Standalone expansions seem to be the flavour of the month at the moment, and not to be left out Arkane Studios have come out with their own spin on the concept: Death of the Outsider. While the gameplay is a familiar – if slightly pared down – version of the main series, Death of the Outsider represents an important bit of story which gives us insight into one of the game’s most mysterious and influential characters.
Beautiful… from a distance
Playing as series’ mainstay Billie Lurk (who first appeared in the original Dishonored’s DLC and again as a supporting character in the sequel), your mission is none other than to track down and kill the mysterious trickster demigod known as the Outsider. The intro mission sees you reunited with your old mentor Daud (the Knife of Dunwall responsible for the death of the empress in the first game), who believes that by killing the Outsider you will put an end to at least some of the woes of the world. For those unfamiliar with the Outsider, he has been a significant influence in many of the important events of the series, endowing a chosen few with supernatural abilities that effectively change the course of history. Allegiant to none, his motivations are as murky as a bowl of rat soup, but whenever the Outsider leaves his mark, calamity is sure to follow.
Death of the Outsider gives important insight into the black-eyed demigod, and we see a much different side of him through Billie’s eyes. There’s a great sadness to his tale, and while Daud and many others pin the blame on him as a source of generalised malevolence, by exposing his tragic beginnings and making us instrumental in his end, Death of the Outsider showcases his more human qualities. The ending has a decent sense of finality, but is coloured with just enough ambiguity to leave the series open to further iterations.
Gameplay-wise it’s hard not to feel a slight sense of fatigue setting in. After the excellent two main games, Death of the Outsider patently sticks to the now well established Dishonored formula, but curiously strips some of the more interesting parts away. Compared to Corvo or Emily, Billie has much fewer tools at her disposal, and there’s also much less customisation to her arsenal. She only has access to three supernatural powers, and these can’t be modified or upgraded to any great extent, greatly stunting the sense of variety. There’s the stock-standard Displace, which allows Billie to quickly transport from one location to another, but with a fairly limited range it feels much less liberating than Corvo’s Blink or Emily’s Far Reach. Billie can also mimic the appearance of NPCs or explore areas in an undetectable spirit form to mark enemies and uncover secrets, but I had a hard time combining her limited toolset in interesting ways like I’ve become accustomed to with the Dishonored franchise. Taking away the ability to level up your powers and drastically change their effects and potency is an odd omission here, and was well missed. You can locate Black Bonecharms which modify your abilities, but it’s not nearly as meaningful to the gameplay as it ought to be.
One aspect that is at the heart of Dishonored is the amount of freedom given to the player to choose their path through a mission. I like the fact that a stealth game doesn’t overtly punish those who prefer a more aggressive playstyle (like yours truly), and this philosophy returns unblemished in Death of the Outsider. My signature style is to skulk in the shadows and deliver swift death to whoever gets in my way (dead men tell no tales as they say), and this is as pleasurable as it’s ever been. While I felt like I had
Sights like these are only mildly alarming in the world of Dishonored
Dead men tell no tales
slightly limited tactical options as Billie, planning an attack and executing it with precision while remaining unseen provides that unmistakeable rush that Dishonored is known for. Mission objectives too also have a myriad of ways to approach them, and the more you explore the mission environment, the more ways you’ll learn of to achieve your ultimate goal. Of course you can also talk to the rats if you’re stuck, with their cryptic musings often giving you strong hints towards points of interest.
While I felt like I had slightly limited tactical options as Billie, planning an attack and executing it with precision while remaining unseen provides that unmistakeable rush that Dishonored is known for
Little do they know, they’ll all be dead soon
The game’s five missions weigh in at around six hours, but this could easily be augmented if you want to see and do absolutely everything. There are optional contracts to complete, Bonecharms and treasure to hunt down, as well as interesting subplots to discover and meddle in. Dishonored’s dark and dreary world filled with people doing generally horrible things to one another is captivating, and this good sense of setting can elevate the experience when the gameplay starts to wear a little thin.
Death of the Outsider is an essential bit of lore for anyone who considers themselves a Dishonored fan, giving us a deeper look at one of the game’s most interesting and mysterious characters. It’s a fitting final chapter, however the fact that the gameplay is so incredibly familiar – and actually manages to take some steps backwards in terms of variety and customisability – means that your attention may waver before it’s all over. Arkane Studios have invented an incredible franchise with Dishonored, but I can’t help but feel that maybe they’ve done their dash with the series for now, and should perhaps let it slink back into the shadows for a while.
Reviewed on Xbox One