Platform: PC, PS3 and Xbox 360
Developer: Arkane Studios
Category: Action-adventure, stealth
Price: $10/800 Microsoft Points
After the somewhat odd and weirdly displaced time-trial focused Dunwall City Trials DLC back in December, we finally have our first story-driven add-on content for Dishonored, the acclaimed stealth adventure from renowned publisher Bethesda. This time around, we step into the shoes of the ruthless assassin Daud, in a storyline that parallels the main narrative of Dishonored, as it follows Daud’s quest for redemption after assassinating the Empress Jessamine Kaldwin at the beginning of Dishonored.
What’s great about this new addition to the story of Dishonored is that Arkane Studios actually makes you sympathize with Daud and all of his regret; and the crossovers with Corvo’s storyline are sure to put a knowing smile on your frightening masked face. While Daud handles largely like Dishonored’s main protagonist Corvo, there are still a few nice differences that set him apart as his own unique character. For one thing, Daud’s “Void Gaze” combines the features of Corvo’s “Dark Vision” and the Outsider’s Heart to an interesting effect and you can also summon your own ragtag band of assassins to help you on some of those trickier encounters. At regular intervals throughout your quest, Daud will interact with a fellow assassin named Billie, who helps to move along the plot and shed some minor insights into Daud’s murky past.
I haven’t played Dishonored since I beat the original campaign back in October, and The Knife of Dunwall isn’t all that friendly to newcomers or veterans who might have forgotten some of the controls. But even though it took me a few tries to get going, I was soon blinking all around Dunwall and knocking people out again in no time. The DLC features three additional missions and they are all pretty generous in their length and the size of each area. The new environments are refreshing additions to the world of Dishonored, especially the whaling slaughter house in the DLC’s first mission, where players can pull the switch and electrocute a giant whale that’s being suspended from the ceiling by rusty hooks, and watch all those delicious whale guts spill out into a drain on the floor (just don’t tell P.E.T.A. about this one!).
The second mission especially in The Knife of Dunwall is quintessential Dishonored and features a glimpse of Dunwall’s conniving Legal District, full of winding streets and lavish city apartments. Like the best parts of Dishonored, the goal of this “Eminent Domain” mission is centered on neutralizing the corrupt Barrister Arnold Timsh, to gain some important information from his niece, Thalia. Timsh is located on the top floor of a central mansion and the level design and progression towards your target is absolutely spot-on, with multiple ways to complete this objective, both lethally and non-lethally of course. For instance, you can quietly knock out Timsh and switch some incriminating documents into his pocket or you can slip some noxious gas into the building’s air circulation system if you really want to make sure you won’t be seen. But since this is still Dishonored here, you’ll always get to choose the pathway you go down (whether in High Chaos or Low Chaos), which gives every mission a huge amount of replay value, as you can always just waltz right in through the front door with your guns blazing.
In addition to finding all of the hidden Bone Charms and Runes that are scattered throughout the environments, each mission offers a number of optional objectives which reward you with additional powers and aide in completing the primary mission. Some of these come in the forms of Favors, which you can purchase before the start of each mission and enlist your fellow assassin buddies to strategically place some bonus weapons or safe codes for you to find in the environment. You can also fulfill a secret recipe requirement for Granny Rags, which proves to be a healthy and welcomed challenge, because the clues to each ingredient are hidden in riddles that you’ll read in different letters and notes along the way and it really encourages players to scour every inch of the richly imagined Dunwall. This aspect was sort of lost in the later levels of Dishonored’s main campaign, when every goal became cut and dry and the gameplay adopted a much more linear approach, so it was nice to see a return to form in this sort of way.
The only real weakness of the DLC is in the last mission, “The Surge,” which heavily retreads the same location of Daud’s hideout that we saw in the Dishonored mission “The Flooded District;” only this time you sort of go through the level backwards. I get that the developers wanted to put some interconnectedness between The Knife of Dunwall and Corvo’s story in Dishonored and the visual references to the original game are a nice nod to hardcore Dishonored fans, but when you only give us three missions, I want to see them be three completely new ideas. But even so, The Knife of Dunwall is a fantastic dose of more Dishonored and proves to be the perfect remedy for a quality stealth withdrawal. Daud’s storyline is set to conclude with the final installment of Dishonored DLC entitled “The Brigmore Witches,” which is currently scheduled for release sometime in 2013.
Pros and cons:
+ Great new environments
+ Daud brings some new twists to the gameplay
+ Lots of optional objectives and collectibles