Dishonored 2 brings morals to murder by giving a backstory to every guard

Yesterday, Harvey Smith and Dinga Bakaba of Arkane Studios joined us in the PC Gamer office to show off a new level from Dishonored 2 in an eerie, alt-Victorian museum called the Royal Conservatory. We’ll let you watch the video above and piece together what plot details you can, but be warned, it’s full of spoilers. What isn’t surprising is that you need to infiltrate a dense urban area and assassinate some poor sucker.

We started off playing as Emily, one of two playable characters. The other is Corvo, but this time he has a voice—an old, disgruntled, Stephen-Russell-of-Thief-fame voice. Anyway, as Emily, Bakaba decided to take a stealthy, low chaos approach. If you’re unfamiliar, chaos is the wishy-washy moral scale of Dishonored, tipped one way or the other by how much noise and how many guards you mutilate. 

This time around, it’s much less binary. Individual NPCs have their own moral alignment and are thus worth different amounts of chaos if murdered. By using The Heart, a mysterious, now literal moral compass, you can point it at NPCs to hear it (yes, the Heart talks, sort of) narrate a significant moment from that character’s life—no matter how important they are, leading role or run-of-the-mill guard. Bakaba found a nice perch and used it on a guard below. The Heart started telling a story about how this man implicitly let a terrible assault take place, at which point we unanimously declared him an asshole. Killing this guy, for instance, will contribute less chaos to your playthrough, whereas killing a dude whose Heart-narrative details him volunteering at a soup kitchen on the weekends will probably shake things up much more. 

We didn’t get to see how chaos manifests during the stream, but Smith described the world as turning much dirtier and more cynical the more murder you sow. Either way, by giving every NPC an alignment, chaos isn’t strictly tied to being violent versus non-violent, and subtly humanizes every character, no matter how insignificant. And luckily, a pacifist playthrough won’t hamstring your abilities. There are non-lethal versions of every takedown now, whether from above, via shadow walking, or blink, you can put down guards gently. I’m going to do a Corvo Cop playthrough and focus on weeding out the bad eggs and throwing them in sewer jail.

Other highlights from the stream include:

  • 46:03 - Thank goodness for game physics: a hacked spotlight turret shooting a man into the sky, forcing him into an explosive collision with a street speaker.
  • 24:15 - Elevator physics: built in the style of Victorian elevators, you can break the cables to use lifts as a deadly trap.
  • 55:30 - Bloodfly propagation in real time: because Bakaba has a bone charm equipped that turns the first shot from any enemy into bloodflies, they eventually find a corpse to lay eggs in, which according to Smith, will hatch and spread to other corpses even while you aren’t around. That means if you go high chaos and leave too many bodies near a single bloodfly, you may come back to a deadly swarm. No matter for Corvo, however. He just possesses one and buzzes off.
  • 49:18 - Because we can: Bakaba carries around the dismembered torso of a witch and attaches razor mines to it. It’s grisly and dumb and a bit silly, but indicative of the apparent freedom to get by doing whatever the hell works for you. I can dig it (from a distance).

Check out our Dishonored 2 tagged page for a ton of trailers and previews, or just sit tight until it releases on November 11.  

James Davenport

James is stuck in an endless loop, playing the Dark Souls games on repeat until Elden Ring and Silksong set him free. He's a truffle pig for indie horror and weird FPS games too, seeking out games that actively hurt to play. Otherwise he's wandering Austin, identifying mushrooms and doodling grackles.