The announcement and release of Dunwall City Trials for Dishonored left some fans a little disappointed. The pack let you exercise your abilities in various challenges, and that was good enough for some people. For others, it was the story that really drove the gameplay, and with no real narrative in that DLC, it held nothing of interest for them. The release of the second DLC pack, The Knife of Dunwall, should scratch that itch.
This time around, you play as another supernatural assassin by the name of Daud, the leader of the group responsible for the murder of many corrupt nobles over the years. The last hit on the Empress really affected Daud, making him regret his decisions once he saw how Dunwall had fallen into squalor. Six months after the incident, the Outsider pays him a visit to inform him that his time is coming to an end and to give him a name: Delilah. With that only bit of information, Daud sets off on a quest to figure out its importance.
Based on the plot alone, the game takes on a slightly different vibe. The change from a revenge-driven plot to a mystery highlights certain aspects of the core game that may have been overlooked. Sneaking around, listening for conversations, and peeping through keyholes in a location with few hiding places makes you want to be stealthier. The amount of incidental books, notes and recording devices makes you want to inspect each area more thoroughly.
Having a new protagonist also means that the DLC makes the game feel a little fresher compared to core game's abilities. Some of the changes are superficial, such as your blade or replacing the crossbow with a wrist-mounted dart shooter. Others are variations on Corvo's abilities. Daud's version of Blink, for example, can stop time and change direction midway while Void Gaze combines two abilities, letting you see rune locations and enemies through walls. Then there are the new tools and powers at your disposal. Summoning an assassin is radically different from summoning rats, as they disappear more easily and are more of a distraction than a tertiary weapon. Chokedust grenades momentarily disorient rats and guards, and Arc Mines obliterate anyone who triggers it. About the only thing missing from your arsenal is the ability to possess living things, which is a fair trade-off for your new powers.
Despite these changes, the game still plays exactly as expected. Every situation gives you a chance to approach with stealth or aggression. You can choose to dispose of bodies any way you want, or you can clear areas with non-lethal means. Every situation has at least two different solutions, so the chances of getting stuck are few and far between. The city's chaos system is also in full effect, with more fatalities and raised alarms resulting in higher guard counts. The changes to the arsenal don't really leave the game's comfort zone, but that should be fine for fans.
The DLC takes place on three different stages, two of which are new to the game. The first is the slaughterhouse, which is a mix of the city's industrial look and the grotesque. Whale bones and guts litter the environment, along with whale steaks hanging on hooks and a half-processed carcass on a conveyor belt. There's even a live whale that's suspended in the air and being drained of its blood — a sight made more disturbing by its occasional mouth movement and wailing. Like any factory, there's a good amount of space in each room, with lots of small passageways underneath the building and high platforms that are perfect for teleportation. Along with the new environment come the butchers, a new enemy class that's more resilient in combat compared to soldiers and cannot be parried because of their powered saws. Unless you specialize in stealth kills against these foes, expect face-to-face battles to be much more difficult.
The slaughterhouse represents some of the best level design in the game and is about as memorable as the Golden Cat. It is also the area with the most new content in it, since the other two levels recycle a few assets. The law district is the other new level in the DLC pack, and it stands out by having you go through the interiors of quite a few buildings, some of which exchange width for vertical space that hide lots of secrets. The enemies consist of a few thugs and the royal guard, all of whom you've dealt with before, so the combat won't feel new. That sense of déjà vu is amplified in the DLC's final level, which has you revisiting Daud's headquarters with overseer soldiers instead of assassins as your foes.
Though it sounds like a low number, the DLC pack is quite lengthy. Each of the three areas is quite sizeable, and even if you take away the hidden baubles that artificially extend the experience, you'll average an afternoon on one playthough at the default difficulty level. Unlike other titles, the time is spent with some quality gameplay and visuals that remain striking even months after the game's debut. The performances from the voice actors are also very good, especially Michael Madsen as Daud. Going for a more vocal protagonist instead of a silent one like Corvo was risky, but Madsen's gruff vocals and his weathered delivery make Daud a character the player can empathize with, and that's always a boon.
Dishonored: The Knife of Dunwall is an example of how to do story-based DLC correctly. There's the right balance of new tools and a few modifications to old abilities to make everything feel fresh and familiar. Though there is a bit of asset recycling, the new levels and enemies are very welcome, and it shows that there was thought in putting together something solid instead of doing something quickly. Since the DLC is the right playtime length and keeps the gameplay freedom intact, fans of the Dishonored plot will be more than satisfied with this story-based DLC.
More articles about Dishonored