Dishonored: The Knife of Dunwall Review
The Knife of Dunwall changes protagonists with panache, delivering a compelling new chapter in the Dishonored saga.
- Great tweak to the blink ability
- New areas are rich with secrets and goodies
- Daud is gruffly appealing
- Lethal and nonlethal play styles are both very rewarding.
Daud. If you’ve beaten Dishonored, the very name drips with foreboding. This leader of assassins and fellow favorite of the Outsider proved to be one of Corvo’s most formidable foes, and in The Knife of Dunwall downloadable content, you step into his sneaky, stabby boots. He can maneuver and murder with the same stealthy grace and brutal panache as Corvo, but he has a few new tricks that freshen things up and encourage experimentation. You spend time in two new districts of the ailing Dunwall, and the city once again proves to be a captivating place that rewards exploration in intriguing and gratifying ways. The Knife of Dunwall is clever and exciting, an enticing invitation to dive back into the engrossing world of Dishonored.
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The opening cutscene of The Knife of Dunwall chronicles an event anyone who played Dishonored will remember: the assassination of Empress Kaldwin. Once again, you watch helplessly as the knife plunges in, but this time, you see it from a first-person perspective. As Daud narrates his memories of that fateful day, it becomes very clear that you have left the wrongly accused innocent behind; you are now the cold-blooded murderer. These grim beginnings may beckon you towards a brutal playthrough, or Daud’s regret may inspire you to tread a nonlethal path. Once again, it’s completely up to you.
Unlike Corvo, whose personality was shaped by your actions and conversations with those around you, Daud can speak for himself. His brooding monologues and brief interactions with his second-in-command, Billie Lurk, help establish his character. He speaks with a kind of doomed poetry, like a weary old detective from a noir film. His personality resonates nicely with the seedy characters he pursues, unscrupulous men who are moving up in the world even as Dunwall circles the drain.
One of the new districts you visit is the slaughterhouse where the great whales that Dunwall’s ships pull from the sea are harvested for oil, hooked into machinery while they slowly die. In this bloody corner of the city, a labor dispute simmers as workers protest an exploitative magnate and his vicious butchers. Later, you travel to a residential district where a grasping lawyer is evicting plague-ridden families and seizing their assets, even if they aren’t actually infected. Both areas offer new perspectives on Dunwall society and are rich with out-of-the-way places where you can find intriguing notes and helpful goodies. Though the first district is more novel than the second, each provides numerous opportunities to ply your deadly, or not so deadly, trade.
Whether you choose to embrace Daud’s homicidal past or leave his killing days behind, your abilities largely overlap with those from Dishonored, and many of the same strategies apply. The saw-wielding butchers are tough targets if they happen to spot you, and the new master assassin difficulty level (unlocked after you complete the DLC) makes your enemies significantly more deadly. Those who relish a challenge may enjoy these reinforced obstacles to success, but everyone should get a kick out of the new possibilities offered by Daud’s blink ability.
When Daud activates this quick teleport power, time stops. From your frozen position, whether on the ground or in midair, you can aim your target reticle, pick your destination, and zip off at your leisure. This comes in handy if an enemy is about to discover you and you want to escape, and it also encourages some daredevil experimentation. Need to get around the corner of a building? Leap out past the corner, then blink back to safety, taking your time to pinpoint the right ledge. Need to see what’s going on in the room below? Drop down in front of a window or door, blink and observe the scene, and then zip back up to the roof without anyone noticing. It’s a subtle change, but one with a lot of potential to fuel fun maneuvers.
Daud can also summon an assassin to fight at his side or in his stead, which can be helpful and amusing, if not very stealthy. Your companions are novices and draw a lot of attention unless you spend runes on certain upgrades, making them initially better as distractions while you sneak past or take on other foes. Once upgraded, they get a fair bit deadlier, and having a hit man on hand imparts a feeling of power appropriate to Daud’s role as master assassin. There are also new mines that zap individual enemies as they pass by, as well as gas grenades for making nonlethal getaways. The creativity of this world is such that you’ll likely yearn for more new powers and gadgets to play with, but The Knife of Dunwall delivers enough new tricks to entertain throughout.
This DLC can last upward of five hours, depending on how thoroughly you explore every nook and cranny. Purchasable favors give you an extra incentive to look around, letting you pay money for someone to leave a stolen rune behind, or for a worker to scrawl a safe code on the wall. Favors are a small addition, but one of many that contribute to the feeling that you are playing as a distinct character and having a new adventure. The Knife of Dunwall ends with an interesting choice (and foreshadows the next planned downloadable chapter in Daud’s story), but the real payoff of this DLC is how it takes the cocktail of discovery, exploration, and combat that made Dishonored so delicious, and adds an engaging twist.