It was during E3 that Bethesda surprised us with the news that, in lieu of creating downloadable content packs for Dishonored 2, it would instead be releasing a brand new, budget priced game called Dishonored: Death of the Outsider. A standalone experience that would, for all intents and purposes, act as a sequel to the second game, albeit with a new protagonist and a side story structure.
Now, months later, Dishonored: Death of the Outsider is readily available for play on Xbox One, PS4 and PC, and brings with it the same levels of polish and pedigree that made its predecessors so beloved. The end result is a thoroughly immersive and engaging experience that continues the positive legacy of Arkane’s hit IP, while taking the form of something that is best described as an expansion. Its length — which will average out at several hours for a basic play through, but can be stretched out quite a bit by taking one’s time and trying to complete all of the available side objectives — is, after all, the main reason why we’re talking about a $29.99 US release instead of something that is $60 like most games are.
Death of the Outsider doesn’t star Corvo or Emily, and is instead focused on both Billie Lurk and her former ally, Daud, “The Knife of Dunwall.” It’s after a lengthy time apart that we rekindle our relationships with the two, and find playable Billie Lurk attempting to free the powerful murderer from captivity.
Following a fun mission that offers different ways to save the Empress’ murderer, this “Kaldwin era finale” of an expansion’s real goal kicks into play. That is, a plan to kill the Outsider, whose dark and spiritual ways have overshadowed Dunwall and Karnaca for many years. Daud, you see, seeks revenge against the mystical man, but is not healthy enough to take things into his own hands. After all, the years haven’t been kind to him, nor has the time spent in unsafe captivity, and it’s expected that he only has a few days to live at most.
Due to the above, all of the work falls onto Billie Lurk’s shoulders. She, a former captain of industry who was once a Lieutenant of the Whalers and is now in control of her own ship, the Dreadful Whale. A ship that acts as your hub and safe quarters throughout most of this several hour-long experience, while remaining docked at one of Karnaca’s forgotten ports.
Although Billie is a new playable character, her powers remain quite familiar, thanks to some supernatural assets and the void magic that powers them. However, instead of having access to the blink ability that defined a lot of Dishonored and Dishonored 2, the new, close cropped protagonist uses something called displace. It’s this power, which allows her to essentially teleport from one area to the next, that really aids your movement and acts as your go to throughout the game. That said, doing so requires a bit of effort and planning, because you must first place a ‘marker’ where you want to teleport to, before regaining control of Billie and having the option of pressing the left trigger to switch to that location.
Displace isn’t the only power that Billie has up her sleeve, but it’s definitely the most helpful. The one other really notable one comes in the form of semblance, which is used to stealthily kill and assume a non-playable character or guard. If you’re successful and can do so without being seen, you’ll have a limited amount of time to infiltrate areas using your new disguise, all while being left alone by enemies. Or, if you so choose, you can use that mask to engage in meetings and auctions without being noticed, or use one to gain entry to a locked safe.
The other two powers consist of being able to listen to groups of rats, whose creepy whisper voices can give you hints about what’s ahead, and being able to stop time. Normally, the latter would be the most helpful in a game like this, but it’s not like you can really assassinate enemies or move far while everything is frozen. After all, that’d be too easy. No, how this power works is that it allows you to explore the immediate area, mark enemies (to learn their paths or simply note their locations) and place a displace marker if you please.
Death of the Outsider tries to get players to experiment with slowing time and using displace immediately afterwards, but it doesn’t always work as planned and can be pretty clunky. This is especially true of the fact that, since two characters cannot occupy the same physical space, teleporting right into a baddie will cause him to explode. In principal this is a fantastic and badass thing to have in your arsenal, but it’s very difficult to pull off.
Of course, weapons also play a vital role here, unless you’re one of the few who are somehow able to go through these games without alerting or killing a single digitized soul. Billie has some good ones up her sleeve, too, what with her trusty blade and her left-handed dart gun, which can shoot elemental bolts and can even use fountain pens as ammunition. On top of these, she also has some teleportation-based mines at her disposal, along with spring razor traps, rewire tools and both lethal and non-lethal grenade types.
As is usually the case, upgrades for both the character and her arsenal can be purchased through the Black Market, as can the items themselves. The thing is, however, that you’re not going to be able to purchase too many of them unless you really scour each environment for hidden coins and expensive trinkets, or complete a lot of the game’s new contracts, of which there are quite a few. Contracts are basically side objectives, which pay out pretty well. Through them, you’ll be asked to do things like kidnap a bartender from a busy bar, put a diseased dog out of his misery and murder a mime without making it look suspicious.
It’s these contracts that add length, replayability and originality to Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, as outside of them, this is essentially just more Dishonored. Then again, that’s never been a bad thing, and it isn’t in this case either.
That said, this isn’t the best Dishonored title we’ve been given. While Death of the Outsider and its five missions will be memorable for years to come, this standalone campaign starts better than it ends. The early missions, which take you to places like a hidden fight club and a well protected bank, really stand out and offer lots of great gameplay opportunities, with the city of Karnaca offering some neat areas to explore as well. However, after mission three, things start to go downhill a bit. The game becomes more tedious, the spark isn’t there as much as it was before, and enemies seem to be everywhere. As such, I really don’t know how people will manage to complete this thing without alerting anyone.
For a game that really wants you to be stealthy, the last mission (especially) is full of enemies that are tough to avoid, and who come packing guns. Billie is weaker than her predecessors, and isn’t able to take as much damage, so constantly being shot at can take a lot of your health away quickly.
Surely, you’re thinking that this is not how Dishonored is meant to be played, and I agree with that. Although I did my best to avoid enemies as much as possible — or at least take them out stealthily — the final stage made that difficult, as it tasked me with running through a lengthy cave that was chock full of bad guys, before retrace my steps while heading in the opposite direction. Sure, I looked for other ways to go about it, but didn’t see much in the way of alternative routes. Then again, I’m not above admitting that I could’ve missed something, since I’m far from perfect, especially when it comes to stealth games.
It’s a shame that a game with such great level design early on doesn’t necessarily carry that through until its credits roll, because that concluding section was definitely more frustrating than fun. The first few missions were so great that the middling fourth and fifth ones became all the more disappointing as a result.
Still, despite that issue, Dishonored: Death of the Outsider is a very good game, and one that is beautiful to look at. Karnaca pops, and there’s tons of visual variety to look forward to, especially since the major environments (bank, convent, fight club, etc.) are so different in both type and design. The sound is also pretty impressive, to boot, with quality music, good sound effects and some very solid voice acting from folks like Michael Madsen and Robin Lord Taylor.
That said, Billie could’ve been more interesting. She has her moments, for sure, but they’re not as impressive or as memorable as Corvo’s, nor is her storyline. Furthermore, the motion comics that are used to tell said story in-between missions leave something to be desired.
In conclusion, while Dishonored: Death of the Outsider isn’t perfect, or as fantastic as the first two games were, it’s still a quality affair that stands above many others. This is Dishonored, after all; a series that is known for its polish and all of the interesting ways in which one can complete his or her objectives. It’s also only thirty American dollars, which is a steal given the amount of gameplay that is offered, especially when you factor in a new game plus mode that swaps Billie’s powers for memorable returnees like blink.
**This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.**
Dishonored: Death of the Outsider has lots to offer for its budget-based price tag. However, certain design decisions unfortunately hold what is a very solid game back from being great like its predecessors were.
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The Good Stuff
Decently lengthy campaign with lots of side quests that can make it much longer
Challenging and thought provoking, with multiple ways to complete each objective
The Not-So-Good Stuff
The level design in missions four and five tend to leave something to be desired