Dishonored: Dunwall City Trials Review
Many Dishonored fans will undoubtedly be disappointed that the game's first DLC does not provide any new adventures for Corvo or give players the chance to further explore the fascinating Dunwall and the world it inhabits. In fact, in spite of its name the DLC isn't even set in Dunwall, with each of its ten levels occupying the surreal Void instead. What Dunwall City Trials does give you is the opportunity to put some of the skills that you developed playing the original game to the test, with a collection of game art and leaderboard bragging rights as your rewards for success.
Dunwall City Trials puts each of its ten trials into one of four categories which the DLC labels as Stealth, Combat, Puzzle, and Mobility. The first two categories are appropriately named, but "Puzzle" is really another form of the Combat trials in which you must maximize your kills within set time limits and "Mobility" translates into checkpoint races. Here's how the ten levels breakdown into these categories:
Mystery Foe - This is a two part challenge. First you must locate four different clues that together will identify your target, and then you must eliminate that target. The clue locations are randomized each time you play, as is your target, so there's more replayability built into this challenge than you get from a challenge level in which you're just trying to best your top score. This replayability is further enhanced by the freedom the challenge gives you in choosing how you dispatch your target.
Burglar - This challenge is appropriately named. You break into a mansion in an effort to liberate it of its collection of six Faberge style eggs, with bonus points for grabbing as much extra loot along the way as you can. Like Mystery Foe, this challenge feels somewhat like a mission from the original game, albeit a much, much shorter one.
Back Alley Brawl - An enemy wave survival mode ala Black Ops' Zombie Mode. Enemies spawn into an alleyway that you must dispatch without dying yourself, with the added twist that enemies from rival factions will also attack each other. Bonus points are awarded for varying your attacks and for creative kills. Ammo, potions, and powers are up for grabs between rounds. There's not much room for stealth in this challenge, it's all pretty much combat of the messiest kind.
Assassin's Run - You must clear the enemies from a series of rooms using only a crossbow, while taking care not to kill any civilians. Unlike Back Alley Brawl you can get a little stealthy with this one, and in doing so you'll earn extra points for your stealth kills.
Oil Drop - Less a combat challenge than a shooting gallery, Oil Drop puts you on a platform while Whale Oil canisters are flung your way. Armed with a pistol, you need to shoot them out of the air before they land and burn you to a crisp. I'm sure that you're aware that the pistol is not an effective long range weapon from your experience with the original game, so you can probably guess how much fun this challenge is (hint: not much).
Bend Time Massacre - In this challenge you're presented with a series of rooms filled with a number of people. Each room is surrounded by one or more glass walls that let you observe the people within. When you're ready to strike you break the glass and enter slow-mo Bend Time mode. You must succeed in eliminating a target number of people before the Bend Time mode ends. Fail and you get to try again, succeed and you'll have the opportunity to pick up extra points in a bonus round in which how you kill your targets is more important than how many you kill.
Kill Chain - Your goal here is to kill a large group of enemies, with the catch being that you only have four seconds to move from one kill to the next.
Bonfires - A checkpoint race in which you must move from beacon to beacon as a timer counts down. When you reach a beacon you earn a little extra time on the clock and the next beacon is lit.
Train Runner - This challenge is essentially a variation on Bonfires in which you get to choose your own path through the course rather than following beacons.
Kill Cascade - Another race challenge, but this time your checkpoints are assassination targets that must be taken out with drop kills.
The challenges are all, well, quite challenging, and if you're dead set on maxing them all out at three-star ratings then you've got your work cut out for you. Even getting to two stars can be a challenge, and your reward for doing so is unlocking expert level versions of the challenges which border on sadistically hard difficulty levels.
The two Stealth challenges are good - they're both enjoyable and are the challenges that are truest to the spirit of the original game. The Combat challenges don't hold up quite as well. Back Alley Brawl can be fun, but it's not like we haven't seen survival modes like this in plenty of games that are a lot different from Dishonored. Assassin's Run can be fun, but it's a pretty short challenge and once you've been through it a couple of times the motivation may not be there to keep trying to squeeze a few more points out of the challenge. Oil Drop, well, you already know how I feel about that one. The two Puzzle challenges are enjoyable, and the way that they encourage experimentation in your approach to them gives them a better degree of replayability. The Mobility challenges failed to hold my interest for long. In the original game, lining up your Blink landing position took a little finesse which was OK because you needed to take your time to move about Dunwall carefully. Using Blink in conjunction with flat out sprints and punctuated with jumps just doesn't work well enough to make parkour style races across courses filled with endless chasms into the Void enjoyable.
Tallying things up, we have four fun modes, two that are alright, three that don't quite make the cut, and one that's a total loss. Normally you'd probably consider passing on DLC that you'll leave 40% of mostly untouched, but the relatively low asking price works in Dunwall City Trials' favor. It's odd that the first DLC for such a story-driven game doesn't add anything to its narrative, but if you're OK with that you can certainly have some fun with it.
Final Rating: 69%. At its best when it's closest to recreating the feel of Dishonored, but it's not always at its best.