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PREVIEW

Dishonored: Knife of Dunwall

We're having a whale of a time.


An unfortunate choice of words, given we're in a whaling slaughterhouse. But it's true. We're back in the steampunk world of Dunwall, sliding between darkened corners, stealth-killing guards and patrolling rooftops while marking roving patrols - readjusting to the life of an assassin has been incredible fun.

Dishonored's first piece of chunky story DLC takes us out of the boots of Corvo and into three missions playing as the slightly more sinister Daud, set in the wake of the main campaign's events.

We get a taste of the alternate perspective immediately as the DLC twins with the original's opening - we witness the assassination of the Empress from the hidden vantage-point on an adjacent rooftop, before being whisked into the Outsider's realm. There's a quick reacquaintance with Blink-platforming skills before some chatter regarding fate and futures, and soon enough outside the whale slaughterhouse four our first mission, pursuing a mark and an entry point.

Dishonored

Daud's a vocal fella, vocalising rather than internalising his thoughts through short but chewy exposition that fits returning voice actor Michael Madsen's style. Arkane introduce his right-hand assassin Billie Lurker, who appears for exposition purposes at story points. She may be there to fill in the background of a particular job, but she's got a nice detached presence, a tone that suggests a disgusted superiority over those below. A characterisation that helps the transition from playing as Corvo's skulking and accused killer to Daud's confident dignitary of death.

It's a subtle shift but important to boost the belief in your skills. We're told that these new missions will be more challenging, built for people who have finished the main game and are comfortably with rooftop hopping and generally leading the light-footed life of the sneaky bastard.

There's a little dabbling in Daud's powers, even if they mostly parallel Corvo's. His Void Gaze doesn't show up guards or their field of vision, so liberal use of cover-leaning and keeping your ears pricked for footfalls is therefore important.

Dishonored

The Blink power's still in effect, but Daud favours a wrist-bow, replete with arrows of both steel and sleep toxin-tipped variety. The firing mechanism is such that we unconsciously find ourselves mouthing the word "thwip" every time we shoot, feeling like a steampunk Spider-Man.

Chokedust, Dunwall's smoke grenades come as standard, while extras can be bought between missions (and upgrades applied etc) from a series of menus. The lack of intermediary processing your purchases is explained away as contacts handing over goods for the right price.

You can pick up blueprints during missions to build new contraptions. Outside the slaughterhouse we pinch drawings and a few demo units of the new arc mines, turning whoever steps on them into electrified dust. They prove useful for rigging doorways, or dropping them as we backtrack from the lumbering saw-swinging butchers within whose armour makes them difficult to face head-on.

Dishonored

Another power allows Daud to summon an assassin, either targeting a specific enemy for them to kill or letting the cloaked friendly decide who to set upon next. Our companion is both distraction and helper; turning the butchers away from us, and more importantly opening up their exposed backpacks to attack; two electrified tubes needing destroyed for the equipment to explode. Brilliantly, you can level up your friendlies so they carry the same powers as you do.

Tackling foes is as always, a player option. There's still multiple routes to let you map a way through guards. We skirt the district's entrance and teleport across third-story walkways and onto the roofs of the slaughterhouse's exterior sheds towards the main entrance.

We need a time card to punch in through the front door. Skirting the outer buildings we find a cell key and soon the cell - containing a few ex-workers, beaten and imprisoned, willing to trade their cards for safe passage out of the district.

We hop around, disconnect a Wall of Light, and we've got our in. There's other ways to explore, but with time pressing on our demo we enter and forgo stealth in favour of chopping our way through the rooms.

We do however, spend time finding containers and setting up an electrified current to fry a whale that's strung from the ceiling above. It's torn open and being sucked dry for oil. A mercy killing if there ever was one. We end our time sliding around under its carcass trying to avoid multiple butchers - saws clashing with our sword.

An hour of exploration (and admittedly a few retries with mis-judged aerial kills) and we haven't even met the mark yet. Likely when skills are no longer rusty the pace will be quicker, but there's still value in absorbing the world, eavesdropping in on conversations, exploring.

We're directed to a room by the game rep, one marked "Meat Locker" and pointed towards an electrified chair. There's option to bring your mark here and torture them for information. Of course, you have to get them back there first.

Such discoveries are a real joy with the game. Likewise in finding the secrets dotted throughout the level. But Arkane's offering the choice for those secrets as purchasable items as part of the upgrade menus.
If you're not willing to hover and eavesdrop on vital information, a passing of cash prior to the mission will, for example, leave a safe's code scrawled on a wall.

There's a duality here to this inclusion: reading the buys spoils some what's in the level before entering. But the context is vague and there's no clear pointer leading you to the right place. Picture them as helpful tip-offs rather than just handing you the goods on starting the mission.

Dishonored

It's good to be back, and makes us once again enjoying the game. Great though it was it felt somewhat lost under the heap of titles released late last year. We're itching to return, and looking forward to seeing more.

Knife of Dunwall will be released on Xbox 360 and PC on April 16 for 800MP / £9.99, and on PS3 on April 17 for £9.99

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