Dishonored: The Brigmore Witches
Lithe, deceptive and deadly: the titular antagonists of Dishonored’s second story based DLC, The Brigmore Witches, make for formidable opponents, armed with Outsider granted sorcery and ghostly pet hellhounds. These green skinned, stalky veined sirens are a clear and present danger, the kind of palpable threat that Dishonored lacked. Engage them, and you’re likely to regret it, which is ironic considering that this second half of the Empress murdering assassin Daud’s story is entirely focussed on reaching their hideout for a confrontation with their enigmatic leader, Delilah.
Hinted at in the disappointing cliff-hanger to the preceding DLC, The Knife of Dunwall, Delilah’s importance is a carrot constantly dangling in front of Daud’s face. What eventually becomes apparent in the excellent third and final mission when he reaches that carrot is that, besides posing a freshly designed threat, this magical coven is also the narrative thread that cleverly weaves Daud’s actions back into the tapestry of the Dishonored’s main storyline.
Few videogame side stories conclude as thoughtfully as this, but before the revelatory encounter, there are two less interesting missions that take Daud back to one familiar location seen from a new perspective and one new location filled with familiar top hats.
Coldridge prison is the scene of Daud’s first excursion, days after Corvo Attano’s escape set the events of Dishonored in motion. Recognisable but reimagined with all manner of sneaky possibilities, Arkane’s brilliant level design shines through from the outset with a number of potential infiltration options. Purchase an overseers’ uniform with a pre-mission bribe and walk through the front gates in disguise; teleport your way up to the rafters with ‘Blink’ and crawl along the pipework; or rewire the electricity based security systems and lure the guards to a crispy death. Player choice was key to Dishonored’s appeal, and you’re afforded just as much freedom in how you approach each multi-layered scenario in these new chapters.
The second takes place in and around the Drapers Ward, a high-end retail district adjoining a riverfront harbour and textile mill. These sites are the bases of operations for two rival gangs – the smartly-dressed Hatters and the swarthy Dead Eels – and their turf war violently bristles on the streets of the Ward as you go about Daud’s business.
Easily the largest stage of this DLC, the general layout of this sprawling location feels typically Dishonored-like – equal parts vertiginous and interactive – but the street level chaos is a welcome twist, with Daud needing to avoid the dangers of the conflict whilst travelling between the rival gang leaders to further his own interests.
Both locations are familiar playgrounds of possibility, stuffed with the kind of juicy scenarios and secrets that Dishonored is known for. But there’s a distinct sense throughout that Arkane are killing time in terms of story progression until the final showdown comes around. It’s not until all of Daud’s city-based affairs are in order and his transportation to the grand Brigmore Manor is ready that The Brigmore Witches truly provides something new as an add-on.
Here the lush, verdant Manor grounds present quite a different playground to that of Dunwall’s industrial brick and mortar, both aesthetically and in play. A vast flat expanse of front-lawn grass has little coverage for sneaking, whereas a tree-filled back-yard provides plenty. And the dilapidated grand mansion that takes centre stage is a fortress of tricks and traps, patrolled by the aforementioned wailing witches – the trickiest adversaries Arkane have yet produced.
Every one of these areas are a mixture of old and new, progressively leaning more towards the latter. They’re constructed from Dunwall’s familiar building blocks, all subterranean secret passages, vantage granting balconies and Granny Rags’ macabre matrimonial side missions, but Arkane have sprinkled enough reworked scenarios and enemies atop to keep things progressive.
Likewise a few modified items energise the assassin’s tiring toolset. Passive power granting ‘Corrupted’ Bone Charms provide considerable boosts to physical abilities, albeit with detrimental side effects. And Baffle Dust, an amnesia inducing variation of the vision obscuring Choke Dust, restores a guard’s obliviousness to your presence should you be unwantedly spotted.
The most unbalanced addition to Daud’s already considerable arsenal of abilities is the gleefully overpowered ‘Pull’, which works as a gravity gun style telekinesis power – the antithesis and perfect counterpart to the already overpowered ‘Blink’. It’s almost entirely unbalanced, making stealth knock-outs and assassinations even easier than they already were, but as a delicious new tool of experimentation it’s an extravagance worth indulging in considering that this is the dessert of Dishonored’s buffet.
Far from a limp curtain call on Dunwall then, The Brigmore Witches is an equally substantive and slightly more inventive slice of Dishonored than The Knife of Dunwall. It might lack the brisk sense of mystery that propelled the first half of Daud’s story, but it ends on a far more satisfying and conclusive note that both expands upon the possibilities of the universe and sheds new light onto the events of the main game. And its final mission stands amongst the finest this Empire of Isles has to offer, which casts the other two merely enjoyable ones in a slightly unfair light.