Dishonored: The Knife of Dunwall

Review

posted 5/6/2013 by Nathaniel Cohen
other articles by Nathaniel Cohen
Platforms: 360
Dishonored: Knife of Dunwall casts you as Daud, the titular Knife of Dunwall.  He’s an infamous assassin - the kind of character mothers tell their children stories about so they’ll behave.  He’s the one that ran Empress Jessamine Kaldwin through in the opening minutes of Corvo’s story.

Now he feels bad.  

Why?  I don’t know.  Knife of Dunwall never really elucidates that point.  He simply visits the outsider for no apparent reason who tells him about a “Delilah” and sends him off to find out more about her/it.  In the end, we still don’t really know who or what she is.  First, she’s the name of a whaling ship, then, well, no spoilers.  By the end of the three very loosely tied together story missions - that will take about 3-5 hours to complete - we still don’t know anything about Delilah other than rumor and speculation.  We don’t even find out why we needed to find out about Delilah.  The final mission is especially confusing.  It comes so far out of left field that it’s not in the stadium with the rest of Knife of Dunwall and ends with a boss fight so arbitrary that you might think you slept through most of the game.  Also, because it’s so easy to mainline health elixirs in the middle of combat, it’s only a little harder than normal, .  When it’s all done, you’ll be left with more questions than answers.  A firm, “What the hell did I just play?” might be on your lips as well.  I know it was on mine.


So Knife of Dunwall’s story is kind of a disaster.  Luckily, Dishonored’s real draw is its combat and stealthy assassinations.  Those are back in full force with a few new toys and powers.  The best of either, by far, is the arc mine.  Arc mines disintegrate humans.  No muss, no fuss, and a bad guy only needs to enter a 5-8 foot radius in the direction the mine is facing to activate it.  It doesn’t even seem to alert nearby enemies.  He’s just gone like he was never there in the first place.  True story: I read a book of allegedly true supernatural stories when I was in elementary school and one involved instances where people would simply disappear into thin air.  Two boys, for example, would be out playing in a field and poof, one would be gone.  Sometimes they could hear the person calling for help, but they’re never found.  The arc mine is like that.  As a boy, I found that idea profoundly unsettling, and as an adult, I had no choice but to kill every person near an arc mine’s victim to spare them the existential dread of having their buddy disappear into the ether, never to return. 

Beside the arc mine, you get choke dust which is good for blinding dudes before you stab them in the neck and other toys that recall Corvo’s arsenal from the game’s main story.  The same goes for your magical abilities and skills.  There are a few new ones, but they’re all sort of fundamentally similar to Corvo’s.  For example, Corvo could spawn rats, while Daud, being the head of a guild of assassins, can “spawn” an assassin to help him in combat.  

Unfortunately, it all suffers from the same flaw that struck Dishonored’s magic, and skills.  They’re powered by runes and there just aren’t enough.  Daud gets four magic powers and four skills, but you probably won’t be able to fully utilize more than half of those eight.  I know that increases replay value, but I can’t help but feel like both Dishonored and Knife of Dunwall would benefit from either more runes or lower rune requirements when unlocking or upgrading powers and skills.  Bone charms return as well, along with other odds and ends.  You never know what you’re going to find if you look everywhere, so you should take the time to look everywhere.  The mission areas themselves are all large and multi-leveled with lots of little nooks and crannies that beg to be searched.  If you were a fan of the main story’s level design, you’ll have no problem with Knife of Dunwall’s.


What you might have a problem with is the actual sneaking around and getting the drop on bad guys part of Dishonored.  I swear that aspect of the game is far sloppier than it was before.  Blinks and drop assassinations are both really finicky and far too easy to screw up simply because you’re constantly wrestling with the game’s loose controls.  That was kind of an issue during Dishonored, but during Knife of Dunwall, it becomes a real problem.  Those moves are just way trickier to pull off now because the controls can’t seem to support the needed input accuracy.   This was an issue in Dunwall City Trials as well, but then I chalked it up to the strict test-like nature of those challenges.  However, it appears that maybe the controls just got worse for whatever reason.

Stealth is also plagued by issues that weren’t in the main game.  Knife of Dunwall repeatedly tells you to get higher to skirt enemies.  However, too often, they’ll simply see you even if they’re not looking up.  Furthermore, their alertness stages seem to be all out of whack.  On several occasions, I was glimpsed by a guard who entered a basic alert state, then proceeded to walk around randomly while keeping their head firmly pointed in my direction, even if the angle was impossible for a human.  Even if I was fully exposed, they’d still just walk in random circles without raising their alert status, or an alarm. Finally, I feel like there wasn’t enough effort put into actually making sure that stealth was a viable route this time around.  Finding a guard that wasn’t in some other guard’s sight line seemed down right impossible sometimes.  This is further aggravated by the short range of the Void Sight power which, once upgraded, lets you see enemies through walls - an essential ability in a game like Dishonored where tracking everyone’s sightlines is so important.  It wasn’t until I abandoned stealth that I was able to progress through the game without feeling tortured.

As far as the rest of the game goes, it holds itself to the same standards that Dishonored did.  The graphics are the same, the art style is the same, the music is the same, and the voice acting is, once again, top notch.  I just wish the rest of Knife of Dunwall had followed suit.
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