Dishonored - High Chaos

FBT dishonours Dishonored

I completely missed Dishonored at the time. I was happy with Bioshock, I didn’t need another steampunk moral-choice game. But after ten years, maybe it’s time I donned the mask and found what it means to be Dishonoured. Turns out I’m a High Chaos monster.

Royal Protector/silent hero Corvo returns to plague-ridden Dunwall in time to see the Empress assassinated, her daughter Emily kidnapped, and him arrested for the murder. Broken out of prison by Loyalists, Corvo is set loose to find the princess and restore Emily to the throne before the Conspirators claim the lands as theirs.

Steampunk and Gaming are old friends, but this is one of the most beautifully realised worlds I’ve ever played. A mashup of Lovecraft and London, we’re wandering Dickensian slums, royal palaces and docks, and the whole place stinks of death as the plague takes over and rats scurry. Its disorientating but that works in your favour, you really get the feeling you’re disappearing into the nooks and crannies of the city.

We have a central base, a pub from where the Loyalists plan each mission which requires Corvo to head off and do sabotage, rescue, kill, find, or break something. You’re often sent back to the same area but it doesn’t feel repetitive and the areas change as the story and the plague progress, and there are so many routes, opportunities, diversions and things, you can spend hours just marvelling and poking about, and it helps to know the lay of the land and ways to approach areas. The whole place is your playground. And I play rough. I feel like Jack the Ripper, although more often I’m The Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town.

You can choose stealth and non-lethal methods to reach the Loyalist’s goals, which I don’t. This is, from my perspective, justified; I’m not gonna let murderers, torturers, usurpers and, erm, innocent security guards get in my way, I’m reinstating the Royal line and ensuring no one tries this again… We’ve played games where your acts sway cut-scenes, fates and game play, but I’ve never played anything as subtly disturbing as this. Without any chiding or control, I played so many missions at a High Chaos level I’m a lost cause. Sometimes, by the time I’ve finished the mission the whole place is covered in bodies and blood, and it’s eerily silent. I’m playing Corvo as a dangerous man they should not have crossed. I’m Corvo Wick. And the game doesn’t judge me for it. The other characters though…

Mass Effect let you play as a complete bastard, but characters would still call Shepard a hero. Here, the Loyalists start avoiding me, and I overhear them describing me as worse than those we’re trying to stop. Once I recover Emily, it really hits home – she says things like “you smell of blood” so nonchalantly I feel terrible. Even the kindly old ferryman drops me off at the final fight with some choice words about how I’m a monster – so I drown him before he can raise the alarm. I am a monster. Although I look more like C3PO.

Before Corvo enters the city, he dons a metal mask – why not a scarf, a false beard? Even joke glasses with a nose attached would have drawn less attention than a chrome face. The mask doesn’t actually provide anything other than scares, attention and a Zoom function. However, we do have Plasmids and Shouts. I mean, magic…

Beyond this world is the Void, where the ‘Outsider’ dwells and occasionally pops up to offer observations. I never connect with the character, I’ve got enough to deal with trying to put down a rebellion, Crown a young woman I’m turning into Hit-Girl and sort out all of Dunwall’s problems. Still, the powers given by the Void make up for Outsiders’ sermons – they are a little Bioshock/Skyrim, such as conjuring a swarm of Rats or wind blasts, but some like bending time and turning bodies to ash really make my Corvo an absolute demon.

Corvo has a multitude of weapons at his disposal, some lethal and some not. I don’t have much use for the non-lethal ones anymore, the damage is done. Although the enemies are formidable in close quarters, often fighting better than I do, they are inconsistent, recognizing you from a mile away but not seeing you crouching a foot away. The higher the Chaos, the higher the number of enemies, but since almost everything can be traversed, you can have so much fun bolting down alleyways, up buildings, teleporting across roofs, leading villains on chases then circling back and offing them. The whole town becomes your weapon.

I have fully let Corvo off the leash and just dice my way through level after level, all of which are cleverly designed with tough but fair goals, story-related events and moments that resonate. This really works as a cohesive, complete game even with my attempts to destroy it. It all keeps clicking into place, there’s no dissidence between the cut-scenes and how I behave, no unnecessary events or problems for the sake of it. I’m coming for you, Conspirators. When my resident inventor creates some sonic weapon that can either knock out or kill half the people in the city, I don’t even pause to answer. What has this game done to me?! Usually I agonise over choices, I’ve never even harmed a Little Sister and now… Kill ‘em all!

Once I reach the finale and the inevitable betrayals, I have become Death and leave no one standing. What follows is a Fallout-style ending showing the fates of those I didn’t kill; didn’t last long. Its only here that I feel I’m being punished for my Ultra-High-Chaos playthrough, but the end justifies the means, and I was mean.

Dishonoured is the first time I’ve felt disliked instead of the hero, and it was great to feel like I’d truly impacted a game world myself, even negatively. But the replay factor is high – even when I’m cutting through the place like Arnie in Commando, I spot some clever stealth option and a passive voice in my head wonders if non-lethal sneak would have been more satisfying. Then I cut a guard in half and think ‘naa’.

With Emily installed on the throne, time to jump into Dishonored 2 and see the fruits of my bloody labours. It’s Emily vs Corvo in this High Chaos double playthrough of Dishonored 2...