Published on January 1st, 2013 |
by Daniel Mears
Review – Dishonored: Dunwall City Trials
I’m probably the worst candidate to review Dunwall City Trials… either that or the best, I honestly can’t tell. The point is that I’m the sort of guy who will gladly spend close to an hour shooting falling tanks of whale oil. Sure, like everyone else I laughed at the notion that the DLC to one of the year’s most brilliant games could feature such a ridiculously inappropriate challenge, but then the game awarded my original attempt with an insulting one out of three stars and I had to try again!
The idea behind Dunwall City Trials is pretty self evident. While Dishonored saw players bestowed with all manner of skills, supernatural and otherwise, Dunwall City Trials simply provides situations to explicitly test them. The ten challenges are roughly divided into four types – stealth, combat, puzzle and movement – and it soon becomes clear which challenges are inspired and which are more throwaway. Unfortunately for me, I find even the latter irritatingly compelling.
The throwaway lot are undoubtedly spearheaded by the aforementioned ‘Oil Drop’, but for all its absurdity the challenge at least serves its simple purpose with some aplomb. Rather, it is a couple of the movement challenges which prove the real disappointment of Dunwall City Trials. One sees you race a train from A to B, while the other randomly throws checkpoints about a broken section of the city, which, like all of the DLC’s arenas, mysteriously hangs in the void.
Both of these trials centre on Corvo’s ability to ‘Blink’ (instantaneously teleport) a fair few metres ahead of himself, and end up frustrating because the ability isn’t streamlined enough to be applied to a racing challenge. Where in the main game it felt like you could use blink either precisely or quickly, Dunwall City Trials asks players to battle with a limited mechanic to achieve both.
Elsewhere though, Dunwall City Trials does provide challenges suitably worthy of Dishonored. There is, for example, a Thief-style mission which scores players based on their ability to silently strip a mansion of everything shiny. ‘Mystery Foe’, on the other hand, sees players skulking around in search of enough information to identify, and eventually assassinate the target.
Good though the stealth challenges are, I can’t help but feel that they are outdone by Dunwall City Trial’s best combat entry, ‘Back Alley Brawl’. The concept of pitting Corvo against waves of enemies in a tight (but thankfully vertical) arena may not score any points for innovation, but it does highlight the game’s incredibly fluid, and too often overlooked, combat.
But what really makes Dunwall City Trials worth its £3.50 asking price is its absolutely unique puzzle challenges. In one, your targets are rendered unresponsive mannequins placed around the arena for your murderous pleasure. The twist is that you have to kill each target within three seconds of the last, a feat which requires extensive planning, speedy application and just a pinch of luck. These requirements also apply to ‘Bend Time Massacre’ where you are are placed as a voyeur and must pick the moment to temporarily freeze your targets in convenient positions. Cue massacre.
Splitting Dishonored into its many possible play-styles is a controversial move for a game which emphasises player choice and narrative but, generally, Dunwall City Trials does a good job of highlighting the sorts of fun which Dishonored has to offer – that is, super-powered sorts of fun – which too many of us (including myself for a time) ignored in attempt to play the game as if it were a new entry in the Thief series. It also goes without saying (and yet I’ve said it!) that Dunwall City Trials also scores your attempts at barrel-shooting and back alley-brawling, so masochistic people like myself might enjoy that.
Summary: Something of a mixed bag, Dunwall City Trials isn't essential DLC. But so long as you're not put off by its shallow basic concept, you will undoubtedly enjoy more than a few of its challenges and compulsive sorts will get ample extra play-time to justify its small price.