By Jim Rossignol on August 16th, 2013 at 9:00 pm.
When I saw that Dishonored was going to have additional DLC missions I was worried that it might wander off the beautiful path that the original game created. It was all too possible that any additions might seem like bad fan fiction for the original, quite neatly encapsulated, game. Corvo’s story was so complete that would be very odd to see “further adventures of”, or anything of that ilk. Arkane, of course, chose wisely in this regard. They chose Daud, the troubled master assassin defeated by Corvo in the original game. And Daud, I am beginning to feel, makes for a better experience than Corvo ever could.
The Brigmore Witches, then, is very much worth playing.
Following on from Daud’s first-first-person appearance in Knife Of Dunwall, this new story is a complex, heavy branch of additional fiction in the Dishonored world. Daud shares many of the same powers and opportunities as Corvo – he can blink, fire sleep darts, find bone charms, and visit the Outsider shrines, for example – but these DLCs aren’t something written as an ode to the original. Nor are they even really an addendum to Corvo’s story, despite that tale being intertwined with Daud’s adventure. This it’s own entity, like a rapacious vine on a tree. It is a healthy secondary event that wraps itself around the trunk of original structure and then builds on it, growing ferociously.
Games like this are brew made of one part moment-to-moment action, one part atmosphere and environment, and one part story. The first of those two things it borrows from Dishonored, of course, but adds some spice of its own: Daud’s personality and oeuvre, as well as the people he associated with. As for the last part, well, I don’t really want to say much about the story here, suffice to say that it has the characterful and threatening big bad that Dishonored itself lacked, and that it hooks pleasingly into familiar locations, and familiar characters.
The Brigmore Witches is thrilling multi-path romp. Ugly and bloody. There’s much that’s new here too, and the way that enormous structure of new Dunwall people and places intersects with revisited locations – such as the prison Corvo escaped from at the start of his own adventure – provides a rich canvas for Daud’s unpleasant supernatural actions.
During the long-hyped run up to Dishonored’s release, much was said about the game essentially being a power fantasy. It was a stealth game, sure, but it was one where revenge and inhuman power were freely available. It was about empowering players, said the developers, as the showed off acrobatic feats of magic ninja murder. And to some extent they were right. The character of Corvo, and his story, ended up holding that empowerment back, however. He cared. He was hurt. He was used.
Daud is a much more potent power fantasy.
Already an assassin, he is conflicted, but also brutal. He does not hestitate to drive a foot-long knife through a man’s eye, while at the same time it’s often within his reach to do the right thing. Not only is his story more interesting than Corvo’s, but he has his own cabal of teleporting, gas-mask wearing assassins. Daud is a dark and exciting character to be in control of.
So it is that I begin to creep toward the conclusion – as I am horrified by Brigmore’s witches, and delighted by its violent dockyard gang fights – that Daud is doing a better job of Dishonored than Corvo did. Perhaps Corvo did fulfil the classic role of hard done by hero, but I’m enjoying Daud’s noir voice over and whalepunk espionage patter far more. I’m totally engaged with his mission and his method. I am a bad man.
The Brigmore Witches is bigger than Knife of Dunwall, and better. It’s still a scrap of a thing compared to the main game, but the criss-crossed sidequests and the familiar richly detailed environments make up for that. You can spend a lot of time here, if you want to. Just as in Dishonored, this expansion allows you to execute the missions in completely different ways, and you’ll see the consequences of those actions in-game.
As I finally entered the leafy grounds of Brigmore itself – a vast, abandoned mansion overrun by magic-warped witches – I was reminded of what a luxury construct Dishonored really is. Few games are as well designed or as well executed as this. Of those even fewer have this quality of art, writing, or underlying imaginative muscle. Nothing else tastes quite as fulsome. It’s an astonishing accomplishment, and my feeling is that this DLC serves to ram that point home, pointedly, rather than simply going through the motions to act out more of the same. It was a delight to be lured back to the game and reminded so clearly what I liked about it.
In conclusion, then: you should get this. After Knife Of Dunwall. I’ve enjoyed them both enough to the point where I can honestly say that they are more entertaining slices of Dunwall than much of the original game.
If you’re still on the fence, don’t be. Leap down and stick a knife in your hesitation. You won’t be regretting the consequences.
The Brigmore Witches is out now.