Choose Your Own Dishonored – Within Limits or Without
The trajectory of the Dishonored series is a fascinating one. In the original game, players took on the role of Corvo Attano, while in the associated DLCs, the playable center shifted to the assassin Daud. The sequel then offered players the choice of Corvo or his daughter Emily. Now, with Death of the Outsider, Billie Lurk moves to the forefront: wounded and reconfigured Billie, one of the few Black characters in the series, whose central role in what’s being called the game’s coda created some controversy, particularly for those who wanted the return of Daud himself as a central character (and those, of course, who seem to dislike Billie herself for some reason or another).
But the heart of Dishonored has always been choice. Are you a ruthless killer, slaughtering your way through the isles? Are you a fleeting spirit, running silently along rooftops, leaving the occasional body stashed away in a dumpster? With the choice of characters in the sequel, this expanded the level of choices players could take on. The sequel also added a difficulty slider in an update a few months after the initial release, something that carried through to Death of the Outsider. I’ve experimented with mine, making combat more difficult for my first playthrough. I try to play stealthy, without kills, so if I get into a fight, I want it to feel like punishment, I suppose, though I’m not sure I’m happy with the settings I chose. Part of me wants to go ahead and start over.
This is my own fault. To avoid spoilers, I read almost nothing about Death of the Outsider before it was released. I didn’t know killer Billie wouldn’t have the high chaos impact of earlier games. I didn’t know she would receive her powers up front (relatively). I didn’t know what to expect from the missions. I always play Dishonored games at least twice, so I know I’ll play through again, but it’s hard not to start over now, knowing what I already know, because this is such a different experience. Not a bad experience at all – I like Billie’s attitude, and the enemies and developments after the events of Dishonored 2 are fascinating. But it is different and I was pre-calibrated for a different game.
But maybe what I need to adjust is my idea of choice. Billie got her powers early, but the game is filthy with bonecharms—they are everywhere—which offers a lot of different adjustments to play. And there’s a great deal to do. The game doesn’t have as many missions as a full game, but I’m still on the second because I find myself moving back and forth across the region, figuring the best ways to do things (and trying not to use up too many faces in the process, thanks to the creepy-cool power of Semblance). I’m still making choices, but now they’re less about endings and structures and more about how I want to play the game in the moment. It’s a fascinating change, unexpected but thought-provoking.
I don’t usually do murder-runs, killing everyone and stacking bodies, but perhaps for my replay, instead of ghosting, I’ll do that. Of course, that may end like the time I promised myself I’d play through Mass Effect as a renegade and just ended up being a paragon with a different hairstyle. I have a hard time bringing myself to be the “bad guy,” and here Billie seems like she’s only allowed to be the “bad guy” because she’s less important. Then again, she’s the one going after a god… so maybe I have to adjust my idea of importance, too.