Dishonored EP4: Grandma’s House

By Josh Posted Tuesday Mar 5, 2013

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 124 comments

Link (YouTube)

Playing through Dishonored again, it really does feel like something is missing from the game. The game clearly has this whole, fleshed out world, but there never seemed to be any hook; anything to pull me into it or encourage me to explore anything but the most cursory of background information. The main storyline is all exposition about events that are happening right now, with little explanation for what happened before or why any of this is important. It really was, as I touched on in the episode, like I’d missed the first few chapters of the story somewhere.

It really didn’t help that I didn’t figure out the Heart could reveal background information about the NPCs if you pointed it at them until I was nearly finished with the game. I’d tried it early on, but apparently none of the people I’d tried to learn about were interesting enough for me to distinguish the Heart’s dialogue about them from everything it was saying about the general area. Also, it totally doesn’t count if the only way to learn about the background of the setting is to point an item at everything I see.

And yes, the brightness problem will be fixed next episode. Patience!


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124 thoughts on “Dishonored EP4: Grandma’s House

  1. I get the impression that the writers of this game read a bunch of Neil Gaiman Sandman comics and wanted to make a bunch of pseudo-European-supernatural characters that we’re kind of supposed to recognize without any introduction, just like many of Gaiman’s.

    The difference being that a lot of Gaiman’s characters are either based on or actually ARE mythological entities, fairy tale characters, etc.

  2. newdarkcloud says:

    Let me correct you on a few things:

    1.) The Rune from the Outsider shrine is not one of ones Granny Rags gives you as a reward. That’s a third, unrelated Rune you can get from the level.

    2.) Putting plague in the bootlegged elixir actually DOES raise your Chaos. As you said, it’s a very evil thing to do in the game that spreads plague and kills a lot of people. I don’t know to what extent it raises the Chaos, but I know that it does. If you come back there in the next mission, Slackjaw’s men will have started turning into Weepers because of what you did.

    3.) Interestingly, Granny Rags and Slackjaw BOTH send you to that doctor, but for different reasons. Rags wants you to steal a rat carcass for use in poisoning the still and Slackjaw sent a man in there and he wants you to find out what happened.

    To play Devil’s Advocate for a moment, Harvey Smith says that he asserted through the game that the act of killing is an inherently unstable one that cause Chaos. He says that an actor who avoids taking life will leave a more stable world in their wake than one who does not, and that is the essence of the Chaos mechanic.

    1. AJax says:

      So who stopped midway through this side quest and thought “This is messed up! What the hell am I even doing!”? because that’s the exact reaction that I had.

      Edit: Huh, that’s weird. Didn’t mean to respond to newdarkcloud. :P

      1. newdarkcloud says:

        To be totally fair, I did it too. In fact, I think that’s what you’re supposed to do. You’re supposed to sit and wonder “Would I REALLY do something do evil just a obtain 1 rune? Not even a set of them, just one.”

        Given that Harvey Smith said the team wanted to comment on how players blindly do things in games, like Spec Ops did, this could be one of the ways in which he was doing it.

        1. Jokerman says:

          I had a sudden “wtf did i just do?” after i had already done it… hey, at least i got a rune.

      2. MetalSeagull says:

        Well as soon as she asked me, I thought “wait a minute. Won’t that kill a lot of people?” Cause they tried to rob her? Lady’s crazy.

      3. Eruanno says:

        I figured maybe some good would come of it in the end. Maybe Slackjaw’s men were blackmailing some civilians and they… Uh… Fuck it, let’s see what happens.

        Then I came back and everything was horrible and I realized that maaayyybe I shouldn’t have poisoned their reserves. Oops.

        1. newdarkcloud says:

          Turns out Slackjaw’s just selling a diluted elixir to the common folks at a discounted price. It’s not as effective as Sokolov’s pure elixir, but it works.

          1. WJS says:

            Unless, of course, some utter bastard mixes it with plague rat guts.

        2. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

          I, too, was in the “see what happens” camp.

          But I missed… oh, all of the exposition Chris was talking about. I just thought she was old and psychotic. And that the purpose of poisoning the stuff was to weaken the Bottle Street Gang by making the elixer not only not work, but also make people sick. But I missed entirely that it was giving them plague.

          I was expecting to get back from the mission and be murdered by Granny Rags.

          I was rather disappointed when she actually gave me the rune.

      4. Grudgeal says:

        My immediate reaction to side quests is almost to do them no matter what. I’ve been so inured to most jRPGs and modern games leaving no negative consequences in sidequests and just making them timesinks for more XP and neat stuff, saving all that moral choice for the “important” decisions you make in the main quests. So someone actually had to point out to me the negative ramifications of doing that quest. Also, the last game I had played before Dishonoured was Spec Ops. So you might say I was a little used to doing horrible things at that point.

        In the end, I chose not to do it but compromised: I broke into the factory and stole all their stuff but didn’t infect anything or kill anyone. Everybody wins. Or at least I do.

        1. newdarkcloud says:

          After I realized what I was doing, that’s exactly what I decided to do: Not poison the elixir, but still steal all their shit.

    2. Cupcaeks says:

      Tainting the elixir doesn’t raise the chaos rating by much. I still managed to get a low chaos rating for that mission despite doing it, which I found very odd, since deliberately spreading the plague around seems like a highly chaotic thing to do.

      I think the high/low chaos thing works for the most part, but this is definitely one instance where I didn’t quite get the logic they were using, similar to the whole “killing weepers = high chaos” thing.

      1. hborrgg says:

        I think the justification is that since all the weepers get cured in the good ending killing them ‘is’ murder.

        1. guy says:

          But… no Weepers in any of the missions where they appear can possibly live long enough for that to happen. The Good Ending is at least 24 hours after you last encounter a Weeper, and 72 or more after you last encountered them in the most likely place for cure distribution to start. Every single person in the Weeper stage you encounter will be dead by the time the cure reaches them even assuming the cure is completely finished within twelve hours of its inventors starting on it and it can be distributed to everyone in two days.

    3. hborrgg says:

      Yes, I think it raises chaos by quite a bit too. The real hint is that you are doing it for bone charms and outsider runes instead of simply out of the goodness of your heart.

      But yeah, it didn’t really dawn on me what I was doing in that quest until the next level and I saw the aftermath. It’s sort of a clever subversion of Booze Baron tropes “Oh, you’re going to an old distillery to poison a still that belongs to a bunch of gangsters who rule over the city’s poor with an iron fist.” It can take a while to realize that what they’re actually talking about is this bootleg health elixir that is probably the many people’s only chance of avoiding the plague.

      1. WJS says:

        Even if it was just booze, you’re still poisoning their customers.

    4. Daemian Lucifer says:

      “To play Devil's Advocate for a moment, Harvey Smith says that he asserted through the game that the act of killing is an inherently unstable one that cause Chaos. He says that an actor who avoids taking life will leave a more stable world in their wake than one who does not, and that is the essence of the Chaos mechanic.”

      But that doesnt really work in this setting.For example,low chaos is making two very influential men disappear forever.So why isnt it low chaos if you kill someone and make their body disappear forever,and yet blinking in front of someone and shooting them with a sleep dart is?

      I think way better low/high chaos mechanic would be how much alarms you raised,how spotted you were,and how well you hid the bodies.Killing someone and disintegrating their body should be low chaos,while chocking someone unconscious should be high chaos.Well,ok maybe mid chaos,because going all out and shooting explosive arrows left and right is much worse than knocking them out stealthily.

      1. hborrgg says:

        The Twins fate is probably the least thought out instance. They’re alive but disappeared, how is that any different then dead and disappeared? And even if someone knew about what happened they would be under the belief that Slackjaw was responsible, increasing their fear of the local gangs and decreasing their faith in local law enforcement (ie. not something that strikes as “low-chaos”).

        It should be noted that a lot of the stuff you described does have an impact on chaos (not as much as killing though). But I think that’s one of the things that would have been interesting to explore had the developers put more work into adding non-lethal or at least less-lethal uses for the different weapons and powers. Which would be less chaotic: ghosting through an area without leaving a trace yet feeding dozens of corpses to hagfish in the process, or lighting a man on fire in full view of his friends then slipping by in all of the panic and confusion.

      2. zob says:

        Well for Campbell, options are :
        Some assassin went through whole battalion of overseers and kill their leader.

        Someone branded the corrupt leader of overseers as heretic.

        I’d say first option is more chaotic.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          But those arent the only two options.There is a huge difference between “someone branded the leader” and “a bunch of guards woke up in dumpsters all around the place,and someone branded the leader”.

          1. Nick says:

            I think what’s compounding the confusion here is that the rating of low/high chaos that you get at the end of the level is NOT just about that level – it’s the summation of your actions to date (i.e. more or less it’s a display of ‘did you kill 20% or higher of all human/weeper targets in the levels that you played so far?)

            The chaotic impact of poisoning the still is shown by having all of Slackjaw’s guys having caught the plague when you go back there in the next mission, whereas the low/high chaos result is basically a pointer as to which ending you’re currently on track for.

          2. zob says:

            Fine, let’s be specific. How could killing someone without a trace could be more chaotic then incapacitating, him you asked. Answer is simple, Family. Let’s say the guard you whiffed out of existence has a wife and kid. Or let’s say has an elderly mother or father. Who will look after them? Elixirs are in short supply, we know law enforcement forces have access to them but do you honestly think Dunwall Government will keep supplying elixir to an officer that has gone AWOL?

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              But stuff like that is already happening en masse.People are constantly getting eaten by the rats and the weepers,killed by gangs,and some just run away or get locked up somewhere.If you kill someone and hide them,or even better disintegrate them,no one will think that this case was anything special.No one will panic because of it(not more than because of other things).

              But if you just knock them out,and then do other shit,or worse they see you and you sleep dart them,then theyll talk to everyone they know about it,and that will cause much more panic.People disappearing without a trace in this city is nothing new,nothing particularly chaotic.People getting knocked out left and right while some high figures are getting mollested,that is new,that is chaotic.

              Thats why low/high chaos should be more about how much detected you were while on missions.If someone sees you blinking,and survives,theyll spread much more panic than if you simply kill them from behind and disintegrate their body while no one is around.

              1. zob says:

                This is the second time you are deflecting. I won’t bother explaining this anymore.

        2. I’m guessing the devs saw death as being just a binary option: 0 = alive, not chaos. 1 = dead, chaos.

          This oversimplification robs the player of choice, I think. Are some of the fates worse than death? Perhaps, but they might also be justified. Further, the problem is compounded by people being just as absent if alive as if they were dead, which means the GAME needs them out of the way by the end of their mission, no matter what your decision is.

          I think we’ve hit another one of those “too many permutations even if you don’t include voice acting for those in charge to handle” things.

  3. Johan says:

    I was waiting all day for this, better late than never though

    “It really was, as I touched on in the episode, like I'd missed the first few chapters of the story somewhere.”

    I remember getting this same feeling watching another play Dishonored, I simply attributed it to the fact that I came in late, but maybe I was psychic and understood the game on a much deeper level than I realized
    Probably the former though

    1. MetalSeagull says:

      I kind of like piecing together the back story. Granted, it doesn’t make much sense when your character should be familiar with a lot of these people. Maybe he’s got amnesia and never asks questions because he doesn’t want anyone to find out he doesn’t know what the hell is going on.

    2. MrGuy says:

      One thing I felt could have been both really simple and really effective was the way the Thief series did this. You had Garret inner monologue to himself a line or two when he came to an area he recognized, or saw a person he knew. I feel like they struck a very reasonable balance of “letting the player know things the character innately knows” without venturing into “I’ll just read you the story” territory.

      I mean, you borrowed so much from Thief already.

  4. Slothful says:

    It seems like the game’s aspect of choosing “chaos or not” would be far better served if it fully was decoupled from the morality of choosing lethal or nonlethal, like if the player was given a bunch of toys and powers that could take guards out nonlethally, but also doing absolutely horrible things to the victims as well, like infecting them with the plague, taking off a limb, or sending them off to some horrible nightmare dimension.

    It would be an even better if the mechanic of chaos was directly related to Corvo’s use of his powers, as opposed to deaths, and the player was given a bunch of cool technological gadgets that were absurdly lethal along with stealthy, nonlethal yet morally questionable chaos powers, so the player was given an actual dilemma to their own morals.

    Of course, if Corvo was anything other than a silent protagonist, the moral choice would be given more weight, as opposed to just relying on the player’s own impetus to care about those little blocks of data moving around on your tv.

    1. newdarkcloud says:

      Harvey Smith and the team wanted to fundamentally talk about the nature of killing and how killing is an unstable action. Any attempts to fix the Chaos system should be designed with that thought in mind.

      1. Zukhramm says:

        No, it shouldn’t. If zI suggest a change to a game, it’s a change based on my view of the game. What the developers might have wantd is irrelevant.

        1. newdarkcloud says:

          I’m just saying that, realistically speaking, if that’s the whole point of the game. Any changes to the Chaos system should likely stay consistent with that paradigm.

          1. WJS says:

            So you’re “just saying” that the whole point of the game is fundamentally flawed? Because that’s what it sounds like. “We picked a bad premise, all suggestions have to accommodate that” isn’t really a terribly constructive way to go about things.
            I never considered that the game was trying to teach a lesson rather than tell a story, perhaps because of how utterly retarded that supposed lesson is. Arguing that killing is the worst thing ever is stupid enough if you don’t show a bunch of examples of “fate worse than death” at the same time…

    2. Brandon says:

      Another thing.. seems to me that killing itself shouldn’t add chaos.. but chaotic actions should. If you kill a body and leave it in the streets, that seems chaotic. Killing a person and hiding the body carefully is meticulous and very NON-chaotic.

      The chaos/order “choices” should be about how you play the game… Run around killing people and throwing tanks of whale oil everywhere and shooting guns and generally not being stealthy or sneaky should raise chaos. If you are a ghost and no one ever sees you, it shouldn’t, even if you leave a trail of bodies. As long as no one ever finds those bodies, who’s the wiser? People are dying in the city all the time, what’s it matter if the plague takes them or your blade does?

      I do dislike the fact that basically all of the powers are geared towards chaos, except blink and stop time, basically.

      Edit: That comment took no time at all to post, but it replied to the wrong post.

      1. Karthik says:

        For the most part, the chaos mechanic is grounded in a simulation of the city succumbing to plague. Killing more people provides more food for the rats; killing the city watch (who are actively containing the plague) causes the plague to spread faster. This at least partially explains the effect the chaos rating has on the city (and the ending).

        Given what the chaos meter affects, it doesn’t make sense to say it’s a measure of how much of a racket you’re creating or how unsubtle your methods are.

        What I would have loved, was if this pseudo-simulation of your actions affecting the plague was an actual simulation. If they actually modeled the plague proliferation as a dynamic system with the various opposing forces in the form of the city watch/elixir distribution, and with your actions as a forcing term in the relevant difference/differential equations. It would be more believable–and the result more surprising; non-linear dynamic systems are fickle beasts. It also wouldn’t load the processor because you’d only have to do it between levels, not in real time.

        Instead, we got an arbitrarily chosen metric (20% of all NPCs on a level) and a definition of “chaos” that doesn’t really hold up to scrutiny. Killing weepers (active vectors of the plague) should reduce chaos, for instance. It doesn’t feel like Dunwall is judging your actions, it feels like the developers are.

        1. Slothful says:

          It probably would be pretty easy to put down a couple basic metrics, it just would be hard to teach them to the player. Not to mention that might be going out of the programmers’ comfort zone.

          1. Karthik says:

            But Dishonored didn’t teach its current metric to the player either. It’s not like there’s any transparency to the existing mechanic. We had to ask Arkane to find out the 20% NPCs rule. In the game, it was just a tutorial screen saying “killing a lot of people raises chaos”. That is still true even with an actual simulation under the hood.

            Maybe I’m seeing value in having an actual simulation because I’ve been playing too much Dwarf Fortress lately–I just thought the world and the effect of Corvo’s actions would be more justifiable this way, compared to developer fiat.

            1. Nytzschy says:

              I’m loving the idea of being able to cause a city to descend into a tantrum spiral (by destroying the booze supply, of course) and empty out.

            2. Paul Spooner says:

              Agreed. Simulation is a valuable tool for creating emergent situations (the ostensible goal of Dishonored engine) which seems to be…
              Wait a minute…
              How can you be playing too much Dwarf Fortress? I didn’t know that was even possible!
              Please, share your secret.

            3. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

              The lack of transparency is the real problem. The chaos mechanic -all this talk about killing -either begs the original question of whether “some people just need killing,” or falters on the consequentialist ignorance. If some people should die -the Bottle Streeters are making things worse, their removal should make the streets safer -then it makes no sense that killing them raises chaos. So we’re working in a framework where killing is never justified.

              OK – then that should be said, else players are confused and feel railroaded.

              If the killing of the Bottlestreeters makes things worse, but through some convoluted system of “oh,well the dead bodies led to more rats” now the player feels confused, railroaded, and insulted.

              And if the Bottlestreeters were actually making things better, then the player’s removal of them does directly make things worse, but the player can object that they didn’t know -but Corvo should have -and if Granny Rags lied they should want to go back and have it out and…

              What do you mean I can’t?

        2. MetalSeagull says:

          Are you talking about a splash screen with messages like “plague cases increasing in district X” or “elixir production increased”?

          The world does respond to your actions, but I had to play through in both high chaos and low chaos to notice it. The biggest difference was when you are going back through the sewers in the second half of the game. There were a lot of weepers in high chaos, but in low chaos there were people who seemed like they were getting along OK (except for living in the sewers). There should have been more of that, because it felt very disconnected in my first play through.

          1. karthik says:

            “Are you talking about a splash screen with messages like “plague cases increasing in district X” or “elixir production increased”?”

            Not at all. The game wouldn’t have to be any more transparent than it already is. I’m talking about incorporating your actions in a more meaningful, consistent way than X% of NPCs killed in this level, which is what the Chaos rating is. Put some real math into calculating the spread of the plague.

            “The world does respond to your actions, but I had to play through in both high chaos and low chaos to notice it.”
            Yes, I noticed it too. The thing is, while Dishonored relies on simulation for a lot of things (like the rat swarm behavior and AI), the high/low chaos differences manifest themselves in a completely scripted, arbitrary way. I’m saying they didn’t take the immersive sim concept far enough. I can see why, it would have been impossible to playtest, but the chaos mechanic would have been awesome if it was a simulation parameter like the hundreds of simulated world state variables you modify through play.

            1. WJS says:

              It wouldn’t have needed to be nearly that complex. Hundreds of variables? Anything more than one would have been an improvement. Hundreds would be pushing it way too far, IMO. There’s probably not more than a dozen or so that you actually need, and adding more would be oversimulation.

    3. X2-Eliah says:

      I feel that the whole ‘killing creates more plague stuff’ angle would have been much much stronger if the ‘bodies vanish upon death’ skill was either not in the game at all, or implemented in a rucially different way*. That wa, you could not have the argument that “but the bodies are gone, that’s actually even better for plgue prevention!”.

      *- different way: make the skill be not ‘vanish bodies’, but ‘relocate bodies’ – perhaps by having the player mark a ‘destination point’ to where the bodies would teleport, or perhaps by just plain showing the body re-appear high up in the air and fall to a nearby rooftop in front of the player.

      1. Neko says:

        Maybe the bodies are all over the place, but they’re invisible so you don’t notice them!

        Also, you can’t feel the bodies.

        1. Eruanno says:

          But rats can feel them and eat them. And they become invisible zombies. That you can’t feel.

          Wait, what?

  5. ACman says:

    I really don’t know what to say about Dishonored….

    On one hand it’s story was lacking… But on the other it’s hard to fault compared to the shocking crimes against world and narrative that Bethesda committed against Fallout, the utter childish nonsense of Assassins Creed 2’s story.

    Its also not relying on its narrative like Alan Wake was nor retconning it’s own universe with crap fan-fiction like Mass Effect.

    So… Awesome world that really makes me want to know more, could have used better characterisation and voice acting and a mission or two showing what you actually did for the Empress*?

    *clearly assassinating people but who and why and what does that say about the supposedly “good” empress.

    1. Nick says:

      Uh, your job was ‘Royal Protector’ – from the comments people make in game, it’s pretty clear that Corvo was something of a legendary fighter in the classic adventurer mold who then became the Empress’ bodyguard. And also lover, but that’s besides the point.

      1. newdarkcloud says:

        According to books in the game, the Royal Protector is charged with defending the physical and emotional well-being of the Empress and the royal family. This means that they not only have to be well-trained, but only act as a close friend and confidant of the Empress. The Royal Protector is hand-picked by the Empress for that very reason.

        Since the two have to at least been close before Corvo took the job, it’s not a huge stretch to say that they were lovers and Emily is the daughter. Odds are they aren’t the first, given the system Royal Protectors are chosen by.

        1. ACman says:

          I don’t get that impression. The idea that you are Emily’s father or even the empresses lover are both conclusions that I find very unsubtle.

          It’d be like the President being a woman and deciding to sleep with the head of her secret service detail.

          Why does everybody jump to the “lovers” conclusion? Why can’t Corvo simply be a very valued and loyal servant?

          1. Naota says:

            Whether or not Corvo and the Empress were romantically involved is up for debate, but does it really matter at all if Emily was his biological daughter? It’s immediately obvious that he’s squarely placed as the father figure in her life right from the beginning, regardless of who her real parents may have been.

          2. WJS says:

            Why does everybody jump to the “lovers” conclusion?
            Probably because it’s explicitly stated at least twice that Corvo is Emily’s father, and the “lovers” conclusion is more likely than the “they had too much to drink one time” conclusion?

      2. ACman says:

        Yeah but at the start of the game you quite clearly coming back from a mission of some sort. And given Corvo’s skill set I find it unlikely that would have been a peaceful operation.

        And I never got the impression that the relationship with the empress was more than being a very close loyal servant.

        1. Naota says:

          I don’t see why it couldn’t have been a peaceful emissary mission to seek information on the plague from a foreign nation (just as we’re told in the game).

          Corvo’s propensity for stabbing isn’t what makes him the man for such a job, but rather that he’s the only person left in the city that the Empress trusts. He’s unwaveringly loyal to her and has the skills to take care of himself, which makes him uniquely suited to such a task. He won’t secretly report to anyone else, he won’t take a bribe, he won’t make a mistake, and he’ll find his way out of any trouble he may get into.

          If the Empress wanted someone dead, she could easily have sent a faceless assassin (Daud, anyone?) rather than a man publicly recognized as her most devoted attendant. Moreover, if she was the sort of person to do this, there wouldn’t be a coup d’etat taking place over her stubborn refusal to murder plague victims for the greater good. Hell, she’d have killed the backbiting spymaster and his cronies long ago… or simply proved ruthless enough that they had no issues with her rulership.

  6. Klay F. says:

    Part of the problem I had was the massive disconnect between the world and its people. The world, at least to me, was quite interesting. I would always relish any opportunity to learn about the world outside of Dunwall, be it the biosphere, or the other nations. The people of Dunwall, though, were so uninteresting, I didn’t know it was possible to be so apathetic to something it hurt.

    1. newdarkcloud says:

      The reason the lack of detail in the characters hurt may have more to do with the fact that the world itself is so rich. A world like this shows that there are lots of people at Arcane who are extremely passionate about their work and what they do. To see them excel so greatly in one facet, yet come up lacking in another really foes hurt when you see it in what was clearly a labor of love.

  7. Kanodin says:

    I like the way they handled Granny Rags’ backstory. She’s not supposed to be a super well known figure, or at least I didn’t get that vibe, I thought she was supposed to be this weird old lady who might be harmless but might not and who is the subject of a lot of urban legends. Having her history be obscure is a necessary part of that mystique.

    I also just flat out don’t agree with the idea that having her backstory be revealed in the call to the spheres books or heart dialogue or whatever is cheating, nor with this show’s general antipathy to revealing anything outside the main mission.

    1. Cupcaeks says:

      I have to agree on the back story reveals. None of it is essential to understanding the main plot, it just adds a lot of flavor. The Thief games were set up much the same way. You could go through the missions and ignore all the books and notes and still understand the story, but digging through those books and notes reveals all kinds of interesting sub plots that tie into what you’re doing. I’ll admit that Granny Rags has a horrible introduction (Samuel mentions her at the beginning of the mission if you talk to him, but why do we want to visit her again?), but if you ignore her this time around, her entire subplot pretty much ceases to be a thing in the game. Her story certainly adds to the world, but it’s completely optional, and I don’t see anything wrong with having information about her scattered throughout the world. If you’re really into the lore, you’ll probably go digging for that information anyway, and if not, you can safely ignore all of it.

    2. MrGuy says:

      Hmm…so interesting. I felt myself vigorously nodding along with Josh with the whole “you get the story through the books and the heart is cheating.” She’s a reasonably important character, and it felt weird to me the way she was introduced and how her story was hidden.

      Then I got thinking about the Survivalist in FO:NV, who I thought was amazingly well handled. But you ONLY get introduced to him through audio logs.

      I’m wondering to myself what the difference is between Granny Rags and the Survivalist. Haven’t completely made up my mind why I feel so differently about them. But I do…

      1. I think the difference is that the tribals know about the Survivalist and revere him as a godlike figure which they tell you about, versus Granny Rags who you just kind of meet. Want to know more about her? Point the heart at her or whatever.

        In F:NV, you have to seek out the caches left by the Survivalist to learn his story and that of the tribals who came to the valley. It unfolds as you play, making it part of your story as well rather than just a free info dump disconnected from gameplay.

        1. scowdich says:

          I think there’s something in the fact that along with the intrinsic reward of learning the survivalist’s story, there’s also an extrinsic reward in place: every time you find one of his apocalypse logs on a terminal, it’s because you found one of his caches, full of loot. It’s a bit of a Skinner box, but I feel like the game is actually encouraging you to find the logs – especially a loot-centric game like New Vegas.

      2. I think the big difference is that the Survivalist is only encountered if you read the audio logs. There are apparently some vague references to him by npcs, but otherwise he’s only really important if you seek out the logs. If you’re skipping them, then you also don’t even realize you’re missing that story. Granny Rags, on the other hand, is an important NPC you encounter whether or not you’re reading the books or constantly using the heart.

    3. guy says:

      I think just following the Granny Rags plotline gives enough info on her for the purposes of the plot. Actually, I don’t think there’s anything exceptionally interesting you can learn about her only through the Heart, though you could easily miss an encounter with her in another area.

      Incidentally, I think you can learn that Granny Rags exists and is probably worth talking to back at the Hound Pits, but I might be misremembering.

  8. Cupcaeks says:

    So, going on a bit of a tangent here, but did anyone else check out some of the stuff from the newly rebooted ‘Thief’ game? Ironically, it has a bit of a ‘Dishonored’ vibe to it, especially this bit:

    “the City is broiling with social tension as it is ravaged by a plague and lorded over by a political tyrant”

    Other than that, I’m not really sure how to feel about some of the new mechanics, the ‘focus’ feature being the main thing I’m wary about. I do love me some Thief, and I like what Eidos-Montreal did with Deus Ex: HR, but I’m finding it hard to get optimistic about this for some reason.

    1. Karthik says:

      What is this “focus” feature? I’m already worried by the sound of that thing. It sounds like the magic system that shows you guard paths, lets you see through walls, draw magic objective markers, and so on. This kind of thing, aimed at impatient players, serves as a crutch for lazy environmental design.

      Well, there’s no way the new Thief isn’t shipping with objective markers, that’s for sure. Dishonored suffered for it, because apparently they didn’t playtest to see if it was possible to find your objectives (Dr. Galvani’s house, for instance) when it was turned off.

      1. Cupcaeks says:

        From a Destructoid article:

        Like Hitman: Absolution’s Instinct ability, Focus is Thief’s way of letting the player navigate the environment and get out of combat encounters. Focus highlights interactive objects, pipes you can climb and candles that can be extinguished. Focus can also stun or kill enemies, depending on how much is used in combat. Bones crack like in Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes films or Sniper Elite V2. Focus can be upgraded after a mission, along with supplies and equipment, giving a greater radius to its effect.

        From the sounds of things, it looks like the new mechanics are focused on escaping dangerous situations. Nothing wrong with that, but the whole point of the original games was to avoid getting into those situations in the first place. I still don’t know what to think about this. The new mechanics seem to be taking a more stealth-action approach to things, but I haven’t seen much talking about more traditional Thief-like gameplay, so maybe the game won’t be as action-oriented as the preview material makes it out to be.

      2. AJax says:

        On the positive side of things, Focus looks like an interesting system for non-lethal maneuvers. If I understood the GI preview correctly, Garret can now shove guards into each other then safely escape to the shadows. If captured, Garret can twist a guard’s arm to escape. It looks like Eidos take on the VATS system from fallout 3 by allowing to target different body parts for debilitating attacks. I hope this wasn’t a bunch of scripted stuff because I’m interested where they go with this system that puts emphasis on non-lethal combat instead of outright slaughter.

        1. Grudgeal says:

          Personally I think putting an emphasis at combat, at all, is a step in the wrong direction. The original Thief games always struck me as the type of game that, if you’re forced to pull your weapon and face someone in the first place, it’s because you’ve played wrong. When those situations arose for me, my first instinct was to throw down a flashbang and escape into the shadows.

          Garret never had supernatural powers beyond some trick arrows and the ability to use the Keepers’ runes. It added credence to the feeling that, while you are empowered compared to the guards, you’re empowered in the sense that you can fool them, outmaneuver them and sneak past them, not in the sense that you can go around attacking them. Hiding in doorways or behind statues while the guards go around mumbling about “I’ll find you, Taffer!” knowing that if he *does* find you you’re boned is more suspenseful than running around playing blinky stabby stabby one-man army like in Dishonored.

        2. Grudgeal says:

          Speaking for myself, if I want combat, I’m not playing Thief. The main idea, at least in the previous games, was to avoid combat altogether and hide, and I think *that’s* where they should put system emphasis. The whole lethal vs. nonlethal dichotomy isn’t that much of a dichotomy when the end result is that both generally involve a form of combat, empowerment through superior force of arms, which I think is the wrong ‘feel’ to apply to the Thief experience.

          Maybe I’m just an old grump but I felt the level of empowerment you got in the original series — the guards had brawn, but you had the brains, the plan and the gadgets — worked fine in generating excitement and tension. I’m not saying it should become a case of “you get spotted, instant game over/retry”, but I think your first thought when you get spotted should be “time to run away”, not “time to knock them out with quicktime events and nonlethal weapons”.

          If there is a lesson in Dishonoured to be taught to a Thief reboot it lies in level design features, not in slick UI and combat. Also, what is up with that ninja mask?

          1. newdarkcloud says:

            Sadly for folks like you, that’s an old road. Nowadays, you at least need to have that option for Stealth games. I can understand why you dislike it, but I personally don’t see a huge problem with it.

            You can still Stealth, and they said that combat is never going to be in Garrett’s favor, since he can at most take on one-at-a-time effectively. He’s no soldier, he’s a thief. And that’s what they want to focus on.

    2. X2-Eliah says:

      I’m definitely excited by that game. Now, I haven’t played any of the old thief games (so sue me), but a game about sneaking/thieving/silent-adventuring made by DX:HR devs? Hell yes.

      Also, I liked disonored. So if Thief ends up being dishonored v2.4, I’m okay with that.

      1. newdarkcloud says:

        ^This. I like the track record of Eidos Montreal, the game which they derive inspiration from, and the Thief franchise.

        I’m feeling pretty good right now.

  9. PhantomRenegade says:

    I really</b> wish the shadow kill ability made it so those death's didn't count towards your chaos rating, i seem to remember it being explicitly said that the chaos rating rose because dead bodies fed rats which allowed them to reproduce more and more rats meant more plague and thus a grimmer future for Dunwal, and as far as I know
    rats don't tend to eat ash a lot.That little change would have made a huge difference in how the game plays out and make the chaos thing much less obtrusive.As a side note i also tried to choke out the three thugs outside grannys house and was eventually forced to use a sleeping dart on one of them and even then it was pretty tough.

    1. Phrozenflame500 says:

      Rather ironically, when Dishonored was first released there was a bug where, rarely, taking the Shadow Kill ability would disable the ability to gain chaos causing an effect like you described.

      Also, on topic, I get an aneurysm whenever you guy make a factual error, no matter how small. I had to go to the hospital for my severe hemorrhaging at the end of this episode. How dare you guys not memorize every line of text and dialogue before you record!

    2. Karthik says:

      Actually, the city watch is holding back the plague with their containment measures. Killing the city watch should still hasten the spread of the plague. Also, killing weepers should reduce chaos by this reasoning, since they’re active vectors.

      It’s a complex system realized in an arbitrary, inconsistent way through the game’s chaos mechanic. My comment from higher up the thread suggests an alternative.

      1. WJS says:

        Still, in a more complete simulation disintegrating guards should still raise chaos less than feeding them to the rats, since you’d only be reducing cityWatchManpower, as opposed to decreasing cityWatchManpower and increasing plagueRatFoodSupply (or whatever you name your parameters).

  10. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Really,you guys never knew about the upstairs?In my first playthrough I went up and went behind those guys,to take them out one by one.Though its a bit difficult to take them without them noticing you,unless you got the time slowdown.

    1. newdarkcloud says:

      I thought the same thing. When I played through it, I went through the front door, then I said this was hard to non-lethal, so I decided to try the 2nd floor and tranqed them.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        The “callers” will also get through the door eventually by, I believe, picking the lock, it is possible to hide in a side room and ambush them in the hallway. Although personally I think it’s easier to get them out on the street.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Really?I took my time sneaking behind them,and they were just banging on the door.I didnt know they can open it.

          1. Sleeping Dragon says:

            It takes them a while but they do.

    2. WJS says:

      How can you not know about the balcony? You have to use that to get in!

  11. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The whole outsider thing is even weirder if you are doing the low chaos.You find all these people obsessing over single runes,shutting out everyone,even killing people for them.You find those who lost their mind like granny rags,or who are irredeemable killers like daud,because of the powers they got.And then you go prancing around with dozens of runes in your pockets,just blinking from place to place,and thats it.Throw in a hallucination or two,for gods sake.

    1. Neruz says:

      I’d assume that as an agent of chaos and the chosen avatar of the Outsider in the world, Corvo is immune to most of the crazy that comes from interacting with Outsider stuff.

      Alternately, maybe Corvo is completely insane from the moment the Empress dies and the entire game after that point is just random hallucinations brought on by the madness of chaos. Perhaps none of what you see is actually real and Corvo is in fact just running around killing major political figures and whatnot and just generally causing random chaos. Perhaps the ‘Chaos Level’ is more accurately a ‘Sanity Level’? Who knows,

      1. Eruanno says:

        But Daud is also “chosen” by the Outsider. And to some extent Piero, although he supposedly only gets visited by him in dreams and doesn’t get any magical powers.

        1. WJS says:

          Which only reinforces the theory really, since they also aren’t completely insane. The ones who go nuts are presumably those who stumble across relics of the Outsider without having his favour.

    2. newdarkcloud says:

      If you play as a Low Chaos character, or make Low Chaos decisions, the Outsider will say that he finds your restraint “fascinating” when you talk to him in his shrines.
      Apparently Corvo’s resisting the temptation of power is either unprecedented or extremely rare.

    3. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      Halucinations! Brilliant!

  12. Cupcaeks says:

    I find it interesting that you tend to frame ‘high chaos’ actions as ‘evil’ and ‘low chaos’ actions as ‘good’. I never got that impression from the game. For the most part, I felt that the high/low chaos dynamic turned out to be exactly as the box described: not a moral judgement, but an indicator of your impact on Dunwall. I never felt the game was labeling you ‘good’ for being low chaos, or ‘evil’ for being high chaos. In fact, I really felt that the non-lethal, low chaos options were some of the most evil things you could do.

  13. Nalyd says:

    . . . This quest totally does raise your Chaos, guys. You guys talked for twenty minutes about something you were completely wrong about. You really can’t do that.

    1. hborrgg says:

      Although even then fault is really with the game itself for hardly giving any indication as to what actually raises or lowers chaos and only the vaguest idea about what your actual “chaos score” is. The way it’s set up I don’t think any player is going to get the low chaos ending without meta-gaming or knowing about the system. If the game is going to act like that that they could at least give players the tools they need to meta-game properly.

      And I mean that especially if they were going for a “your actions have consequences” thing.

      1. karthik says:

        “The way it's set up I don't think any player is going to get the low chaos ending without meta-gaming or knowing about the system.”

        I got the low chaos ending, I didn’t know anything about the chaos system until it was introduced in that splash screen in the game. Heck, I got low chaos in all missions except one. This was with a copious amount of save-scumming, though. Once I got possession, I had too much fun chain-possessing my way around entire levels to even think about drawing my weapon.

        Given a choice, I always avoid confrontation in video games. And then choose non-lethal options if available. To this day, I can’t play Deus Ex any other way than with that prod and mini-crossbow. Maybe this isn’t typical behavior, I don’t know.

        As for lack of transparency on the developer’s part, I think you have a point–but not the one Harvey Smith made about typical FPS behavior. I think obfuscating the chaos mechanic was very intentional, although they did show you the effect of poisoning the distillery as a warning shot.

        1. Bryan says:

          Dunno if playing Deus Ex with just the prod and crossbow is atypical, but it’s what I’ve been doing too, for what little that’s worth…

      2. Alex says:

        “Although even then fault is really with the game itself for hardly giving any indication as to what actually raises or lowers chaos…”

        No, it’s not. The whole reason they were talking about it is because they intuitively knew that poisoning the medicine should cause Chaos – not just without it being spelled out for them but even when they thought they were being told the exact opposite. That’s good design, not bad.

        1. hborrgg says:

          They also intuitively knew that the game should have put a lot more work into Corvo’s relationship with the empress, that didn’t happen. See, this is why trying to go that route is extremely difficult to do.

          Do you know how much this quest raises chaos by?

    2. Raygereio says:

      Because this is totally the first time where the Spoiler Warning crew was wrong about something. And making let’s plays is serious, academic business where factchecking everything is required..

      1. They (pre-Chris) didn’t think Abraham Lincoln’s hat really existed as a historical artifact. I also think they once praised a pun made by Rutz, which is about as wrong as you can get.

    3. If that upsets you so much, then never watch the Dead Money episodes of the New Vegas season. Your “someone’s wrong on the internet!” rage will give you a heart attack.

      That’s the danger of the Let’s Play format, but also kind of a strength. Did they criticize something incorrectly? Yes. But as the other commenters pointed out as well, the game’s chaos/order system is sometimes unclear and somewhat confusingly implemented. If an entire group of experienced, knowledgeable gamers can all make that mistake, then I doubt the game is doing its job of explaining or showing how its world works.

  14. hborrgg says:

    What did everyone think about the movement physics in this game, specifically not the view bobbing but the way your view sort of springs around every time you stop or change direction?

    Personally, I was not a big fan of that particular choice. It made everything feel really sticky and imprecise. There were too many instances of getting disoriented when jumping or dropping down from things, if I stopped somewhere I had to sit there and wait for my view to recenter before I could tell if Corvo was in the right position (and if he wasn’t then tapping an arrow key resulted in a silly pigeon walk), even picking up small objects was made much harder than it needed to be. The worst part though is the effect this had on the combat, the camera moved around so much relative to the actual position whenever I tried to doge and weave meaning that if I wanted to be accurate and actually able to judge distances then I had to sword-fight while standing perfectly still.

    1. X2-Eliah says:

      I liked the movement. Though I did slide the ‘head bob’ slider down to about a fifth or so (at least I think I did that. This game had a head bob slider, right?)

      Sure, it does take a little while to get the right feel for the motions, bu once you have it, it actually seemed like a rather precise and flowing system to me, especially because it synched well with blinking, jumping, grabbing and such. This is just a very kinetic system that tends towards inertial motion as a natural state rather than other games that tend towards static / linear motion as default.
      Though to be fair, I spent pretty much the entire time in sneak mode, which might have made the movement more stable. I don’t know how bad it gets if you ran all over the place or something.

      1. Cupcaeks says:

        I also liked the movement quite a bit. I did both a stealth run and a violent one, and found that moving around felt really good in both. The ‘kinetic system’ description is really apt. It felt very natural to chain movements together when platforming, and blows in sword fights felt like they had weight to them. I didn’t really have too many problems with combat, though I didn’t do much dodging and weaving. I don’t think the mechanics support that tactic very well. Mostly, I would just focus on keeping everyone in front me and retreating a bit if I got surrounded. Blink was also lots of fun for flanking, though I imagine that might be difficult if you don’t have mouse sensitivity cranked up (I had mine as high as it would go).

        1. hborrgg says:

          Blink added a lot to the movement in this game, as did double-jumping, ledge-climbing, sliding, etc. However any time you had to jump in the air and then blink to reach a higher ledge really shows that those mechanics don’t necessarily work together well.

          And yes if you are trying to make a sword-fighting system then it is a big problem if the best tactic is to stand perfectly still.

          1. IFS says:

            I found better tactics (or more fun for me at least) in swordfighting to be either sliding into their shins to stagger them (staggered enemies can be killed in one hit) or to double jump into the air to get enough height to do a drop assassination. I killed like five guards in a very short amount of time with the latter once, so I’d say its pretty effective.

    2. Karthik says:

      Actually, judging distances in sword combat in Dishonored is really difficult if your FOV is not 70 (or whatever the game’s default is).

      I played with an FOV of 85, and sometimes I felt like I’d been slashed with a sword from an enemy across the room. I pretty much stayed away from sword combat because of this. The movement system itself was really slick, I thought. They obviously put a lot of thought into how fluid the controls ought to feel.

      1. hborrgg says:

        I suppose It might also have a fair amount to do with the inherent difficulty of judging distances using a first-person view. But definately not helping was the fact that any time you see someone swing a sword at you and attempt to back-pedal the camera will move back, but your invisible body is still theoretically a foot or more in front of you, being cut apart.

    3. Eruanno says:

      I actually felt like the… er… “kinaesthetics” of Dishonored was one of the strongest parts of it. All the movement felt really fluid, I never got stuck in stupid places and I always felt like I was free to move the way I wanted or intended (except the occasional blinking or jumping mishap, but that was 99% of the time me misjudging distances).

      I much prefer the way Corvo quickly grabs edges and heaves himself up than, say, Far Cry 3 where Jason spends a good six or seven seconds slowly grunting, grabbing and scrambling up edges.

      1. newdarkcloud says:

        Same here. The game felt very good in my hands and I never had any real problems with the kinaesthetics.

  15. X2-Eliah says:

    About sleep darts – Granny’s house has, I think, two or three sleep darts laid on a chair on first floor. So you can manage to take out those three dudes with minimal losses (if you have 1 sleep dart already, or if you tranq two and choke the third guy).

    Also, I’m surprised that Chris didn’t know about the top balcony, given that you enter Granny’s house through that very balcony in the first place because the door is locked.

  16. Neruz says:

    I’m not entirely sure what you guys were talking about with “You can steal the quest reward”; the rune she rewards you with upon completing the posioning quest spawns in the upstairs area under that boat in the same place that you find the first reward and does not appear until you complete the quest. The rune in the backyard is just there, afaik it’s not related to anything really?


    Also; the Bone Charms are randomised, they’re different each time you play and it’s actually impossible to get all the Bone Charms on a single playthrough.

    1. X2-Eliah says:

      Hm. Really, they are randomised? I think I had basically the same charms in same places across my three playthroughs…

      1. newdarkcloud says:

        Yeah. Each Bone Charm is random. The Runes and Bone Charms are in static positions, but when you pick up a Bone Charm, the effect that Bone Charm gives is randomized. You won’t know what a Bone Charm does until you pick it up.

        1. Nick says:

          Well, it’s randomised when you load the level anyway. You can’t quick-save/quick-load to try and get the bone charm of your choice, more’s the pity

  17. Dragomok says:

    Huh, and I thought brightness would be this season’s Incinerator.

  18. Ofermod says:

    Can anyone tell me what the title card says? Something about “Genuine Victorian Spoiling”, but I can’t manage to make out the rest of it.

    1. Seconded. But I think Shamus’ computer is in pieces for another 12+ hours as he moves, so unless he told one of his compatriots, we’re (wait for it) in the dark for a while.

    2. AyeGill says:

      I think it’s “Genuine videogame spoiling”.

  19. newdarkcloud says:

    I want to take note of an odd quirk with the system. When you take out a target using the non-lethal method, you don’t get no chaos for it. In fact, you actually have your chaos lowered for it.

    Selling two rich men into slavery and/or giving a wealthy aristocrat to her creepy stalker negates a few kills you made. Make of that what you will.

    1. karthik says:

      I think it’s a quirk, but for reasons different from yours. For the chaos system to make sense, the non-lethal options should not affect chaos at all. Killing them should raise chaos no more than killing any other civilian.

      1. newdarkcloud says:

        I would agree with that and that’s at first what I thought. I was surprised when non-lethal reduced Chaos.

  20. Thomas says:

    They set themselves up quite well for a player being able to inhabit the PC despite backstory and voice acting. You take control after a traumatic and hugely life-changing event where how that event changes your behaviour is directly relevant.

  21. Irridium says:

    Fun fact about Granny Rags, not sure if it happens here, but in a future level you can find her again, and if you shoot her she turns into a rat swarm.

    What followed was a series of events that would have been best sped up and accompanied by Yakety Sax.

    EDIT: Ah, she does turn into a swarm when you choke her out or kill her here.

    I also had the same reaction as Josh when doing this quest. I was on the pipes, then I stopped and asked myself “what the hell am I doing?” I then turned around, stole her rune, and went on my merry way.

  22. guy says:

    Granny Rags was pretty well voice-acted, I think. Here she’s got a definite old, harmless grandmother voice that is creepily dissonant with what she’s actually saying, then later that tone vanishes completely for one of the most memorable parts of the game. “Bones of the great leviathans!”

    Anyway, her actual backstory, going by her dialogue, is She was a noblewoman who lived in that building you meet her in later near the Boyle Manor. Then she got immortality from the Outsider and went nuts like just about everyone else he gives things to. Also apparently the guy with powers in the Lord Overseer’s HQ is her son, but it’s equally possible he was just some guy she knew.

  23. Xine says:

    I never noticed bad voice acting in this game. i thought it was all pretty good. The outsider being this normal looking guy made sense and Granny Rags is explained through the heart, and I thought that’s what the game wanted to paint Granny Rags as. They wanted her to be this mysterious being that you couldn’t be sure of, which is why the voice made sense.

    Of course, I could just have low standards from the way current video games are going.

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