Witches Get Stitches
The Brigmore Witches is the second and final installment of story-based downloadable content for Arkane's Dishonored. Concluding the narrative arc set in motion by The Knife of Dunwall, The Brigmore Witches follows either the eventual redemption or inevitable dissolution of Daud, the true assassin of the Empress. If you haven't yet enjoyed either Dishonored or The Knife of Dunwall, then reading this review and, more importantly, playing The Brigmore Witches might be an activity of questionable relevance. Have you cleared those first two bases? Good, because The Brigmore Witches slides home with one hell of a finish.
Another bonus to playing The Knife of Dunwall; with a valid save file all your stuff comes over. Bone Charms, Relics, unlocked powers and gear, any leftover money, and even unused health and mana elixirs are available immediately upon starting The Brigmore Witches. If your save file is lost then you're not necessarily in a dire and incomplete state, all of its content is created with a minimalist approach accounted for, but any activity is more enjoyable if you've got more toys to play with.
Not that Daud was necessarily short on toys. His suite in Dunwall complimented Corvo’s nicely, and The Brigmore Witches tosses a new one in for good measure. Pull, as the name implies, solves the problem of distance by pulling objects toward you. Personally, I never found this useful. The idea of a Jedi-like power to summon distant object to my fingertips was rendered moot by there never being much of interest sitting around. The whale oil canisters powering a Wall of Light, for example, would have been great fodder for this power had they not necessitated Daud opening their shield casing first. For high chaos players I can see where pulling explosive whale oil from afar and launching it directly into foes might have a certain decimating charm, but Pull’s lack of functional elegance wasn't suitable for my ultra-stealth style of play.
Then again, that's kind of the beauty of Dishonored; perceived and, occasionally, real choice. Playing as either a pacifist perfectionist incapable of killing or (possibly and) a psychotic misanthrope with insatiable bloodlust are both valid and rewarding styles of play. The end scenario is ultimately under the game's control, but how it’s carried out belongs to the player. Dishonored, through the variety of ways in which you could complete objectives and narrowly different narrative outcomes, played its tricks better than most of its peers. The Brigmore Witches is no different; either by high or low chaos, the end is nigh for Daud's time in Dunwall.
The Brigmore Witches follows Daud over three new missions and, unlike The Knife of Dunwall, three brand new locations. The first mission, A Stay of Execution for Lizzy, charges Daud with entering Dunwall’s Coldridge Prison and extracting Lizzy Stride, estranged leader of The Dead Eels. For me this was a routine affair of dropping aggressors one by one until I basically owned the place, but the installation of functioning prison, complete with active cells and a couple shady characters inside of them, expanded my horizons of Dunwall. It was also the first time I put any serious effort into reading acquired literature, primarily because of the intriguing interrogation (optional) objective.
The Dead Eels is Daud's second mission and, mechanically speaking, mostly functions as a retread of Dishonored-proper. It certainly tries to be different by pitting the Hatters (a faction introduced in The Knife of Dunwall) against The Dead Eels as a hyper violent, Sharks versus Jets breed of warring gangs. It opens with Daud as a voyeur (or participant, I guess) to a street battle between the two brooding factions and, while snooping around the dilapidated rooftops and alleyways, I was witnesses to several more of these seemingly spontaneous battles. The issue is these fights animated awkwardly and any personality earned by the participants during the ruckus immediately dissipates after the fight concludes. This made it seem like some sort of Civic War reenactment than any sort of believable, lethal scuffle. Still, it's a neat idea and Arkane gets points for trying something new along the way.
The final mission, Delilah's Masterwork, is the star of the show. The back story of the Brigmore family - a clan whose wealth was based on timber and subsequently ruined in the advent of whale oil - means, finally, we're leaving Dunwall. Upon arriving at Brigmore Manner I was greeted by a rather odd circumstance; nature. Brigmore Manor’s expansive and green front yard was a neon punch in the face, especially after hours of staring at ruined architecture and muted colors. That art style certainly had its place, Dishonored mood thrives as a dreary dystopia, but the contrast exhibited through Brigmore Manner's outdoors was both noted and appreciated.
Delilah’s Masterwork also has the most going for it when it comes to new ideas and challenges. When left alone, Gravehounds function like normal hounds from Dishonored-proper. When taken down either by sleep dart or lethal force, they come back. There is a way to ultimately kill them and it isn't too hard to figure out, but it presents a different challenge when you're packed in a room with a handful of those terrifying things. The titular witches also present their own unique set of challenges. Their penchant for frivolous teleportation threw a wrench in my usual observe-and-act style of play. That's a nice way of saying they drove me nuts and severely implemented my standard operating procedure of non-lethally disabling everyone on the premises, but I managed to have my way after a modest change in approach. It was actually a welcomed change after The Brigmore Witches’ routine (well, by Dishonored's standards) previous levels.
And then there's Delilah. Her introduction in The Knife of Dunwall opened another line of supernatural possibility. Special powers and occult behavior had previously been exclusively afforded to those bearing The Outsider’s Mark, but throwing witches into the mix introduced a whole new set of possibilities to Dishonored’s world. Delilah's ultimate plan obliges this potential affliction and raises the stakes right to the point of breaking Dishonored's narrative. It doesn't break though, and the way it (and Daud's fate) find their way into Dishonored's main thread is both clever and plausible. It's also vastly reflective of your previous actions; NPC dialogue, for example, cites both major world events and previous exploits undertaken in The Knife of Dunwall.
As expected, The Brigmore Witches functions as the opposite half of The Knife of Dunwall. Both are tremendous values for their price, offering what’s effectively a $20 b-campaign to Dishonored. The idea of single player downloadable content offering a meaningful narrative and a familiar yet engaging mechanics sounds like an idea all ambitious games should exhibit, but for whatever reason it rarely happens. The Brigmore Witches is another exception to the unfortunate rule. Who could have predicted that creating meaningful and imaginative content would produce an indebted and eager response from its audience?