The Brigmore Witches acts as a fitting end to one of the most original IPs of 2012.
Dishonored: The Brigmore WitchesPlatform: Xbox 360 (reviewed), PS3, PC
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Arkane Studios
ESRB Rating: Mature
Release Date: 2010-08-13
Following the conclusion of The Brigmore Witches, the final piece of downloadable content for Arkane Studios's Dishonored, the city of Dunwall remains an unsettling location. Nevermind the plague that has swept through the city, the hordes of rats devouring discarded bodies, and the grotesque, disfigured masses, it's the city's disconnectedness that causes such disorientation. For a hard-luck city run by a seemingly benevolent family of monarchs, the disarray of the disparate communities and the lack of continuity between locations places you in the middle of a city with a bubbling underbelly of economic strife, political unrest, and a maze of corridors with no cheese at the end (electrified or otherwise).
In The Brigmore Witches, you assume the role of Daud -- the original game's antagonist and the playable character of The Knife of Dunwall DLC -- up to his climactic final encounter with Corvo. Continuing the story of the prior DLC, you search for Delilah, the nefarious Brigmore witch intent on conquering Dunwall. But as you travel to new locales throughout Dunwall via nothing but loading screens, your connection to and understanding of the city wane. There are ghettos enduring civil war between rival factions (the Riverfront in "The Dead Eels") and derelict manors where cults are formed that are busy creating elaborate plots to overthrow the reigning power ("Delilah's Masterwork"). All of which begs the question: how are all of these areas under the same control?
Dishonored put on display how Dunwall fell into madness and disease following the assassination of its empress and abduction of the heiress. The militarized zone featured palatial compounds for high-ranking military targets and garish bordellos for the city's elite, all within confined urban spaces. The Knife of Dunwall filled in the gaps, showing off the source of all that wealth: the blue-collar whale oil factories. But The Brigmore Witches feels disjointed. You explore riverfronts with bare riverbeds exposed, and the docks look more like rail yards and offer little exploration -- you quickly transition into the city's infrastructure.
What the The Brigmore Witches lacks in continuity, it makes up for in story. The Knife of Dunwall left players with a perilous cliffhanger: who is Delilah, why does she have the same mystical powers endowed to the protagonists, and what are her intentions? This final piece of DLC answers all of those questions while tying together the loose ends of Daud's story. The Knife of Dunwall's biggest downfall was its insistence that Daud have a conscience. The Brigmore Witches allows this plot point to resolve itself subtly, significantly affecting the plot of the series without changing Daud's established character.
The gameplay remains unchanged. You are able to import your skills and Chaos rating from The Knife of Dunwall, which, if you choose to, creates an overpowered Daud if you decide to complete the game on high chaos (as I did). The Brigmore Witches introduces few new powers and is better for limiting itself. Why Daud didn't have access to these powers previously presents logical questions about the gameplay and ascribing too many new gimmicks to this piece of DLC would indicate that the designers were reaching for innovative content. However, the Brigmore witches, the DLC's primary antagonists and common enemies, are a complicated entry into the series. Difficult to kill and outfitted with the same powers that you are, navigating around them or fighting through a swarm of them presents unique challenges.
As it strands, The Brigmore Witches acts as a fitting end to one of the most original IPs of 2012. By wrapping up Daud's story, the DLC delivers a relevant piece of plot development to the original game that arrives unexpectedly and without disrupting the core story and gameplay. In a climate where developers use DLC as a quick money grab, The Knife of Dunwall and The Brigmore Witches show how impactful and integral the delivery model can be to the overall experience.