The last game guide I used was the one for Mass Effect 3. That sucker was a humongous tome that explained every single thing that happened in the game, every weapon, every character, every planet, every mission, every side mission, every last option available to you, and every possible ending to the game. And it gave every bit of this in enormous, exhaustive detail.
As written by Michael Lummis, Rick Barba, and Chris Burton, Brady Games‘ Dishonored game guide is different. It’s a thinner volume, with plenty of information for those who need it, but it refuses to detail absolutely everything. Let’s look at what it does give you.
First, the “Friends and Foes” section breaks down the game’s most important characters, with bios and photos of each. This is followed by “Getting Started,” which I think is the most valuable section in the book. It’s the kind of introductory info that readers will be tempted to skip over, but I urge you to resist that temptation. The tips provided in this section are absolutely crucial, explaining the Chaos system, the importance of collectibles, the mechanics of stealth in the game, and much more. “Gifts from the Outsider” goes over Corvo’s supernatural powers in detail, as well as listing out every Bone Charm you can find in the game and what it does. This section also contains the surprising (if you haven’t yet finished the game) revelation that maxing out all of your power upgrades would require 56 runes, but there are only 34 available to find in the game! “Corvo’s Arsenal” goes over his every weapon and tool, as well as providing a helpful list of every blueprint in the game and where they can be found. It lists out every key available to find in the game, but curiously, does not tell you where to find them. Strange oversight, since these aren’t even optional collectibles — you’ll require most of them to move forward in the game.
From there, the guide proceeds into “The Mission,” with all eleven levels of the game getting their own chapters in the book. Here you’ll find the invaluable maps (that are strangely missing from the game), which are filled with icons showing the locations of every collectible in the game (except those pesky keys). The guide takes an unusual approach to walkthroughs, providing not one but two separate walkthroughs in each chapter. The difference between the two is the player’s approach to the game. The first is called “The Path of Blood,” and just as it sounds, it’s the take-no-prisoners guide to mowing down your enemies with extreme prejudice. The second is called “The Path of Shadow,” and it’s a kinder, gentler approach to the game that focuses entirely on stealth.
What’s surprising about these walkthroughs is that there’s more than two ways to play the game. You’re not limited to just mayhem vs. stealth. There are subtle levels in between, and the guide never breaks down how each choice you make affects later events. Also, the game goes out of its way to let you know that there are multiple paths for every mission — usually different ways of reaching your goal with different kinds of enemies to fight, different areas to explore, and so on. The Dishonored game guide doesn’t cover every single one of these methods, typically showing you two approaches per chapter (one for each path).
Now personally, as a storyteller myself, I abhor spoilers. Stories depend on surprises — even stories in video games. So I appreciate the authors’ desire to keep that experience intact for players. The flip side of that coin, however, is that the game guide never even tells you when a choice might have repercussions detrimental to what you’re trying to achieve. Sure, that important element of surprise remains, but in a game where every single choice matters, I want to know when a seemingly small one will have long-lasting effects. I don’t need the whole chain of events spelled out for me, but a little heads-up notice would be nice. This lack of details will certainly be a bummer for players that like to be as thorough as possible. But maybe the possibilities in Dishonored are simply too many to contain in a book. Or it could be that the writers simply didn’t have access to the information they needed from Arkane to fully outline these details. Or hey, maybe they really were concerned about those all-important secrets vs. spoilers. On the other hand, the kinds of gamers that pick up game guide books are typically the ones who want to know all of that stuff before they play, so they can achieve the outcome they desire.
After “The Mission” walkthrough section ends comes the spoilery stuff. “Know Your Enemies” is similar to “Friends and Foes” at the start of the book, giving breakdowns on each kind of enemy in the game. But some of these are major spoilers, giving away big twists in the game, so beware. “Hidden and Collectible Items” lists all of the most important collectibles, including Runes, Bone Charms, Sokolov paintings, books, and more. I especially appreciate that this section doesn’t just list these items out in a grid, but actually shows screenshots of each one so you can see for yourself exactly where it is. A grid listing out all of the “Achievements and Trophies” for Xbox and PS3 users rounds out the book, followed by a brief but insightful interview with the masterminds behind Dishonored, Raphael Colantonio and Harvey Smith.
Like most game guides, every page of the book is lavishly illustrated with full-color artwork taken straight out of the game, so it’s a joy for fans like me to thumb through. But aside from providing insights on how best to approach the game world, and those useful maps, I think the game guide’s biggest achievement is in giving you a deeper appreciation for the game, the amount of thought and skill that went into creating it and the world that it presents.
The Official Dishonored Game Guide may not be as exhaustive as some fans might hope for, but it’s still an essential companion for serious players. The tips and instructions from behind the closed doors at Arkane Studios are worth their weight in gold.