There are voices
that want to be heard;
so much to mention
but you can't find the words.
The scent of magic,
the beauty that's been,
When Dunwall wasn't
a stinking deathtrap!
Those aren't just (slightly modified) lyrics to Roxette's 1988 hit "Listen to Your Heart," they're also words of advice for anyone who wants to get the most out of Dishonored.
Are you as taken with the diseased, disgusting whaling city of Dunwall as I was? Well then, you're going to want to listen to your heart. Early in the game, the mysterious stranger gives you some magical powers, as well as a mechanised human heart. Ew. But also, cool. Equipping the heart points you to all manner of runes and bone charms, both of which enhance your magical powers.
It's certainly worth taking the time to track down each of the power-ups, partly because a full complement of powers makes the game more exciting, but also because each one is located in an off-the-beaten-path room that tells a little story of its own. Truly, the heart is a gateway to a richer, deeper Dishonored experience.
But the heart does something else, too -- it talks. Every time you point it at anything and activate the heart, it tells you an enigmatic story about the place or person you're observing. It's amazing just how much the heart has to say; every major character, every location, the hearts has something to share about them all.
I took my time on my first time through the game, but I still managed to regularly forget that the heart was there, waiting to tell me dark secrets. I'm now on my second playthrough, and I'm really focusing on taking my time and regularly squeezing the heart at every opportunity. Coolest of all is that, well, there are some other secrets about the heart, and its identity, that become clear if you use it enough and pay attention.
Dishonored is littered with books and notes, each of which provide interesting and mysterious backstory to Dunwall and the surrounding isles. But as much as I'd love to get involved in the books, eventually I just stop caring -- I file away each book in my in-game notebook, thinking maybe I'll read them someday but knowing that I really never will.
The heart, however, provides backstory and fleshes out the world in a much more organic -- literally! -- way. Like Poe's heart, buried beneath the floorboards, Corvo's heart has a tale to tell. Look at those gears, spinning around in its centre -- it's in there, thinking, waiting to speak. Don't forget to listen.