If you experienced Dishonored, you no doubt caught the catalyst for the protagonist’s entire adventure at the start of the game: the death of the beloved Empress of the The Empire of Isles. But who actually killed her? Why, none other than Daud — assassin extraordinaire, and man of dubious moral standing.
Well, you get to play as him in Knife of Dunwall — and it’s a ton of fun.
The narrative picks up after The Empress has been murdered, with Daud reflecting on his life, his choices, and his path in life. Utilizing his assassination syndicate known as The Whalers, he seeks redemption by way of The Outsider, a supernatural force from the original game who gives him a cryptic clue: “Deliliah.”
A stark contrast to the original game’s silent protagonist, Daud talks — and considering he’s voiced by the famous Michael Madsen, when he talks, I listen. Thankfully, he doesn’t just talk out his ass, because Daud is an interesting character to say the least. He’s tired and old, yet incredibly formidable, feared, and skilled. He’s an enigma of sorts, who unravels over the course of the DLC. Daud didn’t seem all that deep in the original game, but here, he really gets a chance to shine and completely steal the spotlight from Dishonored‘s own Corvo. He’s more nuanced in that he doesn’t mind getting his hands dirty, but he is conflicted, thus, forcing his morality into your hands — it’s a fun prospect, to say the least.
Okay so Daud is already a master assassin, so what’s the biggest difference from a gameplay perspective? The new Blinking (teleporting) mechanic immediately comes to the forefront. To be blunt, Blinking is buffed in this DLC, as Daud now has the ability to freeze time entirely while the Blink button is held. Provided he has the mana, Daud can tactically plan out his next move while time is frozen — even in the air. It makes for some particularly amazing stealth kills, as you jump off a roof, blink in the air, and strike an unsuspecting enemy.
It also makes platforming easier and more fun, keeping in mind that the inability to use Blink without mana still keeps things balanced, added onto the fact that a few of the new foes will give you a ton of trouble. Specifically, the new Butcher enemy is incredibly formidable, with his handheld circular saw preventing most forms of forward attack. In a group, these guys can really sneak up on you and cut you to bits — good thing they have an explosive whale oil tank on their back. If it sounds like something that’s a bit too “gamey” for Dishonored, it’s really not. It’s a great mechanic that helped me enjoy Knife of Dunwall a bit more, as enemy variety is the spice of life and keeps the gameplay a bit more varied — I just wish there was tad more of it than what’s already available.
Daud has a few other tricks up his sleeve, most notably the ability to call on his assassin brotherhood to help in combat. This serves two purposes — it’s not only an awesome power-up from a gameplay perspective, but it actually draws you more into the game, as you realize that Daud is not an island on his own, and is actually connected with the world he’s in. That was my problem with Corvo — he was too isolated. Instead of an actual character, Corvo was just a vessel for the player, and made it really hard to actually care about the world of Dishonored. Daud on the other hand makes things particularly engaging, as he’s clearly an important part of the story at hand, and the bigger picture.
In addition to assistance from his assassins, he also has the ability to call in “favors” — essentially unlocks that make missions easier, or fundamentally change parameters. I’m talking mechanics like “a guard will scrawl the code to a safe on the wall to make it easier to loot.” On paper it sounds lame as the game essentially just flicks these switches before the map loads, but it helps drive the point home that Daud is an important person, and as an optional addition, I found them incredibly fun to play around with. As a minor note, his “Void Gaze” ability works just like the Heart did, but without having to annoyingly hold it and take up an item slot, which makes it more convenient to constantly scout for loot.
He also has a few new items, like Choke Gas and Arc Mines, in addition to the rest of his toolkit, which mirror’s Corvos (sleep darts, pistols, and the like). The Arc Mines are particularly fun, as you can attach one to a rat and have it scurry into an unsuspecting solider. Having said that, Daud could have used a little more tweaking, perhaps giving him 100% entirely different inventory options than Corvo, with zero item overlap if only to make him more unique.
I’m pleased to say that the open-ended structure from the game’s main missions are back and better than ever. Throughout Knife of Dunwall‘s three levels, you’ll be able to approach the core quest in a number of ways, just like Corvo did. There’s sidequests, hidden areas, hidden charms and items, and more. The first two missions are brand new, and the third takes place in the familiar Whaler hideout, but all of them are fun. I’m already starting my second playthrough shortly after completion of the first, attempting to track down everything in these massive arenas. To really drive the point home, there’s even an achievement for completing the DLC without alerting anyone.
Now, there is a major hold-up from a narrative standpoint — this is just the first part of the story, as a second DLC, titled The Brigmore Witches, is coming at a later date. So if you’re expecting a full tale from beginning to end, you will be disappointed. Things just of just…end in Knife of Dunwall, and it’s easy to expect a little bit more to be on offer here. Three missions isn’t really enough to get as deep as I had wanted here, even if you can replay them multiple times with different outcomes.
Despite the two-part approach, Knife of Dunwall is DLC done right. It takes the core fundamentals from the original game without sacrificing the integrity of it and provides its own spin on the formula. Honestly, at this point I wish Daud was the main character of Dishonored to begin with. If you even slightly enjoyed Dishonored, this is a no-brainer.
This review is based on a digital copy of Dishonored: Knife of Dunwall for the PC.