Saturday, 5 April 2014

Dishonored: Knife of Dunwall

Dishonored is one of my favourite games of recent years. It had a brilliant blend of mechanics and aesthetics borrowed from the likes of Bioshock, Thief 2 and Half-Life 2. Few games capture my interest so much that I replay them in their entirety, which I decided to do before delving into the DLC.
The crime that eclipsed all that had come before

My replay of the game focused on non-lethal, "ghost" runs throughout the game, which I generally managed outside of two levels (avoiding assassins is particularly tricky). The changes in the game from such a "low chaos" playthrough are minor, except for the final level and ending, but I enjoyed the different challenge and reacquainting myself with Dunwall and it's residents was very welcome.

The chaos, in part caused by Daud

What set the game apart for me is the focus on mechanics and gameplay. The game is built around your character having a set of tools (both mundane and magical) to accomplish his tasks. The levels are filled with alternative routes and little environmental details which sometimes require two or more playthroughs to see. Never did I feel that the narrative got in the way of the game, and having your actions reflect in the tone and content of the final stages of the game was very well done.

Wanted men

In an age where we have the ability to purchase so many games for such low prices during Steam sales or Humble bundles and the like, it can be easy to build a list of games which one will never play. The time required to get through such a backlog can seem insurmountable, and replaying a game can seem like a waste when new games loom into view. Dishonored is a game which I am glad to revisit, and would heartily recommend anyone to play it to completion twice.

Whale, Whale, Whale, what do we have here?

With this in mind, I was eager to see if the DLC could live up to the main game, and retain the magic that has me praising it so much. The first: The Knife of Dunwall, which puts you in the shoes of the infamous master assassin Daud: Killer of Empress Jessamine.

And soon, the whole factory

The game begins with the usual cutscenes, the Outsider, and a repeat of the killing of the Empress. The assassination is from Daud's point of view, which is a nice touch, but you are a mere spectator which is a little frustrating. I wanted to get back into the action, but the beginning is a little slow.

The Delilah, a whaling ship and so much more

During this introduction, you are told of "Delilah" by the Outsider. Somehow her life is intertwined with yours, and the crisis that the city faces. It's up to you to track this person down, and to discover what link she has to everything that is going on in your city and your life. Perhaps tracking her down can bring redemption for your actions in killing the Empress.

Enhanced Eyes (Void Gaze in this DLC)

Much as it is in the main game, the main plot arc is a little lightweight. It's an excuse for the usual thievery, sneaking, fighting, and so on that makes this game so enjoyable. The environmental storytelling is much better, every location having it's own feel. The grimy industrial whaling slaughterhouse is a wonderful contrast from the relatively clean and upper-class Legal District.

Delilah, self-portrait

The missions themselves are large, sprawling areas that allow you to traverse them in a number of ways. As with the main campaign, the game can be completed without killing if you so choose, and your chaos score (high or low) impacts upon the following DLC: The Brigmore Witches (to what end, I do not know, but it's the next game on my list!).

A target, for information and for justice

There are a few changes to the tools available to the master assassin, and your main powers, compared to Corvo. Some of these changes are more welcome than others, but certainly I didn't miss Devouring Swarm or Windblast which were amusing but of limited use. There is slightly more focus on stealth-related abilities over a gung-ho approach, but sometimes it requires quite a lot of patience not to start killing rather than choking or avoiding your adversaries. I still find Blink to be the most useful power available, and didn't bother using some of the available powers or equipment at all.

The Flooded District, and Daud's lair

Summon Assassin was a strange choice indeed, something only for combat encounters really. For anyone wishing to complete the game without such incidents the power seems rather useless. I would have preferred a bigger part for Billy Lurk, your faithful assistant assassin, perhaps even allowing for some cooperation at times.
Plans, past and present.

My real disappointment with the DLC is it's length, it felt very short, even with the amount of exploration available. There are only really three missions, and I suppose they could be completed quite quickly if you were of that disposition. The ending also leads directly into the next DLC: The Brigmore Witches, and I can't help but feel it might have been better to have released both DLC as a single expansion pack.
The Overseers attack

I would definitely recommend the DLC for any fan of Dishonored, I fully enjoyed the extra missions and the extension of the game. What I'm really looking for is a full sequel though, which I hope the success of the game has warranted. What the DLC (so far) has demonstrated is that the team behind the game are more than capable of creating more wonderful environments in this world, and the mechanics are just as interesting through a different character. Wherever they decide to go with the series, I hope it works out.

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