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Chaos2

An illustration of Dunwall in low and high chaos.

"Think before you strike. If you kill me, you become the assassin we claimed you were. You'll become one of us!"
—Kirin Jindosh[1]

Chaos is a variable gameplay element based on the protagonist's choices and actions during Dishonored, its DLCs: The Knife of Dunwall and The Brigmore Witches, and Dishonored 2.

Acting as a representation of Corvo, Daud and Emily's morality, chaos affects the places they go through, the characters they encounter, and the final resolution of their quest. It is chiefly calculated by the number of people killed, but is also influenced by other factors e.g. completing certain side objectives.

Variations in level set-up due to current chaos include the number of guards present in each area and their strength, the quantity of rats, weepers, and bloodflies encountered during missions, and the appreciation of various characters for the protagonist. Beyond achieving "High Chaos" and "Low Chaos", variations on the totals trigger minor differences between chaos levels, such as Samuel Beechworth's behavior in The Light at the End or Meagan Foster's choice to reveal her real identity in Death to the Empress.

Chaos System[]

In Dishonored, chaos mostly increases in increments of 6[2]. These values are hidden, but are tracked internally throughout the playthrough. If the overall chaos value is above a set threshold for each individual mission, a ranking of High Chaos will be awarded in the end mission screen. These high chaos markers however have no indication on the chaos state of the final mission nor the ending cutscenes; only the overall playthrough chaos going into the final mission dictates the state of the final level. This logic means it is possible to achieve lowest chaos for the majority of the playthrough, only to gain enough chaos in the final few levels as to have Corvo, Daud or Emily travel to the high chaos varient of their final mission[3].

Effects of Chaos[]

Game High Chaos Low Chaos
General Increase in the number of guards present. Decrease in the number of guards present.
Darker ending. More optimistic ending.
More cynical reactions from the Outsider at his shrines. More curious reactions from the Outsider at his shrines.
Increase in story-related deaths. Decrease in story-related deaths.
Dishonored Increase in rat and weeper populations. Decrease in rat and weeper populations.
More hostile reactions from Loyalist members. Loyalists will be friendlier and more respectful toward Corvo.
Negative changes in Emily's behavior. Positive behavior from Emily.
The Knife of Dunwall Negative changes in Billie Lurk's behavior. Positive behavior from Billie.
Dishonored 2 Increase in bloodfly-infested buildings. Decrease in bloodfly-infested buildings.
More distrustful and hostile reactions from allies. More trusting and friendly reactions from allies.
Negative character development in Corvo or Emily. Positive character development in Corvo or Emily.

Increasing Chaos[]

The Chaos factor is increased by the following activities:

  • Killing assassination targets or other human beings:
    • In Dishonored, every X members of a group killed will increase chaos by 6. For civilians, X is 1, meaning that every single civilian killed will add 6 points to the chaos score. Most assassination targets form their own individual group for which X is also 1, meaning that each one killed adds 6 points. For hostile groups, such as guards or Whalers, X is 4 or 5 depending on the group. Some human characters do not add points to the overall chaos score even when killed, such as High Overseer Campbell, Cecelia, or Samuel.
    • In The Knife of Dunwall and The Brigmore Witches, every single kill increases chaos. Hostile kills add 1 point to the score while civilian kills add 3.
    • In Dishonored 2, the exact number each kill increases chaos by is determined both by whether or not they are unarmed - unarmed kills carrying a higher chaos penalty than armed characters - and by the NPC's morality, which can be "sympathetic", "guilty", or "murderous". Sympathetic morality characters carry the highest chaos penalty when killed while murderous ones carry the smallest.[4] Morality is a pre-set value for story characters and randomized for all other characters.[5] The Heart can be used to determined the morality of each NPC.[6]
  • In Dishonored and its DLCs, letting alarms be rung or bodies be discovered. The same "every X occurences will increase chaos by 6" rule that governs chaos gained for killing human beings is in effect here, increasing overall chaos by 6 for every five alarms rung and every five bodies discovered.
  • In Dishonored and its DLCs, performing certain side objectives or special actions, such as:
Action Mission
Poison Slackjaw's still. High Overseer Campbell
Kill the Royal Interrogator. Return to the Tower
Destroy the Rothwild Slaughterhouse. A Captain of Industry
Kill General Turnbull. Eminent Domain

Maintaining Chaos[]

The Chaos factor is maintained by the following activities:

  • Avoiding the use of lethal force against humans in general by either eliminating them non-lethally or avoiding them altogether.
  • In Dishonored 2, dealing with assassination targets in a non-lethal manner, as killing them is the only elimination that changes the overall accumulated Chaos score.

Decreasing Chaos[]

Only Dishonored and its DLCs allow overall chaos to be decreased. Dishonored 2 does not.

The Chaos factor is decreased by the following activities:

  • In Dishonored and its DLCs, dealing with assassination targets in a non-lethal manner. All base game assassination targets decrease the overall chaos score by 20 upon being spared.
  • Performing certain side objectives or special actions, such as:
Action Mission
Save Geoff Curnow from Thaddeus Campbell's assassination attempt. High Overseer Campbell
Brand Campbell as a Heretic. High Overseer Campbell
Save Overseer Berthold and his sister from zealous Overseers. High Overseer Campbell
Put the Pendletons to work in their own mine. House of Pleasure
Release the trapped survivors from confinement. The Royal Physician
Deliver Lady Boyle to her admirer, Lord Brisby. Lady Boyle's Last Party
Expose the Lord Regent's corruption publically. Return to the Tower
Spare Daud. The Flooded District
Save the plague survivors in Creating a Safe Haven. The Flooded District
Maintain Overseer disguise, leaving no evidence behind. A Stay of Execution for Lizzy
Stop the Execution of the Guard who helped Corvo. A Stay of Execution for Lizzy
Restore Water to the Canal. The Dead Eels

High Chaos[]

The most violent path the protagonist can choose. High chaos is typically achieved when the protagonist kills a significant amount of the human population in a playthrough. If the majority of the population is killed, the city is irrevocably thrown into chaos.

In Dishonored, having a high chaos rating - a chaos value of 390 or greater - the situation encountered on Kingsparrow Island will have drastically changed[2]. Cosmetic changes, such as the presence of a large storm on the island, are paired with changes to the environment and story line that will alter how Corvo must navigate the area. At this level, Samuel will fire a gunshot to alert the guards to Corvo's presence, as a demonstration of his absolute disgust with Corvo's actions.

In Dishonored 2, high chaos is taken even further, granting the protagonist the option to leave either Emily or Corvo in stone and rule the Empire alone (which can result in Corvo becoming the new Emperor of the Isles). Unlike Dishonored, which only accounts for a "very high" chaos level in building the The Light at the End[7] as well as The Brigmore Witches' Delilah's Masterpiece[8], Dishonored 2 differentiates between "high" and "very high" versions of all missions.[9]

Medium Chaos[]

Medium chaos is a high chaos state wherein the protagonist has not caused enough chaos to warrant the highest rating. Barring other factors influencing chaos, killing a significant amount of the population across a playthrough will achieve the medium-high chaos rating. There is no in-game label of "Medium Chaos", with the term generally being used by the community to reference what the game considers the lowest state of high chaos.

In Dishonored, if Corvo has a chaos value of between 168 and 390, Samuel will not alert the guards on Kingsparrow Island to Corvo's presence, but will castigate him and say he never wants to see Corvo again[2]. Should Corvo return to The Hound Pits Pub while achieving low chaos, and then meet the medium chaos threshold during the mission The Loyalists, Callista Curnow will survive the game in high chaos. This is the only instance in which she may live while Corvo achieves a high chaos ending.

Dishonored 2 has a similar chaos state in which the protagonist, while they have achieved high chaos, still didn't gain enough chaos to achieve the state of very high chaos. This causes Corvo or Emily to comment differently on most inspectable objects and is a prerequisite for a unique ending, in which Corvo Attano rules Karnaca as "the Bloody Duke".

Low Chaos[]

Low chaos requires the protagonist to minimize killing both enemies and civilians. Non-human enemies such as rats, river krusts and wolfhounds do not affect chaos.

In Dishonored, having a chaos value lower than 168 will ensure that Corvo arrives at Kingsparrow Island during the day with clear skies. While the layout of the island will be the same as higher chaos states, the nature of the enemies, the actions of the Loyalists and the fate of Emily will all differ.

In The Brigmore Witches, the Outsider's speech to Daud after entering Delilah's painting will differ between "very low" (or "super low") chaos and regular low chaos states. At a chaos score of 65 or lower, the Outsider will congratulate Daud on his having "act[ed] with such consummate grace", while at a score of 66 to 69 he commends Daud on having "taken [a path] here [that] honors [his] skills". This is the only known instance of the world reacting to an exceptionally low chaos score.[10]

Ending[]

Dishonored, The Knife of Dunwall, The Brigmore Witches, and Dishonored 2 are concluded in a manner that reflects Corvo, Daud, and Emily's actions.

Dishonored features 3 possible endings which reflect both choices Corvo has made throughout the playthrough, and the manner in which he tackled the events at Kingsparrow Island. Should Corvo arrive at the island in low chaos, he is locked into the single low chaos ending. In this case, the ending cinematic will only change to showcase actions affected by his choices during the game. These examples include, but are not limited to, the fate of: Samuel Beechworth, Geoff Curnow, Piero Joplin, and Anton Sokolov. Should Corvo arrive at Kingsparrow Island in high chaos, these previous choices are still reflected during the ending cinematic, but The Outsider's speech to Corvo will differ depending on the final fate of Emily during the mission.

Trivia[]

  • Should Corvo choose to neutralize the assassination targets non-lethally in an otherwise high chaos playthrough, the wanted posters around Dunwall will still say that the victims were murdered. Various bits of guard or civilian dialogue will also mention the murders even though they never happened.
    • The exception for this rule is for Hiram Burrows, where regardless of his death and/or chaos level, if his confession is played on the loudspeaker, comments about his contribution to Dunwall's Plague and the Empress' death are still in referenced in the game.
    • This oversight is rectified in passing conversations in Dishonored 2.
  • In Dishonored 2, the protagonist's portrait in each mission summary screen will be darker and bloodied in high chaos, whereas it will be lighter and clean in low chaos.
  • In Dishonored, Emily will become more cynical as chaos increases throughout the story, and the drawings that she makes of Corvo will show a nicer or scarier version of him according to the Chaos level, with a masked Corvo being shown on the high Chaos levels, and a happy, unmasked Corvo in the low Chaos playthroughs.
  • Death of the Outsider is the only game that lacks the chaos system but in certain occasions, choosing to kill or not will still lead to different outcomes. It is also the only game that does not have mission targets in the sense that they must be dealt with to proceed (except for the last mission), thus most of the times there is no non-lethal option.
  • Canonically, Corvo completed Dishonored in low chaos[11].
  • It would appear that Emily completed Dishonored 2 in low chaos as well, since she trapped Delilah in a painting and was able to focus on rebuilding Dunwall a mere month after returning to the throne.

Gallery[]

References[]

  1. Dishonored 2 reveal trailer
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 https://pastebin.com/K30NiLCX
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6N_mRxTU1jg&t=3341s&ab_channel=lurven
  4. generated\decls\rulehandler\components\characters\player\base\rules\chaos_from_kill.rulehandler.decl
  5. "morality level of the character; if undefined, it will be randomly set when loading the map" - description of the variable m_moralityLevel, found in Dishonored2.exe
  6. Game Informer - Dishonored 2's Harvey Smith Answers Your Questions
  7. Dishonored has "RequiredChaosLevelForHighChaosVersionOf_[mission name]" variables for all maps but the only "RequiredChaosLevelForVeryHighChaosVersionOf_[mission name]" is "RequiredChaosLevelForVeryHighChaosVersionOf_Lighthouse"
  8. Brigmore Witches Story Flag "Void is Super High Chaos"; no similarly named Story Flags exist for other missions
  9. \generated\decls\arktree\models\gameflow, i.e. gameflow_eotw.arktree.decl: "m_highChaosThreshold = 55;m_veryHighChaosThreshold = 128"
  10. i.e. L_DLC07_Brigmore_Void_Script.upk TheWorld.PersistentLevel.Main_Sequence.SeqVar_Named_20: variable name "Super Low Chaos"
  11. https://www.reddit.com/r/dishonored/comments/56zdra/comment/d8nsiwj/?utm_source=share&utm_medium=web2x&context=3
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