If you’ve ever wondered what it might be like to roam the city streets as a souped-up assassin then wonder no more, as Arkane Studios has your back with The Knife of Dunwall. It’s a download that offers a fresh perspective – and even some new abilities – by having you step into the well-worn boots of Master Assassin, Daud… a character fans should remember as being one of the main instigators of the city’s problems. Dunwall City Trials provided a set of tough challenges for Dishonored at a suitably low cost, but is this the story-based DLC we’ve spent months waiting for?
Developer: Arkane Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platform: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 (Reviewed), Windows PC
Genre: Action-Adventure, Stealth
Release: (INT) 17th April 2013
It’s no surprise that Daud is something of an unsavoury character, having earned his reputation as a blade in the shadows. What might surprise you is how he’s not just another psycho without reason, and while he never comes off as sympathetic, you won’t feel as if you’re playing the role of unspeakable villain either. You might get a sense of a warped moral code at work here, making Daud a more interesting lead than Corvo ever was. Unlike Corvo, Daud will actually speak his mind from time to time, breathing life into someone who could have been left as yet another silent avatar of mayhem.
This tale focuses on his quest to uncover the truth behind the mysterious Delilah, with the odd twist thrown in to keep things moving. The story is far from exciting stuff, but if you’re playing Dishonored for anything other than the stealth and sense of empowerment then you’re asking for disappointment. We have to mention that this is only the first of a two part adventure featuring Daud, in which case there’s hope that the second part (entitled The Bridgmore Witches) might up the ante in this regard when it hits at a later date. With luck, we’ll see a few more experimental gameplay elements too, as Knife of Dunwall plays it safe by offering more of what we’ve seen before, albeit with a few extra strings added to its bow.
In some ways, Daud really does feel like more of a guard murdering expert than Corvo. The ‘Blink’ ability so key to the experience is even more useful this time as it freezes time; hitting the button in a panic won’t result in you zipping around the stage like a lunatic anymore, turning escape into a slightly more meticulous affair. Another power that you should expect to abuse is ‘Summon Assassin’, which proves indispensable should you find yourself overwhelmed. Runes and bone charms can be located in a manner similar to before (minus the beating heart), though you’ll want to think hard on how you spend these due to the high expense of upgrading.
Although his personal strengths might be ruled by collectibles, money talks in the black market, which is accessed before each stage. You can increase stability of the wrist-bow (which functions much like Corvo’s crossbow), buy healing items and add another charge to the arc mines, to name a few. Favours can be purchased in preparation for the coming mission, allowing access to certain areas and giving Daud a slight edge depending on your preferred method of approach. Taking things slow and scouring the environment is the best way to experience everything the download has to offer, probably making you rich in the process. Dishonored has always been a game of multiple options, making non-lethal runs a possibility with extra patience and effort.
For the price of a standard add-on you’ll be dropped into two major new locations teeming with enemies, items to loot and characters looking to strike a deal. It’s a price that feels just about right given the work that’s been put in, and while assets and art schemes have been recycled from the main release, areas feel fresh and distinct enough to stand as relevant places in Dunwall. That only goes for the two new sections however, as the third is a smaller stage which was first explored towards the core game’s climax. You may handle it differently, but it’s still a place you’ve been before.
Knife of Dunwall comes recommended to fans by simply being more Dishonored. It demands the same pacing, strategic thinking and curious eye, which might just be the formula that made the game such a hit to begin with. It really doesn’t play with things to such a degree that it’ll appeal to those who haven’t finished the full game, but this is an add-on that does exactly what it needed to for the fans. For all intents and purposes, Knife of Dunwall is the kind of story based content that was promised if nothing more. This first half of Daud’s adventure makes us eager to see things through to their conclusion, even if we already know how things turn out for the grizzled chap in the long run.
7.5 – Good. Entertaining but is held back by a couple of flaws. It will certainly capture its intended audience but it won’t appeal to everyone.