Saturday, June 29, 2013

“What a Terrible Accident” Let's Play Dishonored: Part 11: The Party

The mansion's interior is simply beautiful. I knew that the Boyles were one of the wealthiest, if not the wealthiest, families in Dunwall, but this is just insane. Despite having multiple objectives to carry out, I cannot help but to gawk at the sheer lavishness of the lobby. When I get done, I snack on an apple on the table. This may be a business trip, but I might as well enjoy my time here before the shit hits the fan. Security looks pretty tight, but as long as I have my mask and keep a low profile, I should be okay.

Now to get busy. I need to figure out which one of the three hosts is the Lady Boyle funding Lord Mole's military and take her out without arousing suspicion. Looking around, I see that the Ladies Boyle are all wearing recolors of the same costumes: one red, one black, and one white. What will make this tough is that I don't know any of them personally. While I've been to many noble parties during my many years as Lord Protector, and the Boyles were usually invited, the Empress was always my top priority in more ways than one. However, since this is one of their parties, and figuring out which one is which has become a game for the guests, I can try to talk to some of the guests here. Under the pretense of playing the game, they might be more willing to divulge information. Most nobles show up to these parties under a sense of obligation, but there have to be a few close friends to the Boyles in this place.

As I survey the grounds, I'm approached by a man wearing one of the ugliest makeshift masks I have ever seen in my entire life. My heart stops when he says that he knows why I am here. Shit! How would he know? Was I that obvious? Rather than rat me out, he simply requests that I speak with him in private. I thank the lucky stars, because this means I might have a way to salvage this situation. Before I can plan my next move, it would be wise to do as he says, so I follow him to a little corner where no one else will hear us. After making sure we are not being watched, the man in the ragged mask explains that he's done a few favors for us. Good, that means he's unlikely to expose me. Unfortunately, he gives me a rather troubling offer. Instead of killing her, I can kidnap Lady Boyle and take her to his boat in the cellar, after which he promises I will “never hear from her again.” Apparently, this guy has had a real crush on her for quite a while.

I'd love to avoid getting blood on my hands, but the way this guy makes his offer sound feels like a fate even worse than death. Killing her feels like a mercy if it means she doesn't end up in his hands, though this raises more trouble. If he truly feels this way towards the target, than when I do kill her he might retaliate. I can't risk this happening, so he has to die in order to keep my presence here secret. Still, he gives me the name of my target: Waverly Boyle. Having a name gives me more to work with, but I still need to figure out which of the three costumes she is wearing. I can't off this guy now, or else the guards might react much too strongly. This is going to be tough to execute. As I figure, it would be better to look around and plan a bit more before making a move.

When I ask about the Ladies Boyle, one of the noblewomen tells me to talk to a “Miss White,” also known as “Miss Moth.” She knows the Boyles and would likely have the information I need. As I approach the woman wearing a Moth-shaped mask, she asks for me to give her a drink after complimenting my “scandalous” mask and “poor sense of judgment.” Simple enough, I suppose. A quick trip to the fountain is all I need to satisfy her. Once the drink is in her hands, she becomes very loose lipped, divulging that Waverly is wearing the red costume while Lydia is in white. With this new piece of information, I have my target's name and costume. I tried to figure out a way to make Waverly's death look like an accident, which is when I had a devilish idea. My mask helped me convince Miss White to help me out, perhaps I can use it to charm the Lady Boyle. Waverly passes me by just as the idea pops into my head, so I go up and talk to her.

I use the pretense of the Boyles' game as a way to initiate conversation. After saying that I know which of the three sisters she is, I ask if she would like to have a private conversation. She calls my bluff, saying that she does not even know who I am. Thinking quickly to salvage the situation, I say that there is someone planning to kill her, and that I can save her life. I don't know how that worked, but it did, so I convinced her to some with me to the cellar. If that creeper from before is there like he said he'd be, I might be able to kill two birds with one stone. Since I don't know my way around, I follow her into the cellar, where she is summarily devoured by a swarm of rats that I summon.

That leaves the creeper. He's there in the boat, but taking care of him cleanly won't be easy. I try summoning a swarm of rats, but the boat resists my power somehow. I had to work around it by stabbing him with my blade and using the rats to, hopefully, cover it up after dumping his body onto the floor. Inspecting the cellars for a bit, I see an entrance to the sewer systems. That will give me the quickest and least patrolled route back, so that's what I use. Once in the sewers, I get over any fear I have of getting dirty and dive right in, using a nearby valve to open the grate to the river. Swimming back, I see that the patrols are getting more fierce, and Samuel had to retreat behind a closing floodgate in order to avoid being seen. Before the floodgate closes completely, I use a combination of Blink and my superior swimming skills in order to make it to the other side. Once I climb aboard, we both agree that it would best to leave as quickly as we can.

When we return to the Hound Pits, Samuel notes that Pendleton was supposed to meet us at the pier. Considering my suspicions, that worries me. The old boatman must have sensed my apprehension, and told me that he's probably just in the wine cellar, still lamenting the loss of his kin only a day ago. I decide to snoop around before meeting him for my debriefing. In the nobleman's room, I find a audiograph, this time it's not one of his boring memories. Clearly it was supposed to be, as he yells at his servant Wallace that he was trying to write them. However, he appears to have worked himself into a drunken rage. It was highly amusing.

Havelock's room greets me with the admiral himself working with Martin, though neither one of them are speaking. I discreetly peer into Havelock's journal. To my surprise, Martin has ascended to the rank of High Overseer, taking Baldy's place as top dog. For the conspiracy, this is good news. Considering I have the Mark of the Outsider, I'm not so sure it is for me. That's when I read the last potion of the last entry. As I have already surmised, the only person left for me to take out is the Lord Regent himself. That doesn't bother me. In fact, part of me is looking forward to it. What draws my attention is the sentence following that, “But what happens after that?” It seems to echo in the back of my head. What happens after this? I fear that the answer to that question is not one I am going to like.

Heading back into the bar, Callista calls me and asks if I can find Emily for her. Apparently they were playing hide-and-seek shortly before I arrived, and Callista was unable to find her (probably due to her Dunwallian dullness of senses). It's time for Emily's lessons, so she'd like her to be back soon. Since she is my daughter and I have been neglecting my duties as a father, the very least I can do is take her to school while I can. I already have an idea of where she went, so I go to my room to confirm my suspicions. Surprisingly enough, she wasn't there like I thought she'd be, so the next most reasonable place to look would be her room in the lighthouse. I don't find her, but I do find an audiograph Callista recorded, talking about her. Earlier before recording that thing, the two of them must have been talking about what will change when Emily becomes Empress. I can feel a mix of exhaustion, joy, and sympathy coming from Callista's voice as she talks about the many questions Emily asks of her. She ends noting that she can often hear my poor girl crying in her sleep. That alone just breaks my heart, but it's worse knowing there's nothing I can really do to about it. Instead of walking back down to continue my search, I decide to take the fun way by falling and then Blinking to the ground. Looking in the back alleys, I eventually stumble onto Emily. She hands me a Rune after we reminisce and I tell her to go do her lessons. She thought it would be a good luck charm, but it just gave her bad dreams. It's better that I take it, since I'm one of the few that can control those powers.

Since I've dodged him long enough, I go talk to Pendleton in the wine cellar. He seems peeved that I didn't give Lord Shaw his note, but I gather that's more his problem than mine. The man already plans to kill me, so I see no problem with giving him one more reason. Pendleton says the other two are looking for me, but I'll see to that later. Right now I want to see what Piero's up to. The mechanist seems pleased when I hand him the plans I stole for the Boyle manse. Apparently they can be used to build sticky grenades, but I don't have a use for them. Instead, I use my money to get him to build other supplies I might need, like plague elixirs. Now that I'm restocked, I go talk to Martin and Havelock over in the admiral's room. As we all knew, this is it. They tell me that this is the final mission. I'm to go as soon as I am able to Dunwall Tower and assassinate the Lord Mole. I expected this, but it feels weird to have it all coming to an end. I'm still concerned. Once this mission is over, they no longer have a reason to keep me alive. Despite my apprehension, I have to see this through to the end. Too much is at stake. I've done all I can here, so the only thing that remains is to talk with Samuel and embark on this last boat-ride....

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

#61: The Xbox One: A Series of Fixes

I do not think I need to tell you guys all the things that have gone on regarding Microsoft and the Xbox One (X1). If you are reading this, then you are likely already aware of the controversies surrounding the X1 since the initial February launch, along with the ensuing backpedal only a few days ago as of the time of writing. There is no real point in reiterating all of that here. Having said all that, with all that has gone on recently, there has spawned what could be referred to as a reverse-backlash, where people were angry that Microsoft responded to both its critics and low pre-order numbers. This movement was born in response to Microsoft cutting some of the consoles more interesting features, citing that the online check was necessary to maintain them. While I find these claims dubious, for reasons cited by both Eurogamer and Gamasutra, that's again not the point of this article.

What I want to talk about is what the Xbox One could have done in the first design to make the new console more palatable to initial audiences. To be clear, I will not be focusing on the TV features nor any of the PR surrounding that. The scope of this article will be solely on the technology and policies with regards to the gaming side, because that's ultimately what matters. I feel that there are five major changes they could have made in the design they first revealed so that it would have been more successful. Two of them are changes that have already been made, two are commonly cited complaints that remain on the console, and the last one will probably be very controversial, as I am sure I will get a lot of flak for it. Though I am not an expert in the fields of business nor engineering, I have some knowledge of programming and operating systems. I do not have any reason to believe that what I propose would be particularly difficult. Final disclosure: I am an unashamed fan of the Playstation brand, so my stake in Microsoft's success is only in that I wish that the competition they provide forces Sony to continue improving. Having said all of that, my proposals to “fix” the original design of the X1 is as follows.

The first one I would throw out there would have been to remove the 24-hour phone-home scheme. A common criticism Microsoft received was that a constant check like this, while not terribly problematic for the vast majority of demographics, could still be an issue in quite a few circumstances. One of the most notable we have seen talked about are people serving abroad in the military. Those who serve are typically given incredibly scarce access to the internet, and solid access is prohibitively expensive as noted by Robert Rath in his Critical Intel column on the Escapist. I do not know if this is the case in many other countries, but in America the military is very well respected. When any major companies upset service members, that company really suffers in PR, which results in lowered sales. Whether or not that is a good thing is up for debate, but it does happen and often.
Also noted by Rath, such an internet check would stifle organizations like Child's Play, which provide games to hospitalized children. I know this does directly affect Microsoft's bottom dollar. However, Child's Play is one of the few things the industry as a whole can point to when major tragedies happen and games are blamed for them. While helping sick children is the goal, it has the added side effect of helping the industry stave off legislation that politicians are more than willing to impose on it. Aside from these two groups, the internet check does impact those who travel a lot and people who have weak connections and limited data caps, which European countries are very well known for. The infrastructure simply is not there yet. Perhaps it will be more feasible a few years down the line, when solid internet becomes completely ubiquitous, this kind of feature can be considered. As of now, it simply inconveniences too many people.
The other primary concern with this feature alone was Microsoft's ability to maintain servers in all regions constantly. Just the other day as of the time of writing, Xbox Live went down for some users for a few hours. While this is no longer a concern in light of recent events, in the theoretical where the X1 maintained its initial course, depending on when a given user last signed on with their console, this could have resulted in being unable to play games on the console for several hours. Having a need for the console to ping home to Microsoft's servers results in an unspoken contract forming between the company and its users. When mandating that users have to phone home once a day, Microsoft tacitly accepts the responsibility to maintain those servers at all times, keeping maintenance times as low as they can possibly be. This results in an increased cost of keeping those servers running, as many publishers of tacked-on multiplayer in games found out the hard way. Just this one feature, which was thankfully removed, would have caused a lot of problems in terms of consumer inconvenience and added costs to all parties.

The next thing I would have recommended, as they have again already done in the new design, is to remove the region lock on the system. Region locks have always been a sketchy part of the industry. The reason often cited for such practices is the difference in prices between different regions, meaning that it can sometimes be cheaper for a person to import a game from outside the country than it is to buy the version made available in that person's country, even when including tariffs and shipping charges on imported goods. As a result, with the exception of the PS3, people who wanted to buy imported games would need to either modify their existing console to support games from outside regions, which is easier said than done, or just buy a console from that region as well.
The problem comes that in combination with the aforementioned internet mandate, even imported consoles would not work for countries outside of Microsoft's list of supported countries, because the servers simply would not be there. This was evidenced when it was revealed that Poland, where The Witcher developer CD Projekt is based, would not receive the Xbox One on launch day. In other words, the developers of a game touted quite early on in the Microsoft press conference would be unable to use the new console to play the game that they developed. Game commentator John Bain, more commonly known as TotalBiscuit, also noted that out of the top 25 countries that view his videos, 8 of them would not have had access to the X1 at launch. While this issue was resolved, and thus is no longer a concern, it would have again shut Microsoft out of a number of potential audiences.

While both of the above issues have been rectified by Microsoft, the next two are still legitimate concerns that some cite when talking about the new Xbox. One of the biggest of these issues is the Kinect included with each and every X1. Let me be clear on this, I am absolutely not against having a Kinect packaged in. If we are all being totally honest, devices like the Kinect could never be successful as add-ons to a console sold separately simply because developers cannot be sure if a given customer would have it. We saw this with the 360's Kinect and the Playstation Move and Eye peripherals from this generation. Guaranteeing that a customer has Kinect gives developers more freedom to experiment with it. The problems stem from two different points.
The first and easiest to tackle is the fact that adding this accessory raised the price of the console by $100 compared to Sony's new console. While consumers will likely accept a Kinect bundled in with their Xbox One even if they did not desire it, raising the price of the console causes concerns because it forces those consumers who are not interested to spend more money despite that disinterest. For consumers looking into which next generation console is the best for them, this is a tough pill to swallow. I understand that the Kinect was expensive to develop and produce, but since new consoles are always sold at a loss anyway, it makes so sense to pass the entirety of the Kinect's cost onto the consumer. Obviously some of it does need to be passed on, but I would imagine a $449 system is easier to market than a $499 one.
The other issue here is a lot tougher to deal with. Because of the way the Xbox One's hardware was designed, the system literally cannot function unless the Kinect is turned on. According to Microsoft Support, which is honestly suspect given the schizophrenic nature of their post-E3 PR, the X1 will only activate when users say “Xbox On” to their Kinect. Given the recent PRISM scandal, which revealed the Microsoft along with many, many other companies were giving information regarding their customers activities to the NSA, trusting Microsoft with a sensor in their own home is no longer an easy sell. Others may even be concerned that the information will be used in a private capacity to sell to other companies, which Google and Facebook openly admit to doing themselves.
While I personally do not believe Microsoft has any ill intent with the Kinect and have been assured that it will have tons of privacy options on it by sources working on the device, mandating its use does leave them at a distinct disadvantage when the conversation has switched to government spying on a domestic level. Even without the recent scandals and even with privacy settings, getting consumer trust will be incredibly difficult. There are benefits to the inclusion with a Kinect and it does seem core to the design of the new console, but the way it was included can leave a lot to be desired.

While perhaps less critical, another commonly issued criticism of the new Xbox is that indie developers still cannot self-publish. To be fair, this is the status quo for Microsoft, as the 360 also imposed this rule. However, independent developers are becoming much more influential than they were only a few years ago. Considering that Sony and even Nintendo have made reaching out to these smaller studios a priority, lowing the price of admission and allowing for self-publishing, this seems like an odd policy to maintain on Microsoft's part. I can respect having a division of Microsoft Studios at the ready to publish indie games and help them onto Xbox Live if needed, but to force every developer to use that window seems like a mistake. It is a perfectly viable method for some and maybe even most, but not appropriate for all. Independent developers are very useful in their own right. With lower budgets, it becomes possible to experiment with new and interesting game design ideas, which the AAA developers can then adapt for their own use, pushing the medium forward. In the future, it will be necessary to make it as easy as possible to release games on a console. There will be a lot of bad games that we will see as a result, but we will also see tons of great gems that would otherwise get passed over. Not allowing them to self-publish will result in turning away quite a few great games that the competition will easily snatch up and take for their own.

My final recommendation is going to be a little controversial, but I do legitimately feel that it would have improved consumer reaction to the console. In order to better sell the vision of an all digital console, I feel that it might have been a smarter move to not even sell discs on the Xbox One. The way Microsoft was trying to sell this new console as, in a sense, a digital-only service with features that could have potetnially even given Steam a run for its money, a smart idea would be to just double down and only make games available as digital downloads. The way the system was originally sold, and I am simplifying to a degree, the disc would include a code that provided a user access to both the data on the disc and a digital version of the same game. Once the code is input, the disc essentially becomes a more efficient installer for games that are bound to the Xbox Live account. It has no real purpose beyond being an extra trip to the store to buy a game that could just as easily be bought online for less effort and the same rewards. Since the disc becomes a redundancy, removing it hurts very little and allows for benefits to both consumers and publishers.
Since all purchases would be tied to a given Xbox Live account, there is no longer a need to check for an internet connection every 24 hours, so games that would otherwise not need online connections can be played normally. This alone solves a number of problems, because being unable to have a connection for a week or even months would no longer be an issue. While a user would no longer be able to purchase games or install new ones without a connection, playing a game without internet in the event that said person is deployed, travels, is a sick child in a hospital, or something else entirely is still possible. It would be possible to load game onto the system when strong internet access is possible to make up for the times when it is not. For the consumers, this would lead to unlimited and unhindered access to games and the enabling of the used game marketplace/family sharing Microsoft had in mind. For the publishers, it guarantees that nearly 100% of all sales will be legitimate sales, with no threat of piracy until someone finds a way to hack Microsoft.
The other benefit this would have is that it eliminates the expectation that used copies of games can be resold or lent to others. When a physical product is being sold, the default expectation is that it can be resold. This is not true of purely digital goods. Digitally distributed software is almost never expected to have the ability to be sold to Gamestop or some other third party. When Microsoft allows discs on their system, they are bringing with them the expectation of unhindered used games sales. When said expectation is violated so thoroughly, because the X1 is primarily a digital service, the backlash was inevitable. It was a case of trying to, and I hate this phrase, “have your cake and eat it too”. There was no real way to avoid it. It was bound to happen, which is why I consider allowing the option to buy discs to be a mistake.

In the end, this is all incredibly easy for me to say. After all, I am not subject to any kind of bureaucracy nor I am beholden to shareholders. All I am is a guy who watches and comments on the industry. It is extremely easy from my position to make comments like this when I am not concerning myself with engineering problems or maintaining deals and agreements with outside parties. Microsoft rightly deserves much credit for changing in direct response to consumer feedback, which I whole-heartedly approve of. However, after the number of blunders and gaffes made only recently, getting back in the good graves of consumers may be more difficult than simply retracting policies and improving consumer friendliness. There is still a long way to go, but also plenty of time to keep improving the Xbox One until launch day, which I am sure the engineers at Microsoft at hard at work doing. Either way, this console war is now much less one-sided and much more-interesting.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

“What a Terrible Accident” Let's Play Dishonored: Part 10: The Interrogation

I hear a voice, stirring me from my sleep. She tells me it's time to wake up. That voice can only be the voice of my daughter, Emily. Sure enough, when I open my eyes and wake up, she's right there. As I rise from the bed, I'm told that I make funny faces when I sleep. Emily says that Callista is in the bath, so she decided to come up here to be with me. With a worried expression, my little angel says that she was ordered to come to my room if there was any trouble. Smiling, I reassure her that she's always welcome to stay up here with me. I can feel the tension escape her when she tells me to get going, since Callista will pick her up when her bath is finished.

Speaking of Callista, I check out her room to find an audiograph that she plans to send to her uncle, Geoff. In it, she reassured him that while she may not be present for the next few days, she'll be safe and fed better than most of the people in Dunwall, which is as specific as she can get under these circumstances. Heading downstairs, my continued surveillance of Havelock and Pendleton yields nothing new, so I'm a little disappointed. That's when I open the door to the staff dormitories, where I find Piero looking through the lock into the bathroom. Considering that Emily just said Callista is bathing in there, that freaks me out more than a little bit. Since I still have some vestige of my old honor left, I confront the dirty pervert. He immediately thinks of a lie regarding making a new lock and quickly realizes I'm not buying it, which leads to him coming clean. It's then that I warn him that I don't take too kindly to this type of behavior. He begs for me to not tell Callista, but that's just not the kind of guy I am.

There's no way I could live with myself if I didn't tell her that we have a peeping Piero in our mitts, so I step into the room to do so. When she gasps and goes to cover herself, I realize just how stupid it was not to wait until after she finished her bath to do this. Before she reprimands me, I apologize. While she seemed understanding, she asked politely for me to leave. To the average person, this would be the best idea. However, since I've navigated this situation so far with the grace of a bull, I decide that the best way to save face is to do what I came in here to do. Telling her about Piero has a very noticeable impact on her. I believe the words she spoke were, “I feel dirtier than when I started”. Rather than make the situation any worse through my blundering, I leave as quickly as I possible can, closing the door behind me. I've faced hundreds of opponents, killed several well known people, and faced torture by one of the most cruel men in Dunwall, but nothing has ever been more frightening then the glare Callista gave me as I walked out of that bathroom.

I decide that the best way to get my mind off the death stare is to see what's happened with Sokolov while I slept. From what I recall, Havelock said that he was transforming the pits used for the dog fights around here into a makeshift cell, so I head over to see how the interrogation is progressing. Hopefully Sokolov reveals the name of Lord Mole's financial backer. Without the support of Parliament, this mysterious mistress is the only thing that gives him a steady stream of money to fund his operation. Judging from what I hear when I walk in, the interrogation is not going very well. They trade turns throwing insults at each other, acting like petty school children. Havelock insults Sokolov's need of the Mole, while Sokolov insults his need for me. After awhile, the admiral comes out with the demand for the name of our Lord Regent's mistress, which is summarily refused by the royal physician. That's when I take the reins of the interrogation, and suggest that we might be able to bribe the disgusting pig.

As much as I dislike Sokolov, he's a smart man and when this whole thing inevitably turns south, he and Piero could make for valuable allies. When I announce my tactics, Havelock seems surprised, as if the thought never crossed his mind. No wonder he couldn't get any information. He used the stick without even bothering to think of the carrot. There's only one man here who would know what could interest Sokolov, his dearest rival Piero. I go to our resident craftsman/philosopher. When I arrive, the very first thing he tells me is that he understands my decision to rat him out to Callista. After asking him to give me something with which to bribe Sokolov, he tells me of a rare brandy that is sure to work for our purposes. The mechanist just so happens to have the brandy in stock, but he wants me to buy it off him. Fair enough, Piero. I understand. Whatever helps you to get your petty revenge for me telling Callista about your peeping ass. I hand him the money and take the foul-smelling brew back to the other natural philosopher in this glorious hole we call a bar.

When I return with the booze, Sokolov is ranting about how badly he needs a drink. He's lucky that I am a generous man, as I hand him the drink he's so desperate for. Once the bottle trades hands, my new found ally seems to suddenly become extremely generous with details. He tells us that while he painted the mistress, “Lady Boyle”, he never learned her face or first name as she was painted from the rear. Apparently, he was invited to a masquerade party at the Boyle estate tonight. This will be the perfect opportunity to strike, especially since no one knows what my mask looks like outside of the group here. I can blend in with the crowd to try to get close to my target.
The only real problem I can foresee is in finding the target. While the party is at the Boyle estate the key issue is that there are three women in Dunwall who can refer to themselves as “Lady Boyle”. The Ladies Boyle will all likely attend their own party, so I will need to find the correct one and take them out in a way the makes it look like an accident. This is much easier said than done. As I make my way out, Lord Pendleton tells me that while I am at the party, he would like me to deliver a note to a man named Lord Shaw, who will be wearing a wolf mask. Knowing Pendleton, there's more to this than meets the eye, so I think I will take a moment to meet Lord Shaw before considering his favor. I smile as I head to Samuel, because I pass by Emily asking Havelock to share stories of the open sea. What a girl. She's so very much like her parents. Anyway, since the Boyle estate is quite long ways off by boat, I ask Samuel to shove off as soon as possible.

By the time we arrive, it's already nighttime. As befitting the Lord Mole's mistress, the Estate District is on high patrol to avoid interlopers at the party. It's here that I get my first glimpse at the fabled tallboy, and that is clearly and enemy I do not want to fight. Those stilts look like they'd take me out in one blow, and the armor looks extremely tough to penetrate. All of this on top of the explosive crossbow bolts they wield mean that directly confronting them is a no-go. When I touch down, the Heart begins to beat with a force, revealing the presence of 2 Runes and 2 Bone Charms. 1 of these Runes is on the other side of the river, so swimming to it and jumping back to shore isn't exactly difficult. Climbing up a set of stairs close by, I use Blink to make a series of maneuvers ending with a landing on a nearby rooftop and out of sight of the patrols.

According to the Heart, I inadvertently got closer to the other Rune. When I jump onto a roof of higher elevation, I see the Rune perched atop... an Outsider shrine. There's a weeper nearby as well, but the question is if the Rune is worth listening to Poncy's rants. *sigh* I do need more power, so I sneak behind the weeper to stab it and look around for any other of its ilk. During my search, I find 1 of the Bone Charms that the Heart sensed earlier, so I snag it even though the effects are useless to me. Afterward, I eat shit and pick up the Rune, summoning Poncy to rant at me again. Nothing he says is even remotely useful. The only mildly noteworthy things he mentions is that either I kill Lady Boyle tonight, or she lives out her days without ever throwing another wild party. This could not possibly interest me any less, so I am more than happy to Blink out the room once he's finished and begin scouting the party grounds, looking for a way in. I notice that the patrols outside only consist of one guard and a tallboy. For once, I take the near direct approach. Instead of taking the streets, I use Blink to navigate the top of the bridge support beams and once again to teleport passed the gate separating the Boyle estate from the streets.

Now that I'm on the estate grounds, I put away my gear in order to avoid arousing suspicion. As I approach that doorman, one of guests loosens their grip on their invitation, letting the wind take over from there. Since it lands in a nice, out of the way place, I snag the invitation in order to gain entry to the Boyle manse. Before I show my invitation to the guards, I swipe the wallets off a few nobles outside the gate, adding to the pool of funds I can use to buy things from Piero. Once I do give him “my” invitation, the guard opens the door for me and invites me to enjoy the party. That's when I get the idea to steal the key to the guard house and use it to take blueprints for Spiked Grenades. I don't think it'll get much mileage out of it, but Piero will appreciate the gesture nonetheless.

Proceeding into the manse, I hear two nobles talking about how all the Ladies Boyle are dressed in similar, yet differently colored costumes. It's part of a game where the guests are supposed to figure out the identity of each of them. Great. This will make my job that much more of a pain in the ass. Just as I approach the door to the mansion's interior, I notice a man wearing a wolf mask. This Lord Shaw seems to be talking about Lord Pendleton in a disparaging tone, so I decide not to give him the note in order to keep attention off of me. I am now ready to enter the mansion. It's a tough task ahead of me. Not only do I need to figure out which of them is the mistress of the Lord Mole, but I also need to figure out which costume the correct one is wearing. This might be a decent challenge for other people, but I've overcome tougher ones before, so I think I can pull this off if I'm extremely careful not to look suspicious.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

“What a Terrible Accident” Let's Play Dishonored: Part 9: The Abduction

As I enter the apartment, I immediately hear the whispers of a Rune on a nearby table, wasting no time snatching it up. I can already begin to see the visions of new powers forming, but I feel that if I hold off a little while longer, even stronger abilities will be have the potential to be awakened. Blinking onto the roof of the guard station, I see that aside from the patrols, my only obstacle is a Wall of Light. The tank supplying the fuel is guarded by a spinning wheel, so a normal man would be unable to get to it. I am not a normal man, and as a result I can just Blink over it. When the guards look away, I take my chance to quickly remove the tank and climb up a nearby vent to stay out of sight. Once I'm sure the guards are still looking away, I rush to the door beyond the Wall of Light and finally make it to the other side of Kaldwin's bridge, where Sokolov's apartment lies.

Once I begin to get my bearings here, the Heart once more begins to beat, indicating a Bone Charm and a Rune. The Rune is located in the direction of Sokolov's apartment if my memories of Kaldwin's Bridge are accurate. Knowing him, it is highly likely that the Rune is with him at this moment. Since the Bone Charm is close by, I decide to take a quick detour in order to claim it for myself. Climbing into the window of the apartment complex I see that my path to the charm is blocked by a makeshift barricade. All this means is that I need to find a back way in, so I climb onto the roof and look to the side to find a very well-placed balcony. I am once again disappointed to find that the charm's effect is useless to me, so I place it in my pack to keep others safe from it. That means that only one Rune remains, and I'm convinced Sokolov has it. This suspicion is confirmed when I scale the rooftops and acquire a direct line of sight to the apartment, which seems more like a small fortress when I finally gaze upon it.

The front door is too well-guarded to use, so I inspect the building's roof to find a single guard on patrol. I can do this, but I will have to dispatch him in order to ensure my safety. The only way onto to the roof is the chain hanging from it. I wait for a bit, because my best chance will be the moment when the guard turns his back to the chain. Once I'm onto the roof and behind cover, I take a look inside and notice that the room on Sokolov's roof appears to be some sort of greenhouse. He provides the plague elixirs for the guards, so this comes as no surprise to me.

Before I can take a closer look, I need to dispatch that watchman. Scaling the greenhouse, I wait for the guard to get closer, and then use my rats to silence him forever. I see a poor woman who appears to be a subject in one of his experiments. While I feel sorry for her, I can't free her or she'd see me, possibly compromising my mission. Plus, with her locked up, I can pass this off as Sokolov going out for awhile, especially if I nab his notebook and recipe for his elixir on the way. Piero will be most pleased to have the access to Sokolov's notes. The Rune was also located here, as I suspected. Now that everything I need is in my hands, I pick up Sokolov's sleeping form and make my way out. Since the guard patrolling the roof is now dead, my escape is completely unhindered. Predicting the most likely place for Samuel to make camp over here, I head to a waterway under the bridge. Sure enough, he was right there and ready to make the trip back. With the floodlights still out of commission, we made it back to the Hound Pits Pub safely.

When we arrive, it's nighttime with Martin and Havelock receiving us at the pier. The admiral praises my efforts and invites me to go to bed. I am almost certainly tired, but I have a few things to do before hitting the hey. Fortunately, Piero is right outside, and he's just the man I'm looking for. I hand him the blueprints for both my new boots and Sokolov's elixirs, and gave him the money to start working on my boots. After finishing the upgrades, he says that working on them gave him new ideas for how to further muffle my footsteps, so I consent to give him the scratch to continue development. As I left him to his work, I found an audiograph where Piero rants that he's smarter than Sokolov and that the only reason Sokolov is in a better position is that he's better funded by the nobles. Given how quickly Piero finishes his work, I'm tempted to believe it. Pondering this a bit, Piero informs me that he's finished. I thank him and leave, making note of the fact that I can barely hear my own footsteps.

It is then that the Heart sparks to life and once more begins to beat. It tells me of a Bone Charm located in a nearby building. Sadly, the only access point is a locked door. Cecelia is one of the few people here who knows this area well, so talking to her could give me some help. When I approach her, she tells me the apartment is a secret hideout that she plans to use in the event that the guards beat on our door and we need to scatter. She mentions that she has a spare key under her bed that she's willing to give me. I'm touched by her offer, and thank her graciously. Taking the key, I decide to continue my surveillance of Havelock and Pendleton by inspecting their rooms. Havelock was in his room at the time, and didn't seem to mind me snooping through his things. Looks like my assassinations earlier today have already begun to bear fruit, as the Lord Mole lost the vote on increasing the city's defense budget.

As for his journal, he appears to be getting more power-hungry, talking about the kind of force he could wield if both Piero and Sokolov were under his command. This is after noting my ability to perform extractions along with assassinations. What concerns me more is the audiograph. In the recording, Havelock is clearly growing more paranoid, worried that he hasn't covered his tracks enough in keeping this bar, and our operation, above water. There are also traces of an ambition about him, saying that he'd almost prefer taking the title of Lord Regent for himself than commanding the navy in Emily's name. I've seem this combination of paranoia and ambition before with the current Lord Regent, and that resulted in six months of my life gone. I have no plans on making the same mistake a second time. You've earned my attention Havelock, be warned. As for Pendleton, he is away on business, his room containing another memoir. The content is meaningless, but he seems to be growing more and more belligerent. I imagine the deaths of his brothers are still affecting him, so who knows what he is capable of at this point.

As I head to the Cecelia's hiding place to snatch the Bone Charm, I think of Martin and wonder about what he might be thinking. He's an overseer and enemy of the Outsider. Surely by now he's seen the Mark on my left hand. For now, he seems to be willingly ignoring it, but if pressed by Havelock and Pendleton, I wonder how long that will last. The bottom line is that all three of the top conspirators have a motive to end my life as soon as this whole thing is over, and that worries me. I'm necessary for now, which means I'm safe, but the future is uncertain. Almost reflecting my current state of mind, the charm I pick up is once again worthless to me. At this point I seem to only be picking these things up to keep their power in check.

The only errand I have left to run before turning in for the night is to check in with Callista and Emily. Entering the lighthouse, I thank the stars that I purchased silent boots, as Emily was just put to sleep. She seems restless, tossing and turning as if the weight of the world is on her shoulders. Hell, it just might be. Callista says that Emily appears to be visibly happier when I'm here for her, but she doesn't press the issue because we both know that I have work to do. In Callista's audiograph, she recounts her day with Emily. I almost feel bad for poor Callista, because she's both dealing with limited resources and dealing with my daughter. I know that Emily can be a handful, mostly because I know she gets it from both myself and her mother. There was one interesting point that I'm probably putting too much stock in, but she mentioned that when she asked for slightly more fancy ware to have “tea parties” with Emily, Havelock and the others seems distant. I should expect that because of the nature of this conspiracy, but given what I suspect of them, that concerns me even more. I give Emily a quick kiss good night, and then head to my own room.

Right as I am about to head to bed, a thought occurs to me. I have the energy of 5 Runes stored within me, so maybe now is a good time to strengthen my magic. The visions in my head once again make themselves clear. In this one, I see a watchman sitting next to a Wall of Light. I know that I need to get passed this wall to proceed to whatever objective I happen to be on. It is then that I use my powers of possession, but not on a lowly rat. Instead, I appear to be jumping into the body of the guard himself, using him as a vessel to pass through the Wall of Light. Intrigued, I pour my energy into this vision and acquire this enhanced possession for myself. Now that I am thoroughly exhausted, I lay down in my bed and rest.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

“What a Terrible Accident” Let's Play Dishonored: Part 8: The Floodlights

When Samuel and I arrive at Kaldwin's Bridge, he warns me that he won't be able to get us very close to Sokolov's apartment thanks to all of the floodlights the City Watch set up. If we try to get too close, they'll spot us for sure. Luckily, the old boatman says that if I find a way to shut off the floodlights, he can pick me up on the other side of the bridge, so I won't have to walk all the way back. Kidnapping is new territory for me. Then again, so is assassination. The tricky part will be performing the abduction in a way the makes it seem like no outside party was involved. Well, there's no time like the present, which means I'd better get started.

When I exit the boat, the Heart begins to beat, sensing the presence of 1 Rune and 1 Bone Charm. As I climb the steps onto the bridge proper, I see three guards on patrol. Rather than move to their elevation, I decide to teleport to the rafters on the other side of the archway supporting the bridge, and then advance onto the ventilation shafts above. So far, the rooftops have proven to be a time-tested tactic that always gives results, so I see absolutely no reason to stop using them. Unfortunately for me, the main tunnel leading onto the next section of the bridge is sealed for maintenance, and the only other entrance I can see comes in the form of a door passed all the guards. When they've all turned their backs to the door, I seize the initiative and Blink to it, closing it behind me as to remain unseen. Inside the building, I swipe a bit of ore I can have Piero sell, a key labeled “Warehouse” and a schematic that can be used to make my boots quieter.

The only other object that catches my interest is a mine cart. Studying the short railway before me, it seems like I may be able to use the cart to sneak passed all of guards. All it needs is a tank of whale oil, which I take from the top floor and install in the panel next to the cart. With everything ready, I hop into the cart, flip the switch, and duck so that I'm not seen. Touching down, I hop out of the cart and hide behind the boxes in front on me. Rather than advance into the next area, I decide to take the time to get the Rune in this area, abandoning the Bone Charm. Keeping that in mind, I opt to teleport into the abandoned apartment on the other side of the street. I no longer need the Heart to know that the Rune is here, as I can hear it's whispers. I can feel it on the other side of the door in this building, but it's blocked from the other side. Cursing under my breath, I look for another way around. I look out the window and see an alley leading to the other side of the building, conveniently out of sight of the guards. Bingo! There's a chain here I can use to climb onto a balcony leading into the room with the Rune, snatching it up as I arrive.

Unblocking the door, I head onto an awning overlooking the streets, and teleport to a door leading to the drawbridge portion of Kaldwin's Bridge. As I sneak onto an awning, I overhear a noble named Pratchett and a guardsman talking. The noble talks about this plague as a way to make money off of it. That bothers me, so I decide that before I go on with my mission to abduct Sokolov, I'll stop by his home to get him to unknowingly share his riches with me. Teleporting to his second floor balcony, I sneak in. The Heart in my pocket beats like crazy, pointing to a Rune in the safe that I just so happen to want to rob. According to a nearby, and pointlessly cryptic note, the “way to the truth” (read: safe combination) “starts in the crowded streets”, continues to “an anchored whaling ship”, and ends at “the slaughterhouse”. It's when I finish reading the note that I see this guy's impressive art collection, including the painting of a whaling ship in a harbor. The ship has a “7” emblazoned on it's side. Putting everything together in my head, it's immediately obvious that the note refers to specific paintings in the collection. Since the ship was mentioned second, 7 must be the middle number of the combination.

To get the rest of the combination, I head downstairs to find more of his artwork. Luckily, he has his back turned. One of the pieces depicts a slaughterhouse, and in the corner is displayed the number 3, which means that the combination is X-7-3, where X could be a number from 0 to 9. Since I know enough of the combination to brute force it, I decide to retreat back to the safe upstairs. I place the second and third numbers in place, then begin to rotate the first. Once the dial hits 4, I hear a click and the safe opens. I liberate the Rune and 2 gold bars from the safe and close it back up, resetting the dial to 0-0-0. When this plague profiteer next opens this safe, he'll be in for a surprise. Sneaking back out, the Heart beats once more, signifying that another Rune is in the area. Leaning out to scout the area ahead, I see an apartment that is glowing with an eerie light. Combined with the quickening of the Heart's beat, I get the distinct impression that a Rune is in that room.

Rather the risk going into directly, I opt to teleport onto the ventilation shaft on the side of the building. It's then that I see a man walk out and back in, completely unaware of me. Hearing him rant and looking around at the writings on the wall make it obvious that the Rune has twisted his mind, so I summon a swarm of rats to put him out of his misery. It's only when I enter that I small it: the scent of decaying corpse. The notes scattered about indicate that many of his friends and family were murdered out of paranoia that they would steal his Rune. The irony of the situation is not lost on me as I take the Rune from the makeshift Outsider shrine, inadvertently summoning Poncy. Against my deepest wishes, he speaks. “Offering” a brief history lesson, his rantings indicate that prior civilization existed well before ours, and fell when his influence grew too high. Making a sudden, and rather abrupt transition to something more relevant, Poncy starts talking about Sokolov. Confirming rumors that have been spreading around the royal court for years, Poncy depicts the many ways that the royal physician has tried to conjure the Outsider. As obsessed with power as he is, this comes as no surprise. Since Sokolov lacks the Mark that I have, there's really nothing he can do. Ending our little “conservation”, Poncy says that the least Sokolov could do to summon him is to be more interesting. Ugh, why do I have to interesting? If the poor fools wants to talk to Prince Ponce, by all means let him. Hopefully it'll distract them both from me.

Okay, enough detours. It's time the I moved onto my real mission. Rather than use the streets to travel, I move through this building and onto a rooftop that's very high off the ground. From here, I have a great vantage point of the area in front of me. It's from here that I see it... the Arc Pylon. I've been briefed on these. According to the reports, they are similar to Walls of Lights in that when someone who's not a guard gets close enough to them, they will be administered a lethal shock. Luckily, I also spot a route on the right side that is far enough away from the pylon and out of sight of the watchmen, yet keeps me on the the right path. To use this path, I make my way down using the awnings and shafts to the side. It is then that I spot Slackjaw's men. Rather than rush in, it would be smarter to watch and wait to see what happens next.

As I sit on the awning, I overhear the two thugs talk about busting their friend out of jail. It's then that the guards spot them and begin shouting. Though the encounter is decidedly in favor of the watch, Slackjaw's men rush in and are immediately disintegrated by the Arc Pylon. They never stood a chance. I won't make that same mistake. Since charging the post is a very stupid thing to do for multiple reasons, I sneak around using the cover to stay out of sight. Planning this out as I go, I teleport onto the support beams of the bridge and then onto the roof of the guard station, ducking out of sight before the Arc Pylon on the drawbridge has a chance to power up. I'll never be able to proceed as long as that pylon is in working order, so I decide to sneak around to pull the oil tank fueling it out of its socket. Sneaking up a staircase leading to the upper levels, I keep out of sight of the guard patrolling around. If memory serves, the fuel for the lighting system is either up here or on the other side of the drawbridge. If I remove the tanks, than the floodlights will be shut off and Samuel will be able to make the crossing. Rather the risk further patrols, I use a chain to climb up and out of sight.

A quick inspection shows that the tanks aren't on this side, so they need to be on the other. Crossing to the other side of the bridge is only dangerous because I have to expose myself for a short time. I only have a single stack of boxes to use for cover, so timing is crucial. As the guard on patrol turns away, I make my move, silently climbing to the structure above, advancing towards the fuel tanks for the floodlights. Extracting them from the panel does the trick, so I breath a sigh of relief and use the support beams on this side on the bridge as a way to maintain the high ground. Luckily, there are some beams on the buildings in front of me that I can teleport to before the guards look my way. The area beyond is devoid of any life besides the rats, so I proceed onwards....

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

“What a Terrible Accident” Let's Play Dishonored: Part 7: The Twins

My daughter is now safe and sound, so I can breath a small sight of relief. That being said, I can't go with her just yet. Before heading back to her and Samuel, I still need to eliminate the Pendleton twins so that Trevor can take control of his family's voting block. Thanks to the conversation I overheard earlier, I know that Morgan Pendleton is in the Ivory Room and Custis Pendleton is in the Smoking Room, located on the second and top floors respectively. In order to avoid the long arm of the law, it would be best to find a way to make these kills look like the result of unfortunate circumstances. That may be easier said than done. I'll need to case their individual rooms to discover the best way to pull this off.

But before I do that, the Heart tells me that while I was in the attic, I missed a Rune. Since it's only a few flights of stairs away, I should get it now so I don't have to worry about it later. On my way up, I hear the whispers of a Bone Charm. The Heart begins to beat in my pocket confirming what my hearing already told me, leading me to take a brief detour into one of the rooms by the stairwell. Along with the Charm, there were also a few valuables I may be able to use to pay for my supplies in the future. Sadly, this artifact, like previous charms, is of no use to me, so I drop it in my bag. Heading once more for the attic, I arrive at the room with the Rune. As I enter, I see a woman cleaning her room, probably awaiting a client. Quickly, I move in, grab the Rune off a table behind her, and dart back out before she notices anything turns around. Taking a quick breath, I return to the floor below and retreat onto the awning above the second floor balcony.

Opening a window, I decide to try and stick to the rafters for this one to avoid detection. Arriving just outside of what appears to be the lobby of the building, I overhear one sad, pathetic guard tell another about how he thinks one of the girls in this brothel might actually like him. Saying what I'm thinking, his buddy politely reminds him that both him and the girl are in a whore house, and she's on duty. That's when I notice the other Rune on the wall. While they are there, I can't swoop in and get to it, so I decide to wait until they finish their little spat and leave. After dropping down and snatching the Rune, I teleport back up to my hidey-hole, deciding that now is a good time to develop my powers. As before, I open my mind and receive a vision. In it, I see myself next to a rat. When I activate my powers, I throw myself, body and soul, into this little rodent, forcibly seizing control of its form. Pouring my Rune energy into this vision, I feel my powers react and once more develop further.

Returning to reality, I use Blink to move onto the top of the circular metallic decoration above the lobby. Walking around, I see a door labeled “Ivory Room”, and recall that one of the twins is located there. A quick scan of the area nearby reveals a door to a balcony right outside the Ivory Room. I think that I can use that balcony to sneak around and get a better view of what's inside. Before I do anything, I watch to see if any guards are coming out of the door. To my detriment, there is one. He shows no signs of moving from his post and if he remains, he'll spot me when I make my move. I have no intention of being caught, which means he has to be fed to my summoned rats. What happened next was perhaps the most awesome thing I ever witnessed, and entirely unexpected. My rats did take care of the guard, but his screams brought another guard out of his post in order to see what's going on. To my surprise, Morgan Pendleton also took the time to move away from his whore and charge the unknown threat (which is odd when you consider that the room he is currently occupying is supposedly soundproofed and he's a noble, therefore a complete coward). The two of them together were accosted by the rats that remained. Why the guard decided to use his pistol against the rats, I have no idea. What I do know is that he missed completely and instead shot the first of the two Pendleton twins square in the chest, killing him instantly.

Oh dear, what a terrible accident.

Retreating back to the rafters, I sat there for a moment in pure astonishment. That went nothing according to plan, and I'm all the better for it. It's taking everything I have right now to suppress my laughter. One down, one to go. Regaining my bearings, I remember that the other Pendleton, Custis, is upstairs in the Smoking Room. The staircase upwards is to my right and in plain view. As I go to climb it, I see two watchmen returning to their posts upstairs after witnessing the commotion, so I wait a moment before advancing. When I do, I take position atop the light fixtures on the top floor. I see the Smoking Room from my vantage point, door wide open, but the guards are on high alert after the incident with the rats downstairs. Acting on instinct, I teleport into the Smoking Room. Luck is on my side today, as there are decorations I can use to hide behind as I move to the balcony. I know what I need to do, but it's going to require good reaction time.

I see Custis talking to his prostitute, and their conversation is quickly turning ugly. It's no secret that the Pendletons and the Boyles are not on good terms, so to hear him say that he wants her to dress like one of the Boyle women is alarming. I feel bad for the girls, but what I'm about do will likely not turn out well for her. Accepting the potential collateral damage, I summon a swarm of rats onto Custis Pendleton. They devour both him, and his unlucky partner, quickly. (Note: I don't know how, but the mission results page insists that no civilians were killed in this mission, so apparently she survived and I didn't realize it.) The guards won't even have time to react as I've already teleported down onto the streets, quietly hiding while I figure out how to get out of here. When the watchmen just outside turns around, I dive into the alleyway and make my way back onto the rooftops. All I have to do now is head for the door to Clavering Boulevard and make my escape on the boat. Blinking behind a cluster of nearby crates makes getting back onto Clavering a joke, and when I do make it back I scale a guard tower to avoid being spotted. From there, I regain the high ground and, through a series of Blinks, make it back to the top of the guard tower on the other side of the boulevard. It is a short trip from my present location to the coast, where Emily and Samuel are waiting for me. Giving them the go ahead, we depart this place and make our way to the Hound Pits Pub.

As we are about to dock, Samuel accidentally talks about what I just did, in front of my own daughter no less. Dude, I like you and think you're a great friend, but stow it! Emily somehow takes it in stride. She clearly knows what's going on, but is either trying to feign ignorance for my sake or just doesn't want to believe it. After making it ashore, Callista introduces herself to Emily as her new tutor for the duration of our stay here. Emily seems to take a shine to her, and I feel like I can trust Callista to care for her, so I let the two of them go for now. It's then that Havelock finally appears and praises me once more for my skill, assuring me that the conspiracy is going according to plan. My only problem is that once this is all done, I'm pretty much convinced that his plan does not at all involve me living through this after hearing his audiographs. Turning to part with me, the old admiral says that the last remaining Pendleton sibling would like to speak to me personally.

I find Trevor at the base of the lighthouse, staring out into the horizon. When I walk up to him, he turns to face me. He has... an odd way of showing that his brothers' deaths are affecting him. The nobleman clearly knows that what I did was best for him, but he still can't quite accept that his own family is dead, partially by his own hands. This is when he begins to have a bitch fit about all the money that was spent breaking me out of prison and I stop listening until he tells he that... Havelock is looking for me? I just spoke to him, so that's stupid. Honestly, I have no idea why I'm working for these guys at this point. I have my daughter back and, aside from Martin, they clearly aren't competent to any significant degree. Plus, Havelock is making it really obvious that he's likely going to kill me. Actually, I have an idea. Before going back to speak with the navy man, I think I'll inspect the second floor rooms again. Perhaps if get some dirt on them, I can blackmail the two of them as a way to keep them in check. Sadly, the search turned up nothing but a Rewiring Tool in Pendleton's room. I should keep my eye on them for the duration of our working relationship, because I fear it'll cost me my head if I don't.

Returning to the bar, I see Cecelia serving drinks to both Havelock and Martin. According to them, Baldy's book makes mention of a consort of the Lord Mole who has been giving him the funding to run his little operation. Sokolov apparently painted her portrait, so in order to get at her, we'll need to kidnap him in order to get him to cough up her identity. When we first spoke after my prison escape, Havelock assured me that his goal was to get Emily on the throne. I wonder if he's being honest with me about that. Is there an ulterior motive? Is this really best for Emily? I don't know, and I don't trust them. Still, I suppose I should at the very least keep my options open. If I plan to continue this little game, I'll need to leave now in order to catch Sokolov at his apartment on Kaldwin's Bridge. This will be the first time I've ever abducted someone, hopefully it's the only time. These things have a way of getting messy. As I tell Samuel to head off, I feel my head racing with all sorts of questions. Maybe a mission is just what I need to clear my head right now....

Saturday, June 8, 2013

“What a Terrible Accident” Let's Play Dishonored: Part 6: The Heir to the Throne

Well, that was a pretty good sleep. Comparatively speaking, I mean. Again, when you spend six months in a maximum-security prison, even the most uncomfortable bed in the world is the most pleasant experience you'll ever have. However, a mystical assassin's work is seemingly never done, so I can't stay in bed forever. The moment I push up the covers and stand on my feet, the Heart leaps to life in order to inform me that it detects the presence of 2 Runes. I head downstairs and take a detour on the 2nd floor to see if anyone's doing anything worth note. In Pendleton's room I see another one of his “memoirs”, but I'm quickly losing interest in them. They were an amusing diversion at one point, but the way this pathetic man goes on and on about his “hard life” of wealth is privilege is beyond disgusting. Havelock's room is no less a bore.

As I head to the cellar of this pub, I witness Wallace and Lydia having an argument. Wallace is clearly annoyed by her, because he threatens to fire her if he ever got the chance, as if he has the authority to do so. Surprisingly enough, Lydia stands her ground, bluntly saying that the pub can't function without her, pointing out 5 mistakes he made in the accounting books as proof. I leave the room with a wry smile cross my face. Watching Wallace get his ass handed to him is a great source of entertainment. Outside, on the coastal side of the pub, I hear Callista and Piero at the entrance to his workshop. They talk about a place called “The Golden Cat”. From the sound of it, it seems like it's some sort of brothel. Piero brags that he's made many “exotic” contraptions for the place, and offers Callista a look at the blueprints in what appears the most awkward, painful way to hit on a woman I've ever seen. As one might suspect, Callista didn't care much for the advance. I think I saw her shudder as she said that she regrets bringing him tea. I like you, Piero, but what did you expect? You may be a genius when it comes to invention, but when it comes to love you're hopeless. I'd offer him a project or two to take his mind off it, but alas he has nothing that I'm interested in.

So, I decide to see if Havelock and Pendleton need anything. I find them next to what appears to be the entrance to the basement. When I close in, Havelock tells me Martin will arrive today, and that there have been noises coming from the sewers beneath us, suspecting them to be weepers. Before I can ask “What the hell's a weeper?”, he anticipates my question and tells me that they are plague victims in the final stage of the infection. Little more than walking shambles of their former selves, weepers are now nothing more than active plague vectors. Before getting my next formal assignment, the admiral tasks me with removing the menace in the sewers, just in case they happen to be nosy guards. Taking the key, I unlock the hatch and drop down. In the sewers, I hide behind a wall and use my spyglass to see who the interlopers are. What I see are two very pale individuals. There is blood coming from their eyes and their movements are stilted, as if rigor mortis is taking hold. Knowing that no one will question a weeper's death, I lunge at them, impaling each of them with my sword. It's sad, but there really is no coming back from that.

With the blood still dripping from the blade, I look around and notice the 2 Runes that revealed themselves earlier. Since their powers will be necessary in the coming trials, I scoop them up. With that, I have the absorbed power of 5 Runes I have not yet used to increase my power, so I decide that now is the time to do just that. Unlike before, this time I have two visions appear in the depths of my mind. In one of these visions, I see myself behind a barricade, readying Blink to teleport behind a guard. However, when I release, I teleport farther than I have even been able to before. The other vision tells of an even more fascinating ability. When I watch myself clench my fist, time itself appears to slow down around me. The nearby guards are moving slower and take longer to detect me. Just like before, I feel myself pour the energy of my collected Runes into these visions, and my powers respond in kind.

When I jump out of the sewers and arrive back at the pub, Cecelia says that she's impressed with my bravery, and informs me that Martin has just arrived. I take that as my queue to head to the bar and speak with him. He's with Havelock, and together they brief me on my next assignment. As fortunate as I've been, the assignment is the one I've been anticipating more than any other: I am to finally rescue Emily. She's been taken to the Golden Cat to hide out with Pendleton's brothers, Morgan and Custis.

While saving my daughter is my top priority, I am also to ensure that the Pendleton twins do not survive this day. With them out of the picture, Trevor can take his brothers' place as head of the family and take control of Parliament. The former overseer and the admiral depart, telling me that Trevor is waiting by the docks to brief me personally. Giving my next targets, this must be bittersweet for him. He sounds about as conflicted as one might expect a younger brother requesting the death of his siblings to be. It seems that when he talks about their cruelty towards others, knack for putting wealth over all else, and alliance with the Lord Mole, he's trying to convince himself more than he is trying to convince me that this is the right thing to do. I almost feel bad for him, but he knew the risks of being involved in this. In the end, Trevor made his choice just as I have. Leaving him to his thoughts, I ask Samuel to head out.

When we arrive, we touch down at the same spot as we did the night before. While Samuel tries to help by advising me to ask Slackjaw for a way into the Golden Cat. I appreciate his helpfulness, but that would simply be leaving too much evidence behind and I'm still too mad at Slackjaw's men to even consider it. On a more useful note, he warns me of a watch tower installed on Clavering. After Campbell's death, Lord Mole must be getting paranoid. The Heart reveals to me the presence of 3 Bone Charms in the area. If they were Runes, I may be more willing to go out of my way to get them. As it stands, I consider it far too risky.

Rather than go the same route as last time, I opt instead to use both the extended range of my Blink and the new watch tower to my advantage. I climb onto the top of a nearby pillar, and then use a series of Blinks to scale up to the top of a lamppost and eventually onto the watch tower. From this point, I can teleport to the top of the archway housing the Wall of Light in my path. It is a trivial matter to move from here to the next archway's roof by sticking to the high ground, and it's from there that I see a sign advertizing the Golden Cat, with an arrow pointing to a nearby door. Passing a second watch tower, I open the door and proceed onward.

According to nearby signage, I'm getting close to the Golden Cat. Pulling out the Heart, I detect 3 nearby Runes and a Bone Charm. Rather than risk the guards spotting me, I opt to take to the alleyways, using various crates and stands as barriers between myself and the watchmen on patrol. Eventually, one the alleyways is set up in such a way as to allow easy access to the rooftops with my magic jumping powers. This vantage point gives me full view of the Golden Cat's exterior. Pulling out the Heart again, I also see that from here I can easily get to one of the Runes. I cross the street and onto an adjacent rooftop with a single Blink, and dive into the building in order to acquire the Rune I saw earlier.

Teleporting back onto the roofs, I find a ventilation shaft I can use to sneak onto the second story balcony of the Golden Cat. Instead of entering from this location, I decide that it might be a better idea to sneak in through the attic, as less people are likely to be there. Plus, the Heart indicates a Rune is there too. As I drop in, I immediately peep into the door in front of me to make sure it's safe. That's when I see that which I've been looking for. There's no mistaking it, Emily is in this room. As quietly as I can, I open the door go to her. She's initially scared thanks to my Death mask, but when I take it off, she leaps into my arms. They told her that I was dead and that nobody would come for her. Unfortunately for them, they were lying. Despite this, she never lost hope and planned her escape. I put my mask back on and prepare to get her out of here. Out of sight of the guards and staff, she leads me to a locked back entrance. Emily suspects that after her last attempt, the Madame Prudence locked the door and keeps the key on her person. Until I get that key, my daughter is stuck here in a whore house. There is no way I'll let that happen.

When I make it to the second floor, I spot the Madame. Talking to a watchman, she reveals that Morgan Pendleton is located in a soundproof room called the Ivory Room on the second floor while Custis is upstairs in the smoking room. As I see her come towards the door I'm peeping through, I quickly dive for a corner. Luckily, she does not spot me as she passes towards her office. I seize this chance to take the key off her belt and sneak back to the bottom floor. Using my shiny new key, I unlock the door. As I do, Emily deduces that I had to have arrived by boat and tells me that she'll meet me there when I'm done. She's smart, like her father, so I have no doubt that she can get there. That leaves 1 objective complete. All that remains is to find the remaining 2 Runes and find a way to kill the Pendleton twins discreetly, making it look like an accident. A tall order perhaps, but I think I just might be able to pull it off...

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

“What a Terrible Accident” Let's Play Dishonored: Part 5: The High Overseer

Getting here was easy enough. Now comes the real challenge. It looks like I'll be able to accomplish one of my objectives right now. In front of me, my contact Martin lies in chains, being interrogated by one of his fellow overseers. Either Martin is playing a very convincing bluff, or he saw me and knows I'm here to break him out. Letting the stupid overseer have a bit of fun before he dies, I wait a little before summoning a swarm of rats to devour his flesh. Once he falls to the ground, I pull the lever and release Martin from his restraints. He tells me a bunch of stuff I already know regarding my assignment and the likelihood that Geoff Curnow will be poisoned, and then leaves, promising to tell Samuel to pick me up on the other side of the estate so that I have a good escape route.

Using my magically enhanced jumping abilities, I scale a nearby wall to the top of an air vent, climbing around and to an awning passed the main gate. As I teleport across the pillars and onto the rim of the Abbey's walls, I overhear two of the zealots talking about the Heretic's Brand. Apparently it can be used to mark any overseer, even Baldy, as a traitor. One such marked will no longer be welcome. Aiding him would also become a capital offense for all residents in the city. If it weren't so risky, I might have considered it as a form of poetic justice. As it stands, I can't risk being seen dragging a body around like that. Pulling out the Heart, I see that this complex harbors two Runes that I can use to boost my power. Hopefully I can get to them. For me to succeed in future missions, I'll need to grow as strong as I can.

I sneak around the Abbey's walls and take a moment to study the area. Going in through the main gate is far too risky as there are many patrols outside. Fortunately, I appear to have a workaround. Looking down, I notice that the drainage system for the area's rain is completely unguarded and spacious enough for me to fit through, so I Blink down and climb in. There was a bit of an obstruction in the pipe, but nothing that a blade can't fix. Once I'm in, I notice that while I'm closer, I still need to get into the building proper, and the front door is a terrible way of sneaking in. Knowing this, it appears that taking a detour and moving through the dog kennels is my next best option, so that's what I do. While the dog trainer is on duty, I am fortunate enough to have the door open to a few crates I can hide behind. To traverse this area, my best option is to stick to the vents as best I can. There is some tricky maneuvering, as two or three dog trainers are patrolling the area, but I eventually make to the main building's basement.

Since I've been to the Abbey before on business trips with the Empress, I know that Baldy will likely meet with Geoff in the dining room on the second floor. I could likely sneak around these guards even without the power of short-range teleportation, but it sure does help. Once I'm on the second floor, I scale a nearby bookcase and decide to walk on top of the industrial lights to navigate. Fortunately, the dining room is close to the staircase by the kennels, so it's not a long trip. Sadly, as I enter the area I notice that the two of them are right outside the door, waiting to enter. This means that whatever I do, I have to do it fast. Before making any decisions, I grab the Rune on the wall. These overseers are hardly trustworthy, and with what I'm about to do, it's likely that they'll pass the blame onto one of their own, taking advantage of the ensuing chaos.

Ever since Callista told me of Baldy's plan to murder Geoff, I knew exactly what the best way to kill him would be. The poor fool plans to use poison on my old friend. Little does he know that his own poison will be the instrument I use for his demise. All it takes is a little sleight of hand to switch the glasses. With a single move, I've saved Callista's uncle and murdered a High Overseer. Not to bad if I do say so myself. Now, the only thing left to do is watch this play out and collect Baldy's Black Book when it's done. Rather then remain conspicuously on the ground, I retreat to the rafters to observe my handiwork. It's truly amazing the way some people walk in feeling all powerful, and then scramble as they realize what's going on, knowing they are about to die. Such was the case for Campbell. To the outside world, the moron made the mistake of a lifetime by ingesting his own poison, paying the ultimate price for it.

Oh dear, what a terrible accident.

After realizing which drink he imbibed, he tried ordering Geoff to burn the Black Book to no avail. Then, he passed from this mortal coil, and things became interesting. When Curnow saw Baldy's lifeless form, he did what he was trained to do, alert the guards. The overseers came in, and he quickly realized there was no getting through to them. After warning them to go after some initiate that must have been in the room before me, he was accosted and the encounter quickly turned violent. As the overseer in question drew his sword, my old friend shot him dead with his pistol and warned his own entourage that they would need to fight their way out. He's skilled, and so are his men, so I have every confidence that he'll escape. That being said, I still need to wait for the dust to settle so that I can pick up that damned book. It took a moment, but eventually I found my chance, slipping in and out faster than Geoff could shout “Men! CHARGE!!!!”. I decided to skim the book a bit and was surprised to note two things. First, Blady was blackmailing a crap ton of nobles: enough to ensure the money and favors kept flowing in almost indefinitely. Second, he makes note of a secret room in the basement, where I emerged from the kennels. Since there's no kill like overkill, I might as well peruse the place to see if there's anything I could make use of.

It'll be tricky making my way back, as the guards have placed this whole facility under high alert. Given my skill, it should still be quite possible. When I do succeed, I reread the journal to make sure I'm in the right place. Following the instructions, I depress the colored eye on the bust adjacent to the kennel doors, and I'm in business. The wall comes to life and opens up wide. In Campbell's secret chamber, I notice the Sokolov painting he made six months ago. Thinking I should pin it on one of the many low-lifes in this farce they call an Abbey, I snatch it up for Piero to sell on the black market. With that same logic, I smash the glass case nearby to steal of gold plate and the other Rune hidden in the area. Since I've covered my tracks well, this will have the look of an inside job, assuming they find this room at all. The last thing I do is listen to an audiograph where Baldy laments my escape of Coldridge and what it may mean for his and the Lord Mole's plans. Way to go, me!

The only thing left to do is escape, and if my memory is correct, the back gardens, where Samuel will be waiting, are not far. In fact, they are just to my right when I exit back onto the main floor of the Abbey. When I make it to the backyard, the Heart begins to beat something fierce, revealing the presence of 2 Bone Charms and a Rune. Before the nearby overseer spots me, I hide behind cover and begin to plan out my escape. When he turns around, I Blink behind him and then again onto a nearby building too high for him to see me. Indicating that I've gotten closer to a Bone Charm, the heart beats at an increased rate. Rather than approach from the front, I decide to make my way around and slip in on the side facing the coast, since it's on the cliff and therefore unguarded. When I enter, I'm greeted by the smell of decaying corpse. According to a note I found on scene, this overseer died trying to steal this Bone Charm from their vault. Its effect won't do for my purposes. However, the intoxicating effects these charms give off on people are clearly far too dangerous to be handled by those without Poncy's mark, so I ultimately decide to stash it in my bag.

Exiting the way I came, I climb the awning and return to the rooftops. As I make my way to the other Bone Charm, I hear the whispers of the Rune beneath me. Sadly, I'm not at a good vantage point to get to it with the guard standing there, so I decide to go continue after the charm. With Blink and the increased height of my jumps, it is a trivial matter to make it to the abandoned warehouse where it lies. Avoiding the trap, I notice that while there are no overseers here, the area is nonetheless guarded by a swarm of rats, meaning I can't stay on the ground for very long. Again, this charm is of no use to me, so I store it in my pack and head back out. Before I head to Samuel, the last thing on my checkbox is to retrieve that final Rune. To the chagrin of the guard watching the roof of the building, my rats appear from the ether and devour his body. With him out of the way, I break the sun-roof and jump down, snatching up the Rune and an audiograph. The overseer recorded on it mentions that their little cult now has access to music boxes that can cancel out magic powers like my own. Should I come across more overseers in the future, and doubtless I will, this will be something I need to keep in mind.

With all of my tasks now complete, I head to Samuel at the dock behind the garden. I'm glad I don't have a fear of heights, because the dock is a long way down. So long that I have to use a chain to climb down. Now that I'm here, the two of us take his boat and return to the Hound Pits Pub. For my first assassination, this turned out quite well. I was never seen and the overseers likely suspect that Baldy accidentally killed himself and one of their own used the situation to his advantage in a number of thefts across the estate. Even better, they might suspect the city watch and begin infighting amongst the factions in Dunwall. Overall, this was an overwhelming success.

Once we make it back to our makeshift HQ, Callista turns to greet me with gratitude. Apparently Geoff did make it out of there, and a sigh of relief escapes my mouth. Touched by my actions, Callista insists upon giving me a family heirloom of hers. I feel bad knowing that this will almost definitely be pawned off to pay for my equipment, but how can I refuse her? Before I report to Havelock and Pendleton, I decide to step back and listen to them talk. It appears that they are pleased with my results, and have already begun discussing who they'll send me after next. They mention that Pendleton's older brothers control his family's voting block in Parliament, so I suspect that's where I will be asked to strike next.

When I talk to them, they congratulate me for saving Martin and retrieve Baldy's Black Book of Blackmail, which comes from the Always Awesome Academy of Amazing Alliterations. Instead of immediately sending me out again, they decide to wait for Martin to get here and read the journal to choose the next hit. Yeah, these guys clearly have no idea what they're doing. Pendleton's a coward and while Havelock has charisma, he's not the sharpest tool in the shed. They recommend that I get some sleep, but I decide to walk around a little first. As I make my way to Piero's workshop, I am pleasantly greeted by Lydia. Nice woman, if a little rough around the edges. The audiograph next to the entrance revealed that Poncy has been giving the inventor ideas in his sleep, flooding his mind with tons of plans for killing devices I will likely never use. After praising me (and his tools by proxy) for my daring kill, he pulls out the list of things he can make for me. Double-checking it, I decide that I'd rather save my money as I've no use for his current stock.

Entering the bar, I see Wallace again chastising Cecelia over not knowing proper etiquette. Despite being close to nobility myself, I never did like all the rules we're expected to follow. They're often so arbitrary and frankly stupid, so hearing him talk about their importance is winning him no favors from me. Traveling to Pendleton's room, I see that he's begun to worry that his brothers are conspiring with the Lord Mole. His “memoirs”, as he calls this little audiograph series he's been working on, only talk about his disdain for the Boyle family, so I almost immediately begin to lose interest. In Havelock's room, his journal and audiograph sing my praises. However, I also note that he fears me. In particular, he hears that I might betray him at a moment's notice. Experience tells me that those who harbor such thoughts tend to be the betrayers themselves, so I think I'll need to watch my back from now on. No Runes have revealed themselves, as the Heart lies dormant, so it's best that I head to bed and await my next assignment....

Monday, June 3, 2013

Disclosure Alert: Alpha Protocol: Episode 24: Russian to Rome

Before I begin the post for today's episode, anaphysik reminded me that I never told you guys exactly why this week's section was so late. Sure, a lot of that 4 weeks time could be blamed on Aldowyn's general laziness, but there was another, dumber reason.

You see, we had actually met with Ringwraith on Skype for two recording sessions. Why two, I hear my hypothetical inquisitive audience ask? Well, Aldowyn forgot to save at the end of our session with Irridium. This would normally be a non-issue, because the game auto-saves your progress. However, Aldowyn decided that he would play a little bit of Alpha Protocol on the side, accidentally overwriting the auto-save.

When we began the session with Ringwraith, we learned that we had to painstaking redo every friggin' mission in Moscow up to just before the embassy. Because we had to recreate the situation we ended off on with Irridium, we ended up having to reload a few times as well. It was a fun hour, but it meant we had to meet again next week to record the actual session. Coupled with a few communication issues (mostly my fault, admittedly), that meant this batch was fairly aggravating. With that said:

The reason we ended up replaying THIS boss fight is a combination of several factors. One, we were unsatisfied with the outcome in which we missed out the aftermath mission in Moscow that can occur if you get enough intel on Brayko and/or Surkov. This was when we discovered we screwed that up well before starting this session.

Second, Skype kicked all of us during Leland's interrogation as you saw previously. In order to avoid the auto-save screwing things up, anaphysik told Aldowyn to kill the process. Luckily, we only had to redo the boss fight because of some quick thinking. Still, compounded with the screw ups described above... I don't speak for the others, but I was getting pretty pissed off by this point. Hopefully, it doesn't show too much in the episode.

The mission we missed is a pretty critical one too. If you have enough dossier information, Brayko will tell you the Surkov screwed him over and is Halbech's primary contact in the area. From here, the player can meet up with him and confront him with this fact. In can result in many different scenarios depending on Mike's reputation with those involved, including an uneasy alliance with Surkov, execution of both him and his bodyguard at either your's or Brayko's, and grievous physical injury. Without that mission, this whole arc kinda feels incomplete.

(For your viewing pleasure: I have opted to include the Moscow ending we were going for immediately below this line:)

When you choose to make a deal with Brayko, he gives you a sound system that can only be played in the Moscow hub. This sucks because once you finish Moscow and move onto another hub, you can never return. I played on console and used it a few times. However, everyone I've spoken to who played on PC had a glitch where the sound system wouldn't play. I suspect that it has something to do with the port job, but can't confirm. Those of you watching this who choose to strike a deal with Brayko, can you please comment to tell me which system you played AP on and whether or not the sound system glitched on you so that I might have more data points?

And now we're at Rome: The last of the three hubs. I can't wait to show you out next batch of episodes. They were fun to record and we hope they are fun to watch. As for what I did when we touched down in Rome... I regret nothing.