My immediate thought upon finishing The Knife of Dunwall was “why don’t we see more stuff like this?” It wasn’t just the quality of the thing that stuck out to me — we’ll get there — but the format of it.
Developer: Arkane Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox360
Release Date: April 16
The newest Dishonored DLC from Arkane/Bethesda isn’t just a handful of new weapons or cosmetic character upgrades; it tells a story of its own, complete with three new missions and a new protagonist. There was a time when we would have called this an “expansion pack” and found it on a shelf next to things like Half-Life: Opposing Force or Starcraft: Brood War. There’s some actual bang for your 10-odd bucks here, is what I’m sayin’.
The protagonist and his abilities
You play as Daud, the assassin who *spoiler alert* slays the Empress at the beginning of the main game. Unlike Corvo, who stayed completely silent in Dishonored, Daud retains the ever bored-sounding Michael Madsen’s voice, and will pipe up on occasion.
Like Corvo, Daud has been selected by the Outsider to be “blessed” with supernatural abilities. His powers are similar to Corvo’s, though there are fewer of them and the remaining ones have been tweaked. Daud can now freeze time when “blinking,” (i.e., teleporting) provided that he stands still while doing it. Devouring swarm, the satisfying rat summoning power, has been replaced with Summon Assassin, which does exactly what it sounds like. Dark vision and The Heart have both been switched out in favor of Void Gaze, which allows Daud to see useful items (but doesn’t provide any of the heart’s handy exposition).
There are also some lovely upgrades to the stealth and non-lethal arsenal, with chokedust being the highlight. Similar to Thief’s flashbombs, chokedust allows the player to temporarily incapacitate enemies in order to make a quick getaway or go in for a clean strike. There were several times where I would toss one into a group of guards who were in my way, then giddily blink past them without having to get in a fight — super handy for pacifist playthroughs.
The area is packed with sidequests and little details that really bring it to life.
As for the missions, the Knife of Dunwall blows its load early with the fantastic infiltration of a whale slaughterhouse. The area is packed with sidequests and little details that really bring it to life. But be warned: it is not for the faint of heart. The slaughterhouse is a gruesome place where Dunwall’s magnificent whales are butchered for their magical oil. It’s the type of thing that would give PETA an aneurysm and will make anyone with a working soul at least cringe a little.
The second mission is large, open, and has a great section inside a mansion (who doesn’t love robbing mansions?), but the third is a bit of a disappointment. It takes us back to an area that we had already visited in the main game, pumps it full of enemies, and doesn’t offer the huge variety of approaches we saw in the earlier levels.
While there is a story in The Knife of Dunwall which involves tracking down a mysterious woman named Delilah, I can’t say I was very engaged by it. There are some nice twists and turns and an interesting new character named Billie Lurk (Daud’s right-hand woman), but there just wasn’t enough time in the 5-odd hours in the game to flesh everything out. At the end I was left scratching my head and thinking “uhh, that’s it?” Hopefully the final announced DLC, The Brigmore Witches, will tie up all the loose ends.
Still, for 10 bucks, I can easily recommend it to anyone who like Dishonored. The Knife of Dunwall is the kind of DLC I’d like to see more of, and I definitely plan on playing through it at least once more.
Note: This review was for the PC version of the game. It is also available on the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.