Game-related ramblings.

Death Before Dishonor, Epilogue: Dishonorable Discharge

This is an epilogue to 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, you may want to read the introduction and then the eight parts of the series proper, before continuing. 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.

When I started Death Before Dishonor, I was convinced that I’d end up with the high chaos ending, when my character Corvo’s stealthy approach inevitably failed and he was forced to fight and kill his adversaries. I was wrong. It turns out, Corvo had several ways to incapacitate his enemies nonlethally or simply to escape and regroup, and I managed to complete his adventure with a low body count and a happy ending. And the highly improvisational approach was a ton of fun. But, I was left curious as to how the story would have ended if I had been more murderous. So I decided to play through the game again, as something of an alternate timeline. What if Corvo’s unjust imprisonment and torture at the start of the game broke something within him, and he sought bloody revenge on the entire city of Dunwall? What if he fully embraced the dark powers of the Outsider and descended into chaos and madness?

At first, I thought I’d play a stealthy assassin, killing everyone from the shadows. But then I tried that for a bit, and realized that it’s not that different from sneaking around and knocking out guards with chokeholds and sleep darts. No, I wanted to explore how different Dishonored could be, which meant I really needed to shake things up. So I decided to ignore stealth entirely. My new persona, Evil Corvo, would flamboyantly walk right into hostile territory and fight everyone in his way. If you’d like to know how that turned out, read on for massive spoilers.

Evil Corvo’s story begins at Dunwall Tower, like last time, as he returns from overseas with bad news. The other isles could not — or would not — provide any assistance with the rat plague that is ravaging Dunwall. This visit I noticed some interesting details I hadn’t caught the first time around. The City Watch captain piloting the skiff as we approach the Tower is Geoff Curnow, Callista’s uncle. He even mentions her, if I tarry and talk with him a bit before heading to meet the Empress. Later, Callista will ask Corvo to save her uncle’s life during his first proper mission. Entering the palace grounds, I remembered that Anton Sokolov was there painting a portrait, but I forgot that his subject is High Overseer Campbell, the very man who will threaten Geoff Curnow’s life. And, last time, I stole that very portrait from Campbell’s secret room within the Abbey of the Everyman. Out of curiosity, I agree to play hide and seek with Emily this time too, and discover that it leads to a mini-tutorial about how stay hidden behind cover when sneaking around. A little late for that. Where I’m going, I won’t be needing cover.

Otherwise, things proceed in a similar way. Daud and his assassins show up and kill the Empress, I’m framed for it, and six months later some mysterious allies help me break out of prison on the eve of my execution. The prison break isn’t that different than it was before, in fact it was the only part of Death Before Dishonor that went the way I’d expected the series to go: I’d manage to knock out one or two guards but then the rest were alerted and I was forced to cut them down. This time I just skipped the part where I knocked out a few first, and simply cut them all down. After I make it out of the prison and into the sewers, however, things do play out differently. I perform my first ever drop assassination, which lets Corvo fall from any height onto an enemy and kill him while avoiding damage from the drop. A section in the sewers acts as a tutorial for this move, but even the first time I played Dishonored years ago I didn’t try it, because I was trying to be nonviolent. With no such qualms this time, I gleefully plunged my sword into a hapless guard’s neck just moments before hitting the ground. It’s a fun move, but I found little opportunity to use it later. It seems suited for a stealthy player, but this time I was brazen.

Brazen enough to walk directly into the pack of guards just around the bend. Even though I make no attempt to disguise my approach, and have my sword and pistol openly drawn, the nearest guard still doesn’t react quickly enough, and I stab him through the throat before he knows what’s happening. The rest engage me, but it isn’t hard to cut them all down. A correctly timed party sends guards staggering, vulnerable to a lethal counterattack, making any individual guard easy prey. With several of them ganging up on me I take some hits, but a few shots from my pistol even the odds. It also means I’m able to thoroughly explore this section of the sewers, having killed all the guards. Last time, I dove into the water and swam to safety after being spotted, so I never realized there was a secret hermit’s hideaway down here with a bunch of money stashed away. I loot it all and walk out to meet Samuel the boatman, and head to the Hound Pits and my first real mission.

The Hound Pits visit is identical to last time, but this time I allowed myself to grab all of the extra DLC stuff that clogs Corvo’s room after his dream visit to the Outsider’s Void. This includes a bunch of new bone charms, mostly related to Corvo’s magical powers, and some items that allow Corvo to equip more bone charms simultaneously. They’re not that game-changing, to be honest. A much bigger deal is the stacks of cash beside them, which let me get a head start on upgrades from Piero. I make some different choices with my purchases this time. Instead of upgrading the crossbow, I go all in on the pistol, giving it a larger magazine, faster reload time, and better accuracy. I barely used the pistol during my stealthy escapades, but Evil Corvo cares not for subtlety. That night, the City Watchmen on patrol near Clavering Boulevard sure are surprised when a man wearing a creepy mask walks up from the riverbank, sword drawn, and calmly runs one of them through. The rest draw their own blades, but the mysterious stranger makes short work of them, before striding confidently towards Holger Square.

Navigating Corvo’s missions feels totally different this time. Before, I would blink around to high vantage points or secure hiding spots, observe patrol patterns, and work out ways to single out and incapacitate guards, then hide their unconscious bodies. Now, I simply walk up and fight them all, and then explore at my leisure once they’re all dead. I don’t bother moving their corpses, which are sometimes devoured by rat swarms while the fight still rages. Where I used to rely heavily on the Dark Vision power to observe my enemies’ movements through walls, this time I never even unlock it. Instead, I grab the Blood Thirsty power, which lets Corvo build up adrenaline during fights and then unleash slow motion execution moves with his blade. It’s not that useful in the first mission, often only triggering just as the last guard falls, but later I’ve found some bone charms that boost adrenaline attacks and routinely face larger squads of guards, leading to many a slow motion beheading or dismemberment.

Evil Corvo’s violent approach gives me a new appreciation for his sword. It’s omnipresent in Dishonored: whenever Corvo equips his crossbow, pistol, grenades or springrazor traps, or even the magical powers that he routinely uses like Blink, he draws his sword. It’s always in his right hand, no matter what else he’s doing. Before, I almost never wanted to use the sword, only drawing it because I was forced to if I wanted to blink around, fire a sleep dart, or use Dark Vision. Now, I realize just how versatile the sword is. With timed parries, deadly counterattacks, and adrenaline-fueled killing moves, Evil Corvo’s sword is by far his most used tool, with his pistol and magical powers merely assisting his deadly swordsmanship. For a game where open fighting is merely one possible option, the swordfights are surprisingly engaging and fun. If a bit more dangerous than my earlier stealthy escapades.

Without the need for slow and patient stealth, the missions can be finished faster, with Corvo free to wander everywhere without worry, although reinforcements do appear. But regularly facing danger head on makes me quickly relax my semi-permadeath rule. I’m still not making any quicksaves, but if I die I allow myself to reload the latest autosave and continue playing. This is technically a violation of the original Death By Dishonor rules, but it didn’t feel like a violation in spirit. My mindset was still that of playing in the moment, it’s just that those moments involved a lot more people trying to stab and/or shoot me.

The City Watch actually aren’t the most dangerous adversaries, unless they attack in large numbers. I soon learn to identify the officers who carry pistols by their distinctive red vests, and to shoot them before they can shoot me. My pistol is a ton of fun to use, loud and powerful, with upgrades making it far more effective than the flintlocks carried by the Watch. They take too long to draw and aim anyway, making it easy to blast them before they can shoot. That is, unless my attention is on the two or three footmen attacking me with their swords. A few times, I was taken out by a pistol shot from afar while I was engaged in swordplay, but I soon learned better situational awareness, knowing when to disengage and flank and when to stand my ground. I don’t use Bend Time as much as I thought I would; slowing or freezing time is helpful for quickly eliminating several Watchmen when I’m surrounded, but I found I preferred the Windblast power, which doesn’t use as much spirit energy and can easily knock over a whole pack of enemies. The upgraded version can even kill them by hurling them against walls and other objects. In the later stages of the game, my preferred battle strategy centered on agile swordplay, liberal pistol fire, and calculated Windblasts to thin the ranks.

Most of my early deaths, however, came at the hands of Slackjaw’s gang, the Bottle Street Boys. I decided that Evil Corvo was fully on Team Outsider, so when Granny Rags asked me to infect the gang’s elixir still with the plague, killing them off along with the poorer residents who relied on their bootleg elixir to stave off sickness, I agreed wholeheartedly. Then I learned just why the Watch had been unable to eliminate the gang. The Bottle Street Boys carry flasks of flammable liquid, and are liable to take a swig from them and then breathe flames at me in the middle of a swordfight. If I kept my distance instead, they would simply hurl the explosive flasks at me. As I raided their still, fights often went from “going well” to “I’m dead” in short order, thanks to these devious tactics. Eventually I learned to be a little more trigger happy with my pistol when fighting these thugs, and I leave them all dead and their elixir still infected.

That done, I head to the Abbey to take on the Overseers. Fighting them isn’t too different than fighting the City Watch, and since they aren’t expecting me, I’m able to take out most of them in small groups, often even catching one or two by surprise before they draw their weapons. Entering the Abbey through the back yard area rather than the kennels this time, I come across an Overseer who is trying to protect his sister from being prosecuted as a witch. My timely murder of the other Overseers hassling them probably should have inspired shock and disgust, but instead the Overseer and his sister thank me, and even give me the combination to a safe as a token of appreciation before they make their escape. I hadn’t managed to open that safe last time, and am pleased to pocket some more cash, with Overseer corpses strewn around me. In the Abbey itself, several alarms are raised as I cut my way through the ranks, but none manage to alert the High Overseer, sequestered upstairs in his private meeting room with Captain Curnow.

I still want to save Curnow, but this time I want him to know he owes his life to me. So I smash the poisoned wine glass that Overseer Campbell had placed, and, for the first time, actually hide. Campbell is flustered when they enter the room and find the wine glasses broken, but he has a backup plan, and leads Curnow downstairs to his secret room. I tail them unseen, having killed all the Overseers who might have spotted me. I’m afraid the pair will notice one of the corpses, but they are absorbed in their conversation. My heart skips a beat when Campbell mentions his valuable Sokolov portrait, which I’ve already snatched off the wall, but he quickly concludes that a servant must have moved it. I wait until Curnow’s back is turned and Campbell has drawn his sword, before I step forward with my own blade drawn. Campbell’s cry of surprise makes Curnow turn around, soon adding his own shocked voice to the clamor. Fortunately, Curnow realizes Campbell’s murderous intent quickly, and while I slash the High Overseer a few times, it’s actually Curnow who kills him, with a point blank pistol blast. Curnow thanks me, and says he’ll let me off since I saved him. As I head back upstairs, I’m blindsided by a pair of Watchmen who are charging down the stairs. Cursing, I reach for my sword, but they just run right past me. They’re Curnow’s men, perhaps alerted by his gunshot. They seem content to leave me be, despite the Overseer corpses everywhere. I finish looting everything I can find and then head out to meet Samuel and head back to the Hound Pits.

I’m eager to see how my violent approach would change things. And it sure was violent: I’m somewhat shocked to learn that I killed 86 people in my first mission. A killing spree indeed. The second mission is certainly different in response, although not as different as I’d hoped. Slackjaw’s gang hadn’t been wiped out, but a bunch of them did get sick before they figured out their still had been sabotaged. They didn’t know it was me, though, which made sense since I’d left no witnesses alive. It was strange that Slackjaw never suspected me though. After telling me about the scoundrel who attacked his gang and sabotaged his still, he is eager to enlist my help, just as he did for my less violent alter ego. As I leave the distillery to investigate Slackjaw’s missing man, I find this thugs fighting off a pack of weepers, presumably their former comrades. There are more weepers around in general, and more rat packs too, but I’m disappointed that my actions hadn’t eliminated the gang completely. When I return with the last message from Slackjaw’s agent, Slackjaw offers me his deal to take care of the Pendleton twins without killing them, and then turns his back on me. I draw my sword and slit his throat. His thugs don’t even notice, but they perk up when I charge in and attack them. I kill everyone in the distillery and then fight my way out. Maybe now their gang will collapse.

The rest of the mission is less exciting. Rescuing Emily from the Golden Cat is surprisingly easy, and then I simply cut through all the guards in the building. When I reach the private room with the first of the Pendleton twins, I hear his shouts, still indignant and not yet terrified, berating his guards and serving staff for not protecting him. He barely has time to switch from indignation to horror when I burst through the door and run him through. Then I work my way to the top floor and am surprised to see the other Pendleton twin has emerged from his room to face me on the stairway, sword drawn. He shouts at me, asking if I know who he is, and how much trouble I’ll be in for attacking him. As if his privilege could save him. I just stand and watch him, until finally he makes a timid strike with his sword. I parry easily, and my swift and deadly counterattack cuts him down. Job done, I loot the rest of the place (leaving the traumatized sex workers be) and head back to the river.

The next few missions don’t appear to be meaningfully different, despite my absurdly high body count. Kaldwin’s Bridge is much as I remembered it, despite me cutting through the opposition this time. I do take cover briefly when I come across Pratchett complaining to a nearby Watchman about the curfew. The entrepreneur Pratchett is one of the less despicable people in the game, and I don’t want to kill him, so I just wait until he goes back into his house before resuming my killing spree. I do want to rob his house though, so I barge in once I’ve dealt with the Watchmen outside. Pratchett doesn’t even notice at first, until I calmly walk upstairs. I expect him to cower in fear when he sees me, leaving me free to steal his valuables, but to my surprise he draws a sword and attacks me instead. Acting on instinct, I parry and counterattack, and soon his body is sprawled over a side table, his blood dripping off the edges onto the floor. That… was not what I meant to do. Why did he try to fight!? Surely he heard of the masked killer who has cut down scores of City Watchmen and killed the High Overseer and the Pendleton twins? Did he really think he’d survive a duel with me?

My self-reflection doesn’t last long, however. Evil Corvo is committed to his path. I kill the guards at the drawbridge, and the thugs who try to lay an ambush for me on the other side. Perched on a rooftop outside Sokolov’s residence, I hear guards discussing the civilians who are being detained for Sokolov’s plague-related experiments, and their conversation may be one of the few things that’s changed about the mission. It’s even darker than the norm for Dishonored, with the officer describing the civilians as swine who are off to the slaughter. I take him out with a drop assassination, right in front of his underling’s eyes, before spinning around to cut the underling down. Then I free the civilians, who are somehow thankful rather than horrified.

Entering Sokolov’s house, I learn a new appreciation for the Overseers’ music box devices, which disrupt my magical powers. Actually, they do more than that: they also disrupt my vision and eventually drain my health if I stay close for too long. My first assault is going OK until the music box gets activated. Unable to slow time or use my Windblast power, I’m quickly cut down. The second time goes better but I’m still forced to flee after killing a few guards, when the overseer with the music box chases me outside. Barely able to see, with my health failing, I fire at him with my pistol only to see the bullets bounce harmlessly off the huge metal music box. As a last resort, I toss a grenade and manage to take out the Overseer with the blast. I resolve from then on to be very, very careful whenever I engage an Overseer with one of those devices again.

Killing every guard in Sokolov’s house still didn’t alert him, up in his greenhouse, but I’m surprised to find a full conversation with him once I enter. Last time I just snuck up behind him and choked him out, but this time he tries to reason with me and even bribe me, before finally huddling in fear. I pity him as I get him in a choke hold and carry his body back downstairs to Samuel’s boat. But then, halfway down, I hear more guards approaching. I frantically lay Sokolov on the floor, terrified he’ll die in the scuffle, but as the soldiers round the corner I slam them against the wall with my recently upgraded Windblast power. Its force is lethal, and I only have to fight one remaining guard who had trailed slightly behind his fellows. That done, I retrieve the still-breathing Sokolov and get him to the boat.

My next mission, to the Boyles’ masked ball, is Evil Corvo’s first encounter with tallboys. I’d completely avoided these imposing soldiers on their robotic stilts in my last adventure, knowing of no way to take them out without killing them. Evil Corvo, however, relishes the chance to test his mettle against these elite troops. They carry three whale oil tanks on their backs, which seem to be obvious weak points, since whale oil tanks have a tendency to explode. In practice, all three must be detonated before a tallboy will fall, easier said than done since they also have movable shield panels to defend against bullets. I perish a few times as I test out ways to attacking these monstrosities. I mostly use Bend Time to give me time to circle the tallboys and carefully aim at their whale oil tanks. This is harder than I expected, and later I take to softening the tallboys up by nabbing a spare whale oil tank from a guard post and hurling it at the stilt walkers, to start the fight off with a bang. Eventually I learn that detonating the tallboys’ own power sources is not strictly necessary, as they’ll die with enough pistol shots too. Soon I’ve laid waste to everything on the streets outside the Boyle manor, and it’s time to head inside.

I wanted to walk right up to the front door and show my invitation (stolen from the art dealer during my second mission), before going on a killing spree in the main ballroom. But, once again, I’d explored a bit too far elsewhere and technically entered the Boyle grounds already, which seems to void the option to use my invitation. Curses. Instead, I go in through the back entrance, but this time I blink my way onto the second floor balcony of the mansion, kill the guard there, and enter the private rooms on the second floor, bypassing the ballroom. My intention is to eliminate the few guards on patrol up here, steal everything I can, and then head downstairs to crash the party. I remember from before that there’s an Overseer with a music box on guard down there, so I want to be sure I kill him first, before the real slaughter begins. My plan goes well at first, as the second floor guards barely have time to register my presence before I kill them, but someone must have heard something, or wandered past and seen a body, because I hear a commotion as I’m searching the third and final bedroom.

Guards come charging through the doorway, but I make short work of them in the narrow space. I can hear more coming, so I pull out a springrazor trap and set it just outside the bedroom door, before ducking back inside. I’ve never used one of these before, and I’m trying it out for the novelty more than anything else. It slices up at least one guard as he charges down the hallway, although I don’t have a good view from inside the room. And I’m quickly distracted by the Overseer and his music box marching towards me down the other hall. This time I’m ready, and toss a grenade immediately, taking him out along with some guards behind him. A few stragglers make it to me and fall to my sword. Just when I think I’ve dispatched everyone, I’m surprised to see the three masked Boyle sisters come running in to the bedroom. I guess they tend to run upstairs if a fight breaks out at the party, but in this case they’ve run right into me. They immediately cower and beg for their lives, but Evil Corvo is not swayed. He stabs them one by one, leaving their bodies to bleed out on the floor.

On a whim, I try out the velvet pullcord in the bedroom, which I’d assumed calls for servants. It does not; instead, I just hear a click and the sound of a door opening. After some searching, I realize that it’s a small crawlspace door up in the rafters, leading to a hidden attic. There I find a chest full of valuables, including the Boyle family cameo, which was to be the reward for any party guest who could correctly guess which sister was which. Ironically, I’d actually discovered which was which by reading their diaries in their bedrooms, even though I’d later decided to indiscriminately kill all three of them. So I guess I technically deserve the reward.

Downstairs, it seems most of the guests have wisely cleared out. A few remain, begging me not to hurt them. Sorry, but you don’t seem to understand what Evil Corvo is all about. Here you are, throwing this lavish ball while outside plague victims are dying in the streets. It’s time for a reckoning. I kill any nobles I find (I leave the servants alone) and take their money, and when I’m satisfied, I walk over the guest book and sign my name just for a laugh. Then I head walk outside into the garden.

Strangely, the guards out here have no idea what happened inside. I’m greeted courteously and asked to behave myself on the grounds. Not likely. I draw my sword and start killing. There are a surprising number of guards out here, and the fight gets a little touch and go, but my Windblast power saves me, knocking a half dozen guards over and even killing a few. Among the dead is Lord Shaw, the one Treavor Pendleton got me into a pistol duel with last time. I never delivered Treavor’s letter this time around, but maybe slaughtering everyone at the party will satisfy him? I’ve now grabbed all the loot I could find, and for a change of pace I leave through the basement, which connects to the canal. Soon I’m meeting with Samuel and heading back to the Hound Pits.

It’s only now, after my fourth mission, that my allies at the Hound Pits start to react to my monstrous murder sprees. Not much, mind you. Most still joke about how much fun I must have had at the fancy party, seemingly oblivious to the fact that I killed everyone there (except the servants). But Havelock and Overseer Martin do make a few comments about the rising body count in the streets, and how the plague is getting out of control. And I find an audio diary in Samuel’s little shelter outside, in which he talks about how well sound carries over the river. Every time he drops me off, he hears the screams start soon after. This sentiment is in sharp contrast to everything he’s said to my face so far, which has invariably been friendly and optimistic. But I guess he’s starting to realize who Evil Corvo really is.

My next mission is the assault on Dunwall Tower to eliminate the Lord Regent. It’s not noticeably different from last time, except for my murderous approach. In the courtyard, I kill most of the foot soldiers and the tallboy myself, before using a rewire tool on the automated guard tower and letting it blast the rest of the guards for me. I also discover a servant who tells me of a secret way into the Tower through the moat. Somehow I missed this guy last time through. Everyone else is already dead, though, so I just head in the front door, only to make another interesting discovery. Last time, I overheard the Lord Regent talking with his guards, and stayed hidden until the guards resumed their patrols. This time, I just walk up and kill the guardsmen (my new muffled boots, upgraded after Kaldwin’s Bridge, mean they don’t hear me even though I’m running up to them), and am surprised to find that the Lord Regent isn’t talking to them from the balcony above, as I originally thought, but through a video screen. This is the only such screen I’ve seen in the game, running a fully fledged video call with his men. I realize the Lord Regent can’t see me though, because he just starts frantically asking what is happening, now that his guards are no longer responding. So I flick on the switch to activate the camera.

Able to see me at last, the Lord Regent curses me out, telling me there’s no way I’ll be able to reach him in his saferoom, and that I’m a fool because now he’s sending all of this guards after me. Then I’m given the option to take off my mask. I do so. I’m not sure why the Lord Regent is surprised to find Corvo underneath the mask, but he is. Surely it was suspicious that Corvo escaped prison just a day before the masked killer started his rampage? But maybe the masked killer’s magical powers threw suspicion onto Daud and his gang instead. Either way, the Lord Regent is quite rude to me and sends a bunch of guards to kill me. Well, let them try. After many Windblasts, pistol shots, and a lot of swordplay — not to mention several guzzled elixirs to restore health and magical energy — the guards all lie dead. And it really is nearly all of them. From here I mostly traverse empty hallways, with the occasional traumatized servant, and sometimes a guard or two who somehow missed the alarms.

Out on the roof, where the Lord Regent’s saferoom is, it’s a different story. The guards here have held back to defend their master, but they don’t stand a chance against Evil Corvo. I make short work of the guards outside, before blinking up through a window to circumvent the sealed doors. The tallboy inside is poorly suited to the close quarters, and it’s easy to hide amongst the bookshelves and take occasional potshots until it falls. Then all that remains is to get around the wall of light that blocks access to the meeting room in the back. A few blinks later and I’ve removed the whale oil tank that powers it, and walk in to face the Lord Regent. He’s carrying a pistol, but he doesn’t have time to draw it before I’m upon him. I’m treated to a special animated sequence in which Evil Corvo lodges his sword in the Lord Regent’s shoulder, then grabs him and snaps his neck, before pulling the sword back out. Good riddance. I grab the rune he has in the room with him, and then head downstairs, stopping on the way to play the Lord Regent’s confession over the public address system so everyone will know that he deserved his fate.

Back at the Hound Pits, the effects of my high chaos are finally being felt. There’s the same celebration and the same humorously slow poison in my drink, but the conversations are very different. Treavor Pendleton is loud and irritable, snapping at Havelock and Overseer Martin. Emily is drawing a picture of a scary figure with a sword, with men dying amidst flames around him, and tells me about the executions she’ll order when she’s Empress. Her mentor Callista confides in me that Emily knows what I’ve done, and that her thoughts have been getting dark and morbid despite Callista’s best efforts to teach her. Worst of all is Cecelia, who tells me that she wouldn’t mind getting rid of Lydia, her boss among the servants. All it would take is a touch of the plague. Cecelia started out fearful and timid, afraid to stand up for herself, but last time my actions inspired her to take control of her situation and seek out a better life. This time, all I’ve taught her is to simply kill those who are holding her back. It hurts to hear her say it, more keenly than anything I’ve felt so far. I’m speaking about myself, the player, of course, not about Evil Corvo. I like to imagine that he simply smiled with pride, before heading off to buy more ammo from Piero while ignoring his poison-induced visual hallucinations.

As if Cecelia wasn’t bad enough, Samuel unloads on me next. After succumbing to the poison, I watch my former allies give their same speeches, until they tell Samuel to dispose of my body. When he leans over me and speaks, his speech is very different. “I don’t know why I keep sticking my neck out for you,” he says contemptuously. He’s still given me half the poison dose, but that’s all he’s willing to do for me. He’ll set me adrift in a boat, and if I’m lucky I’ll make it out of the city. If I’m unlucky, well, Samuel can’t bring himself to mourn for me. This hurts just as much as Cecelia’s words did, and it’ s sudden, too. If I hadn’t poked around in Samuel’s little shelter, this would have been the first indication that he views me as anything other than a friend and colleague. His actions do make a bit more sense this time around though. Before, he was genuinely trying to save me, but then why didn’t he hide me somewhere safe and nurse me back to health? Setting me adrift makes more sense when he doesn’t particularly care if I live or die.

I live, of course. My visit to the Flooded District and encounter with Daud’s gang is very similar to last time; I leave them all dead. Things only change later, when I’m making my way back to the Hound Pits. Last time I was in Rudshore Gate, I helped a band of survivors hiding in a tenement building. This time, they’re all weepers already, and I have to cut them all down. The tallboys are still patrolling outside, though, and I’m eager to test my new explosive bullets on them. These are satisfyingly effective, but quickly depleted, especially since there’s an extra tallboy waiting on the other side of the gate that wasn’t there last time. I take him out with a barrage of standard bullets, and then head into the sewer tunnels.

Like before, I run into one of Slackjaw’s men down here, but his story has changed slightly now that Slackjaw is dead. The gang was still accosted by Granny Rags and her magically animated rat swarms, but without Slackjaw they never stood a chance. But I’ll still need to head in there to get the key to the sewer gate. As I head down the side passage, I hear a gunshot. I quickly turn back, to find the man has killed himself.

In Granny Rags’ lair, there’s no dramatic showdown this time. She’s happy to see me, in fact, as she stirs her bubbling cauldron, surrounded by the massive ribcage of a whale. She tells me I can go look for the key among Slackjaw’s remains, just as long as I leave her his bones. Fine with me. For some reason Slackjaw’s body is up in her hut, not near her cauldron. I grab the key and go on my way, leaving Granny Rags to her witchy ways. After wending my way through the sewer tunnels, I find that the survivor camp I passed through last time is full of weepers now, enough of them that I actually have to guzzle an elixir or two after fighting them off. Then I make my way back up to the streets, and into the abandoned apartment that doubles as Cecelia’s hideout.

She’s there, just like before. But her story is darker this time. There was no talk of a bonus for the servants after my disappearance, just a brusque summons. Cecelia wasn’t feeling well (maybe she drank too much at the party?) so she watched from the attic as Havelock stabbed Wallace through the eye with his saber, and shot Lydia in the head. This time he didn’t spare Callista either. Then they headed towards Sokolov’s cage, and Cecilia made a run for it. Evil Corvo listens carefully, then grimly nods and heads outside.

There are Watchmen and tallboys on patrol, and I’m out of explosive bullets. But I have a few sticky grenades left. I try these out on the tallboys, and they soften them up nicely, so they go down with just a few pistol shots afterwards. I kill all the Watchmen I encounter, and intend to recover the blueprints for the upgraded arc pylon so I can use it to kill the rest. But by the time I retrieve the blueprints from Havelock’s room and circumvent the barricade on Piero’s workshop, I’ve actually killed all our enemies already. I’m still able to have Piero and Sokolov set off the arc pylon on its deadly setting, but if it triggers any different dialogue, I don’t encounter it. I remember to head back to the abandoned apartment to check on Cecelia, but find the same note as before. She’s made a run for it, then, but there are no friendly groups of survivors to take her in now. I hope she’ll make it. I also check my room in the attic. There’s the same note from Emily sitting on my desk, but her drawing is different this time. It’s shows not my face, but my mask. Once again, the symbolism is rather blunt: Corvo Attano is dead, there is only the masked assassin now. I return to the courtyard and retrieve the key to Emily’s tower from Callista’s body, so I can fire a flare to signal Samuel.

Samuel isn’t exactly happy to see me. But he agrees to take me to Kingsparrow Island for a final confrontation with our co-conspirators and betrayers. He tells me he feels something in his bones and fears it’s the plague, so we’d better go now. It’s stormy as we approach the island, unlike the bright and clear weather I encountered last time. Samuel tells me there have been gunshots heard across the water. Our former friends have already started to turn on each other, like the scum they are. Then Samuel looks me in the eye, and tells me I may just be the worst of them all. He doesn’t like what I’ve become, and declares that I don’t deserve any better than they do. Which is why he’s going to let them know I’m coming. Then he draws a pistol and points it skyward, ready to fire.

On instinct, my hand goes to my own pistol, and I’ve half drawn it before I come to my senses. My own gunshot would be just as loud as Samuel’s. And since when has Evil Corvo cared if his enemies knew he was coming? Besides, Samuel is right. I am a monster. Samuel doesn’t deserve to die for telling the truth. I put my pistol away and walk ashore, letting Samuel go his own way. It’s time to end this.

The soldiers come running to meet me, but they don’t stand a chance. I cut down the first wave, then make a beeline for the automated guard tower and hack it with a rewire tool. It starts firing at the soldiers on the loading dock to my left, while I head for the guard post on the right. Wave after wave come out of the fort through the wall of light to meet my blade, but they all fall. Then I blink to the drain pipe on a nearby wall, find my way into the security room where I disable the wall of light, and then simply walk into the fort.

Inside, things are quite a bit different than my last visit. There’s a hole blown through the wall of the gatehouse leading to the lighthouse, and Treavor Pendleton is up there, screaming insults at Overseer Martin, who is standing below in the courtyard. It seems that Pendleton tried to snatch Emily for himself, with the help of the Pendleton family guard, but Havelock managed to get her and fled to the lighthouse. Martin was left behind, and Pendleton has no intention of letting him through. Evil Corvo has no intention of letting either of them live.

Recalling that there’s an Overseer with a music box nearby, I start by using my recently upgraded Bend Time ability to freeze time, so I can kill him and a few soldiers before the fight really starts. This works well, but the ensuing battle is long and intense, and I eventually fall to a hail of bullets. Fortunately, the latest autosave was right before I entered the fort, so I’m able to try the battle again right away. This time, however, I can’t seem to find the Overseer with the music box while time is frozen, settling for killing a few Watchmen instead. But as soon as time resumes, I hear the horrible music of his box. He’s close, just up the stairs leading to the ramparts, and I’m actually able to sneak some bullets around his big fox to hit him in the leg and shoulder. He falls, and I regain my ability to use magic. Which I do, through liberal use of Windblasts against the other guards charging my position. A short time later, the bloodbath is over, I’ve guzzled several elixirs to recover, and Martin and his whole force are dead.

I explore the ramparts and other areas to eliminate any stragglers, before blinking through the hole in the gatehouse to face Pendleton, only to find him slumped on the floor, bleeding. He’s been hit by a stray bullet. He has time to complain about his fate with a string of abusive curses and insults, and I’m about to hasten his end when he suddenly keels over dead of his own accord. I dispatch his house guard easily, and head for the bridge.

Last time, I remarked on how narrow and dangerous the bridge looked. Now, Evil Corvo gleefully takes advantage of this to knock Watchmen over the side with his Windblast power, watching as they plummet, screaming, into the water far below. Then I take the elevator to the top, where there are just a few more guards patrolling the rain-lashed catwalks while lightning flashes overhead. I blast them over the railings just to watch them fall, before walking up to the ornate rooms at the top of the lighthouse.

This time, Havelock isn’t in the fancy meeting room. With a feeling of foreboding, I climb to the mezzanine and then back outside, onto yet more catwalks leading farther up. Soon, I can hear Havelock yelling at Emily. To her credit, she’s yelling right back, refusing to be intimidated. I hasten my steps, climbing up to the very top where, inevitably, I see Havelock standing on a ledge with Emily held fast in his arms. He warns me not to come any closer, or he’ll fall, taking Emily with him. Not wanting to take any chances, I simply freeze time with my Bend Time power, and calmly walk up to the frozen pair, before reaching out to rescue Emily.

This triggers a special animation sequence that makes the whole affair a much closer thing than it should have been. Havelock leans backwards and falls, but I mange to catch Emily’s hands. For a moment she dangles over the edge, but I haul her up. To my surprise, she doesn’t even seem scared. She just asks me if the others are all dead. It’s OK, she says, because she was going to have them killed anyway. She will be Empress. No one else.

That is where the mission ends, and I’m treated to the final ending cinematic, once again narrated by the Outsider and featuring vignettes within his Void. Emily’s coronation is a very different scene than before, filled with nobles and officials engaged in heated argument, cruel expressions on their frozen faces. Corvo is manhandling someone who got a little too close to Emily, while Emily herself looks frightened on the throne, its seat far too big for her. The Outsider tells me that history will not say that she came to power atop a pile of corpses, put on the throne by the assassin, Corvo. No, it will simply say that it was her lot to assume power in an age of terror and corruption, but that she did her best in an unkind world. Then the Outsider falls silent, and I watch as the camera swoops through scenes of the ruined and rat-filled streets. I watch Samuel piloting his tiny boat into the storm, huge waves threatening to capsize it. Finally the Outsider speaks again, telling me that even if history doesn’t remember me, Emily will. The scene shows Emily, now an old woman, putting flowers on my grave.

I’m disappointed by this ending. As before, it feels toothless. What of my bad influence on Emily? There were many hints, from her drawings and comments at the Hound Pits, that I was teaching her to solve her problems with violence and killing. I was ready for her to become a tyrant, ruling with an iron fist. Instead, it seems she was simply an ineffectual leader, desperately trying to stem the tide of evil and corruption that gripped Dunwall along with the plague. Only now, when researching for this post, have I learned that there is worse ending, attained if Emily dies atop the lighthouse. That is the ending in which Dunwall is plunged into ruin, its great civilization falling as it eats itself from within. It seems that, no matter what, Emily manages to hold things together, as long as she survives to take the throne. Sadly, Evil Emily is not to be. Wait, maybe “sadly” is not the right word to use there, but I do wish those hints that she was becoming cruel by following my example had borne more fruit at the end.

As I’ve discussed earlier in this post, playing as Evil Corvo was surprisingly fun. I’d never really tried direct combat in Dishonored before, and found the battles engaging, especially when bolstered with the Outsider’s powers. But I’m glad that this epilogue was an alternate timeline of sorts. By the end, I’d killed over 500 people, which is a shockingly high number. And while the way the game responded to my violence was often awkward and occasionally inconsistent, it succeeded in making me (if not Evil Corvo) guilty and ashamed. Mostly, however, I was impressed. It’s amazing that the same game can support both styles of play so well. I ignored stealth almost completely this time around, bypassing all of the carefully designed paths that let stealthy players sneak past enemies or find vantage points from which to plan an infiltration, yet I still found a compelling and challenging adventure. And yes, it was a bit cathartic to be able to simply slaughter all those guards who I’d had to avoid or carefully incapacitate last time.

Still, I’m glad that the happy ending can be my “official” one, attained even though I didn’t resort to my perfectionist habit of constantly reloading saves. The real Corvo was able to wring the best out of a horrible situation, getting Emily back onto the throne where she led Dunwall into a golden age, the plague a mere footnote in history. I don’t know if that’s the ending that’s canon for Dishonored 2, but I hope so.

I’m getting ahead of myself, however. Before I play Dishonored 2, I need to play the story DLCs for Dishonored, which I’ve never tried before. There are two: The Knife of Dunwall, and The Brigmore Witches. In both, players no longer control Corvo, but rather play as Daud, the man who killed the Empress. Presumably the DLCs take place before Corvo, in turn, kills Daud. I’m looking forward to these, because Daud is a far more interesting character than Corvo. Corvo is almost devoid of personality, a blank slate onto which players can project their own motives, but Daud is an established presence. He’s been assassinating people in the city for years, with his own gang who share the powers that the Outsider granted him. As Daud, will I be merciful or murderous? I don’t know. But there’s one thing I’m sure of: I won’t be reloading saved games. Like Corvo, Daud will live in the moment, no matter what happens.

This is the end of Death Before Dishonor! I hope you enjoyed it. If you somehow want to read even more about Dishonored, my posts about the DLCs will be coming separately (likely not in diary form) once I’ve played those. Otherwise, hopefully the eight installments of this series, plus this lengthy epilogue, were enough. If you haven’t played Dishonored yourself, I highly recommend it. The Definitive Edition, which contains all the DLC, is sold from various online storefronts including Steam and GOG.

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4 Comments

  1. This series inspired me to replay Dishonored on high chaos and it was a ton of fun!
    If you don’t cut down Martin yourself, he does a little speech and commits suicide.

    • Cool, didn’t know that! What did he say? Did he lament falling under the Outsider’s influence?

      • Surprisingly enough, Martin didn’t try blaming the Outsider for his own actions – maybe that’s why he would have made such a great High Overseer?
        Instead it was something along the lines of “we have started with the best intentions, but committing evil acts corrupted us; I do feel guilty. You will not have the privilege of killing me, though, Corvo”. Boom!
        Certainly the most balanced of the fallen trio. Pendleton was too weak, Havelock – too brutal, but Martin could have made an excellent tyrant.

        • Yeah, Martin is an interesting character. There’s a note in Dunwall Tower from before he joined the rebellion that shows he’s true to the original principles of the Overseers. But once he has High Overseer Campbell’s black book, full of secrets used to blackmail other Overseers, he uses it the same way Campbell did, to force the Overseers to stop supporting the Lord Regent through blackmail. So he’s already compromising his ideals. And it’s apparently his idea, later, to kill the servants and leave no witnesses to the covert rebellion. By that point he’s fully turned. He does seem to be the logical, scheming one of the bunch, however, so it’s fitting that at the end he’s left in the dust by the impulsive and disdainful Pendleton and the cruel Havelock, who both act brashly and seal their own (and Martin’s) fates.

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