Dunwall City Trials – Dishonored DLC Review

dunwall final
Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
Release Date: December 11, 2012

The Batted Man‘s last game teetered on perfection during the campaign, but also knew how to keep that momentum going into other modes. Delving into the challenge maps distilled the game down to a pure mechanical level and gave an absurd amount of replay value, giving me something I’ve consistently returned to for over a year. Dishonored aims to bring that sense of replayability with its newest DLC, The Dunwall City Trials. For a meager $5, this DLC offers an extension off the main campaign, one that tests your sneaking and combat skills and gives you challenges to sweat through and achieve. As difficult as it may be, the depth and variety of its score-based modes add a different dimension to a game that could benefit from a few extra secondary activities.

The ten core challenges in these trials are broken up into a few categories: stealth, combat, puzzle, and traversal. Each has a few different gauntlets associated with the mentioned title, with most even having a harder version that unlocks after you’ve gotten at least two stars on the vanilla one. The variety alone in this set up strikes a healthy balance between all of Dishonored‘s core mechanics, with no one aspect feeling ostracized.

Find the clue. Kill the target.

Find the clue. Kill the target.

The included stealth missions are a blast, with one asking you to rob a gigantic mansion clean of its valuables and the other tasking you to find clues to assassinate a random NPC. Infiltrating the mansion is hard, but rewarding and is one of the few challenges that is somewhat relatable to the actual core campaign. Uncovering clues and killing the random NPC is brilliant, since it is different on every single occasion and allows for the mission to be played several times over without a repeat. It can feel a little luck based, but that is part of the oh-so-sweet challenge and deepens the pool as a result.

Combat challenges let most players play how they probably didn’t play during the main campaign: guns blazing. Chaos was always high in my first playthrough, but I never got to dig deep within the game’s loud offensive capabilities because that wasn’t my main go-to style. This sole section of challenges made me vow to try the campaign with this strategy because it brilliantly showcased how fun and deep causing a ruckus was. Finding a smooth rhythm between the powers took a grand amount of work (and I’m still not great at it), but it fulfills a brutal power fantasy that displays the appeal of switching styles in a small, controlled area.

I didn't mind playing these as a stab-happy swordsman.

I didn’t mind playing these as a stab-happy swordsman.

Puzzle mode is the most unconventional of the lot, but that doesn’t stop it from being addicting. Even though it tests your reflexes, the natural cerebral part of this division makes it stand out. In one set of tasks, breaking the glass window with targets in it stops time, allowing you to move around at normal speed and recreate the board game Mousetrap, only with more explosives, whale oil tanks, and large knives. Rushing around and thinking of the best possible way to murder everyone within the time limit feels different in this setting and made for one of the best modes.

For all the Blink addicts, traversal might tickle your fancy the most. Of course, races are an easy choice but briskly moving through the world is one of Dishonored‘s strengths, one even overpowering the overt lameness of races. Kill Cascade was one of my favorites in the whole DLC, one tasking the player with nailing consecutive air assassinations. I flubbed many air assassinations in the main game and tried over and over to nail this one challenge. Hitting the three star threshold was satisfying in of itself, but carrying that skill over to the main game was something I inadvertently took away too.

Getting three stars in this mission takes some outside of the box thinking.

Getting three stars in this mission takes some outside of the box thinking. Yeah, I looked on YouTube.

One thing to know going in is that each pillar is rather difficult. You’ll be lucky to get one star on your first try and you may not even be able to complete a few of them because of the DLC’s stern requirement of forcing the player to learn how to play. The trophies/achievements reflect that wonderfully, being some of hardest (but fair) ones I’ve seen in a long time. I welcomed this challenge and even though it can be overbearing to some, having something to come back to and get better at was something that hooked me way back in the Arkham Asylum days. Most of them feel like they have some sort of secret strategy that isn’t immediately apparent, which, again, adds to the deep pool this DLC has already established. The skill ceiling is high but this game is designed well enough to allow for players to slowly begin their journey to be the best.

If you usually don’t like score-based extra modes, you might not have much to see here. Everyone else should hop right back into Dunwall with these trials, given the cheap price and wealth of tough missions. As with the main game, Arkane is on to something here and this could be the first great stepping stone for something much more complex in the inevitable sequel.

+A bunch of varied challenges with different goals
+Strategy feeds into a score system to allow for lasting benefits
+Widens your strategies
-Difficulty may turn off some

*Scores aren’t given to DLC

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