Dishonored: Knife of Dunwall DLC Review: Sneaky and Delightful

Daud, being the leader of a group of assassins, can also call his allies to help him out, which makes for some handy distractions and readymade odds-evening during a battle. The rest of his bag of tricks is relatively similar to what players saw in the main game, although gone are the abilities that let you summon rats to eat people or possess other characters. There’s a slight scaling back on Daud’s power, but it allows players to be a little more challenged and rely more on their skills than spiffy tricks. A few new weapons — notably a new mine that can turn people to ash and a grenade that sets people choking — make up the difference.

Playing through in a sneaky, non-lethal run, I found Knife of Dunwall to be pretty satisfying. Arkane Studios hits the right notes with a DLC pack by revisiting familiar content, but while offering more than just another mission to the tune of $10. Instead, Knife of Dunwall expands Dishonored in some great ways and mostly offers a similar experience that feels worth playing, and handles a bit differently than before. One mission takes you to a whale slaughterhouse, for a start, and you’ll even encounter a few of the beasts in various degrees of wholeness, which comes off as disturbing as it’s meant to. Another mission crowds the player with Overseers, those mask-wearing enemies that are trained specifically to fight disciples of The Outsider such as yourself.

If there are drawbacks to The Knife of Dunwall, they’re that it struggles to stand out in terms of setting and story. Dishonored has a huge diversity of areas to explore and a lot of memorable moments like Lady Boyle’s party or adventuring through the Flooded District, and while its missions are very well-designed from a practical standpoint, The Knife of Dunwall just doesn’t pack the same kind of exciting punch with its new levels. The slaughterhouse is by far the coolest location with its industrial feel and disgusting hidden pathways used for funneling out whale guts. Of the other two missions, one is another residential area not unlike what we’ve seen before, and the other returns players to Daud’s hideout in the Flooded District, which is familiar ground, albeit in a more expansive representation than what was in Dishonored.

And it’s hard to get past the story, which is entirely too thin at this point. Granted, that’s largely because this is the first half of a two-part DLC pack, but there’s just not a lot of narrative justification to push forward beyond, “Hmm, wonder what’s the deal with Delilah?” It doesn’t help that actor Michael Madsen (Reservoir Dogs, Kill Bill Vol. 2) turns in a flat, thematically out-of-sync performance. Where Daud felt like a man on the brink in Dishonored (and I remember Madsen’s performance being one of the game’s better moments), his voice-over narration in The Knife of Dunwall often doesn’t match his character arc, or comes off as disinterested. It’s hard to really connect with the character, and it’s a shame because exploring the other side of the good guy/bad guy dichotomy — something Dishonored does quite a bit — would have worked a lot better with a character that was easier to find intriguing or sympathetic through the voice performance.

But while The Knife of Dunwall suffers in the story department, almost everything else about the pack is extremely well-polished, and the pathways through each mission are diverse and intricate, even if they’re not all as exciting as what’s in the main game. You’ll be getting your $10 worth if you care about anything more than running through and killing everyone in the most brutal ways possible, and The Knife of Dunwall is a particular treat if your completionist tendencies drive you to pick up every scrap of lore along the way. That this pack was sliced in half is its biggest detriment, and it’s a shame that it will leave players feeling relatively unsatisfied. But Dunwall is worth revisiting, and Arkane has offered up a fairly strong return trip.

Pros:

  • Three big, well-built missions that take fans back to Dunwall for more sneaking and stabbing
  • Taking Daud’s perspective is an interesting story twist, and changes up the experience while keeping it familiar
  • All the polish you expect from Dishonored — mix of lethal and non-lethal solutions, lots of side-quests, tons of discoverable lore books and conversations
  • Daud’s slightly different powers and weapons offer some new capabilities and present new challenges for lethal and non-lethal playthroughs
  • More to learn about the intriguing world of Dunwall

Cons:

  • Story’s a little thin and doesn’t do much to draw the player through the missions
  • Michael Madsen turns in a flat performance as Daud that adds little to helping the player connect with the character
  • While there’s a lot of lore on offer, makes Dunwall feel more empty and lifeless than the main game
  • Levels are big if you’re sneaky, but it’s easy to get through the DLC extremely quickly if you’re not

Final Score: 78/100


Game Front employs a 100-point scale when reviewing games to be as accurate about the experience as possible. Read the full rundown of what our review scores mean.


Read more of Phil Hornshaw’s work here, and follow him and Game Front on Twitter: @philhornshaw and @gamefrontcom.

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