Dishonored’s Lone Pseudo-Boss Fight is Its Best Moment
Spoiler Warning! We’re discussing late-game content in Dishonored here. Attempts will be made to hopefully keep spoilers to a minimum, but your best bet is just not to read.
Late in the game in Dishonored, you finally track down a key group of people: the assassins that actually carried out the murder of the Empress, the woman you were charged to protect.
After a series of sneaky assassinations, it might be the game’s most interesting moment. As is apparent in the opening moments of the game when the assassination takes place, these guys are powerful, wielding the same supernatural capabilities that the player gets to use through the course of the game. Sneaking up on them is more difficult and fighting them outright has a much greater chance of being lethal.
One of Dishonored’s flaws, I think, is that moments like this are far too few. After sneaking past and assassinating guards for hours, finally, Dishonored throws something really new our way. These are enemies nearly on equal footing to the player. The event culminates in a fight with their leader, the man who actually killed the Empress and the most powerful enemy in the game by far.
(Update: Commenter Greg brought it to my attention that you can, in fact, avoid Daud altogether if you’re sneaky enough. So though I mention below that you’re forced into this fight, it seems you can, in fact, stealth around it. I think the point still stands, however: the culmination of challenge offered in some sort of boss situation is missing from Dishonored. If you skipped the Daud fight, I feel sorry that you’ve missed it, and I maintain that some moments of greater off-balance challenge, be they fights or perhaps something else, help to intensify the experience.)
It’s a harrowing, poignant fight when Corvo finally takes on the leader, a man called Daud. It’s a mix of straight attacks, quick teleportations, and retreats to the shadows, interspersed with some of the game’s better dialog. Like the other assassination moments in the game, it includes the lethal or non-lethal options, but it’s also a fight you pretty much cannot avoid. It immediately made me think of those boss fights from Deus Ex: Human Revolution when I came upon it.
When it came out, DXHR caught serious hell for its boss fights — how dare the developers smash the player into a forced battle after offering all that freedom? And you can’t even choose mercy, even if you’ve spent the entire rest of the game avoiding killing folks: these are people who must die, no matter what you do. In many ways, it was a jarring experience for people to have the controls ripped from their hands and blood spilled on them without their say-so.
But there were benefits to those boss fights. For one thing, they offered enemies who weren’t easily dodged, stabbed or shot down in the usual manner. They could be evaded but not avoided. They forced the player up against a wall, made them face danger instead of skirting around it, and brought a sense of culmination to the events and levels that preceded them. They were climactic clashes, and complain about them as you will, I think DXHR was better for having them.
Dishonored is the opposite, the experience for which those who disliked DXHR’s boss fights were asking. The entire game can be stealthed, including this moment, and it also leaves non-lethal on the table.