Dishonored: The Knife of Dunwall reviewed: A dark, violent, somewhat messy flashback

Dishonored: The Knife of Dunwall

By on April 19, 2013 at 10:20 am

The announcement that Dishonored’s first DLC would be a bunch of skill tests and time trials was a bit of a disappointment. Many of us were hoping for a return to the world of Dunwall, and with so many interesting and spare NPCs kicking around it seemed a shame that they weren’t grabbing the bull by the horns straight away. But time passes, development continues, and now we find ourselves in the shoes of Daud, master assassin, ready to explore more of the world of Dunwall once more. So let’s get to it.

The Knife of Dunwall is the first part of a two-part story, set to conclude in The Brigmore Witches, and so it ends on a kind of confusing high point with a twist reveal that was telegraphed a mile away, and the sudden appearance of a new big bad guy whose bigness and bad-osity is never adequately explained. In other words, the story is messy and bit poor — but Dishonored, however, is not (and never has been) a game about story — it’s a game about perfecting the stealth kill, eating every tin of eel meet you find, and soaking in the atmosphere of the gorgeous world of Dunwall.

The first of the three levels on offer is set in a whale slaughterhouse, and finally brings us face-to-entrails with the creatures who power so much of Dishonored’s dystopian majesty. It’s a bloody, disgusting affair, and you’ll spend a lot of it crawling through sewer tunnels and runoffs filled with blood and intestines, and hiding from guards behind enormous whale carcasses. Near the end of the level you find a whale still breathing while it’s being hacked apart, and in the process of discovering what all the switches in the room did, I accidentally electrocuted it and killed it.

Strangely enough, this was the only time in the entirety of my Dishonored play (including the original) that I’ve ever actually felt bad about killing something — even though it was a mercy killing.

I don’t know what that says about me, but let’s move quickly on: the first level is easily the best, with the final two levels either heavily drawn from the first game or simply re-used wholesale, and while it’s great to be playing through a familiar space from an alternate perspective, it feels like The Knife of Dunwall opens on a high and goes downhill, rather than building to an epic cliffhanger conclusion.

When we first came across Daud in Dishonored we all of course immediately pegged him as an anti-Corvo, and so he’s a perfect fit for viewing the world through a darkened lens. Daud, unlike Corvo, already has an established character — where Corvo is a blank slate for you to write your own personality, Daud (we’re told) is a ruthless killer. So while I initially began the game in my traditional Corvo fashion as a ghost, I quickly found myself wanting to play more into the role Arkane had written for Daud and ended the game as a blood-spattered monster with a three-figure kill count.

Daud’s abilities seem to play more into this persona: with the ability to summon assassins and deploy disintegrating arc mines, it’s easy to think that Daud is a man for whom the most expedient option is the ideal one. This is a bit strange really, because with only three levels in the game if you decide to go in with guns blazing then you’re going to blitz it in maybe an hour or two at the absolute most. I opted for a stealth assassination approach and managed to draw it out to six hours of gameplay, which is a goddamned bargain at the $10 price point Bethesda are asking for.

The major difference between Daud and Corvo (aside from the skillset) is that Daud actually takes the time to speak to people upon occasion, which would have been fine except that voice actor Michael Madsen at times genuinely sounds confused and weirded out by the lines he’s being asked to read, almost as if he’s not sure he’s even in the right recording studio. With the amount of hesitancy in his voice it’s not hard to imagine that each recording session actually began with Arkane bursting into his bedroom at three in the morning, thrusting a script into his hand and yelling “Read this! Read it now!”.

He’s supposedly a man on the search for redemption, but at the end of the day all of his deep soul-searching doesn’t get in the way of him slaughtering everybody he meets and, when you come right down to it, there’s absolutely no motivation to behave in any other way than the one you find the most entertaining. I’ll take the arc mines, please.

In addition, while there are some neat new enemy types and the gameplay boasts the same level of superb flexibility as ever, The Knife of Dunwall also unfortunately includes the same annoying, stupid bugs as the original which I’d desperately hoped would have been ironed out by now. Guard bodies still disappear for literally no reason (I filled a rubbish bin with five corpses and when I came back with the sixth, they’d all disappeared) and living guards still teleport in out of nowhere for no reason at all. At one point in the first level two butchers came at me out of an empty room, and in the second level I was confused to see three guards come charging at me from the top floor of a building which I knew was empty and had no other access points. It’s just silly, and it breaks the immersion.

Ultimately, The Knife of Dunwall is a great piece of DLC that actually provides an interesting parallel narrative, and manages to expand on the main game without feeling like a hollow cash-grab. If you liked Dishonored, well, you’ll like this — and for a mere ten bucks, you can get yourself a few more hours of the same open-ended fun that made the first game so damn good. It’s not as impressive as it could have been and the story feels rushed, but it’s enough to get me excited for what’s to come.

Good:

  • Only $10
  • Interesting new enemies and power sets
  • Daud actually has a voice and personality
  • Same high level of open-ended sandbox gameplay
  • Sets up next DLC nicely

Bad:

  • Only 3 missions long
  • The story is as shallow as ever
  • The same stupid bugs with bodies disappearing and guards teleporting in
  • You still can’t do a non-lethal drop takedown

Review product supplied by Bethesda.

5 comments (Leave your own)

I’m doing a clean hands play through, taking my time etc, I do so love the game play and the world they’ve created, but I can’t disagree with your bad points so far (I’m maybe half way through the DLC at the moment, but I doubt the story or voice acting will take a sharp upturn anytime soon lol).

At least with a clean hands run I get a good few hours out of it lol

I approve of this review.

 
kinistoniscool

I LOVED DISHONOURED, and love how the outsider gives the way of which path of life to take, wish i had the mark. buying this dlc, but waiting for steam sales for this one :D

 

$8 on green man gaming with the discount code. Nothing to lose except a pint of beer.

 

Is it just me or do the guys in the header pic look like Combine soldiers?

 

Loving it so far.

I actually did the first mission twice now. Did it, and some how a body was found somewhere, so I did it all again and this time had a clean run through… strangely, i couldnt really name another game where I just did a level and have absolutely no complaints about returning immediately to do it again. Great game.

 
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