We haven't talked a lot about Dishonored since it came out last October, which is really too bad, because I think Dishonored is a fantastic game. Good news for anyone who agrees with me: we're getting downloadable content in just a few weeks that will tell a new story in the grisly world of Dishonored. It's called The Knife of Dunwall, and it's out on April 16.
At PAX East last weekend, I got the chance to play around with The Knife of Dunwall. It's interesting. There's a lot to say. Let's break it down.
1) You play as Daud, the assassin responsible for killing the Empress and framing Corvo at the beginning of Dishonored. Last time, we helped Corvo get his revenge. Now we get to see Daud's side of the story.
And according to Ricardo Bare, a designer on the first game and creative director on the DLC, The Knife of Dunwall runs parallel to the story we saw in Dishonored.
"When we started to get close to the end [of Dishonored's development], we were like, what would be cool, what would be exciting?" Bare told me. "We got a lot of feedback from press, and from fans. They were like, 'We want to know about Daud.' We were like, 'We do too!'"
2) Daud feels a whole lot like Corvo — Bare describes him as Corvo's "dark mirror image" — though he's got a few new tricks. He can summon an assassin buddy to take down enemies, for example. He can throw around chokedust, a device that conjures up a non-lethal cloud of stunning gas. Controlling Daud also lets you freeze time while you're trying to move that blink reticle to just the right place. (Although I still found the interface kind of unwieldy.)
3) There's also something called the "arc mine", which producer and systems designer Seth Shain describes as a miniature arc pylon (the human-zapping device from the original game). You can upgrade your arc mine to stun people instead of killing them. "We wanted to make sure that Daud didn't feel too much like Corvo," Shain said.
4) There's a new difficulty mode in this one: Master Assassin, unlocked once you beat the game.
5) When you start The Knife of Dunwall — or at least when you start the demo I saw at PAX — the first thing you see is an automated first-person sequence where you, as Daud, assassinate the empress. You can't control the game here. It's an interesting design choice that seems to conflict with the way Dishonored usually lets you play the game, so I asked Bare: why can't we do something else?
"This was a little controversial because I could see a version where we let you [not kill the empress]," he said. "But also we decided this was the right call because of two things: 1) It's not really happening again; it's Daud's dream of this happening again... and 2) Whenever we have a real legitimate mission, one of our core values is letting the player choose, but we can't do that here because it's canon that Daud killed the empress."
6) So you kill the empress, and then you're immediately whisked to the realm of the Outsider, the godlike figure who gives Corvo his powers in game one. "Daud, my old friend," says the Outsider. "It's been a while."
He adds that there are only eight people like Daud (and Corvo) in the world, and he says Daud's time is almost up. "I'm here to give you one last gift," he adds: a mystery. Your next goal is to go find someone (or something) named Delilah.
7) Something about The Knife of Dunwall feels very noir. Maybe it's the narration, or the mystery, or the fact that Daud's initial thought is that "Delilah" is the name of a ship parked in a Dunwall slaughterhouse. Your first mission is to go look into it.
8) At the beginning of each mission, the game gives you an equipment screen where you can stock up on ammo and buy new upgrades for your gear, much like Piero's store. (This time, it's Daud's network of thieves and corrupt merchants who play the role of "place you go to get stuff".)
9) So, back to the mission. The first mission takes place at Rothwild Slaughterhouse, where you can find a lot of dead whales. Nobody tell PETA.
10) As you go through the slaughterhouse, you see all sorts of Dishonored connections — wanted posters promising rewards for the bodies of Slackjaw and Corvo, for example.
The designers of Dishonored tell me that as you go through the game, you'll run into all sorts of Dishonored references. This is a parallel story, after all. So you might hear that Corvo is on the loose, or that the Pendleton twins have disappeared.
11) Sadly, the decisions you made in Dishonored won't carry over to the DLC. Too technically challenging, say the designers.
12) If you liked the missions in Dishonored, you'll like Rothwild Slaughterhouse. There are lots and lots of different ways to take down enemies and get through the mission, and it feels like a big plague-infested playground full of rooftops and steam vents to teleport through.
13) Daud is also very fragile, just like Corvo was. If you set off an alarm and get yourself surrounded by enemies, you will probably die. (At least until you get all of those overpowered abilities like Bend Time.)
14) Daud can talk too. The designers say that's helped them find interesting ways to tell the story, because you'll get to hear your main character's thoughts and opinions this time around. (Corvo was the silent type.) But for the most part, The Knife of Dunwall just feels like more Dishonored. That's a very good thing.
15) This is all just part one, by the way. The next piece of DLC, The Bridgemore Witches, will be out later this year, and it will finish Daud's story.
"Hopefully it ends leaving you wanting more," Bare said. "We have sort of a story within this one that concludes, but it's very clear also that there's a larger story going on. That continues in the next one."