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Slaughterhouse Five: The Knife of Dunwall Preview


We’ve played the first mission of Dishonored’s major DLC expansion, The Knife of Dunwall. Our hands-on impressions of supernatural assassin Daud and the expansion’s new environments follow!


wristle

Using whale oil to carve up other whales? Genius. Kill them.

If there was a new mechanic that defined the most exciting gameplay concepts to come out of 2012, it was Dishonored’s Blink. Corvo Attano’s ability to leverage his supernatural connection to The Outsider and instantly teleport across short distances gave rise to a new kind of stealth gameplay, whilst also opening avenues in level design and spatial flow that have never before been explored. As such, we don’t want to understate one of the major changes Arkane has made in its first significant story-based downloadable content expansion pack for Dishonored, The Knife of Dunwall. The developer has actually gone and made Blink even better.

Stepping into the boots of opposing supernatural assassin Daud – boots caked in whale oil, given his gang’s hideout in the Flooded District’s processing plants – players take on the role of a character with a stronger connection to The Outsider, having been marked by him for a far longer time than Corvo. Daud’s ability to Blink is enhanced by making time automatically come to a complete halt when holding down the Blink button and aiming the reticle. Time stops for as long as Daud doesn’t move – and it stops even in mid-air. With this small but not insignificant tweak, the ability to plan and accurately select your Blink destination is greatly improved. Plus, it’s more plain old fun. Those playing on console systems will find more use for the tweak than those with faster and more accurate mouselook on PC, but the fact remains: this new Blink is brilliant.

tower_assassins

Those gloves aren’t about to keep Daud’s hands clean.

It’s put to good use in an excellent opening cinematic: a first-person, in-engine cutscene that relives the assassination of Empress Jessamine Kaldwin from Daud’s point of view. There’s a Half Life: Opposing Force quality to the sequence, with distant glimpses of Corvo cementing the scene’s perspective shift. What follows is a visit to the Outsider’s realm; more lively and active with shifting geometry and vistas reminiscent of the Dunwall City Trials DLC. Cryptic as ever, The Outsider informs Daud that there are only eight in the world that bear his mark (though, as we know, it’s soon to be seven), then delivers a single-word clue that sets the assassin on a vague quest for redemption.

smoke

A purchasable consumable, Chokedust grenades can stun enemies in an area, or clear out swarms of rats.

Briefing montages are reminiscent of Thief: The Dark Project

 
Without a Loyalist Conspiracy of his own, there’s no reason for Daud to sit through in-game interludes at a mouldy pub. Replacing these scenes are briefing montages reminiscent of Thief: The Dark Project; monochrome stills fade and bleed as Michael Madsen’s gravelly narration delivers the mission objective and a healthy helping of cynicism. After this comes a familiar screen that offers the opportunity to purchase new equipment and upgrades, but the addition of new Favours. These are purchasable conveniences that slightly modify the upcoming mission, similar once again to the parchments that could be purchased in the Thief series. We purchased a favour that had a slaughterhouse worker scrawl the code to a safe for us on a wall in the level, hidden behind a wooden pallet that we cut down with our sword. Another favour moved a rune to a more easily accessible location, and kept it highlighted in the objective markers.

assassin

Note the branded whale being loaded into the slaughterhouse via hook and pulley.

And with that, we’re off to the Slaughterhouse District – the grimy heart of Dunwall’s industry, and a level with enough character and identity of its own to be deserve a place amongst the original game’s nine assassinations. A fellow assassin greets Daud – a female, surprisingly, clad in the same whaler garb as her brethren, and with no less intent in her tone. As one of the few female characters with an active and prominent role, we’ll be watching closely how she develops over the DLC’s remaining missions. For Daud’s excursion into this particular slaughterhouse, she would occasionally blink into view and offer explanations, advice, or simply an alternative point of view on a chaotic decision. She is perhaps something of a replacement for the comments offered by Corvo’s Heart of the Empress.

ArcMine01

Arc Mines are a nasty new addition to Daud’s arsenal. Sokolov is a bastard.

Given Daud’s lack of an artifact like the Heart, his own variation on The Outsider’s Dark Vision power – here renamed Void Gaze – offers up the locations of runes and bone charms at its first level of power. The second upgrade brings back the traditional Dark Vision abilities – the visualisation of enemies and their sight cones through walls, as well as the locations of pickups. From a stealth perspective, it was refreshing to skulk through a new area without the power’s second-level advantages to soak up much of the tension. The level’s design is both familiar and fresh – a tightly guarded street leads to a massive, open area beyond the slaughterhouse’s high-walled, barbed wire perimeter, before which a couple of Arc Pylons fizzle menacingly. One thing is immediately clear: The Knife of Dunwall begins at the high end of the difficulty scale, with a density of patrols and security obstacles reminiscent of the lighthouse infiltration on Kingsparrow Island.

Butchers02

“Aaaah, fresh meat!”

The extremely high ceilings of the slaughterhouse interior offer vertigo-inducing verticality, with secret areas and objectives kept high above the blood-stained floors. It’s here that we encounter a new enemy archetype: a butcher wielding a massive, hand-held buzz saw powered by two miniature tanks of whale oil on his back. It was a frightening experience, being caught by surprise and having the room fill with the screech of the blade as he charged toward us.

summon

If there’s no one to kill, an assassin will stick around to talk.

To counter him, we employed Daud’s new Summon Assassin power: an ability that calls for a compatriot to blink in to the selected point in the world and begin attacking whatever Daud targets. As the assassin occupied the butcher’s attention, we shot one of the whale oil tanks on his back with Daud’s ultra-compact wristbow – something functionally identical to Corvo’s mini-crossbow, but seemingly nastier as it’s often employed in the synchronised assassination animations. The summoned assassin Blinks away after the confrontation. Upgrading the power upgrades the assassins themselves, allowing them to make use of Bend Time and Shadow Kill.

This slaughterhouse mission is the first time you’ll have the opportunity to come face to face with a live whale – though one in the ugly process of being processed. Daud is given the option of running an electric charge through its body to put the massive beast out of its misery – but not before Blinking atop its back to lose sight of the guards around the switch. Though the mission is not explicitly an assassination, a lethal and non-lethal disposal option is still provided for one of its central characters – slaughterhouse operator Rothwild.

Kill him, leave him strapped to the chair, or pack him into a crate bound for the farthest corner of the empire

 

Rothwild

Just wait ’til you discover what’s going on in the meat locker.

In the midst of a labour dispute with his workers, it’s possible to capture and interrogate him to achieve the primary mission objective, then kill him, leave him strapped to the chair, or pack him into a crate bound for the farthest corner of the empire. Apparently, an alternative option is provided by the woman the union-hungry workers are rallying behind – she offers the choice of blowing up the entire slaughterhouse by tightening a few valves. However, it’s possible to throw her in the interrogation chair as well – resulting in a mission with almost as many variables as that offered by the confrontation between High Overseer Campbell and Captain Curnow.

With the information we need, we execute a thrilling Blink escape alongside the female assassin from a squad of Overseers that have begun to close in on the slaughterhouse. Back in the safety of the shadows, Daud is ready to pursue his lead to Legal District of Dunwall.

Overseer_DBase01

No one expects the Dunwall Inquisition.

From our playthrough of the first mission of The Knife of Dunwall, it’s clear that no expense has been spared in offering more full-fledged missions that leverage and expand upon the design principles established by Dishonored’s unique environment design and stealth gameplay.

whale_carcass

These guys didn’t finish their plate. They need to die.

Playing as Daud is mechanically similar to Corvo, but aesthetically distinct; he speaks with full voice acting in first-person, and displays an aggressive, pragmatic approach to the ugly business of assassination. A slightly tweaked power selection encourages this; Daud cannot possess animals or people, nor can he summon swarms of rats. And although we won’t witness the conclusion of Daud’s story in this DLC – that will take place in the following expansion, The Brigmore Witches – we’re thrilled to be setting foot in Dunwall once again, and can’t wait to wash the smell of dead whale from our cloaks and visit some of the city’s classier establishments.


Daniel Hindes

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4 Responses to Slaughterhouse Five: The Knife of Dunwall Preview

  1. By Sherrac, March 23, 2013 at 8:00 am

    Huh. I wasn’t particularly excited by this, but this piqued my curiosity. Maybe I won’t clear out that installation for extra space just yet.

    Poo-tee-weet ;)

  2. By Melissa, March 23, 2013 at 10:22 am

    I’ve always avoided DLC for no particular reason that I can pin down, but your preview is making me think it’s about time to change my mind. Especially if there’s more to add to the character of Daud and Dunwall, and not just game mechanics to be happy about.

  3. By codename_bloodfist, March 23, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    Very excited about this, Daniel. I haven’t been as interested in an expansion since the Fallout: New Vegas DLCs.

  4. By Kynrael, March 24, 2013 at 12:15 am

    Interesting !

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