Dishonored: The Brigmore Witches Review

Eschalon: Book II

Release Date:2013-08-13
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Arkane Studios has made a name for itself with Dishonored. With recent murmurs that the developer will be undertaking both Dishonored 2 and Prey 2, it's odd to think how they went from being that quirky studio responsible for the likes of Arx Fatalis and Dark Messiah of Might & Magic, to being a high-profile triple-A developer backed by Bethesda Softworks. With this final add-on chapter for Dishonored, The Brigmore Witches, Arkane has once again demonstrated its mastery of level design and art direction, while also expanding the gameplay of Dishonored in a few interesting ways.

Witches, not Witcher

The Brigmore Witches continues the story from the previous DLC, The Knife of Dunwall, where Daud, master assassin and anti-hero to the original game's Corvo, tracked down a mysterious witch by the name of Delilah. In The Brigmore Witches, your tasks involve securing transportation to her estate outside of Dunwall, and assaulting it to learn what Delilah and her coven are plotting. The Chaos mechanic from the original campaign returns and yet again influences the outcome of the story, and you can even import your save file from The Knife of Dunwall, if you have one. There are some nice touches here - you'll get different dialogue in some scenes, and a few minor characters can even carry over from the past DLC, if they survived. I feel Chaos has a bigger impact during the DLC than during most of the main campaign, which is nice, even though I don't think that as implemented, the system itself works so well ("high chaos = lots of killing" still hasn't changed).

If that all sounds a little unfamiliar, it's largely because The Brigmore Witches wastes no time with exposition or retracing steps of the previous campaign and DLC - but as it's the final one released, it really doesn't need to, either. If you're interested in The Brigmore Witches, after all, you've probably already played both Dishonored and The Knife of Dunwall. In case you are not familiar with the events of the title's main campaign and The Knife of Dunwall, however, picking up The Brigmore Witches might feel a bit like sitting down to watch a film halfway through.

Without going too deep into any spoilers, the eponymous Brigmore Witches do indeed present a legitimate threat to the stability of the crumbling city of Dunwall, and Delilah's plot does eventually intertwine, indirectly, with the events of the original campaign. As Daud's arc ends during Dishonored's original story, one goes into the DLC with an idea of how it will end - but the mystery behind Delilah's plans is compelling enough to see you through. Still, story and characters were never really Dishonored's strength, and the same is true in The Brigmore Witches; one really doesn't get a sense for Delilah as a character, and the player's only direct contact with her is very limited, making the final confrontation somewhat anti-climactic.

Not Just Haunted Houses

The good news is that even if The Brigmore Witches doesn't bring Arkane's A-game when it comes to story, the actual gameplay itself is arguably the best Dishonored has seen yet. There are three new missions in The Brigmore Witches, and like the past DLC they take place in a variety of settings, one of which is recycled from the original campaign, but heavily tweaked. Things start out in Coldridge Prison, where your goal is to break someone else out rather than escape yourself, then move on to the Drapers Ward, where two rival gangs battle it out across several districts, and the conclusion takes place in and around Brigmore Manor itself, infested with witches wielding supernatural powers.

Of these missions, my favorite took place in the Drapers Ward, because once again it recalls the most open-ended parts of Dishonored; I always thought the earlier, more exploration-based missions were the best in the game, and the Drapers Ward has a variety of objectives, some of which are optional, split across four large areas, which all have multiple ways to overcome challenges. The Knife of Dunwall also featured a similar excellent open-ended mission, and Drapers Ward is right on par with the best seen in both the DLC and the original campaign. But, the other two missions are also very enjoyable and have varied enough environments that none of it feels monotonous or like a retread of the same old ideas. All those missions are beautifully realized to boot, especially Brigmore Manor, which for the first time lets us see lots of bright green grass and sunshine in the Dishonored universe.

My only real complaint with The Brigmore Witches as far as level design goes, comes in the lack of enemy density. While the final level is somewhat challenging, featuring enemies who have some brutal occult powers of their own, the first two simply don't have enough guards out to cause many problems for you. The "gang war" in the Drapers Ward seems to involve no more than six or seven people at once, and meanwhile the patrols have too many easy holes in them to exploit for those who are now well-versed with the Blink ability. Had the numbers of enemies and their patrol routes been bumped up, I think I would have appreciated the higher challenge level now that I've got 40+ hours of Dishonored under my belt.

New Toys

With The Brigmore Witches, Dishonored's powers and weapons have seen a few more tweaks, but the most significant changes were ported over from The Knife of Dunwall, where they remain mostly unchanged. The first major addition is the Pull ability, which is basically telekinesis with slightly more limited functionality. I really enjoyed using this ability because it had both stealth and combat applications, allowing me to either grab explosive whale oil tanks and then throw them at enemies, or pick up bodies from afar after knocking them out with sleep darts. However, it needs to be fully upgraded for it to really start to shine.

The next big change is the inclusion of Corrupted Bone Charms, which are Bone Charms that "weren't made quite right". Most of them provide useful abilities when equipped, but also have a downside. Some of them are pretty significant, and can dramatically affect your play-style. For instance, one of them, Statuesque, makes you invisible while not moving, but you regenerate no mana while it's equipped. Another, Zephyr, increases your movement speed substantially but makes you take much more damage from enemies. Although I didn't use too many of these, I imagine they would be fun to experiment with for a second play-through.

But, as I've said above, the overall challenge level of The Brigmore Witches isn't quite up to snuff, meaning that the same old tactics (like Blink + choke enemy) are still just as useful as ever, and there's little reason to use these new powers and upgrades other than simply for the sake of variety. I really would have preferred if these new powers and items were added into the main campaign and The Knife of Dunwall, so those two could be enjoyed again with the changes applied, where they'd likely have more impact.

Closing Thoughts

The Brigmore Witches is a fitting, but still somewhat predictable conclusion for Dishonored. I enjoyed the missions and I think that they are some of the best in all of Dishonored's selection; if you want more Dishonored, rest assured, you will get it here, and get it good. But at the same time, the new additions are ultimately just small tweaks and ideas that can't fully realize their potential in this five-hour DLC. At this point, I confess I'm much more eager to see what sorts of improvements and updates Arkane Studios has in store for Dishonored 2; still, that doesn't discount the fact that The Brigmore Witches is every bit as fun and replayable as both Dishonored's original campaign and The Knife of Dunwall.