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, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5 and Part 6 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.

My attempt to overthrow the government of Dunwall in Dishonored has suffered its first major setback, in the form of SPOILERS. Yet, despite the fact that I got a bit murderous in response — and that I’m not allowing myself to reload saved games when things go wrong — I have somehow managed to keep my overall chaos rating low. To see if I can make that last, you may read on for massive spoilers.

After my prolonged sojourn through the Flooded District, I’ve made my way back to the Hound Pits Pub at last. I hope to catch the trail of my betrayers, Havelock and Martin, who left me for dead once I was no longer useful for their revolution. This time, I haven’t arrived by boat like I usually do, but through the back entrance to the abandoned apartment that Cecelia uses as her hiding place. I see her immediately: she’s trying in vain to open a metal shutter that covers a doorway. At first she thinks I’m there to kill her, but she quickly realizes with relief who I am. And then she tells me of the horrible events that transpired at the Hound Pits while I was away.

It seems my former allies are even more wicked than I thought. They didn’t just want to get rid of me, because I was a convenient scapegoat for the assassination of the Empress and because I might have impeded their influence over the young Empress-to-be, Emily. They wanted to leave no witnesses at all to their activities here. Havelock and Overseer Martin rounded up the servants, telling them they would be getting their bonuses, but instead lined them up to be shot. Cecelia got away because the higher-ranked servants told her she wouldn’t get a bonus, and because she was beneath Havelock’s and Martin’s notice. But they killed Lydia, who ran the household, and Wallace, Treavor Pendleton’s loyal manservant. Pendleton is a coward, so he didn’t stop them, he just kept apologizing. Havelock was going to kill Callista too, but couldn’t bring himself to do it, feeling he owed a debt to her uncle. I’m glad I saved her uncle from the High Overseer’s machinations, otherwise Havelock may not have been so merciful. So Callista is alive, but locked in Emily’s tower. Samuel the boatman is alive too, because he fled after setting my poison-addled body adrift. Cecelia doesn’t know what happened to Piero Joplin and Anton Sokolov, but Havelock was heading towards Sokolov’s cage the last she saw.

My presence seems to reassure Cecelia, and she stops trying to get the door open, telling me she can hide here as long as it takes. Hopefully that won’t be long. I head outside and hide in a bush, peering into the familiar street outside the pub, which is now crawling with the City Watch. Multiple tallboys are on patrol, thundering past on their pneumatic stilts, and there are a lot of footsoldiers too. I eavesdrop on a pair of them who are conveniently discussing recent events. Havelock is the new Lord Regent now, and he’s ordered them to scour this place for me. He’s pinned the servants’ murders on me too, and the guards ponder whether I’ll sneak back in to slaughter them all. Maybe I’m even watching them right now, one of them says. Heh.

As I consider how best to knock out the guards in the street, a passing tallboy inexplicably sees me, despite my excellent hiding spot. Soon, it’s firing explosive arrows at my position and the whole squad is alerted. I start running and activate my Bend Time ability to freeze time and give me some breathing room. I then use my supernatural leap to jump onto the ledge along the side of the building, looking for an open window so I can duck inside. But I can’t find it, and as time resumes the Watch quickly spot me. Soon they’re tossing grenades in my direction, and I’m running again before the tallboys gun me down. That sure didn’t go as planned.

Restarting the mission, I try to stay hidden, but a tallboy sees me again, before the officers have even finished their conversation. I use the same time freezing trick, but this time I open the grate in the street and drop into the sewer tunnels beneath the pub, safely evading my enemies. There’s no one down here, so I can make my way into the basement of the pub. It’s interesting to see the Hound Pits grounds, which I’ve visited so many times as a peaceful home base location, transformed into a hostile area. I’ve been in these sewer tunnels before, when I was learning about weepers, and hadn’t thought much of them. But now I see they are one way to sneak into the pub itself. They also have a gate leading to the river, which would have let me approach from the mooring instead. The familiar Hound Pits design is revealed to be another carefully constructed infiltration scenario, complete with multiple routes that allow for both stealthy or confrontational styles. Having seen these places so many times before, I’d grown accustomed to them and didn’t anticipate their dual purpose. A clever trick.

It’s easy to stay hidden in the narrower corridors of the pub itself, occasionally jumping up to choke out a guard and hide his body in the basement. I listen to some Watchmen discussing their orders, learning that Piero and Sokolov are holed up in Piero’s workshop while the Watch tries to lay siege to the building. They are to interrogate and then execute them, and of course keep an eye out for me, their primary target. Deeming it safer not to engage the guards on the ground floor, I climb instead, checking my former allies’ rooms on the second floor. They’ve all been stripped clean, although I do find a set of blueprints in Havelock’s wastebin.

There are a few guards patrolling the attic, where my room was. I watch them through the walls using my Dark Vision power, waiting for an opportunity to sneak in and incapacitate them. One of them walks over to a corner of the room and… is he urinating on my bed!? When he turns away again I sneak behind him and choke him out, before looking around. My bed isn’t there anymore, the mattress gone and the frame now standing up against the wall. But I do find a note from Emily. She’s drawn a picture of me, and is excited for me to see it. It’s hanging on the wall, and it’s not what I’m expecting. It’s huge, a collage made by sticking many individual pieces of paper together in haphazard fashion, and seems too elaborate for a child of her age. I’m honestly not sure what to make of it. I also realize that this is the first time I’ve been given a hint of what Corvo actually looks like. I’ve seen his mask, but never his actual face, and in all my explorations I’ve never come across a mirror. It’s a strange feeling to suddenly see an image of the character I’ve been controlling for so long, even if it’s just a rough drawing.

From here, there’s a walkway leading over to Emily’s room in the tower, running across the roof of Piero’s workshop. As I cross, I see tallboys in the courtyard below launching ordinance at the shop, but its closed metal shutters seem to be withstanding the assault. The tower room is locked, but I can see Callista inside through the keyhole. I talk to her through the door and she lets me in, happy to see a friendly (masked) face. She gives her account of the recent events, which are basically the same as what Cecilia told me, but Callista knows what happened next. Havelock, Martin and Treavor Pendleton have all departed, taking Emily with them. Callista couldn’t stop them. They left the City Watch to apprehend Piero and Sokolov and search for me. Samuel the boatman is somewhere nearby on the river, waiting for a signal from the flare gun mounted in the tower window. When I’m ready, I can signal him. Callista tells me not to worry about her, she can take care of herself. But Emily needs me; I have to rescue her. We’re agreed on that one, Callista, but I’d better deal with the City Watch situation first.

Heading back toward the pub’s attic, I see that the small balcony on the second floor of Piero’s workshop is open. Blinking down, I walk in and hear Piero and Sokolov talking below. It seems all that was needed to get these two old rivals to work together was a mutual enemy: they’re already plotting ways to improve on each other’s elixir forumlae, and how to work towards a cure for the plague. When I approach, they excitedly tell me they’ve made improvements to Sokolov’s lightning pylon design, giving it much larger range. The prototype is on the roof, and it should be able to knock out — or kill — all the Watch forces in the area. They just need the final blueprints, and Havelock had them last.

I’ve already found those blueprints in Havelock’s wastebin, but I’m not sure I’m ready to blast the Watch just yet. I’m worried the guards inside the pub building may not be affected, so I head back there to incapacitate them myself. This goes poorly. A guard walks in on me while I’m choking out one of his comrades, so I freeze time and flee to the attic, and then wait while suspicious guards come upstairs to look for me. I’m sometimes able to single one out and get him in a choke hold, but I think I end up wasting three or four sleep darts when a group spies me again. I do learn that the place where my bed used to be is a popular urination spot, though. Two more guards relieve themselves in that corner before I finally manage to knock them all out.

Embarrassed, I return to Piero’s shop and tell him to set the pylon to stun. Let’s knock these suckers out. Up on the roof, we turn the power on and, after a mighty flash and powerful energy surge, are happy to see masses of sleeping guards strewn about below. It worked! I’m now free to wander the grounds with impunity, surprised to find that even the tallboys are dozing peacefully on the cobblestones. I’d always assumed there was no way to take down a tallboy non-lethally, does this mean I could have been using sleep darts on them this whole time!? Well, I looked it up before writing this post and the answer is no. This is actually the only point in the game when tallboys can be brought down without killing them.

Anyway, I run around and make sure I haven’t missed anything. Occasionally I hear Havelock speak over the city’s public address system, announcing that Martin is now High Overseer, and Pendleton has been given a high position in parliament. He’s wasting no time. But the only thing I find here at the pub is a note from Havelock to the City Watch on the bar, which reveals that he’s headed to the lighthouse on Kingsparrow Island. Emily’s note mentioned this too. I learned about the lighthouse when I was infiltrating Dunwall Tower to take down the Lord Regent; it was apparently his last big construction project and features all the latest military tech. I guess Havelock thinks he’ll be safe there. I beg to differ.

This was by far the smallest mission in the game, a calm before the finale. The Outsider didn’t make an appearance, but Sokolov is happy to step up and awkwardly explain the themes of the game just to make absolutely sure I got them. He tells me that Havelock and Martin started out with good intentions, but they couldn’t resist the lure of power, and when they realized they were one step away from the throne, they did whatever they had to to seize it. Thanks for spelling it out for me, buddy, I never would have figured that out myself. He does drop a particularly quotable line, though: “once you start ordering people killed to get your way, everything else is mere detail.” Strangely, this statement is meant as an indictment of Havelock, but not of me, the one who actually did the killing (the fact that I didn’t actually kill many of the targets is also “mere detail”). In fact, Sokolov tells me he hopes we can leave our differences behind us, and wishes me luck in my future murderous endeavors. Odd, but then I guess the writers wanted players to reflect on their own role themselves.

This exchange summarizes the main message of the whole game: power corrupts. Those who use too much of the Outsider’s power become like Daud the assassin, or Granny Rags the witch, descending into spirals of death and madness. Those who enjoy too much political authority, like the Lord Regent did (even when he was just the Royal Spymaster), start to think they can decide who lives and who dies. And even those who oppose tyranny fall into it themselves if they go too far in pursuit of their goal. It’s not a very original message, it’s often clumsily delivered, and the first time I played the game I was disappointed that it didn’t have more to say. But recent events have shown us that this is a message that bears repeating. Dishonored is a bit too direct about it, but this time around I didn’t mind the message itself as much.

There’s not much left to do. I stock up on ammo from Piero and bid him farewell; he and Sokolov will leave before the City Watchmen wake up. I say goodbye to Callista too, who assures me she can make her own way to safety. I also head back to Cecelia’s secret apartment hideaway to tell her the coast is clear, but all I find is a note on the floor, addressed to me. It’s brief, just telling me that she’s making a run for it, and that if she hadn’t met me she doesn’t think she’d have had the courage to try. She hopes we’ll meet again. Me too, Cecelia. Maybe the survivors I passed in the sewer tunnels will take you in, until the city can turn itself around.

That’s everything, so I return to the tower and fire off the flare to signal Samuel. He doesn’t pull up to his usual mooring, but off to the side of the tower instead. I guess this is in case there were still Watchmen patrolling. He’s surprised to see me here, but happy I’m alive. I tell him that Havelock and Martin are hiding out in the lighthouse on Kingsparrow Island and he agrees to take me there. That’s it for this short mission, and I’ve made it through without killing anyone. I’m still on track for a low chaos finish, and I have a feeling that I’m about to embark on my final outing. Let’s go.

Next time: the Void gazes also into you.