Dishonored: The Brigmore Witches Preview
I didn't feel like I was really in the right place to preview the new Dishonored DLC called The Brigmore Witches once I was told that it serves as a direct sequel to The Knife of Dunwall. All of your upgrades and abilities carry over and you continue playing as Daud, but I hadn't even played Dunwall! What good would I be in playing this and trying to write about it? But I was surprised when I decided to give it a shot anyway and was immediately whisked away, back to the city of Dunwall with all of the wonder and enjoyment I had when I played Dishonored last fall. It certainly helps to have played the first DLC before this one, but honestly, you don't have to. Just get in there and start playing, because no other game developer is delivering the look and gameplay that Arkane is doing right now, and after a full two hours of playing The Brigmore Witches, I can say that this lives up to the high standard set by the original game.
This DLC stars Daud, the assassin that killed the Empress Jessamine at the beginning of Dishonored, and he's voiced again by the awesome, gravel-voiced actor Michael Madsen. Daud's not quite the villain you might think him to be, as he was duped into killing the empress and setting the main game's protagonist, Corvo, on his path towards being a fugitive and getting revenge. Daud has his own revenge mission to work through, and in this DLC he'll meet a very formidable opponent in the titular witches that serve as both formidable and diverse opponents - no longer will you only be fighting assassins and the city watch in Dunwall. Daud's beef is with Delilah, a new leader of these witches, and his first goal in the DLC is to rescue a tough young woman who runs a pirate ship. The problem: it's the same prison that Corvo had to escape from in the original game, and it's locked up tight.
This does a great job re-introducing the player to basic Dishonored gameplay, where you've got the choice in combat of going with melee attacks, a variety of darts from Daud's wrist-mounted crossbow, a pistol, or the same kind of magical powers that Corvo enjoyed. But the game also greatly rewards stealth, something that relies much more on the player's ability to predict guard pathing. Dishonored does a great job making stealth fun, and some of those magical powers make things much more exciting.
Because I knew I wouldn't have time to complete everything while slowly sneaking around and trying to find secret areas, I decided to go with full-on combat over careful stealth, taking on multiple enemies at once with my sword. As tempting as it is for hardcore stealth players to admonish those who choose this path, it's important to point out that Dishonored is a fantastic game even if you just go crazy on any potential enemy - the story is still there, the game gives combat-oriented players more enemies to fight which supplies that extra challenge, and the wonderful oil-painting art style that made the original so unique can still dazzle you - and that's even if your first instinct upon seeing an enemy is to brandish your sword.
Much like with the original Dishonored, the art style and character design are like nothing else you've seen, and we're still not really leaving the city of Dunwall that I've seen so far, but nearly the entire DLC visits new areas with large environments that offer the many choices you expect from a game that follows the pedigree set by System Shock and Deus Ex from more than a decade back. So you not only get the impressive visuals, but the level design is set up in such a way that fleshes out the city while giving players a range of gameplay choices.
What I do especially like about Brigmore Witches is that Daud generally makes his own goals rather than waiting to be given orders by someone (which is a bit of a pet peeve of mine, as it happens far too often in big-budget games). The unfortunate part is that the plot forces him to constantly keep running into setbacks. The pirate captain needs to get her ship back from the first mate who betrayed her and got her thrown into prison. Then when that's done, there's something wrong with the ship which leads to another set of missions. Don't get me wrong - they're fun - but to have a goal and then have one plot wrinkle after another can get frustrating from a narrative standpoint. But honestly, that's really just being nitpicky; The Brigmore Witches offers more of the great formula that made Dishonored one of last year's big standout games.
Luckily, you won't have much longer to wait: The Brigmore Witches for Dishonored is set for release for $10 on August 13th, which is only a few days away now.