Knife of Dunwall gives Dishonored’s world new toys, powers, and puts you in the boots of the villain
Knife of Dunwall
The second DLC for Arkane's Dishonored, Knife of Dunwall places you not into the boots of Dishonored's hero, Corvo, but Daud, the villain who killed The Empress and kickstarted the events of the original game. Daud, like Corvo, bears the mark of the Outsider, which means he can utilize magical abilities. Also like Corvo, Daud is an assassin.
This makes game play feel familiar, but the twists developers Arkane have given Daud's powers make him just different enough to be attractive. While basic controls remain the same – you still crouch to hide, still lean out to see enemies around corners, still keep a blade in your right hand and power in your left – the powers sometimes vary wildly.
For example, both Corvo and Daud possess the Bend Time, Shadow Kill, Blood Thirsty, Agility, and Vitality abilities, and these function almost identically between the two. The Blink ability, which lets them travel short distances almost instantly, however, is quite different.
Daud's Blink also stops time while he isn't moving, and this small change drastically alters game play, as you can more easily set up impressive moments where you drop in just the right distance behind and enemy before killing or knocking them out, or plan your escape route, or make your way through an area using stealth without having to worry about someone coming around the corner.
Daud also has two abilities which are unique to him: Summon Assassin and Arcane Bond. Summon Assassin should be pretty self-explanatory, but it's the Arcane Bond that really makes Knife of Dunwall feel like something quite different than the original Dishonored adventure. Arcane Bond strengthens your assassin allies, allowing them to share in your magical abilities. At level one, they're able to Blink and also gain the Vitality boost to health. At level two, they gain Shadow Kill, and can move at full speed, even while you use Bend Time.
With all the pausing of action and the usefulness of the summoned assassins, Knife of Dunwall borders on small-scale, first-person perspective real-time strategy. It feels different yet familiar, which is exactly what veteran players will want, and those who were frustrated with Dishonored's difficulty now have more time to plan their moves, and allies to help them progress.
As for how motivated you'll be to progress, that's one area where Knife of Dunwall falls short.
Brevity and butchers
Daud is not a one-dimensional, psychotic killer. He feels the death of The Empress was somehow different, he knows this will affect the world he lives in, and his story is a tale of redemption. It's a tale hastily told however, as Knife of Dunwall only contains three missions that will take players roughly an hour each, give or take.
There's also a surprising lack of emotional weight behind Daud's adventure. Watching The Empress die as Corvo was upsetting because we couldn't do anything, despite how badly we wanted to. Watching The Empress die here – as opposed to, say, doing the deed ourselves as players – feels limp, because we should be in control.
Daud talks about how conflicted he feels over the kill, but it's hard to empathize, given how briskly the DLC's plot moves. The Whalers assassins all wear gas masks, which make them forgettable and hard to relate to as well.
Other minor gripes pop up as well. Daud has some new toys to go with his unique powers, such as the arc mines – proximity-triggered gadgets which set off a blast of electricity that stuns enemies – and chokedust grenades that blind any who walk into the cloud released by the device, but I never really felt their presence. Perhaps I just played the game my own, gadget-free way, but the weapon additions never felt like something I felt compelled to use.
I'm sure some of my frustration came from how ineffective these weapons – and indeed, any of my weapons – were against The Butchers, a new enemy class for Knife of Dunwall. The Butchers are a tough bunch: they're aggressive, they wield giant, circular sawblades as weapons which also turn into guns at long range – because reasons – and cover their faces with protective masks.
These nasty fellows have only one weak spot: the whale oil tanks they carry on their backs; tag one of those, and that sucker will be blown sky-high. The problem, however, is getting there. These Butchers are incredibly aggressive, and often push you into a corner, where they'll continually sawblade you to death. You can block forever, but they can also keep sawing at you forever, and once you're caught, it's damn near impossible to escape.
I know a major complaint people had regarding Dishonored was that they felt once they had been spotted, they might as well just re-load and try all over, because there was no way they could survive a guard pile-up on Corvo. Knife of Dunwall has the same problem; if you start to get chased by a Butcher, might as well just start over so you can successfully sneak up behind him next try, because man are they hard to deal with head-on.
A knife in the dark
Knife of Dunwall does exactly what you hope it will. It provides a new narrative that's interesting and full of lore, even if it does rush by rather quickly. It's also just plain fun to play, and gives you new tools and abilities to play around with. These changes aren't minor - they'll alter how you play and think about each mission, and that's a good thing.
Daud is also quite a different man from Corvo, and it shows. Whether it's the fact that Daud speaks while Corvo is silent, or the powers which reflect his assassin nature, playing as the man who killed The Empress leaves a distinct impression.