Dishonored: The Brigmore Witches hands-on preview

Atonement can take quite a while, depending on the crime. After assassinating the empress at the beginning of Dishonored , master assassin Daud set out to redeem himself in Dishonored's second DLC, The Knife of Dunwall . Now, Bethesda completes Daud's story and puts him up against a new and dangerous enemy: the Brigmore Witches .

After a fitful dream featuring a cameo by a certain famous assassin, Daud wakes to find that he's got a new mission. A coven of witches led by the mysterious Delilah Copperspoon is getting up to something at the expansive Brigmore Manor house somewhere upriver. “I cannot abide a mystery,” Daud intones, and charters a boat.

Or, he would, if he could ever do things like chartering a boat as easily as stepping down to the local travel agent. The best boat to take him past a blockade is run by a vicious gang whose boss, the scarred, tattooed, and abrasive Lizzy Stride, was recently busted and thrown into Coldridge Prison to rot. The bulk of Brigmore Witches is taken up by Daud working to free Lizzy and win the Dead Eels over to his cause.

Daud gathers his gear and heads out. The Favors system from Knife of Dunwall is still in place, allowing you to pay your network of assassins to bribe servants, sabotage doors and leave you caches of supplies nearby to help you through most missions. Most of the favors are outright bargains, and Daud has money to spend. Unlike Corvo, who lost everything at the beginning of his story, Daud is still sitting fat on a pile of dead-Empress cash. Daud can easily afford all of the favors and many of the upgrades available.

For the first mission, I spend 100 coins to purchase an old Overseer uniform. After skulking in the shadows for all of Dishonored and Knife of Dunwall, it feels bizarre and brazen to just stroll through the prison gates in a freshly pressed uniform, reeking of religious authority. Instead of skulking, I'm face-to-face with Coldridge's guards as they complain about their duties. As I wander deeper into the prison to go about my fake Overseer business, I look for an interior door or unwatched hall to slip away and start to break Lizzy out of jail.

Of course, my false uniform is only good for as long as I act like an Overseer. As soon as I get spotted in a restricted area or found carrying an unconscious convict out the front doors, though, the ruse is up and it's time to run.

Just like in the original Dishonored, the real pleasure of Brigmore Witches is found in moving through a mission without raising any eyebrows. It's easy for part of the first mission, thanks to the Overseer uniform, but eventually Daud has to go back to being a ghost. But when things go wrong—and they will—Daud has a brand-new power to lean on. Pull unlocks Daud's inner Jedi and allows him to levitate small items like keys, coins, and bullets, pocketing them from a distance. At higher levels, Pull can lift enemies off the ground and hold them until you disable or kill them. Daud's trusty wristbow and summonable assassin helpers are also back for you to use if things really start to go pear-shaped.

When you do get in a scrap, new enemies mix up the sometimes-predictable rhythm of cutlass-and-pistol wielding city watch officers. The Dead Eels gang uses boat hooks instead of swords, giving them wild, long-range swings that you'll need to get past to land any cuts. They also throw gaseous grenades of green river gunk that is less than pleasant.

The witches themselves are snarling balls of nastiness, and they fight like it. Members of the Brigmore coven throw frenetic combinations of spells and screams at you, making them especially dangerous. After a particularly bloody encounter trying to sneak past a trio of witches, I begin greeting members of the coven with a wristbow bolt to the head on sight: going toe-to-toe is just too risky. Some witches are accompanied by Grave Hounds, undead dogs that have a tendency to get back up after you've killed them once or twice.

All of the levels I play feel slightly smaller than vanilla Dishonored, but still feature a load of detailed world-building. As The Knife of Dunwall explored the whaling operations propping up the economy of Dunwall, Brigmore Witches spends a lot of time with the dockside neighborhoods and their warring gangs, and the steampunky flavor of the setting really starts to come out in the cobblestone streets and advertisements for Pratchett's Jellied Eels.

Though the levels have been designed with care, none of the puzzles I found were as difficult as the hardest missions in Dishonored. Those seeking incredibly difficult assassination missions may be disappointed. With Michael Madsen continuing as the voice of Daud and the story moving fast toward an inevitable confrontation with Delilah and the Brigmore coven, though, I think that the story itself promises to be the most satisfying part of this DLC.

Brigmore Manor is a beautiful setting for the DLC's conclusion, and it's a location I'm looking forward to exploring in full: just as I stepped onto the lush-but-unkempt lawn, I got a tap on the shoulder telling me I was cut off.

I'll just have to wait until The Brigmore Witches is released next week to take a proper look around.