Dishonored: Knife of Dunwall – the same but different

By Stace Harman
16 April 2013 08:03 GMT

Arkane Studios invites you to take a walk on the dark side of Dishonored as you step into the shoes of master assassin, Daud. Game-play impressions and new assets through the break.

The sharp end of The Knife of Dunwall

Play as Daud, the assassin that killed Empress Jessamine Kaldwin and helped plunge Dunwall into chaos during the events of Dishonored.

Kill Bill and Reservoir Dogs actor Michael Madsen will once more lend his voice to Daud, resulting in a more vocal character than the silent Corvo.

The Knife of Dunwall features three full-length missions that support numerous approaches and routes through the levels.

The Knife of Dunwall will launch on April 16 on all formats (April 17 on PS3 in Europe) and cost $9.99/£7.99/€9.99/AU$14.45/800 Microsoft Points. It is the first of a two-part, story-based DLC package that will conclude in the coming months with the release of The Brigmore Witches.

For the opening twenty minutes of The Knife of Dunwall, it looks, sounds and feels like I’m playing Dishonored and yet something is undeniably and inexplicably different. It’s like someone has un-inverted my controls or re-mapped all of the buttons, leaving me to struggle to achieve things that once felt like second nature.

It quickly becomes apparent that this is not because Arkane Studios has somehow broken something while putting together Dishonored’s first piece of story-based DLC. Instead, it’s due to my own subconscious assumptions of how to deal with a given situation and the residual muscle memory leftover from my time spent in Corvo’s company. Having concluded Corvo’s story by way of a hard-won non-lethal play through, I’m used to having a specific suite of powers, upgraded just so and employed in a very particular way. Thrust into the skin of Daud, a less savoury recipient of The Outsider’s mysterious mark and supernatural abilities, it’s clear that his skill-set and available equipment operate a little differently and so I’m initially left feeling like a possessed-fish out of water.

This goes some way to explain, if not excuse, my first significant act of The Knife of Dunwall’s opening level, which is to Blink from a rooftop into the yawning emptiness of thin-air as I fall far short of my intended target. I’ve just learned the hard way that I’ll have to earn the runes required to upgrade the range of Daud’s teleportation power. Just a short while later and I’m again revealing myself to be overly dependent on absent friends as I fumble for Dark Vision’s ability to track guards through walls only to find that it isn’t there.

I exhibit a catalogue of failures over the course of the next hour but, happily, I also learn some interesting things about the flexibility of approach supported throughout The Knife of Dunwall’s opening level. Daud does not have fewer tools at his disposal than Corvo does, he just has different ones. Evidently, a number of those that I’m so pitifully reliant on have either been replaced or modified to better reflect the nature of this new protagonist. So, while Daud can’t see through walls he does have a greater number of options for incapacitating enemies: alongside the familiar sleep darts there are chokedust grenades, which can blind a group of targets for a few seconds, and arc mines that will stun those that tread on them.

Of course, with this being Dishonored these toys can be used for non-lethal diversion or followed-up with an eviscerating takedown. To this end, the electrified spring-razor mines provide a satisfyingly grisly option to gib a target and instantly vaporise the remains for an untraceable kill. All of this new gear comes in very handy when deciding how to deal with The Butcher, a new type of enemy introduced in Knife of Dunwall during a level set in a dockside whaling slaughterhouse.

Armed with a circular saw and face-guard these foes are particularly tough to take on in a head-to-head showdown, especially as they tend to be supported by at least one or two standard grunts (as I discover on one of my many bungled stealth attempts). However, they are vulnerable from behind thanks to the mini canister of volatile whale oil that they carry on their back to power their saw, causing that to explode can serve as a handy, if messy, distraction of its own.

Before you pick up The Knife of Dunwall, make sure you have the latest patch installed.

The most noticeable difference in skill sets between Corvo and Daud is the latter’s ability to summon back-up in a scrap. For me, tripping an alarm as Corvo usually resulted in being overwhelmed by guards and having to reload a save game. However, Daud is the head of a group of assassins and, as such, can summon one to his side to help even the odds during a fight or simply provide a distraction to allow him to escape. This gives me pause to consider whether I can successfully contain a situation before reaching for the reload button and offers a welcome invitation to stealth-players to experiment with a more aggressive approach.

Despite, or perhaps because of, the pleasing amount of variables that help differentiate The Knife of Dunwall from Dishonored’s main campaign, there are some nagging feelings of missed opportunities. The first of these relates to the fact that, as Daud, we’re responsible for the death of Empress Jessamine but are not made to feel responsible for it. Just as at the outset of Dishonored, we watch as her murder plays out as a cut-scene when it would have provided a stark narrative contrast to have us instead commit the heinous act ourselves. This would have allowed us to relate much more closely to Daud’s subsequent feelings of regret and desire for redemption.

In addition to this, existing save files do not colour the world of The Knife of Dunwall in any way. In fairness, as The Knife of Dunwall’s timeline runs parallel to Dishonored the degree to which a save file could have affected game play would have been limited. However, it would have been a nice touch to have your personal actions as Corvo reflected in incidental narrative points, such as overheard conversations or text and audio logs.

Arkane has worked hard to provide an experience that is at once familiar but different to Dishonored’s main campaign. Although Daud’s quest is primarily about redemption, you can choose to take him down a darker path and hearing him occasionally narrate his feelings and motivations (voiced once more by Michael Madsen) provides an interesting counter-point to Corvo’s unnatural silence.

Overall, it’s clear that Arkane has worked hard to provide an experience that is at once familiar but different to Dishonored’s main campaign. The Knife of Dunwall’s three missions represent an experience that is a third of the length of the main game and each level is to feature multiple routes and facilitate myriad approaches. Furthermore, although Daud’s quest is primarily about redemption, you can choose to take him down a darker path and hearing him occasionally narrate his feelings and motivations (voiced once more by Michael Madsen) provides an interesting counter-point to Corvo’s unnatural silence.

Daud’s story will conclude in the coming months with a second piece of story-DLC titled The Brigmore Witches, the final outcome of which I hope will be influenced by your actions throughout Knife of Dunwall. Regardless, as Daud I’m looking forward to indulging in a much less-righteous path than I took with Corvo. Perhaps you’ll also opt for a change of tact or simply find new and inventive ways to achieve familiar ends. That’s the beauty of Dishonored and now, it seems, of Arkane’s upcoming two-part DLC: it offers something that is at once the same but different.

The Knife of Dunwall launches on April 16 on PC, 360 and PS3 (April 17 for European PS3 owners).

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