Few would argue about Dishonored being a great experience. The execution of stealth from a first-person perspective was done well, and the open nature of each environment made the game very accessible to all players. When it was announced that the game would offer DLC, the fan reaction was delight. Admittedly, when it was revealed that the first DLC pack wasn't story-related, the delight was tinged with some disappointment. For the most part, the Dunwall City Trials are promising.
For $5 (400 Microsoft points), you're getting 10 different challenges, each focused on a particular gameplay type featured in the main game. Mobility challenges test how well you can move through the world while Stealth challenges stress being unseen above all else. Combat challenges are for more combative players while Puzzle challenges let you solve challenges with your skills and a limited arsenal. Each challenge has an online leaderboard and a star ranking. Getting two stars gives you the chance to play the same challenge with an expert difficulty level while completing a challenge with up to a three-star ranking opens up extra artwork.
Mystery Foe is the first Stealth challenge, and it is very intriguing. Set in a mansion, your task is to locate your target and eliminate him or her. The problem is that you have no idea who the target is and must rely on collecting four clues to correctly identify the target. Killing the wrong person ends the game and alerts the guards, the only other criteria for losing. The game becomes something of a murder mystery, except you must find the person to kill. Though there's only one layout for the house and the guards always patrol in the same pattern, the location of the clues and the identity of the target are randomized every time you play, giving you some incentive to replay the mode.
Burglar is the other Stealth challenge, but it emphasizes a non-violent approach. You're tasked with sneaking into a mansion to retrieve six golden designer eggs. While those are the main objective, you're awarded bonus points for taking anything else of value. Aside from dying, your only other condition for failure is being spotted by the guard three times. Much like Mystery Foe, the mansion layout remains the same, but the location of the loot always changes.
Back Alley Brawl is a straightforward and fun Combat challenge. In essence, this is Dishonored's version of Horde mode, as you go through wave after wave of increasingly difficult enemies until you perish. In between rounds, you can pick up runes to replenish some powers and hit or kill a merchant to get more skills and replenish your health, mana and ammo. An interesting aspect is that enemies from different factions fight each other before going after you; it won't help your score but gives you a chance to breathe if things get too hectic. While the mode emphasizes brutality above all else, it works well, mostly because the hand-to-hand combat and powers bolsters what is typically a weak area in stealth games.
Assassin's Run is an Combat level with an emphasis on speed and precision. Armed with a crossbow and unlimited bolts, you're tasked with taking out teleporting guards as silently and swiftly as possible. Each group is separated into rooms, which unlock once the guards in the previous room are eliminated. To up the challenge, civilians are also present, and while there's no penalty for their demise, they award bonus points if you let them live. The challenge is nice, and there's plenty of room for players to increase their run times and score, but there's only one course. Unless you are aiming for a three-star rank, there isn't much here to keep you hooked.
Oil Drop is the last Combat challenge, but it's the least exciting. You're basically skeet shooting oil drums with a pistol and unlimited ammo. Most of the tanks are worth points, but some contain special effects such as a health boost, night vision, and slowing down time for two seconds. The challenge ends once you die, but it feels lifeless and devoid of the creativity in the other offerings in this DLC pack. It also feels better suited for PC players, given the absence of auto-aim and accuracy via aiming sights. With the loose aiming system, it's a decent challenge for those who want to practice shooting with a controller, but it provides little else.
Bend Time Massacre is a devious Puzzle challenge that involves killing more than solving an object-related quandary. When the mode begins, you are behind a glass wall and observing the movements of the guards in front of you. Once you break the glass, time slows down and you're tasked with killing a number of guards before time returns to normal. Weapon knowledge is a must, but finding the best routes and equipment to score the most kills is addicting and fun, especially when you see your mines and bolts in slow-motion action.
Kill Chain is a similar Puzzle challenge. You're faced with a large group of enemies and must try to kill them as swiftly as possible. You only have four seconds to spare between kills to keep the chain going, forcing you to get very creative. Like the stealth missions, this one is brilliantly done.
Bonfires is a Mobility challenge that is like a typical checkpoint race. Your objective is to make it to the end of the level before time runs out, making sure to hit every checkpoint along the way. Hitting each checkpoint gives you more time on the clock, and this one has no pesky enemies. You'll use most of your moves — especially Blink — to hit every checkpoint, and while the loose control scheme doesn't help, the mode can be quite fun.
Train Runner is another Mobility challenge that is like a race, though it's against an actual opponent. Your job is to get to the finish line before a speeding train does. There are no checkpoints, but the level is presented as a giant obstacle with pillars and other structures hindering your path. Like Bonfires, you'll be tested on your dexterity in manipulating different powers, but the mode feels more appealing due to the loosening of restrictions for each race.
Kill Cascade represents the final Mobility challenge, though it is more akin to something you'd see in the main game. Your checkpoints are guards who must be dismissed with one-hit kills. Bonuses are awarded for kills that have a higher degree of difficulty. The precision required to make these kills means that this mode is tougher than the others, but those who want a little bloodshed with their speed runs will be satisfied.
Just like the collection of challenges, the presentation is both delightful and disappointing. The sounds are still top-notch, but there's not much incidental dialogue to make the world feel alive. The sneaking missions have very few guards, and lines are repeated with no variation. Despite the DLC's name, everything takes place in The Void. On the one hand, this disconnect makes the environment feel lifeless and empty — something the main game desperately avoided. On the other hand, the surreal location gives the artists a chance to try things that couldn't be done in the main game, such as changing the gravity in one room so that water flows up or having suspended stairwells.
As a whole, the Dishonored: Dunwall City Trials DLC pack is fairly good. There's balance in the number and variety of events, and while there are some challenges that fare much better than others, there's more good than bad here. An atmosphere similar to the original game would've helped, as would more incentive to replay the DLC outside of leaderboards. At only $5, though, the amount of content in this pack feels just right. Those seeking more substantial DLC should wait for the story-based stuff later this year, but if you just want to play around with the game in slightly different environments, this pack is pretty good.
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