Due to the power of democracy, Assassin’s Creed III received its well deserved due as our 2012 Game of the Year victor. However, although Connor’s stealthy adventure was both memorable and very well made, it wasn’t my first overall pick. Instead, that went to Dishonored – Arkane Studios’ fantastic stealth-action/first-person shooter hybrid – which won me over with its great content, satisfying mechanics and general abundance of freedom. Despite being a risky venture as a new intellectual property, the title has cemented itself as being one of this generation’s best releases, and will be a hard one to forget.
In Dishonored, players assume the identity of Corvo, the Empress’ bodyguard. After being framed for his boss’ murder, the skilled swordsman is forced to go to great lengths to try to clear his name. It’s a tale of mistaken assumptions and the art of framing, presenting an assortment of rich, stealth-filled missions.
Now that the game has been out for a while, developer Arkane Studios and publisher Bethesda Softworks have partnered to extend its life cycle and maintain its popularity with the release of The Knife of Dunwall. Acting as the title’s second downloadable content pack, the three mission-long add-on happens to be the first story-based one thus far. As you may recall, a series of challenging and thought provoking trials preceded it.
Adding depth to an already engaging storyline, The Knife of Dunwall begins where its peer did, with the assassination of the city’s Empress. The difference here, though, is that this new mini-campaign is centred upon Daud, the leader of the Whalers, and the one responsible for actually killing the high profile target. His narration provides a new, and quite interesting layer to the experience, by providing us with a look behind the mask.
Seemingly the first part of a two-part arc, Daud’s storyline sees him searching for answers. Although the Empress was yet another job, something about it felt different, and the veteran assassin knew that killing her would forever change his life. That’s something which we are told right at the beginning of the story arc, and it rings true. In fact, it’s even said that he laid low for six months before attempting to look for answers, a quest that is initiated by the first mission included within this install file.
Content-wise, Dishonored and its first canon downloadable content pack are very similar. Both Corvo and Daud play similarly, employing nearly identical gameplay mechanics. The main difference here, however, is that the evil one, if you will, has the ability to summon his pals to do his dirty work. That, in turn, makes things a bit easier, because multiple enemies can become distracted by said maneuver, allowing players to sneak up behind them and deliver a blade into their organs. That said, the option is only available as a power, meaning that it drains magic and must be unlocked through the use of a relic. Those who would prefer to make things more difficult for themselves can opt to not bother with it – something I unknowingly did during the first mission.
Another thing that benefits Daud is the fact that he can call in favours. Although that’s a term that could easily be used to describe the summons mentioned above, the favours are a different option, and present themselves at the beginning of the first two missions. If you’re familiar with the game, you’ll recall that items and upgrades can be purchased throughout its course. That’s true here, with arc mines and a stunning dust grenade being available for purchase, and favours are offered as the third part of the pre-mission menu. Examples include a safe code being scribbled on a wall, a relic being placed in a highlighted area, and extra whale oil canisters being left at a guard post. It’s not make or break stuff, of course, but it’s a helpful addition.
Much like a lot of the other downloadable content packages I’ve reviewed over the last while, The Knife of Dunwall isn’t overly long. At ten dollars (or 800 Microsoft Points), it offers three new environments and missions, but nothing more. The good news is that, as with the main game, the missions are lengthy and challenging, requiring skill to progress. As such, the first two can take upwards of an hour or longer to complete, and will take completionists longer because of collectible searching endeavours. The third mission is shorter, but it’s still of decent length.
Normally, I tend to complain about length when it comes to more expensive add-ons like this one. This time around, however, the three or so hours of runtime didn’t bug me as much. Although more content would’ve been appreciated, there’s quite a bit to sink one’s teeth into here. It’s obvious that the developers put a lot of thought and work into creating this Daud-centric story, and they’ve delivered campaign missions that are of high quality. Despite being somewhat short, this obviously isn’t an afterthought or a money grab. On top of that, it offers a lot of replay value, because there are various ways to go through each mission.
In the end, Dishonored: The Knife of Dunwall is an easy recommendation. It’s not without a bit of slowdown, and is shorter than most would prefer, but it’s a heck of a lot of fun. Not only that, but its storyline is both interesting and intriguing, setting the stage for a potential second act.
This review is based on the Xbox 360 version of the game, which we were provided with.