A case of trial and error.
What can you get for £3.49? A Christmas card perhaps? Maybe an alcoholic drink (if you don’t live in London)? Well, how about an additional slice of content for Dishonored. As good as Arkane Studios’ stealth-em-up was, the campaign admittedly was a little short and sometimes the level design did fence players in somewhat – slightly going against the game’s inherent nature to encourage players to experiment with what is the most elaborate power and weapon set gamers have been offered all year.
Dunwall City Trials doesn’t rectify that fenced in feeling with ten scenarios designed to push your mastery of the dark arts to the very limit with challenges which test your reflexes as well as your intelligence. The new content is entirely separate to the campaign and doesn’t feature any plot or new dialogue, instead your simply dropped into scenarios which reward points for expediency and flair granting new concept art as a reward.
As DLC goes this slice is a bit more obtuse than a lot of gamers will be used to, but that doesn’t make it any less fun. Here are each of the scenarios present and the objective associated with them:
- Mystery Foe: Collect clues to identify and kill a randomly selected target without sacrificing any innocents.
- Burglar: Recover six hidden eggs and valuable artefacts in a house without being discovered more than three times by patrolling guards.
- Back Alley Brawl: Fight wave after wave of enemies, with new powers and equipment added each round.
- Assassin’s Run: Shoot guards in quick succession with a crossbow without killing any civilians along the way.
- Oil Drop: A shooting gallery where you need to shoot falling whale oil barrels from passing trains.
- Bend Time Massacre: Kill as a pre-determined amount of enemies using Bend Time and other powers and equipment before the time runs out.
- Kill Chain: Use any means necessary to chain kills together to earn more points.
- Bonfires: Blink to different checkpoints randomly ordered on a pre-determined map before the time runs out.
- Train Runner: Get to checkpoints in the fastest amount of time possible.
- Kill Cascade: Carry out assassin drop kills to accumulate points.
Now when you boil down these scenarios to their base components, some of them aren’t terrible exciting, Oil Drop is entirely forgettable and Kill Cascade only lasts a matter of minutes, but the rest of them force you out of your comfort zone.
If you’re anything like us when you played Dishonored’s campaign, you probably only used a selection of powers repeatedly rather than the whole set. The nature of the rune-based progression mechanic goes against active experimentation, but that’s where the City Trials DLC comes in.
Thanks to each scenario here having pre-selected powers and weapons the likelihood is that you’ll come across something you didn’t realise you’d enjoy using before. The previously ignored power we fell in love with was Devouring Swarm, during the Back Alley Brawl activity it was great fun dispatching enemies with the rampaging rat horde and the points bonus associated with utilising it added a real sense of glee.
Aside from the Mystery Foe scenario, every mission here boils down to some element of combat or traversal against the clock, but again that’s perfectly fine as being able to play around with the Dishonored toolset in some new, albeit small, sandboxes proves just how satisfying blinking, jumping, running, shooting and vaulting over scenery really is.
The scenarios too are actually rather tricky. Each one requires players to score 30,000 points in order to unlock the Expert version of the challenge, and new concept art is offered at 10,000 point intervals for each. To be frank, not every entry in the concept art gallery is worthy of a Turner Prize, but it’s nice to get a tangible reward for mastering each challenge. There are hidden dollies to find in each challenge as well and the times and scores achieved are all collected for the world to see via online leaderboards.
The only aspect that we found a bit disappointing about this pack, is that despite all the levels being set in The Outsider’s domain, he doesn’t actually make an appearance during the levels or even the brief camera sweeps which introduce each challenge. City Trials was never supposed to be a story DLC, but conceptually it feels a little odd that he doesn’t at least show his face while you’re showing off your assassin prowess in what is essentially his domain.
Story DLC is currently being prepared for Dishonored and it will be released during the first half of 2012. Dunwall City Trials is a rewarding stop gap between now and that new content arriving and it presents a more than welcome return to the most empowering stealth game released this year.
There’s more than a couple of hours worth of entertainment here if you want to perfect each challenge and for the price of £3.49 on PC, 400 MS Points on Xbox 360, and £3.99 on PlayStation 3 you really can’t ask for much more than that.
A brief but cheap set of enjoyable new sandboxes to lose yourself in.
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