Much like Dishonored, its first story DLC (The Knife of Dunwall) begins with the killing of the Empress Jessamine Kaldwin. In the game, you see this event from the perspective of Corvo Atano, the Empress’s Lord Protector, who failing in his duty is framed for her death and becomes Dishonored. In The Knife of Dunwall, you see the murder from the perspective of its perpetrator, the assassin Daud, whom Corvo eventually confronts in Dishonored.
The Knife of Dunwall picks up Daud’s story roughly in the same time that Corvo is making his escape from prison; about six months after the assassination of the Empress. As those who explored the nooks and crannies of Dunwall probably learned, the killing of Jessamine had an unexpected impact on Daud. Once ruthless assassin, he has come to question his role in the plot that killed her. He has come to realize she was not just one more corrupt noble, but someone actually working for the good of Dunwall and all its citizens.
“I knew I’d pay for this one. Maybe I deserved to.”
His story begins with a visit from Dishonored’s ominous figure, The Outsider. It has been some time since The Outsider has conversed with Daud, and he tells Daud that his story is indeed nearing its end. But first, there is something for Daud to do. The only clue that he is given is a name; Delilah. With that name Daud, and the player, are sent into three areas of Dunwall to figure out who or what Delilah is and, perhaps, why she is important enough for The Outsider to point Daud at her.
This is DLC, so there are no great changes to the mechanics of Dishonored. Those familiar with the game will fall quickly back into the stealth and action elements that made the game such a success last year. Blink, the key innovation to Dishonored, returns, allowing you to quickly and quietly move from place to place. There has been one tweak to Blink, which enables changing your target location in the middle of a Blink. While this sounds like a big change, the maps did not seem to be designed to take advantage of the ability and it is not needed. You will be able to complete the DLC relying solely on the standard Blink ability.
There are some other changes including a new enemy type, the Whalers, who wield a sharp saw that will also fire out the blades. For the player relying on stealth, they are as easily dispatched from behind as any of the other enemies though. Weapons changes include two types of arc mines, one lethal and one which merely knocks enemies out. Also new to your arsenal is choke dust, which works as you would expect providing time to kill or escape.
As with the original Dishonored, the game grades players based on the amount of dead bodies that they leave behind, which impacts the ending the player receives. In my first play through, I chose a low chaos path, only killing when I had unintentionally alerted a guard. This approach requires more reliance on stealth and less on your arsenal, though sleep darts and choke dust are available from the start; the non-lethal arc mines are only available in the last of the three missions. A high chaos approach will open up many more weapon options and assassination moves for those who want a more action oriented game.
“It could be a coincidence, but it’s not. In Dunwall, things are always tangled up like a pack of snakes.”
For someone exploring the world, expect that the DLC will take about six hours to complete on an initial play through. Each of the three levels is similar in length to the original Dishonored’s missions but there is no hub between levels to correspond to the Hounds Pit Pub. The first two levels are new; a whaling slaughterhouse and the legal district, the latter of which is most reminiscent of the original’s first two missions. The third level is a return to Daud’s base, so it will be familiar, and perhaps a bit repetitive, to players of the first game. But overall there is a fair amount of content for this DLC and worth it to fans of the original game.
The bigger issue for many will be that this is just half a story. The Bridgmore Witches is the third DLC for Dishonored and is the second half of Daud’s story. So The Knife of Dunwall feels incomplete and essentially ends on a cliff-hanger. The resolution that occurs at the end is minor to the overall story and feels like it was added merely to provide a pseudo ending for the DLC.
The Knife of Dunwall is a good addition to Dishonored but it will not change your opinion of the game. Fans should pick it up but only if you plan on also picking up The Bridgmore Witches. Because they are so closely linked, unless you are anxious to play more Dishonored, waiting for the latter to release and playing both then may be the best option.