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Goodbye Dunwall: Take A Tour Of Dishonored 2's Karnaca

by Ben Reeves on May 16, 2016 at 09:00 AM

The original Dishonored introduced us to the plague-ridden streets of Dunwall, but for the sequel, Arkane Studios is taking a trip south and exploring an entirely new island in its fictional steampunk world. Welcome to the corrupt, bloodfly-infested city of Karnaca.

A Cultural Gem
Karnaca is the southernmost coastal city in the Empire of the Isles and the capital of Serkonos. The city maintains its own police force, the Grand Serkonan Guard, which serves as the nation’s military as well as an urban protection force.

Often referred to as the “Jewel of the South,” Karnaca is a major tourist destination for the upper class. The southern isle of Serkonos is generally known for its cuisine, which features a lot of heavily-spiced dishes. However, many visitors are equally fascinated by Serkonos’ traditional dances, which are often very sensual and are passed down through the generations starting at a young age.

One of Karnaca’s main exports is silver, which is mined locally. Unfortunately, the mines sit next to the Wind Corridor, an area of extremely aggressive air currents. The heavy winds are a result of an odd geological phenomenon: a giant cleft mountain that sits at the edge of the city. Winds from the ocean funnel through this cleft and blow across the mines at high speeds. As a way to tap into this wind, the local townsfolk have set up an elaborate set of tubes and wind turbines that help power the city. 

Men Of The People
Karnaca has had its share of famines and corrupt government officials, but the city has also seen extended periods of peace. When Corvo was young, the city was ruled by the Duke Theodanis Abele, who was widely regarded as a benevolent and fair leader. Theodanis was actually the official who offered Corvo as a gift to the royal family (click here for a deeper dive into Corvo's past). However, Theodanis isn’t the only important political figure in Karnaca in recent memory.

“The mining area of the city used to be called the Batista,” says creative director Harvey Smith. “It was the functional blue collar district, and there was a mine baron there named Aramis Stilton who worked his way up from being a miner. People generally like him because he worked with the miner’s families, and he didn’t drive the miners too hard.”

Unfortunately, near the beginning of Dishonored 2, a mysterious inciting incident drives either Empress Emily Kaldwin or Corvo back south. When they arrive in Karnaca, they discover that the old Duke Theodanis Abele has died. A new duke has taken his place and he is corrupt, abusing the city’s economy for his own gains. Even worse, the beloved mine baron Aramis Stilton has gone missing.

“In Stilton’s absence, the new Duke is driving the mines at double the rate,” says Smith. “So dust is falling on that part of the city constantly, and the wind storms are kicking dust up all across the city. The wind is coming in from one direction so sand piles up on the sides of the buildings. People walk around wearing masks. Conditions are horrible and miners are dying, all for the name of profit.”

All this dust has earned Batista a new name: the Dust District. While exploring this industrial sector, Emily or Corvo will have to deal with the massive dust storms that kick up randomly throughout the game, obscuring their view. Thankfully, these dust storms also inhibit the Grand Serkonan Guard’s vision, which should make it easier to get the drop on them.

War Of Factions
Amidst the ruins of the Dust District, several factions have arisen to fight for control of the city. The first of these factions is a gang called the Howlers, which is led by a man named Paolo. The Howlers have banded together to push back against the new Duke and what they see as a corrupt regime. Unfortunately, their tactics are harsh and even put the local citizens in danger.

“They don’t see themselves as a gang per se,” says Smith. “Paolo sees himself as a man of the people. The Duke is corrupt. The Grand Guard is corrupt. The Overseers are tyrannical, but he feels like he’s the true spirit of Karnaca. He grew up here, he eats the food, he’s a man of the people, and he wants to return Karnaca to the way it should be. He sees himself justified in the same way members of the Russian mafia or criminals of any stripe often see themselves.”

In contrast to the Howlers is a religious sect called the Abbey of the Everyman. Commonly called Overseers, the followers of this sect believe they are the shepherds of the people, and unless their followers stick to the seven strictures their mortal souls will be at risk. The Overseers actually believe people like Paolo are leading the city of Karnaca astray morally, and they have moved into the Dust District because they believe Paolo is a heretic and may even be in possession of a rare black magic artifact.

“So the Howlers and Overseers are fighting in the Dust District, and everything’s going to s***,” says Smith. “The people are suffering, the miners are living in terrible conditions, and everyone is suffering in the storms and the dust. On top of all that, you have the Duke who is engaging in malfeasance.”

As a result of all this turmoil, the Grand Guard erect electrified defensive barriers, called Walls of Light, around the whole district, creating a boiling pot of cultural strife that is ready to roil over. As either Emily or Corvo, players will have to slip inside the Dust district, decide if they want to empower the Howlers or the Overseers, and ultimately discover the secret behind Aramis Stilton’s disappearance. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until November 11 to make those choices.

In the meantime, you can get a deeper look at the new powers in Dishonored 2, check out profiles on both Emily and Corvo, or watch exclusive interviews with the team in our Dishonored 2 cover hub.