But have they left it too late to finally deliver on the promise of the world of Dunwall?
By Tim Colwill on August 15, 2013 at 10:53 am
The Brigmore Witches is the dessert to Dishonored’s buffet.
Where The Knife of Dunwall felt like a classic leftovers fry-up, The Brigmore Witches steps up the game. In the space of a few short hours, Arkane delivers a conclusion that actually finally manages to add something new and compelling to the series, while at the same time making you want to take a fresh look at the buffet that started it all in the first place.
Enough with the food metaphors. The Brigmore Witches succeeds where The Knife of Dunwall got bogged down because not only does it actually build to a satisfying confusion rather than opening with its best shot and petering out, but it actually manages to flex its creative muscles and build a scenario that finally plays to Dishonored’s best and greatest strength: the amazing world that Arkane have built.
Daud’s role as the Anti-Corvo is made starkly clear in the very first level of The Brigmore Witches when you have to break into the very prison that Corvo spent the first game breaking out of. It’s here that Daud’s ability to use his criminal network and purchase Favours that change the level is demonstrated perfectly: I opted to have an Overseer killed and his clothes delivered to me, enabling me to walk right in the prison’s front door.
The Brigmore Witches’ second level puts you back in the streets of Dunwall. The game threatens to drag a little here, but Arkane cleverly spices it up by throwing you into the middle of a gang war between two rival groups of thugs, both of whom are on high alert at all times. This makes traversing the streets and finding all the secrets impressively difficult, and the addition of an interesting extra character to the back story of Piero Joplin is welcome. But it’s that third level, ah… that third level.
There’s a certain point during any playthrough of Dishonored where you stop really feeling worried. You’ve got a crapload of runes, you know how the systems work, you know how to leap tall buildings and break line of sight, and you can literally stop time and rip out people’s spines. It’s not a game that lends itself to horror or a feeling of unease; it’s a game where you try to have as much fun as possible within the complex series of systems that make up the gameplay.
To its massive credit, the third and final level of The Brigmore Witchest tries its hardest to change all that. I won’t go into too much detail about it, but Arkane really saves the best for last — with broad, open areas that offer little in the way of cover (something we touched on in this pre-release interview), lush greenery, new and disturbingly supernatural enemies and a welcome return to the Void, it’s there that we finally get to see the team start to make good on Dishonored’s original promise of a living, breathing, beautifully broken world. It’s a genuine shame that it took them until the end of the DLC to do this.
Another area in which The Brigmore Witches finally delivers a payoff is in the appearance of Corvo. Again, without spoiling too much, it’s genuinely un-nerving to look at Corvo in-game from an outsiders* perspective, and the way that the Royal Protector ties into the overarching narrative and into Daud’s final fate is superbly handled. There’s even the addition of some neat new characters along the way, and Daud’s voice actor Michael Madsen seems to have got over his confused apathy that marred his voice work from the first game.
You’ll also get what can only be described as totally sweet new powers including Pull, which you may remember as the power Daud uses in the opening sequence of Dishonored to hold Corvo in place. This is a brutally efficient power, which you can use at low levels to simply yank desired items to you from across the room (such as keys on hooks, or purses on belts), or upgrade at high levels to dangle enemies helplessly before you and allow you to execute them at your leisure. Corrupted Bone Charms also appear, which give you a massive benefit (unable to be detected if standing perfectly still, for example) but come with a massive drawback (mana never regenerates).
Unfortunately, The Brigmore Witches was also Arkane’s last shot at fixing some of the stupid bugs that continue to plague the Dishonored engine. Bodies continue to disappear, even when securely stashed. Guards still appear out of thin air, from places where you know there can be no guards. And you still — still — can’t do a non-lethal drop takedown (that one is not a bug, but it is a most frustrating design decision).
Still at $15, it represents great value for money — much like The Knife of Dunwall you can blast through it in maybe two hours if you’re a murder-machine and you don’t care about exploring or trying anything cool, but I managed to stretch it out to about five, and I’m pretty happy with that (especially consdering how much a ticket to the movies costs these days). At the conclusion of it all Arkane have spun a compelling parallel narrative, and added some depth — though perhaps not as much as they’d like — to a previously shallow “dark Corvo” character.
Much in the same way we need more games like Dishonored, we also need more DLC like this — and less DLC like The Trials of Dunwall (sorry, Arkane). Pick it up if you get a chance.
*Pun not intended
- Excellent and satisfying conclusion to the previously somewhat middling story of Daud
- Great new enemies and powers
- Corrupted Bone Charms add interesting risk/reward decisions
- Expands on the mythology of Dunwall and the world in interesting new ways
- Say hello to Corvo
- Those same stupid bugs may never get fixed now
- Sometimes the non-lethal solutions feel a little forced and out of character
The Brigmore Witches will set you back $14.99 on Steam.
This review code supplied by the publisher.