This month I tried my hand at Dishonored: Definitive Edition for the PS4, and since the game already has built in non-lethal options, I’ve added two stipulations to make it a bit more challenging:
1. I must play on Normal or higher.
2. I absolutely cannot be seen through the entire game.
Because of these rules I spent a lot of time on roof tops and high ground. If I found I couldn’t get around my enemies, then I subdued them with either tranquilizer darts or knocked them out via chokehold. For the main targets themselves – Overseer Campbell, The Pendleton Twins, Sokolov, Lady Boyle, Daud, The Lord Regent and Havelock – I used the non-lethal options I was given at the time.
Playing the way I did requires quite a bit of patience. So much of my time was spent sitting in rafters and on top of bookcases, just watching and waiting for a guard to turn around at the right moment so I could drop down and choke him out. If I messed up the timing, was seen, or the game just decided it didn’t want the knock out prompt to appear, I’d have to reload my last save and start again. I’d already learned the virtues of save rotation and data management from other Bethesda titles, but I’d say the amount of time I spent in loading screens nearly rivaled my active play time. Over the course of the entire playthrough I recorded 81 save reloads and 3 deaths.
The actual act of not killing isn’t all that difficult, but its the fact that you have to do it stealthy that takes time. I’d read in a few places when the game first came out that its more fun to play it as a whirlwind of steel and bullets (I will say its a very different experience at the least) and despite the many creative alternatives to killing and the good ending gained from them, the game seems to really want you to stab people in the face. I could rewire a machine that would vaporize me if I got too close, turning the nearby guards to ashes, or I could go out of my way to find its fuel source and disconnect it. The lethal ways of dealing with enemies are often quicker, flashier, and more action packed; I can understand why some people wouldn’t want to sit on a window ledge for 15 minutes while guards patrol back and forth if they could clear a room by summoning a swarm of blood thirsty rats.
As for dealing with your key targets, therein lies Dishonored’s much more interesting takedowns. I could slit the Lord Regent’s throat and be done with it, or expose his crimes over loudspeaker. I could steam one of the Pendleton Twins to death, or have them both forced to work in their own mines. It almost seems kinder to just kill them when faced with the other options. The alternative to killing each case takes a bit more work, but is necessary to keep your hands clean. Heck, my favorite non-lethal take down in the entire game is Daud’s. What better way to send a message to a master assassin than to knock him out without him ever knowing you were there?
Despite the amount of time and patience needed for this kind of run, I found the outcome way more rewarding than any of my bloodier playthroughs. Dishonored’s no-kill run was a success (with no small thanks to it being built into the game) and proved that even if revenge solves everything, it doesn’t always need to come at the tip of a blade. Even if the game really wants it to.
This is the first of a series of articles chronicling my attempts at completing a game through pacifistic means; whether the game wants me to or not. This includes no killing, being diplomatic (see: manipulative), and non-confrontational actions if possible.