When "Dishonored" players last left the assassin Daud, in April DLC pack "The Knife of Dunwall," he was about to go on a witch hunt.
In "The Brigmore Witches," the hunt is on.
The final piece of content for Arkane Studios' 2012 game of the year contender delivers more of the predatory playgrounds that made the steampunk tale of black magic and whale blubber such a thrill. "Witches" still struggles with the lack of pathos that burdened "Dishonored," but its story of Daud and the scheming sorceress Delilah leaves Dunwall in a satisfying place.
Like "The Knife," the $10 "Witches" adds three full levels to the story, or roughly 30 percent of the length of "Dishonored." So, taken with "The Knife," "Witches" is basically part two of a full-bodied expansion pack. On my no-kill, no-alert stealth playthrough — a more patient affair, to be sure — I racked up another five hours with one of my favorite games of last year.
"Witches" allows you to import both story and character data from "The Knife," so the degree of chaos in which your Daud left Dunwall and the gizmos and spells he used to do so will be honored at the beginning of this new chapter.
Whereas "The Knife" introduced new weapons like chokedust and new powers like assassin summoning, it still had you pouncing on the same overseers and watch guards you stalked and/or slayed as "Dishonored" protagonist Corvo Attano. You still prey on some of those ranks in "Witches," but the add-on also introduces new enemies: namely, witches.
The titular foes' own blinking teleportation ability renders them a pain to sneak upon — make your move quick, or they'll swoosh behind you before you know it. No easier to navigate are the witches' smoking-skull guard dogs, who sometimes materialize a few feet in front of you.
Whereas the action and gadgetry remains as savory as they were in "Dishonored," and the storytelling somewhat improved, the one sign of flagging quality in "Witches" is level design. At three forks in the road I encountered a clearly easier path to my goal, one that required much less patience and risk of detection. Typically smart design will balance the branches of difficulty — even in the main body of "Dishonored," the challenge of killing a few guards is comparable to the challenge of memorizing their patrol patterns and blinking behind their backs. At a few points in "Witches," that was not the case at all.
Michael Madsen continues voicing Daud with the cutthroat determination a middle-aged assassin ringleader should convey. But, like many of Bethesda's games ("Skyrim"), some of the secondary characters you meet on "Witches'" three levels sound too similar to Daud, making for some confusing and monotonous dialogue. Nothing else in this superb final chapter of "Dishonored" is nearly so one-note.
(An Xbox 360 download code for "Dishonored: The Brigmore Witches" was provided to me by Bethesda Softworks.)