Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Dishonored: The Knife of Dunwall review

    Dishonored is one of the best games to come out last year. The fact there's a distinct lack of stealth-based gameplay lately means it's virtually unchallenged as the best of its genre, as well. Sadly, Thief isn't coming out until 2014 and those who want to continue moving around guards will have to content themselves with replaying Dishonored as well as its DLC.

    The Knife of Dunwall is Dishonored's second major DLC after Dunwall City Trials. The Knife of Dunwall easily blows away the latter, more or less consisting of another three missions as well designed as the ones for the main game. Given the main game only had nine, this is quite impressive. I got more bang-for-my-buck from The Knife of Dunwall than some full-priced games.

    The Knife of Dunwall follows Daud, the murderer of Empress Jessamine from the start of Dishonored, as he finds himself curiously affected by her death. Having grown fond of Corvo, I was initially reluctant to slip into the role of Daud. I'm pleasantry surprised to say that Michael Madsen does an excellent job in realizing the character of Dunwall's greatest assassin.

The poor whales of Dunwall.
    The premise of the Knight of Dunwall is that Daud has found himself visited by the Outsider who tells him that his "story will end soon" and how depends on a woman named Delilah. This, of course, is a bold-faced lie since Corvo will either spare or kill him in the main game. Nevertheless, it provides Daud the impetuous to go after the mysterious figure.

    This weak storytelling hurts the game as there's no real personal connection between Daud and Delilah. He treats his possible fated killer as just another job and there's no real sense he's particularly worried either way. Likewise, Daud's targets are impersonal enemies who he has no real stake in destroying. This leads to the DLC's only real problem in a fundamentally weak narrative.

    The exception to this is the character of Billie Lurk, who becomes Daud's sidekick and one of my favorite characters in the setting after a very short while. Billie nicely pops up just enough to be intriguing but leaves before she overstays her welcome. I also enjoyed the character of Abigail Ames, a female mercenary who is not the character you'd expect in the pseudo-Victorian world of Dishonored.

New enemies and new ways of killing them.
    Despite this, the gameplay is top-notch. The game plays almost, but not completely, like Dishonored. Daud's Blink ability is modified so he stops time when he's using it, allowing him to create interesting stunts as well as manipulate the enemy in fascinating ways. Likewise, it's possible for Daud to summon his fellow assassins to deal with his enemies. By taking a page or two out of Assassin's Creed, Daud's play becomes more unique and less like Corvo redux.

    Gamers should be warned that the Knife of Dunwall is significantly harder to beat than Dishonored, itself. The levels are very open with lots of room for reinforcements from one's enemies. This is compensated for by excellent level design. There is a staggering number of hiding places as well as ways for characters to accomplish their mission.

    Those expecting this DLC to be stand-alone should be warned, this is more like "The Knife of Dunwall part 1." The story abruptly ends, obviously building up to a sequel but there's no indication of this before purchase. The fact that this will result in, presumably, six missions total means Daud's adventures will almost equal Corvo's own. I'm tempted to say they should have made Daud's adventures into Dishonored 2.

The level design for this DLC is gorgeous. No re-skinned levels. It's as breathtaking as the main game, maybe more so.
    As a side-note, I think it's important to mention the DLC manages to capture the seamy flavor of Dunwall very well. Whereas we didn't get to spend much time in the hell that is Dunwall's class-segregated society, the first two missions give us a better sense of how the rich and poor are being effected by the events in the main game. I loved both slaughterhouse owner Rothwild as well as Barrister Timish. They're delightfully despicable, illustrating all the cruelties and hypocrisies of the Dishonored setting.

    Overall, I strongly recommend fans of Dishonored pick up The Knife of Dunwall. Once its sequel is out, fans will have, essentially, doubled their gaming time in an interesting and unique world. The storytelling could have used some punching up but this is a small complaint given the world, itself, tells a story.


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