Dunwall’s biggest monster – how Rich Wordsworth became The Devil in Dishonored

Update: Read our Dishonored PS3 review to find out why you should join Rich in his monstrous deeds.

At the top of a high tower filled with the bodies of the City Watch, Emily, Dunwall’s child empress, tells me I’m her hero. “The others are all dead, aren’t they?” she asks. “That’s okay, I was going to have them killed anyway.” This was how Dishonored ended for me the first time around: a mother’s death avenged, a city’s corrupted hierarchy in tatters and a little girl saved – if only in the loosest sense. A second, peaceful playthrough later and what have I learned? More about myself than I’d like.

You’re a killer, the game told me. An assassin. With each mission, I stepped off Samuel’s boat with an exaggerated, disfigured picture of my mark – a hateful caricature I’d relish scoring with a thick red X. Sure, I could fi nd a non-lethal way to dispose of Lord or Lady Such-And-Such, but why should I? It’s harder, for a start, demanding eavesdropping, spying and sneaking about. And besides, I thought as I tossed another corpse off a balcony, mercy is for chumps.

Then there were the toys the game gave me: a swarm of rats, a lethal Windblast, the ability to instantly combust my victims’ corpses. The coins, trinkets and Sokolov paintings carelessly left next to open windows went on upgrades for accuracy, damage and ammo capacity. “What’ll it be today, Corvo?” asked my tireless quartermaster. “More death, please, Piero,” said I. “And don’t spare the dismemberment.”

Despite all this, I knew from the ominous loading screens that things would not end well for Dunwall – that I was scrabbling up a mounting pile of fractured skulls towards the High Chaos ending. The signs were there, but they were subtle – too subtle for my Corvo. “Corvo, look at my drawing!” Emily said in the safety of the Hound Pits pub. “Not now, child. I’m busy tying a Spring Razor to this rat.”

If he had bothered, he’d have seen that it wasn’t a colourful drawing of a rainbow, but a masked monster towering over a city choked with dead. But I doubt it would have caused him to pause. Whatever the outcome, I thought, Emily would be safe and my betrayers gone. It wouldn’t be pretty, but justice would be done.

The ending garrotted me with my own heartstrings. I’d been “entertaining”, gloated the Outsider over a montage of Dunwall in chaos. I’d torn through in an eviscerating ribbon-dance, blinded by vengeance and the fluidity of my killing. And in doing so, I’d missed the game’s humanity. I missed the Overseer who’d caught the plague, begging a friend to put him out of his misery. I missed the guard who’d fallen in love with a prostitute.

I didn’t read the journal of the final villain and see his twisted conflict of regret and determination. And after seeing both outcomes, I started thinking about the title. How you can take back everything you’ve lost without being sucked into Dunwall’s spiral of violence. How you can reject the game’s toybox of deadly powers. How you can still act honourably. And that’s the story’s greatest twist. You choose the easy route. You spoil Dunwall. You turn the bright-eyed child into a vicious creature by your cruel example. That is your dishonour.