When Dishonored was released, it appealed to a few different types of fans for different reasons. If you wanted to play the game using entirely stealth mechanics you could. With a bit of work and a skillful combination of the powers at your beck and call, you could be a ghost and navigate the entire city of Dunwall without a single eyeball catching sight of you. On the other hand, if you wanted to be an angel of death and bring a fatal vengeance upon those that were foolish enough to turn their backs to a shadow or stand next to a generator, you could get as bloody as you like.
The game was all about options, which is what made it such a success. The powers at your disposal allowed for creative and clever combinations, which gave you the ability to approach the same area several different ways. Part of that was the design of the world, something Arkane deserves a great deal of credit for, and part of that was down to the gameplay options and the interesting ways that players found to manipulate them.
The first DLC for Dishonored chooses your path for you, but allows you to revel in the abilities at your disposal. The Dunwall City Trials DLC offers gamers several standalone challenges, each of which features a specific style of play. There is no overarching story, and the areas you enter are separate microcosms of the larger world, designed specifically for this DLC. Each challenge is entirely about the gameplay, for better and worse.
There are ten challenges in total, shared between standard difficulty and the more difficult expert class challenges, which are unlocked by successfully earning stars in the normal outings. Both the normal and expert challenges feature different types of challenges, and each individual selection focuses on one particular portion of the gameplay.
The challenges offer a wide range of all the gameplay elements that made Dishonored what it is, but where the retail game’s brilliance laid in the freedom to choose, these challenges strip down each element and give you a very specific way of participating. From stealth to speed runs to combat trials, each offers something that made Dishonored what it is. But while the combat offers a few good moments and allows you to really stretch your creativity, and the speed runs are a fun distraction, the stealth modes are the most intricate and compelling by far.
One of these stealth challenges is an assassination mode called “Mystery Foe” that pits you in an original area designed just for the DLC, populated with several potential targets that change randomly each time you play. There are four clues scattered through the map that help you identify your prey, but the less clues you use the more points you earn – as with all the challenge types you earn points and the higher the score, the more stars you earn to spend on unlocking the expert challenges. The score also determines your placement on the global (and friends-specific) leaderboard. Burglary, another stealth offering, is among the best of the challenges as well. You are tasked with stealing six “clockwork eggs” from a mansion without being caught, which forces you to use your wits and powers.
The time-challenges (essentially races using the blink ability) are straightforward, and the combat sections include chain kill challenges that give you a limited amount of time to kill a preset number of targets, drop assassination challenges that have you kill in that very specific way, and a mode that has you face increasingly difficult waves of enemies. They are all good diversions, but none of them touch the depth of the stealth challenges, which are themselves fairly shallow. If you hated the stealth side of Dishonored, this DLC might not be for you.
This DLC won’t change the minds of anyone, and its timing may be a bit off – not in the sense that it was released at a bad time – but in the sense that it was released separately at all. This would have made a simple and yet excellent addition to the retail copy of the game. As it is, after months away from the game (assuming you bought and played Dishonored around when it was released in early October), it doesn’t really draw you back as other DLCs might. It’s a diversion. Admittedly, a fun one, but not one that is likely to reignite the interest in gamers that have since moved on. You have to really love the gameplay specifically to want this expansion. It might actually be better served as a purchase when the next, story based DLC is released. The two paired together should make a better content offering than the challenges alone.
For $4.99 you can’t criticize the value you’ll get, but taken on their own the challenges aren’t much to sink your teeth in. They are a sample of a better offer and focus on the individual aspects of a property that worked precisely because it combined those aspects. The Dunwall City Trials DLC is worth a look, but it’s not compelling in terms of standalone content. If, however, you absolutely loved the gameplay of Dishonored, then the challenges should be perfectly suited for you.