Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3 and PC
Reviewed On: Xbox 360
Price: 800MSP (£7.99)
Any excuse to step back into the wonderful world of Dishonored is good, not that you ever really need an excuse to go back and play a game you love. The Knife of Dunwall is the first of two story-based add-ons planned for Dishonored designed to tempt us back into the shadows, to tempt us to sharpen our skills and hone our blades once again. So, the simple question: is it actually any good? Yup.
This time around you’ll be taking on the role of supernatural assassin Daud, the man responsible for slaying the empress at the start of Dishonored and kickstarting Corvo’s quest for revenge. Shortly after he has done the deed the mysterious Outsider appears and informs Daud that his story is coming to an end, but that there’s one last mystery for him to tackle. He gives Daud a single name: Delilah. It’s a simple setup for the story, one that deals with both just who or what is Delilah and Daud’s own feelings of guilt over the murder of the Empress as he expresses regret toward his actions. At just a few hours long the Knife of Dunwall doesn’t pack a lot of story in and it’s hardly riveting stuff , but there’s enough here to wet your whistle and get you interested, ready for the second and final installment of Daud’s tale which is due to arrive sometime later this year and will presumably climax in Daud’s inevitable confrontation with Corvo. It’s just a shame that the ending of the DLC feels pretty lackluster, the very last thing that you want from the ending of the first part of a story.
Unlike Corvo master assassin Daud has a voice and actively takes part in conversations, as well as narrating key points in the storyline in his gravelly tone. Conversations with his second in command, Billie Lurk, also help to further define his personality, and his dialogue is written pretty well. For this reason alone it’s far easier to get engaged in the Knife of Dunwall’s short narrative, even if it does amble along. I honestly didn’t realise just how much Corvo’s lack of voice and distinctive personality in Dishonored had bothered me until Daud first spoke. But while Daud does have a personality all of his own there’s still a degree of choice present in the Knife of Dunwall: the Chaos meter returns with the story altering along the way depending on whether you choose to play Daud as a more ruthless character or if you perhaps to make him a bit more merciful. And like Dishonored this Chaos rating means there’s also different endings to achieve, giving you incentive to play it at least twice. The actor behind Daud does a fine job of bringing him to life, and the rest of the actors behind the scenes must also be commended as the voice-overs throughout are of damn good quality.
While the main narrative is a little thin on the ground those who loved to explore every inch of Dishonored and completely immerse themselves in the world Arkane crafted will be pretty pleased with a lot of the details you can find within the Knife of Dunwall. Two out of the three locations in the DLC are completely new, and the first in particular gives us a glimpse in to something which was often spoken about in Dishonored but barely seen: whaling. There’s plenty of books and snippets of information to be picked up as you explore the level that further flesh out the world , as well as a couple of nice tie-ins with the Corvo’s storyline that provide some interesting insights into events that were going on.
Since this is a DLC pack I’m not going to go into great detail regarding the many, many merits of Dishonored’s core gameplay mechanics as you’ve presumably already played it if you’re reading this review, rather I’ll go through the changes one by one to see what works and what doesn’t. Considering Daud is a completely different character he plays in very similar fashion to Corvo. Perhaps the single best and biggest alteration to the gameplay is that Dishonored’s signature Blink power has gotten an upgrade: hold down the trigger (while not pressing the movement stick in any direction) and time will come to a complete halt, allowing you to pinpoint precisely where you want to Blink to. As you can probably already imagine this opens up a realm of possibilities in both combat and general navigation. One of my favorite uses it to take a running leap off a ledge, activate Blink, spin 180-degrees and Blink up to the higher-up ledge above me. Or during a fight you can pull the trigger, calmly Blink up to a balcony, pull the trigger again, spin around and then execute a jump-kill on your foe. It’s a simple yet utterly fantastic addition that opens up a host of new tricks to creative players, leading me to wish it could be integrated into the main game as well, so that we could have some fun with it playing as Corvo.
On a more disappointing note Corvo’s ability to summon a pack of rats to distract enemies, kill enemies and dispose of bodies has been replaced by the considerably more boring Summon Assassin, which does exactly what the name implies by summoning up a lone Assassin who attacks either the nearest target or the target of your choosing. The first time you summon an Assassin it’s kind of cool to watch him or her do your dirty work for you, but after that it’s frankly a bit boring in comparison to bringing forth a horde of murderous rats intent on stripping flesh from bone.
Also disappointing is that Corvo’s Possession power has been removed, leaving me feeling a bit sad as I was a fan of possessing random guards and animals.
But back on to the good stuff. Daude packs some interesting new gadgets that you can use along the way, including a brilliant Arc Mine which disintegrates anyone daft enough to come near it in a brilliant bolt of electricity. Meanwhile Chokedust does exactly what its name suggests it does by choking enemies in a cloud of dust, either giving you the edge in a fight where numbers are against you or giving you time to make your escape.
Other than that, though, Daud’s abilities and gadgets aren’t very different from Corvo’s, and so gameplay feels very familiar to the original Dishonored, though that is by no means a bad thing given just how strong that gameplay formula is. Still, given the creativity of the original game and setting you, like me, will probably find yourself wishing that Arkane have crafted a more diverse and unique toolset for Daud to use. Presumably Daud’s abilities were kept similar to help keep the game balanced, otherwise the developers might have had to radically alter the way they design levels as well. However, I do have to point out that like Corvo’s set of skills and powers, Daud’s arsenal feels geared toward those that want to kill everything in sight. C’mon Arkane, we could really do with some more cool stealth gear in the second chapter, especially since we don’t have Possession any more.
Like the full game the Knife of Dunwall gives you free reign to tackle levels and enemies however you wish with the tools at your disposal, be it going in guns blazing with pistol and knife, slitting throats for the shadows or never leaving a trace to indicate that you were ever there, ghosting your way through the entirety of the DLC. There’s plenty of ways to complete missions in completely non-lethal fashion, and so it’s possible to make it through all three missions without ever killing a soul, although I did find it far harder to do on the default difficulty setting than I did in Dishonored itself – mind you, my stealth skills were seriously rusty. The gameplay, as familiar as it may be, is still utterly satisfying, giving players a sense of genuine freedom that few games, even open-world ones, can match, though I do hold that Dishonored, and thus Knife of Dunwall, is still best experienced as a stealth game.
The first level in the DLC emphasises the same degree of choice shown in the main game by challenging you with getting into a factory, of which there’s numerous ways of doing so. Each of the three levels (the third revisits a location from Dishonored) has plenty of different routes to take, which, when mixed with the various gameplay styles at your disposal, gives the DLC plenty of replay value past the few hours it will take to get through it the first time. In fact, it’s smaller nature arguably gives it an even better replay value than Dishonored itself. It’s also the first level that is easily the best of the lot, with the second being fairly standard stuff in terms of setting, if arguably sporting the better layout. The first level also introduces a bad-ass new enemy type, the Butcher, who wields a massive saw designed to cut through the bones and flesh of giant whales that can fire blades and block your attacks.
The ability to purchase upgrades and gear before missions remains intact as well, with plenty of designs to be found within the levels to give you access to even more upgrade options. A hefty starting purse gives you some room to get Daud set up the way you like before you even embark on the first mission, which is most welcome. The system has seen one change, though, in the shape of Favours which can be purchased before the start of a mission. These Favours let you do things like purchase extra information, get Runes place in the upcoming level and other help, but sadly they’re not explored as well as they could be. Hopefully we’ll see them get used more creatively in the second DLC pack.
While Dishonored was packed with numerous creative ideas that made it feel utterly unique, the Knife of Dunwall plays it relatively safe, altering the core gameplay in subtle but fun ways yet never daring to try anything radically new or different with the formula Arkana concocted. If you were hoping that Arkane would take Dishonored and run with its mechanics into new realms then you’ll likely be disappointed with the Knife of Dunwall. However, if all you want is another slice of fantastic Dishonored action that lets you play how you want then by all means the Knife of Dunwall is a damn good package, containing the fantastic level design and gameplay that made me fall in love with the game in the first place.
+ Dishonored’s gameplay is still awesome.
+ More glimpses into the world of Dishonored.
+ Daud is pretty cool.
– Daud doesn’t have a more unique toolset.
– Plays it safe.
– Story ambles along.
The Verdict: 4/5 – great
A great slice of Dishonored action packing all the awesome gameplay and levels design that made the game so amazing to begin with.