Tuesday 23 April 2013

Dishonored: The Knife of Dunwall

Daud is a killer, the greatest assassin in the city of Dunwall. His most recent mission was to kill the Empress Kaldwin, but what should have been his greatest success has also caused him to doubt the path he is on. An overheard remark about someone called 'Delilah' intrigues him and leads him onto a new mission, to find out who this person is and what she wants.

The Knife of Dunwall is the first bit of DLC (downloadable content) expanding on the storyline of Dishonored, one of the best games of last year. Players of that game will recall that Daud was the sworn enemy of the game's protagonist, Corvo, and their paths intersected several times through the game. The Knife of Dunwall and a forthcoming second DLC both focus on Daud and reveal what he was up to whilst Corvo was in prison and during the events of the first game.

Players of Dishonored should be instantly at home. Daud has many of the same powers, abilities and items as Corvo, or near-equivalents (instead of a magical heart he was a special vision power which shows him where secret items are located). He can blink around maps, scale buildings and carry out lethal assassinations or silent takedowns with just as much ease. One difference is that Daud, having a voice actor, is not a silent protagonist and speaks during the game (though not often, as he's fairly taciturn, as befitting the morally ambiguous-but-badass assassin trope; see also Fett, Boba), and thus has a bit more of a personality.

The game takes place over three maps. The first two are huge and sprawling districts of the city, with Daud given objectives he can complete through stealth, trickery or all-out assault. As with the main game, you can complete missions through 'ghosting' (going through the level so no-one knows you were ever there) or through non-lethal routes (knocking enemies out rather than killing them), though with The Knife of Dunwall this is a lot harder. Enemies tend to patrol in groups, making it trickier to take them down silently, and they tend to congregate in small areas, making stealthing or ghosting past them much more difficult, especially if there are tasks to be undertaken in the area. You have some new equipment to help out though, with the stun mines being particularly useful to those who prefer a non-lethal approach to things.

Unfortunately, the DLC will not take you long to finish. The first two maps are extensive. Exploring every nook and cranny and taking a stealth approach resulted in them lasting about two hours each, which compared favourably to the original game. The last map is much smaller, revisiting the Flooded District of the original game, and even for a stealth player will likely take less than an hour to finish. In total, the DLC lasted me a bit under five hours, not unreasonable for £8 but likely to leave a lot of players asking for more. The writing is fairly solid, with an interesting character arc revolving around one of Daud's fellow assassins which ends rather unexpectedly. A sequel DLC, which picks up after The Knife of Dunwall's somewhat cliffhangery ending, will follow later this year.

The Knife of Dunwall (****) is a worthwhile - if brief - companion title to Dishonored. Revisiting Dunwall in Daud's shoes is fun, and if you really enjoyed Dishonored you'll likely really enjoy this. Those looking for a longer experience may be advised to wait until the next expansion is released to play both together.

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