Classic Trophies: How Dishonored’s pacifist Clean Hands badge was conceived

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Classic Trophies: How Dishonored’s pacifist Clean Hands badge was conceived

To mark the release of Dishonored 2’s Death of the Outsider expansion, we look back at one of its predecessor’s tougher Trophies

Stealth is a bit of a niche genre. Like, say, survival horror it doesn’t quite have the same mass appeal of FPS games or platformers. The number of players who seek escapism or a challenge through online battles or puzzles, dwarfs those who enjoy a game that requires them to hide in a laundry basket for minutes at a time.

The players it does attract, however, are a very committed bunch. The investment in a game like Splinter Cell: Blacklist or the more recent (and utterly superb) Hitman require patience, timing and more than a little luck if players want to enjoy the stealth-based delights they have to offer.

If players slip up and draw attention to themselves, modern stealth games usually offer them some options; they can go loud with gunfire or escape, regroup and try again. But developers also know their audiences crave the satisfaction of ghosting a level – sneak in, accomplish the objective and sneak out, leaving no trace they were ever there to begin with.


The concept behind the ‘Clean Hands’ Trophy…

The Dishonored series rewards the commitment to stealth more than most. Alongside offering Trophies for ghosting entire levels, Arkane Studios placed a Trophy in both of its games called ‘Clean Hands’. Players earn this if they manage to complete either game without killing a single NPC. Given the fact that the protagonist is an assassin armed with one of the most enjoyable kill-boxes in gaming, Clean Hands almost seems counterintuitive.

“Sneaking mechanics were always a part of Dishonored,” says Dinga Bakaba, Lead Designer at Arkane Studios. “Part of the thinking behind Clean Hands was, ‘if I can sneak from one end of this map to the other without killing anyone, why shouldn’t I be able to express this aesthetic throughout the entire game?’.

“If this option is available in a segment of one level, why shouldn’t it be available elsewhere?”


The idea behind the Clean Hands Trophy was aimed at taking the breaks off what is and isn’t possible in the Dishonored games. Even though Dishonored is billed as a stealth franchise, anyone who has played it knows it’s a mix of FPS mechanics. Players can choose to go loud and gank every NPC they come across – this naturally ratchets up the game’s overall Chaos rating – and they can choose to go completely silent and aim to ghost every level (even go for the Clean Hands Trophy if they so desire). There’s a ton of optional gameplay in between.


…and the fates worse than death it brought the game’s NPCs

Clean Hands was aimed awarding those players who committed to a certain aesthetic: quiet, non-lethal and above all else, patient. Given the fact that the missions in both Dishonored games centre around dispatching targets the players is tasked with assassinating, the decision to include this Trophy led to a few headaches on the development side of things.

“At first we were thinking of including this sort of gameplay as an Easter egg, making it super obscure and hidden,” says Bakaba. “But at some point our play-testers started noticing the potential for [completing the game without killing any NPCs] and they expressed an interest.

“So we thought ‘why not? Let’s see how far we can push this. Let’s see if we can support this urge for the entire game’. So we started thinking of ways the player could indirectly get rid of their targets.

“Some of them I’d say are worse than death,” he laughs. “Some are really creepy.”


Bakaba isn’t kidding. In the first Dishonored players are given the option of killing a rich female socialite at a masked ball or drugging her and allowing an obsessed suitor to spirit her away to a place “where she’ll never been seen again”. Which is more humane? In the eyes of a player with their focus on the Clean Hands Trophy, it’s probably the latter.

“That was our way of not allowing players to put themselves on the moral high ground,” says Bakaba. “Yeah, sure, you’re not actually killing anyone but that doesn’t mean that in the end you’re not getting your hands dirty.

“We didn’t want to give players a choice where they can take it and go ‘well, everyone’s happy now’. No one is a good guy in Dishonored. The shades go from grey to very dark. There’s no white.”

Clean Hands is a rare Trophy in that a very small minority of the franchise’s players have bothered pursuing it. According to Bakaba only 6 per cent of players have unlocked it. It takes time, patience and above all else, commitment. If one NPC dies in a game that last 12+ hours, everything’s ruined and those players after this Trophy have to start all over again.

“You have to think about every move you make in the game,” says Bakaba. “And I like the idea of a character that is all powerful but still shows restraint.


“It’s like you’re a superhero that has a code. I don’t know why I like that, but I do; the idea that a killing machine is willing to restrain itself. It’s cool if a player can do that.”

Dinga Bakaba’s tips to obtain the Trophy

  1. Save very often (if you aren’t playing Iron Mode, that is); and check your “killed” stats regularly from the pause menu when in doubt whether a character is dead or not
  2. Clean Hands isn’t the same as Ghost, so it is compatible with an improvisation/action playthrough. Being detected, there are various ways to get rid of enemies non-lethally: flee until things calm down, combat choke, air and slide takedown, gadgets like the Burning Venom darts, powers like Mesmerize or Bend time; use environmental objects like hot steam, chloroform bottles, knocking out unsuspecting enemies by throwing empty bottles at the back of their head ….
  3. You can try to focus your build on the nonlethal path by selecting the proper upgrades and bone charms, allowing you to perform devastating and spectacular combos. An upgraded non-lethal Shadow Walk combined with Domino, for instance, can empty a room in seconds.Placing an Arc Mine that is upgraded to shoot three times on the back of a Bloodfly, and then Possessing the Bloodfly, allows you to strategically put enemies to sleep from the air. Some Bonecharms, like Strong Arms, help a lot when their effect is stacked with the Trait Synergy crafting upgrade. Get creative.
  4. Look in the environment, read important notes and listen to conversations to hear about the alternative approaches to eliminate the main targets. There is always a way.
  5. Every now and then, blow off some steam by making a quicksave, slaughtering a bunch of guards, and quickloading. No, really, that helps (if you aren’t playing Iron Mode, that is).

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider launched on PS4 this week. Pick up the standalone adventure now from PlayStation Store.

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  • ‘classic trophies’ – is this a new article type? Have I missed one? Either way I like it.

  • I absolutely hate this kind of trophies. Thief, Deus Ex, Splinter Cell, Dishonored, they all force you to play in just one certain way the entire time to earn just one trophy, and then another playthrough needed doing the exact opposite. I’ve stopped caring and playing halfway through Dishonoured and absolutely ignored the second game because of such limitations. If trophies wouldn’t exist, sure, but like this, no.

    • I can’t comment on the others you mentioned but it makes sense in Dishonoured because it’s a game that calls for 2 playthroughs. A violent one and a pacifist one. There are new things to discover with both playthroughs and both require entirely different tactics. I found a similar thing with The Last of Us once you increase the difficulty. It’s like an entirely different game because how you approach everything must be changed to survive. Anything that increases playability is a win in my book!

    • it all boils down to how much you care about trophies really,i’m in the middle, i like collecting them but its not going to ruin my life if i cant get them all, however a game like this does make me want to at least try and play it this way (and fail) to get them, but if i cant i just walk away.

      That said the trophies i usually don’t like are the multiplayer ones in predominantly single player games, like last of us for instance, where i have no interest at all in the multiplayer, yet you cant plat it without doing so, think uncharted is another offender, but i just have to accept it and move on,but i wouldnt ignore a good game because of them

  • The trophy for not upgrading is exactly the sort of thing they should never put in games. A trophy for playing the game in a stupid way.

    • I guess you’re only looking to play the game through once and collect all the trophies along the way. For a trophy like this I’d only consider giving it a shot on a second play through after I’d play the game I wanted.

  • I had no problem obtaining platinum trophy in Dishonored. It was really fun to do everything. The real hard trophies are in the Dunwall City Trials DLC. Some of the challanges are just insanely hard! I will never get a %100 because of them

    • I’m the same! I dislike trial type trophies, so didn’t even bother with that part of the DLC. My Dishonoured will be forever at 88%

  • These trophies made by the lack of creativity. In a game like this no one wants to do a boring playthrough. I like stealth games, but with stealth sequences like in some many games. If you get spotted, there’s no way out. I hate when a developer is forcing you to play like how they want to. And i wont pick up the outsider dlc, the controls were horrible in the 2nd game. I managed somehow to the end of the 6th mission, but i wont play it more. Worst input lag ever. Doom and Wolfenstein had a perfect camera control, but this game.. Why they didnt ask them how to do the controls? Did no one play the game on consoles?

    • No, trophies which includes doing like hundred challenges with perfect scores lacks creativity, enjoyed no kills runs in Dishonored. You can stun your opponents afterall.

    • they are not forcing you at all , ignore the trophy, play it how you want to and move on, worlds not going to end if you dont get a plat in every game.

      i tried it and failed, but enjoyed attempting it

  • Very interesting. Merci !

  • I did try and do the kill no one task. Problem was that it bugged out several times and said i’d killed someone a few different times due to random bugs.

    First person managed to drown themselves in a wall after being left unconscious on a chair. The second one was killed inexplicably by the plot because you can’t just leave them knocked out in a safe spot like every other person in the game up until that point. Soo, I couldn’t really be bothered with it any more.

  • If you guys can get Ubisoft to release Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell HD Trilogy and Blacklist on PS4, that’d be great.

  • Locking the good ending behind this was a mistake, such an annoying playthrough it actually soured my experience with the game.

  • “According to Bakaba only 6 per cent of players have unlocked it.”

    2.4% on PS3, according to official PSN stats.

    And I’m glad to know I’m one of those, especially considering I’m not particularly fond of stealth games. But Dishonored has a fun and polished gameplay which nails the fine balance between patience and difficulty. Sure some levels were more frustrating than others and I had to retry them more than once, but the overall experience was satisfying and radically different from my first, bloodthirsty playthrough.

    One of those rare Platinum trophies I’m definitely proud of.

  • I have Clean Hands in both Dishonored 1 & 2. To anyone trying it, I would recommend leaving ‘Ghost’ for another playthrough. It is much easier to do them separately. Disappointed there is no Clean Hands trophy for Death of the Outsider. It really is a Dishonored tradition to ace this cheevo.

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