|The Boldest Measures Are The Safest|
I've already mentioned the early game, with it's obvious betrayal and cliché plot setup. What follows is a trip through Coldridge prison and the sewers. It's where the game really feels like it's started, where you can begin to make your choices between stealth and death. Choose to kill and you raise the "chaos" level, or you can choose to avoid all combat (and for added difficulty, try not to be noticed at all for the "ghost" playthrough). The level of chaos (high or low) is supposed to change certain parts of the game, although I haven't noticed much yet. It's quite possible that my murderous ways have made things more difficult, but I won't know exactly until the ending. It says something for the quality of the game that I'm actually considering a second play-through (non-violent) before I even finish it the first time.
After you escape the sewers, you're taken to the Hound Pits, a decrepit pub on the edge of the flooded district: a no-go area that serves as a good hiding place for many undesirables. Your rag-tag band of employers are an odd bunch, each having their role to play in the overthrowing of the regime. But of course the dirty work is at your hands, and so you have only brief interactions with them, learning more about their motivations from their diaries.
|The Outsider Walks Among Us|
For what it's worth, I found it difficult to trust them from the start. It was always clear that they had their own interests first, rather than the needs of the city. As they send to you kill or otherwise dispatch those that usurped the throne, they provide background machinations: control of parliament, the overseers, the city guards and so forth. Despite being previously in high regard as Lord Protector, your opinion is never asked, your loyalty to the Empress and her daughter deemed enough to turn you into an assassination tool.
|Emily, rescued and stuck in a tower|
The women of the group get little say, but provide some interesting insights. They provide a necessary window into the oppression of women which occurs in the game's universe, relegated to maids, cleaners and looking after Emily while the men scheme and plot. Things are slightly different if you are born into wealth of course, as the three Boyle sisters hold a certain amount of sway (until you are sent for one of them, anyway). Of them all, it is Callista's thoughts that are most important, especially since she is the one that looks after Emily. My penchant for violence in particular did not go unnoticed, especially with it's effect on Emily.
|A glimpse of future targets, and Emily|
Your first night at the Hound Pits brings you to a strange place, a dream with a visit from "The Outsider", seemingly an agent of chaos and the one that grants you a variety of magical abilities to use. The dream world is suitably strange, but the Outsider lacks a certain amount of presence. He tells you very little, but the dream world itself gives you a brief glimpse of future events (showing some of your targets). I left feeling like I would discover more about him and spend more time in the dream world, but such experiences so far have been fleeting and have yet to answer any of my questions (Is he responsible for the plague? What is his purpose in giving me the mark and the powers? Why do the assassins have the same powers as me? What is his plan for the city?)
|My future: meeting the Lord Regent|
The initial missions are relatively straightforward, but it's the side missions that stand out. Do you choose to help "Granny Rags", a fellow follower of the Outsider? Do you help the local gang? When the repercussions are unknown until much later, the choice of who to assist and who to trust is the most interesting aspect of the game. As it is, my actions have been inconsistent. I have far too often attempted anything that sounded interesting or fun, without real thoughts to the motivations of my character. Certainly the amount of dead bodies attributed to my actions really do suggest my character belongs in the prison I escaped from.
|Lady Boyle's party, I chose the lethal path|
Even attempting to take the non-lethal and supposedly better approach is not all it's cracked up to be. The first assassination mission can be altered, and instead you can brand High Overseer Campbell, marking him as a heretic and an outcast (a hot brand to the face, non-lethal but very brutal). Ruined, he ends up in the plague-infested Flooded District and becomes a Weeper (plague victim) himself, and in the end he died by my hand anyway.
|The plague-infested flooded district|
So it came as little surprise that upon my return to the Hound Pits after having killed or otherwise incapacitated the enemies of the rebel movement, I was treated to a glass of the finest poison. Only the kindness of the boatman Sam saved my life. Why he would want to help a murderer I'm not sure, but I guess he couldn't live with murder on his conscience as easily as I would have. Instead of death he delivered me to the Flooded District, where I would meet Daud. The head of the assassins and bearer of powers similar to mine, Daud seemed unwilling to kill me but rather wanted to trade me with the new government I helped create for money or their freedom.
|Daud, the head of these assassins|
So here I am, in an abandoned Whale Oil processing facility, abandoned by everyone and hunted by Assassins, guards, overseers and probably more. If the game allowed true freedom, I would pledge revenge against those that had poisoned me, and we shall see how many I get to take down before this is all over. I also hope that I enjoy the final stages, as that will have a great bearing on my choice to replay the game or not.