Dishonored: The Brigmore Witches DLC Review: Crafting a Richer Dunwall
Dishonored’s The Brigmore Witches is DLC done right.
Story DLC is good. Story DLC that puts you in the shoes of someone other than the main player character is better.
Once it's all said and done, the adventure Daud goes on between the beginning of the vanilla Dishonored story and his epic one-on-one with Corvo is not particularly profound on its own. That story, told across the Knife of Dunwall and this week's Brigmore Witches packs, is a neat little quest, and Daud's unique collection of abilities is a good little change of pace, even if I didn't significantly alter my approach to the scenarios placed in front of me. Well, not at first, anyway.
Furthermore, The Brigmore Witches hardly stands up on its own as a complete story (definitely play Knife of Dunwall first if you haven't already), as the first two thirds of it feel like typical video game busywork: break a woman out of prison, kill the man who usurped control of her gang so you can use their boat, go on a fetch quest for a part to fix said boat, etc. The journey to get to where the witches, and their leader Delilah, are chillin' is not exactly an epic quest.
But the gameplay experience is interesting nonetheless. The woman you're breaking out of the slammer, Lizzie Stride — one of Jack the Ripper's real life victims was one Elizabeth Stride, I should note — has been tortured quite a bit and collapses when you remove her shackles. So you've got to carry her out of there, and unless you already wiped out every guard in there that will be a tricky prospect; I usually take an action-oriented approach, and at one point I put Lizzie down to fight some guards, and she was promptly eaten by rats. Oops.
But what's more important about this tale is the context it provides. Usually our games are so focused around a single character that it becomes easy to remember that the entire world does not revolve around him or her. For example, in Brigmore Witches we get to take part in a gang war between the Dead Eels and the Hatters, and that is pretty sweet.
But the witches themselves are the main attraction. In all the time you've spent with Dishonored so far, you've probably come to take for granted the weirdness hovering at the fringes of the world. Things like the blink ability are just laws of nature here, you think, and you don't worry about it too much, and neither does anyone else. But when you land at Brigmore Manor and invade the witches' compound, you'll discover that there is some weirdness in Dunwall that even the other people in Dunwall can appreciate.
Because I don't want to spare you the ass kicking you will almost certainly receive at the hands of these women and their ghost dogs — you read that correctly — I won't describe what fighting them is like. But suffice to say your journeys through the world of Dishonored both as Corvo and Daud will not prepare you for taking them on directly.
That is a good thing. It's a shakeup, and since Daud's arc in these DLC packs serves to show us that Corvo's adventure does not represent the whole of everything going on in Dunwall it's easy to appreciate that a group like the Brigmore Witches were there just out of frame the whole time.
Having disparate plot threads run in parallel is a woefully underused narrative mechanic in plot-driven games, but it's one that really works in building a fanbase. We can debate the quality of the Star Wars expanded universe all day, but the reason that there are so many people who are immersed in it is because it has turned Star Wars into a universe just full of context and history. And when you create a world like Dunwall, which is so different from our own in very fundamental ways, that depth, that glimpse of a bigger picture — presented outside of collectible texts, preferably – can make the full package that much richer.
And what The Brigmore Witches brings to Dishonored most certainly does that.