(Xbox 360 Review) Dishonored: The Brigmore Witches

Developer: Arkane Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Genre: First-Person Shooter / Action
Players: 1
ESRB: Mature
Reviewer: Nick Stewart

Overall: 8.5 = Excellent

As terrific and engrossing a tale of injustice and revenge that Dishonored represented, full credit has to be given to its creators for flipping the story on its head and offering up the opportunity to play as one of its antagonists in its follow-up DLC, The Knife of Dunwall. That terrifically replayable and inventive chunk of gameplay set you into the skin of Daud, the assassin that murdered an empress and framed her protector, Corvo, in the core game—and his story continues in the second half of his story, in The Brigmore Witches. Following up immediately where the first left off, this newest addition rounds out the tale of a man tortured by the horrific choices he’s made, and his efforts to move past them as a new enemy emerges in the form of this chapter’s title characters. It’s an example of a developer refining their craft with each release as The Brigmore Witches offers up even more abilities and weapons alongside a satisfying coda to an integral Dishonored character.

Finally redeeming the abruptness of The Knife of Dunwall‘s ending and its distinct lack of closure, The Brigmore Witches sets Daud (voiced once again by Michael Madsen) after a mysterious enemy that was revealed in the first chapter, pushing him through three new levels. On his journey to find some sort of redemption, Daud breaks in and out of Coldridge Prison, the same facility Corvo escaped in the core game, and which offers an alternative look at incarceration in the rich world Arkane Studios has created. Here, the aftermath of Corvo’s flight has led to tighter security and a distinctly aggravated set of guards, some of whom are paying the price for earlier events.

From there, Daud finds himself travelling to a considerably larger area known as Draper’s Ward, an urban area filled with rival gangs duking it out for supremacy in this still plague-stricken steampunk-styled hellhole.  Finally, Daud goes toe to toe with his titular foes in the horrific Brigmore Manor, a not-quite-abandoned mansion whose powerful inhabitants represent a major challenge for our anti-hero. Though only the middle portion of these three really feels as alive or significant as any offered in the original game, each level has a distinct sense of purpose and satisfaction, due in large part to the sheer quantity of collectibles and secrets scattered throughout.

Of course, great set pieces don’t mean much without the gameplay to back it up, and although The Knife of Dunwall represented a terrific evolution on that front, this chapter steps that up even further. As Daud’s story continues, he finds himself gaining access to even more dark powers and tools, including the Jedi-like Pull ability. This allows him to suck in not only ammo and potions but—when upgraded—even your enemies for up-close evisceration or even to simply drop them from one of the game’s many great heights.  He’s also able to use a new Chokedust variant that causes alerted guards to forget about him, which can be quite useful if you’re avoiding the “murder everyone in sight” option.

Also new and specific to this latest DLC is the presence of Corrupted Charms, which can be used like regular charms to enhance Daud’s skills—though their taint afflicts Daud with a negative effect as well. For instance, one boosts Daud’s movement speed while making him more vulnerable to damage; another allows him to do more damage when using his sword at the expense of making his sword swing noticeably slower. These new charms are an interesting addition to the game, though their benefits are rarely so worth the drawbacks that they tend to sit in your inventory as a curious set of novelty items. That said, those interested in experiencing the game from various angles via repeated replays may find these charms appealing as a kind of modifier, not unlike Fallout‘s Trait system (i.e., opting to do more critical hits in exchange for doing less damage overall).

Naturally, Daud’s arsenal continues to bear the nigh-perfect Blink ability, whose option to pause mid-jump for greater teleportation precision is a highlight. Although this ability is detailed at length in my review for The Knife of Dunwall, it once again stands as the jewel in this DLC’s gameplay crown. Being able to stick more accurate and deadly landings while taking a notably stronger stab at exploration is really this game’s strong suit, and perfects what was already one of the most appealing parts of Dishonored.

For all these terrific additions, it’s worth mentioning that The Brigmore Witches provides a real sense of direction and danger to Daud’s tale, which provides very real purpose to his relatively brief travels. The preceding downloadable chapter was greatly entertaining, but it largely stood as an unfocused opportunity to explore even more of this richly crafted world with one of its most interesting characters. This time around, Daud has a very dark shadow looming over the horizon, and once you ignore the somewhat silly quests that populate the middle portion, it’s hard not to feel as though this is a logical progression for this equally dark figure. Without spoiling any of its ending, it should be said that it does its very best to stick to the karmic slaughter vs. stealth balance that has run throughout Dishonored. It’s a solid finale that ties up the loose ends very nicely, and validates everything that comes before it.

One of the most interesting characters from one of the most interesting games finally and appropriately gets his due in The Brigmore Witches, as the curtain is pulled back on Daud, Dishonored‘s most famous assassin. While it would have been quite easy for Arkane to simply reskin Corvo and toss him into the plague-filled streets of Dunwall, they’ve gone the extra mile to infuse him with enough personality and skill to differentiate him from his predecessor while weaving his increasingly strong story into that world. The promise made to players in The Knife of Dunwall is made good here, and in terrific fashion as the solid gameplay tweaks and collectibles offer an experience as entertaining and a replayability as strong as anything offered in Dishonored. Now that Daud’s tale is complete, those who enjoyed flitting from rooftop to rooftop have no excuse not to delve into this deeply satisfying chapter.

(This review is based on a copy provided by the publisher.)

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