for a favor, found during missions or at shrines worshipping the Outsider. Visiting such a shrine will also bring you face to face with the Outsider himself. He will then give you advice on your current mission, so that is another motivation to finding every shrine. Bone artefacts can also be found and added to your arsenal. They boost either powers or physical traits, such as vitality and agility.
In each mission, you can choose your own approach, which will result in either a Low or High Chaos ranking. While Corvo is very well adapted to stealth, his arsenal also makes him a deadly force to be reckoned with. Be mindful, though, lethal action, aka High Chaos, will enforce the plague’s hold on the city and in the worst case Dunwall could become a total loss. Besides, playing as a Ghost is rewarded, so the appeal of playing on Low Chaos is high.
Also, you will have to decide how to deal with your targets. Will you choose to execute them or will you find another, non-lethal way?
The missions take you to different, beautiful locations
Dishonored is not an open world game. So you will visit a certain part of the city during one mission and not be able to return to it, unless it is part of another mission. There are nine missions in total.
The tutorial mission is actually a prison break and stealth is key, since at this point Corvo does not have any powers and limited resources. Also, there are many guards.
The second mission takes you into the heart of the Overseer order, to eliminate your first target. You will also be asked for a personal favor by one of the servants. There are several ways to infiltrate the Overseer stronghold and exploring all of it is advisable. That way you will be able to find all the information, runes and bone artefacts, as well as other goodies.
The third mission is set at a bath-house (brothel), where Corvo is to eliminate the twin brothers of Lord Pendleton. Needless to say, the decision whether or not to kill them is not easy, since you could be alienating an ally, after all. Yet, you can rely on Slackjaw and his gang to provide you with an alternative. For a price.
The fourth mission, then, is one of the most difficult ones. You have to cross a bridge swarming with guards and outfitted with a host of security devices to get your hands on genius Anton Sokolov and abduct him. Keeping to the roof-tops is my chosen approach, and keeping out of sight of the guards while disabling the devices.
The fifth mission, then, is as spectacular as it is difficult. Set at a lavish party in a very well-protected neighborhood, you will have to identify your victim first and, if you choose the non-lethal approach, carry her unconscious body past the host of guests and guards, preferably without being seen. It’s insane, but doable, using Bend Time and Blink excessively.
During the sixth mission, Corvo returns to Dunwall Tower to take on the Lord Regent himself. Again, I would advise a very stealthy approach. Getting in and out is not easy at all and the number of guards is massive. Also, if you choose the lethal approach, prepare for a fight against a tall-boy, one of the nastiest weapons the empire has to offer. You could, by the way, let the Lord Regent know you are coming for him, to make it even more difficult for yourself.
The next mission is the most fascinating, I think. Outnumbered and outgunned in the Flooded District, Corvo has to outfox the Whalers, supernaturally gifted assassins, and defeat Daud, a chosen of the Outsider like himself. to make his way back to the Hound Pits Pub. Also, you get to choose whether or not to spare the life of the man who murdered Jessamine. Which will play a huge part in the DLCs.
Mission number eight is the only one I have yet to finish stealthily, since the amount of security at the Hound Pits Pub is massive. Corvo has to save his surviving allies and find Emily. Again. Once that battle is won, there is no rest either, since she has been brought to the heavily fortified Kingsparrow Island.
The last mission on Kingsparrow Island then is where the consequences of all your actions play out. Did you play on High Chaos? Prepare for hell. Did you choose Low Chaos? Then this is not quite a walk in the park, but much easier. The main issue is getting into the courtyard where you are then to take the elevator up to reach Emily. When you enter the island, you will find a set of stairs that will lead you to a vantage point. There are two bunkers protecting the two entrances and inbetween those entrances, the outlet of some canal. That is your way in, to disabling the security devices guarding the entrances themselves.
Dishonored never gets old. It is a perfect package of story, characters, gameplay, graphics and music.
Here is my review/walkthrough of the first story DLC, Dishonored: The Knife of Dunwall. Also, I have replayed the secod story DLC, Dishonored: The Brigmore Witches and the always entertaining DLC Dishonored: Dunwall City Trials.
Until then keep on playing.