In what direction does your moral compass point? Your answer to this question will play a role in the way in which you play the game and will have a large effect on the way in which the story unfolds.
You are Corvo Atano, the former bodyguard to the Empress of Dunwall. After being framed for her assassination and the kidnapping of her daughter (and more importantly the heir to the throne), Emily, you find yourself locked up in Coleridge Prison.
Dunwall is in a bad shape: it is engulfed in a plague epidemic, rats and dogs are roaming the streets spreading disease and Weepers (the infected) are becoming increasingly violent. After the Empress’ death and with Emily nowhere to be found, her former Spymaster has taken control of the city as Lord Regent.
With his execution date drawing ever closer, Corvo finds out he has some friends who know the truth about the Empress. The Empire Loyalists, as they refer to themselves as, manage to get a letter to Corvo explaining the situation and the plan for his escape.
After sneaking past guards and trudging through the cities sewers you meet with Samuel the boatman, who ferries you to the Hounds Pits pub to meet the Loyalists, who are led by Admiral Havelock. Will you and the Loyalists be able to clear your name and restore the rightful heir to the thrown?
Every action you make in the game will affect your Chaos level. For example, your Chaos level is raised with every kill you make, be it the town watch, Weepers or residents. Having a high Chaos level takes a change on the outcome of the game as well as changing the gameplay by increasing the number of enemies in the game, increasing the rat infestation the city and the conversations you will have with the other characters,
To obtain a low Chaos rating it helps to complete your objective stealthily and with non-lethal outcomes wherever possible. Even when using non-lethal takedowns such as sleep darting, you need to be careful where you leave the unconscious body. Leaving the body on the floor can end up with rats eating and killing the person. And of course make sure that they don’t fall a great height or land in water!
Once briefed by the Loyalist you meet with Piero the ‘handyman’ for the group. Of course, knowing you are a wanted man in Dunwall, Piero has manufactured a mask for you to wear. During the game you can return to Piero to purchase upgrades to your mask such as the ability to zoom in. You can also buy equipment to aid you on your missions including more darts (lethal and non-lethal), bullets and rewiring toolkits. When on missions you can steal items and pickpocket characters to gain money for your purchasing desires.
It is not only Piero’s equipment that can aid you through the game. During your first night’s sleep at the Hound Pits pub you meet The Outsider in your dreams. He brands you with his mark, teaches you the basics of rune magic and gives you a heart that will beat whenever a rune is near. You can purchase new spells with runes that you find during your missions. These spells can give you helpful skills that make the low Chaos route of the game a lot easier.
It is not just the guards that you have to look out for during your missions. Walls of Light are dotted around the city. These are barriers made of energy that will vaporise anyone who crosses them, apart from the guards. There are ways to reverse the Wall of Light so Corvo can pass through and guards will disintegrate but that will increase your chaos level. Is it a risk worth taking?
As well as Walls of Light the Lord Regent has enlisted Tallboys to help maintain order on the streets of Dunwall. Tallboys are heavily armoured officers that are on tall mechanical legs with spotlights searching the streets. I would advise you to remain behind cover if you see one of these approaching.
When you are given a mission to complete there is an overall main objective, for example, to assassinate a target of the Loyalists choosing. The way in which you do this is entirely up to you. The first choice you make is if you want to do it stealthily. If you do there are more choices: do you want to use rune magic and take possession of a rat so you can scurry past guard and through small vents in the walls? Or do you want to traverse around the walls of buildings evading the guard’s line of sight.
Be warned that any small sound you make will be heard by characters that are nearby, friend or foe.
Due to the number of different routes you can take and many ways to achieve your objective you find yourself wondering if there was a better way. This adds to the replay ability of the title as many would find the story can be completed relatively quickly and the game does lack any multiplayer functionality. This being said, the story is really enjoyable and I wish it was longer.
The controls in the game work well, allowing you to attack, block and sneak around with relative ease. In Corvo’s right hand you will find his trusty assassins’ knife wielded ready for anything that gets in his way. His left hand you can customise: whether you equip a crossbow for firing bolts or equip a rune spell, the choice is yours. You can set up shortcuts on the d-pad for the four items you use the most and the rest can be found by holding down the left bumper.
Overall I really enjoyed this steam punk-esque game. I loved how much you the player are in control and you decide what you want to do and how you will achieve it. The only bad thing I can say about the game is the length of the campaign: it was too short and the game left me wanting more.
If you know you are only going to play through the game once I would suggest waiting for a price cut, but if you will complete the missions multiple times, what are you waiting for? (and this times it isn’t for the guards to pass)