Dishonored: The Knife of Dunwall Review (PC)

When Dishonored came out last year it more or less recaptured the magic of the first-person stealth genre that had been missing since Garrett hung up his hood in 2004’s Thief: Deadly Shadows. Now with Thief all set to return next year it’s up to Dishonored’s first proper story-based DLC, The Knife of Dunwall, to remind gamers that Garrett isn’t the only hoodie-wearing taffer on the block – and neither is Corvo Attano for that matter.

The Knife of Dunwall instead focuses on master assassin Daud, the real killer of Empress Kaldwin who Corvo was framed by. Yes, you’re the villain. Sweet… or maybe not, if your conscience has anything to do with it. Set during the events of Dishonored, Daud is contacted by the mysterious Outsider (who gave him and his assassins their powers). Daud’s changed since he killed the Empress, but the Outsider is willing to show him the path to right himself – by seeking the name “Delilah”. The ol’ cryptic spooky bastard.

The Outsider sets Daud on his post-empiricidal journey.

It’s a mission that will encompass two large mission areas (split into two sections each), set around a slaughterhouse and a slice of the noble area of Dunwall. There’s then a final level set in Daud’s hideout from Dishonored, which is a little bit of a lazy cop-out really but the other two missions are fortunately exemplary. Oh fair enough, the last one’s lots of fun too despite knowing it inside out – in fact that’s kind of the point, since it’s your house. If bad guys invaded your home you’d already know about the secret entrance through the top floor window right? Right. In terms of getting new stuff it’s a bit of a cheat, but narrative-wise it works out fine.

And that narrative is pretty great really, certainly hugely intriguing. Any story that starts with a one-word mystery for you to unravel gets a thumbs-up from me, and as you start to learn more about Delilah Knife of Dunwall grabs your full attention. If I have one big complaint about this DLC though it’s that we are not getting the full story. Make no mistake, this is Knife of Dunwall Part 1, which will be concluded apparently in the next piece of DLC called The Brigmore Witches.

This isn’t a bad thing, as more Dishonored story-based DLC is definitely something I want, but at no point was this obviously advertised as anything but a complete piece. With The Tyranny of King Washington DLC for Assassin’s Creed III for example Ubisoft were always upfront that it was a story in three parts, so I’m a little disappointed in Bethesda for not making that completely clear to buyers here. One line at the very bottom of the Steam product page doesn’t count.

I’m mostly hopeful that every choice will carry over to the second part of the story, including kit, Runes, Bone Charms, powers, and plot decisions. If not I’ll be very angry. Powers in particular, since there’s no way of fully levelling up more than 2-3 here even if you track down every single hidden Rune. There are new ones to play about with too, and we can’t miss them. ‘Void Gaze’ replaces Corvo’s ‘Dark Vision’ mostly by adding in the Rune/Charm-seeking abilities of the Heart, which unfortunately is absent in this DLC.

So many choices, but no matter what I decide that guard is about to have a very bad day.

Instead if you want to learn amusing secrets about people and places (which made the Heart one of the coolest things about Dishonored) you have to instead use Daud’s new Assassin’s Creed-like ‘Summon Assassin’ power, which speaks for itself – except if not in combat the Assassin will chat with you about various secrets about your location. However with the new powers in a few of Corvo’s are absent, most notably ‘Possession’ which really surprised me considering Dishonored was basically sold on that power alone. Still at least ‘Blink’ makes a welcome return.

Knife of Dunwall most importantly addresses some of the problems fans had with Dishonored. Firstly it was clear that non-lethal assassinations were a very late stage addition to the game, which meant that characters would act as if you’d killed your target and a major plot twist halfway through the story makes absolutely no sense if your target survived. Here the DLC has been obviously designed from the ground up to take non-lethal “neutralizations” into account, with various characters reacting differently and events taking alternate paths in ways that impressed me greatly.

Not quite so much of an afterthought in Dishonored but definitely not as well considered as it could’ve been was the action path (as opposed to Thief-style stealth which Arkane clearly preferred). Plenty of gamers complained that the game was too short as they’d butchered their way through in a few hours, but stealth gamers got a longer and more fulfilling experience (if not as packed with awesome kills).

The Knife of Dunwall addresses this. Stealth and action gamers will get an equally challenging experience, and both will find that levels are not cleared easily. The opening mission for example is set in a gigantic slaughterhouse filled with powerful chainsaw-toting butchers. Choke them silently from behind and they fall like any other guy, but take them on in combat and you’ll have a real fight on your hands. Alarms will sound, enemies will replenish, and you’ll have to use all your cunning and powers to survive. Non-murdering sneakers will have to do much the same, just with less swordplay and more hiding.

This is companion assassin Billie Lurk, who presumably joined based on her name alone.

Both are equally fun and while stealth players will undoubtedly get a longer play time less patient gamers will certainly find a lot to challenge them here. As mentioned earlier level design is fantastic and exploring Dunwall is just as much a pleasure as it is in the main game. Finding every little secret in an area or every bit of information, not to mention the different ways of getting to or accomplishing your objectives could take committed gamers several replays to discover. There are multiple paths, multiple objectives, and multiple ways to play. This is why Dishonored is so great, why Knife of Dunwall is such good slice of new Dishonored to play through, and why the people who complain “oh it’s just a few hours long” aren’t playing either properly.

Fortunately by being just generally being more challenging for both stealth and action gamers Knife of Dunwall is a decent piece of DLC no matter how it’s sliced. There may be only two real missions over five levels but there’s so much packed in those levels that I spend a good few days exploring them, and was left fully satisfied. In terms of complaints the fifth level being a retread of one from the main game is a little disappointing, as are the ‘Possession’ power and Heart being AWOL, but it’s the abrupt mid-point end to the story that has me the most upset.

Nevertheless it’s a story that definitely has me intrigued (which I couldn’t say about Dishonored’s plot, another failing of the main game that Knife of Dunwall seems to be correcting) and anyone hankering for more Dishonored will be utterly satisfied – I certainly hope this is how Bioshock Infinite’s DLC will go. I’ll be first in line for The Brigmore Witches Arkane, but just remember to let me carry my baggage over please.

Top Game Moment: I’m going to go with the non-violent neutralization of nobleman Timsh, giving him a taste of his own evil medicine.



By noobst3R (SI Core) on Apr 27, 2013
Excellent. I really want to play this, but I feel like I will miss a lot of stuff if I don't play Dishonored itself again before. It's been more than half a year you know... :/