Spoilers for Dishonored: Definitive Edition follow! You have been warned.
Dishonored is one of those games that I tried before in PC, but I never got past the first level. I never did figure out how to play the game right the first time around. When I gave it another try on the PS4, I got into the world and loved the options it laid out across me to approach a mission. Further, the world state is affected by the choices you make.
I opted to take the stealth approach dominantly in an effort to maintain low chaos, but by the second game, I set it as a personal challenge to myself to play as Ghost and totally non-lethal. This opened a new dimension in the game and allowed me to immerse myself in the world even more.
The game opens with the assassination of the Empress and the kidnapping of her daughter. We play as her bodyguard, Corvo, and obviously get blamed for the murder and are imprisoned as a result. Breaking out of the prison is the first step and we have to make our way silently or violently through Dunwall Tower. But the true game starts after that, when we are visited by the Outsider and given our first supernatural power, Blink, to teleport across short distances quickly and the Heart, to help locate runes and charms.
The game is split into missions with the Hound Pits Pub acting as a hub between missions. We are taken to each mission location by the boatman Samuel on his boat. It makes the game a semi-open world with each area serving as its own biome. We are free to explore and reach the objective by any means possible.
When I first landed on the streets of Dunwall, I was faced with a literal barrier in the form of a Wall of Light to get across. Our mission objective is clear and we are provided optional objectives to assist us in the process like meeting up the locals for help. Now since the marker objective was clear as to where the next part was, I spent my time exploring the backstreets of Dunwall. It is then that I made it past the Wall of Light without disabling it. That is when I understood that the marker was just a mere point of reference and the path to it was never fixed. This helped me traverse through many areas without triggering direct conflict.
I love exploring most areas of a game to make sure I have not missed any runes or charms before moving on to the next area. In this process, I tripped into many a hidden path leading to the next section of the area. Hunting for runes and charms was not always a straightforward task. Sometimes, it involved solving small puzzles by making best use of our powers.
“The game was an ultimate sandbox and it was made for experimenting our way through."
Sticking to the backstreets, I also sometimes tripped into people in need, whom I could help. It seemed that they were hidden away in the corners waiting for someone like me to come by. I was thrilled at making my own way instead of following the absolute path laid out to me. It made it all the more fun when I discovered non-lethal ways to take out the bosses and chose my own method to achieve it. The game was an ultimate sandbox and it was made for experimenting our way through.
As I took down the conspirators behind the assassination of the Empress (High Overseer Campbell, the Pendletons, Royal Physician Sokolov, Lady Boyle and the Royal Spymaster Burrows), I learnt more of the state of the world and the disease that plagued it. Swarms of rats were a challenge in the darkest corners and it was always best to avoid them. Choices I made affected the state of the world and in an effort to maintain low chaos, I avoided killing enemies. There was one here and there that I put to the blade, mostly the case if they deserved it (like the Torturer in Dunwall Tower).
One of the most interesting missions in the game is Lady Boyle's Last Party. There are three Boyle sisters and we have to find the right one, who is having an affair with the mastermind behind the assassination of the Empress, the Royal Spymaster and later Lord Regent, Hiram Burrows. It's our job to identify the correct Lady Boyle among them by making use of clues in the party. I found that the identity of the Lady was randomized, so you couldn't just look it up online. Making a run through the Boyle mansion a couple of times because I kept getting caught, I almost reached the mission's end with the lethal option. Choosing to go fully non-lethal, I looked up the alternative and it seemed that I had missed a cue for the non-lethal option. I ended up playing the mission all over again and my multiple playthroughs allowed me to breeze through undetected and get Lady Boyle out.
After taking down Hiram Burrows and making my way back to Hound Pits Pub, I found that the Loyalists, who had helped me escape and take down the conspirators, had turned on me. It seems I shouldn't have expected anything less from the slimy looking Lord Pendleton (brother of the Pendletons, whom we have taken out earlier). They poisoned me and left me for dead, but with some help from Samuel I was able to make it out. What followed is another interesting mission in the lair of Daud, the assassin. Responsible for killing the Empress, here we find ourselves as his captive in the Flooded District.
Once out of the district, it was time to take down the Loyalists and save Emily. I was expecting a fight from each of them, but as I made my way to the finale, I was confronted only by a raving Admiral Havelock, who had poisoned the others and I made swift work of ending his life. Finally, Emily was safe and the whole of Dunwall overcomes the plague under her rule with Corvo by her side.
The best part of the game are the abilities that Corvo receives from the Outsider. Coming from my leanings towards being an assassin in most games, I chose to unlock Shadow Kill (enemies turn to ash) as the first ability after Blink. Ironically, I never used it after opting for a non-lethal stealth strategy. The abilities: Blood Thirsty, Devouring Swarm and Windblast, ended up being sidelined for being too offensive.
Later, as I unlocked more abilities to help me in my way, I found Possession, an ability I dismissed at first. The game allowed me to possess animals like rats, which proved helpful in getting behind locked doors or just sneaking my through. Combined with Dark Vision, which helped me identity vents to sneak through, Possession was a powerful tool in my arsenal.
Finally, one of the best abilities in the game is the ability to Bend Time. I could slow down and at the second level, stop time entirely for a short period. This helped me to sneak behind enemies and choke them out. Mixing and matching all the different abilities proved to be a whole lot of fun.
Knife of Dunwall
If you are playing games in 2021 and hear the word DLC, it is almost something tacked on just for the sake of it (I am looking at you Ubisoft) or it is just some costume pack. There is an occasional gem with something like the Witcher 3. However, in the last gen when Dishonored was released, DLCs served a purpose to expand the narrative. Now, I had heard good things about the Knife of Dunwall and about how we get to see the assassin Daud's side of things.
I was expecting something that would be exploring the motivations and actions of Daud leading up to the killing of the Empress. However, KoD plays out after the events of Dishonored, where Daud is dealing with the fallout of his actions. Told by the Outsider of the existence of a plot against the young Empress Emily, Daud seeks to find the mastermind behind it.
It is quite an interesting perspective to see Daud plan his actions. At first, I found it difficult to use his powers. For some reason, Daud's teleportation ability was different from Corvo and somehow, the developers, Arkane Studios, made it handle differently as well. But soon I got in tune with his powers and ended up exploring the sandbox missions at my own pace.
After discovering the identity of the mastermind as Delilah, we end up in the Daud's headquarters to plan for the next steps. Looking at the Flooded District through the eyes of Daud, I see familiar places from my time there as Corvo. This time around the whole district has been overtaken by Overseers and it is our job to rescue our fellow assassins. In the end we find out that it was Daud's right hand, Billie Lurk, who had betrayed him to Delilah.
The second DLC picks up with Daud in search of a way to get to Delilah. Now since the Brigmore manor is accessible by river, he requires a ship and a captain to help him. This first mission features the familiar Dunwall prison. This time around we have to break out someone and if we choose to opt for it, we can disguise ourselves to infiltrate ahead into the prison.
I found a lot of variety in the way the missions of this DLC played out. While the first mission features a prison break, the second is far more versatile with an area dominated by two factions and we have the option to gain both their favours. This makes the two areas start out hostile but turn friendly based on the choices we make.
The final mission is at the Brigmore Manor, where we have to take down Delilah. But before we get to that, we have to find a way into the manor and through a whole horde of Brigmore witches. The decrepit manor serves as an amazing level as we explore and find our way forward. Trying to get through all this with a non-lethal zero death approach added another layer of challenge.
The showdown with Delilah happens in the Void. We find that Delilah is planning to use a portrait of the young Empress Emily to take control of her mind and thereby, rule in her stead. We are able to foil her plan and trap her in another paintings, where she can do no one else harm.
The story of the Brigmore Witches feels so much more than a DLC and later I found that it was connected to the second game. Even though I had heard much more Knife of Dunwall, I found that it was a mere setup to the main act of the Brigmore Witches.
Unlike other games with multiple endings, where our choices influence the outcome of the story, Dishonored incorporated the gameplay style as part of the so called chaos of the world. Choosing to be a non-lethal stealthy assassin lurking the streets or going full out on a murderous rampage, the world reacts to you accordingly in the game creating an immersive experience and adding weight to your choices.
I enjoyed myself immensely while playing Dishonored. Many a time I was so lost in the world that I did not realize the time passing by. The game and it's DLC seem to be of a bygone era, where compact single player experiences were priced over vast open worlds with a lot of diversions. This game revived my love for stealth and open a new world of experiences that I was never aware of. Where I always chose a mixed approach leaning on stealth until I screwed up, Dishonored made me want to be the proper stealthy assassin, a Ghost you can say.