This is Death Before Dishonor, a series in which I attempt to play through Dishonored with a self-imposed, semi-permadeath rule designed to make me improvise my way out of trouble, rather than re-loading an earlier save. For some background, read the introduction to the series first, and definitely read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 so you know what’s going on. Also be advised that, unlike most posts on this blog, this series will contain spoilers. For spoiler-free thoughts on Dishonored, read my original posts about the game. Lastly, as always, you may click on images to view larger versions.
As I continue my second playthrough of Dishonored, I remain amazed that I’ve managed to keep the body count so low. I’m not allowing myself to reload a save when I make a mistake, so I have to improvise my way out of trouble. Yet, even when botching things again and again on my last mission, I still got out of it with just a few dead bodies, and my overall chaos rating is still low. Can I keep it up? Read on to find out (along with massive spoilers).
It’s late at night when Samuel and I pull into the mooring at the condemned Hound Pits Pub, with the unconscious Royal Physician, Anton Sokolov, on board. Havelock is there to greet and congratulate us, and he suggests we get some rest before interrogating Sokolov in the morning. We did just complete two missions in one day, after all. But I want to say goodnight to Emily first. She’s already asleep when I enter, with Callista sitting by her bed. Callista tells me Emily took ages to fall asleep, and she seems to be having a nightmare, but Callista will stay by her side. Emily has been putting on a brave face, but she’s been through a lot. I don’t want to wake her, so I just trudge back to my own bed and fall asleep.
Emily wakes me in the morning, saying she came to nap in my room while Callista has her bath. I’m tempted to tell her to come and hang out anytime, but I’m in a dangerous line of work now, and I don’t want her to be too dependent on me. So I gently tell her to go back to her room. On my way downstairs, I stumble upon Piero Joplin, our eccentric natural philosopher, looking through the keyhole into the bathroom. He tries to lie about installing a new lock, but quickly admits that he was in fact spying on Callista as she bathed. I tell him off, and he begs me not to tell her. Sorry Piero, I’m not tolerating your creepy behavior and sexual harassment. Unfortunately there’s no option to knock on the door and tell Callista what happened, I’ll have to wait and tell her later.
Speaking of waiting, my co-conspirators are downstairs waiting for me to start Sokolov’s interrogation. He’s held in the titular Hound Pits, an area that was locked and inaccessible until now. Disused just like the rest of the place, I can still see scoreboards on the wall from when hounds would fight each other inside the caged arena. Now there’s just Sokolov in there, being rather rude to us. Havelock has brought a container full of rats and threatens to release them on Sokolov unless he tells us who the Lord Regent’s mistress and ally in the aristocracy is. He refuses, saying he’s no friend of the Lord Regent and bragging that he’ll never break, no matter what we do to him. I have the option to try to bribe him, or to go ahead and release the rats. Sokolov may not be a direct supporter of the Lord Regent, but he was keeping a woman captive in his greenhouse and experimenting on her, so I have no sympathy. As soon as the rats come swarming out of their box, he hurriedly tells us everything he knows.
It seems he never saw the Lord Regent’s mistress, as they were keeping her identity secret; he painted her portrait from behind. All he knows is her name, Lady Boyle. But that could be any of the three Boyle sisters, he doesn’t know which one. I know Sokolov is telling the truth because I stole that very portrait while I ransacked his house. I honestly don’t know why they bothered getting a portrait made if they couldn’t show her face, maybe the Lord Regent is just into some weird stuff. Anyway, the Boyles are throwing a masquerade ball tonight, and I already have my assassin’s mask. I can blend right in with the guests while I figure out which sister is the one who needs to die.
I look around the Hound Pits a little more before departing. Lord Treavor Pendleton asks that I deliver a note to someone at the party. I remember this from the last time I played, so I know I should probably refuse. But Corvo doesn’t know what I know, and I did just murder Treavor’s brothers, so I feel I owe the guy. I also have an interesting conversation with Cecelia. She’s the lowest ranking servant among our group, and everyone else seems to ignore her completely, but I always take a moment to talk with her. This time she tells me a secret: she has a hiding place across the street from the pub in an abandoned apartment building. She tells me that if anything ever goes wrong, I can grab the spare key under her bed and head there to wait it out. This sounds a lot like what we call “foreshadowing.” Curious, I grab the key and go check it out. There’s not much inside, but I do find a bone charm, and a locked door leading to the sewers. Yeah, definitely foreshadowing.
All that’s left to do is visit Piero to stock up. I replenish my depleted supply of sleep darts, and buy one of the Outsider’s runes that he’s somehow gotten his hands on. Then I look at upgrades. In one of the warehouses on Kaldwin’s Bridge I’d nabbed blueprints for Galvanni Resin, which Piero can use to soften the sound of my boots. I buy both levels of this upgrade, and the difference is immediate: even at a full sprint I barely make any sound. I also decide to upgrade my pistol, just in case I need to use it. I upgrade the magazine, accuracy, and reload speed once each, but this uses up most of my money. I get a few more standard and incendiary darts with the last of my cash, and then go talk to Samuel. Let’s party.
The Boyle party is one of the more memorable missions in the game. It’s smaller than most, with only two sub-sections, and unusual in that the party itself is not a hostile area. In fact, Corvo gets many compliments on the dark humor of his mask, which looks just like the wanted posters. No one, not even the guards, suspects that he is in fact the masked assassin himself, here to kill one of the Boyle sisters. Of course, he has to figure out which one first.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. The first task is getting into the party. Samuel can only take me to a canal near the Boyle manor, because there are tallboys patrolling ahead who will spot him if he gets any closer. This is my first encounter with these heavily armed elite City Watch units. Marching around on huge stilts powered by tanks of whale oil on their backs, they’re firing explosive ordinance at a pack of weepers as we approach. I’m planning to stay well out of their way. Annoyingly, the stairway leading up to the street from the canal is on the other side, and I don’t want to use my blink power in from of Samuel and freak him out. Instead, I dive into the water and then, concealed beneath the surface, use my new Possession power (recently unlocked by spending some runes) to take control of one of the nearby fish. As a fish, I swim the length of the canal, emerging at the other end where there’s a bone charm lying on the bottom. There’s also another stairway up to the street.
This area is small, little more than the canal and a few nearby streets, as well as the Boyle manor itself. It’s easy to spot because there are fireworks going off constantly, their blasts mixing with sound of the tallboys blowing up plague victims. I decide to look around before entering the manor, but there’s not much of note. The area is dominated by a rundown apartment building full of weepers, but there’s a rune and a shrine to the Outsider in there, which makes it worth exploring. But I do confirm that, for some reason, I can’t use choke holds on weepers, something I also noticed last mission. I have to use a couple of sleep darts when some of them spot me. I swear I was able to choke a weeper out in the sewers beneath the Hound Pits, but not so here, for some reason. Fortunately, weepers are slow, so later on I just ignore them even if they do see me.
At the shrine, the Outsider speaks to me again, prattling on about what I will do at the party. He claims that no matter what I do, this will be Lady Boyle’s last party. She’ll either die or live out her days in exile. Sure, whatever. At this point I just find the Outsider tiring. Let me get on with saving the city, will you?
I’m able to explore without too much incident. I am seen a few times, unused to the extra height of the tallboys which means that I’m not as safe atop awnings and eaves as I used to be. But, despite getting shot once (guzzling a health elixir to heal), I’m able to retreat from trouble and then return to knock out guards, and simply avoid the tallboys. There’s one more building to explore, across the street from the Boyle manor, and as I rifle through it for anything salvageable, I ponder how I’ll get in to the manor itself. These thoughts are rendered moot as I find myself in an attic that descends into the guard quarters of the estate. Soon I walk out into the garden like there’s nothing amiss, and guards are greeting me and welcoming me to the party.
Out front, I spy the man in the wolf mask, to whom Treavor Pendleton asked I deliver his note. I do so, and he’s quite angry after he reads it. It seems that Treavor has challenged this guy to a duel, saying that I will stand in as his representative. That sneaky git! If I’d known I was getting myself into a pistol duel I never would have gone along with this. But it’s too late now. As we stand in position, facing away from each other, awaiting the countdown to turn and shoot, I quickly ready my Bend Time power. When the signal is given, I slow time to a crawl and spin around. I have enough time to carefully take aim and shoot my opponent in the leg; I don’t want to kill him. To my surprise, he’s knocked backward, and stops moving. It seems he’s dead after all; I guess Dishonored doesn’t track locational damage like that. Well, crap. This is the last time I agree to do Treavor a favor, that jerk. At least the guards don’t seem to care that much, deeming it a fair duel.
Entering the manor itself, I’m greeted with a staggering display of wealth and extravagance. If I thought that Pratchett’s house on Kaldwin’s Bridge was fancy, this is on a whole other level. Pratchett is a successful businessman, but the Boyles are old money, members of the aristocracy whose family goes back countless generations in Dunwall, and they’ve pulled out all the stops for this party. There’s a table heaped with delicacies, sparkling wine fountains, music wafting through every room, even contraptions that launch confetti into the air as people pass. Guests mingle and discuss politics, equal parts depressed over the state of the city and eager to find ways to profit off of the plague. It’s a scene of disgusting excess, when just outside there are mechanized soldiers gunning down people who are living in squalor and dying from the plague. It’s enough to make me wonder if there’s any hope for the city after all. Is there anyone left who cares about the plight of the poorer citizens?
But I have a job to do, and it’s going to be even trickier than I thought. Not only do I not know which Boyle sister is my target, they’ve decided to play a game with their guests, wearing the same costume in different colors and challenging everyone to guess who is who. So even if I find out my target’s name, I still have to figure out which costume she’s wearing. As I wander around and talk to guests, I get a lot of hints for how to solve the mystery. The upstairs is off limits to guests, but many partygoers think there might be hints in the Ladies’ quarters up there. Before entering stealth mode again, however, I decide to learn what I can at the party itself, and soon find that sneaking around won’t be necessary. By fetching a drink for another guest, I’m let in on gossip revealing which Boyle sister is in which color tonight. In a smoking room in the back, I meet a man in a rat mask who tells me he knows about my mission, having assisted our little rebellion on a few occasions. He knows which sister is my target, but begs me not to kill her, because she’s the love of his life. He says he’ll wait in the basement with a boat, and if I deliver her to him, he’ll take her away and never return.
This is the nonlethal option for the mission, and it makes me very uncomfortable. I suspect that this is the point at which the developers want the player to start questioning whether their insurrection is really doing the right thing, but even so, handing Lady Boyle over to a random creepy stalker seems like it might be worse than killing her. I don’t know this guy, just what exactly would I be condemning the Lady Boyle to? I’m again struck that the darkest parts of Dishonored so far have victimized women. Unsettled, I continue to mix with other guests. At least now I know who my target is.
I’m angry now, watching these people flaunt their wealth rather than help the city, so I start picking everyone’s pockets. I’m not sure why Corvo is so good at this, it seems like a holdover from the Thief games which inspired Dishonored. But it’s child’s play to snatch coin purses from belts, and boy are they carrying a lot of cash on them. I’m used to guards carrying a few coins around, but these nobles are carrying as much as a hundred coins each. Occasionally, someone notices me making a grab and gives me a stern reprimand, but no one seems to do anything about it. Guards still stand impassively at their posts, and soon I’ve robbed everyone I can find, and snatched a few valuables from the manor too.
I spy my target and speak to her. She’s extremely flirtatious, to the point of farce. I tell her I know her name, but suggest I tell her in private. Taking this as a romantic invitation, she leads me up the servants’ stairway to her bedroom on the second floor, the guards letting us pass since I’m with one of the hosts. Soon I’m alone with her in her fancy room, with no guards in sight. This is too easy. I’m disappointed to discover that I can’t engage in any more conversation with her, she just waits there, eventually deciding that maybe I’m not as interesting as she thought. That’s when I draw my sword.
I’m conflicted. On the one hand, she’s flaunting her wealth while the rest of the city dies, and she supports the evil Lord Regent who assassinated the Empress, framed me for it, and kidnapped Emily, all while driving the city into the ground through inept and misguided governance. On the other hand, she confided in me as we climbed the stairs that she’s only seeing the Lord Regent (she didn’t name him, but I knew who she was talking about) to protect her family, and she seems more a product of an unjust society than its architect. But I’ve come this far, and she’s about to leave. Her eyes widen in disbelief as I run her through.
No one is alerted. I leave her body on the bed, and steal any valuables I can find. I find a note from the Lord Regent, saying he’s sent her a skeleton key to Dunwall Tower so she can visit him there. A little searching and I’ve nabbed the key along with some pearls and other jewelry. There’s a door to the balcony, but I’m not ready to leave just yet, I want to look around the second floor first. By using Dark Vision I can see a few guards patrolling, but they’re easy to sneak up on and incapacitate. I find the other sisters’ rooms and steal their stuff too, and even nab a couple of valuable Sokolov paintings. I even head back downstairs and rejoin the party, double checking that I haven’t missed any valuables. Then I simply walk out the door.
Back at the canal, it seems the alarm has finally been raised. A floodgate is closing where Samuel’s boat had been waiting, and there are tallboys scanning the river along with more City Watchmen on foot. They’re on the other side of the canal, though, and it’s easy to use a few blinks to sneak past the floodgate and find Samuel waiting on the other side. I have to dive from the high walls into the water, but soon I’m aboard and we’re heading back to the Hound Pits.
Only later, when checking some things for this post, did I learn that the target can actually be any of the three sisters, changing each time one plays. The others may not have been so easy to lure away from the party. Regardless, I’ve done well this time out, with only two people dead: the unfortunate duelist, and Lady Boyle herself. I can’t decide if I should have spared her, or if I should have killed everyone else too for hoarding their wealth while the city dies. I didn’t have any good choices. Is it really possible that there will be a happy ending to all of this? I guess I’ll find out.
Next time: thus always to tyrants.