An expansion in more than one sense, The Brigmore Witches is a perfect slice of Dishonored DLC. The preceding part of Daud’s adventure, The Knife Of Dunwall, was a worthy chunk of extra content, but it was limited by both its nature as the first half of a two-part story, and by conservative design: there was nothing there that would have felt discordant in Corvo’s own journey with some adjusted narrative context. The Brigmore Witches, however, finishes up Daud’s tale with three missions of escalating brilliance, but it also adds real depth to Dishonored’s world in both mechanics and narrative. We get our first good look at life beyond Dunwall’s cold metal walls in the final mission – a stalk around a lush, verdant and utterly dilapidated mansion. Before then we spend some time in Dunwall’s ganglands, where two factions vie for dominance and there’s not a single City Watchman to be found. Daud’s journey through these fresh and fascinating locations is enhanced by a new ability that – in conjunction with Blink – makes even more of a mockery of the city’s spatial impediments, but is also stalled by a set of villains who, for the first time in Dishonored, almost pose a genuine threat to the protagonist.
But before all that, it’s back to Coldridge Prison, the site of the first mission in the game. When The Knife Of Dunwall reused Daud’s base for its final mission, the result was a slightly samey repeat of Corvo’s time spent skulking and choke-holding assassins there. The Brigmore Witches’ recycling of assets, however, is more inspired: the thematic flip from prison break to prison break-in literally gives a new perspective on a familiar location, and also lets players glimpse some of the direct consequences of their actions as both Daud and the disgraced Royal Protector. The execution of the guards held responsible for Corvo’s escape can be glimpsed (or stopped) out in the yard, while one of the marks we’d opted to dispose of non-lethally in the previous DLC was spotted stewing in a cell-block. The location itself has been thoughtfully embellished too: memorise a cell number in the new wings and you can open the door back at the main gate, giving the prison location a mechanical identity of its own.
The second mission, meanwhile, is the most typical, in that it’s set on Dunwall’s streets. Even so, Draper’s Ward, a textile market and riverfront, offers a glimpse of a different side to Dunwall to the harsher, military-dominated city-centre locations. Blink from rooftop to rooftop and it’s easy to imagine everyday life continuing in the shops and aristocratic apartments down below, were it not for the rat plague and vicious gang war being fought over a tiny scrap of turf. The running battles between the well-dressed Hatters and the swarthier Dead Eels give players a glimpse of a Dunwall carrying on without them, while the level itself is easily one of Dishonored’s most sprawling, almost losing its way in a sewer section before introducing the DLC’s formidable new foes.
Like Daud’s assassins in the main game, the Brigmore coven can fight back against the player with Outsider-derived powers of their own. This, coupled with their tendency to teleport wildly around the arenas you fight them in and their chilling appearance, ensures they seem genuinely threatening as you explore their flooded mansion in the game’s final mission – but it’s fair to say that Dishonored remains an easy game. Indeed, one new ability in particular makes it even more so.
Pull is the gravity-gun-slash-telekinesis-ability noticeably absent from Corvo’s moveset – and for good reason, too. Snatching keys off guards from the safety of the rafters, powering down security systems from across the room; Daud can already short-range teleport instantaneously, but add in the ability to interact with his surroundings at range and he’s practically unstoppable. It could have entirely thrown off the balance of Corvo’s journey to have access to this power. But as a final toy for three missions of DLC? We’re glad Arkane indulged us.
Like the best expansions, The Brigmore Witches offers more of the game you know while hinting at a game you don’t: a game with different powers in a different part of Dishonored’s world. Corvo’s story seemed rather tidily concluded by the end of Dishonored, but Daud’s shorter tale shows there’s plenty more to be done in the Empire Of Isles.
Dishonored: The Brigmore Witches is out now on PC, 360 and PS3. PC version tested.