In my time with the Dishonored series, one of the key elements of the games that has most stood out to me has been the series’ rich, intriguing world. Gameplay usually gets the lion’s share of the attention when it comes down to talking about Dishonored and how it allows for player freedom and decision-making; however, the evocative world of whale oil-driven economy and dark, twisted politics have made for a world that I’ve come to love over the past few years. The series’ most recent release, Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, shows that if Dishonored is indeed coming to an end, it is a fitting tribute to its engaging world.
Dishonored: Death of the Outsider is a standalone expansion to last year’s Dishonored 2, and acts as the end of the “Kaldwin era” of narrative established with the very first title. Whether or not that means it is the end of the franchise remains unclear (though wouldn’t be unsurprising given Dishonored 2‘s flagging sales). But more than anything, Death of the Outsider provides some exceptional closure that is sure to please longtime fans of the series.
Like the previous Dishonored games, Death of the Outsider is equal parts action and stealth as players take on the role of Billie Lurk, the right-hand woman (and one-time apprentice) of Daud from Dishonored‘s story DLC, and a character that many will recognize from Dishonored 2 as a deadly ally. Coming after the events of Dishonored 2, Death of the Outsider sees Billie reunited with Daud after rescuing him in the game’s opening, where soon after she is tasked with infiltrating a secret society within Karnaca’s walls (known as “the Eyeless”) in order to find and exterminate the Outsider himself and put an end to the supernatural woes that have plagued the planet.
While technically you can consider Death of the Outsider as “Dishonored 2.5” in terms of story chronology, the game actually serves as a solid successor to Dishonored‘s “Knife of Dunwall” and “The Brigmore Witches” with deep callbacks to the events of these earlier points in the series. That might make Death of the Outsider a bit of a hard title to grasp for newcomers to the series narratively, but for longtime fans of the series, it’s an excellent coda to the previous two installments (and the various DLCs).
Without the blessing of the Outsider and his Void powers like Corvo and Emily utilized in the first two games, Billie Lurk has her own arsenal in Dishonored: Death of the Outsider that make her no less capable of taking on enemies stealthily or in a bloody frenzy. Most of the time, her abilities match up fairly close to what Corvo and Emily have to offer, such as her own take on the trademark “Blink” ability.
However, Billie does have her own unique takes on abilities and powers that players have come to know from the previous games. Instead of the near-instant teleporting that Corvo and Emily used, Billie instead places “markers” in the environment that players can then warp to, so long as they remain within Billie’s line of sight. It seems like an insignificant change compared to what “Blink” offered, but actually opens up some unique possibilities where players can take out an enemy in one location, and then warp back to get the jump on another unsuspecting foe from above (or plan an easily accessible escape route if things got too dicey).
Likewise, the rest of the tricks up Billie’s sleeves offer some truly diverse powers that open up Dishonored‘s gameplay in ways I hadn’t really thought of before. For those that have wanted to live the life of Arya Stark a la Game of Thrones, Billie’s “Semblance” power allows her to literally suck the faces off of enemies and gain a temporary disguise, though only for a very short duration of time.
Billie’s Foresight power also gives a modified take on the “Dark Vision” power from Dishonored‘s past, where she can freeze time and mark points of interest within the environments ahead. My favorite power in particular, though, is Billie’s ear for listening to rats, as players can listen in on the conversations from rats for info about what dangers might lie ahead: it’s delightfully weird and creepy.
With those tweaks of abilities and powers aside, the most liberating aspect of Dishonored: Death of the Outsider is the fact that it unshackles players from one of the series’ signature elements: the Chaos system. Where previously in Dishonored your lethal or non-lethal actions would affect the world and how it perceived your character, Death of the Outsider does away with “good or bad” Chaos depending on your actions. Some might argue that this takes away from the narrative aspect of the Dishonored series, but (surprisingly) it does a lot to encourage experimentation in lethal and non-lethal approaches, especially with players no longer having to worry about trying to get either a “Low” or “High” Chaos rating for each level.
This is combined with the fact that while Dishonored: Death of the Outsider offers a more limited set of abilities this time around –with those three powers being more or less what you get (and a few others)– you have pretty much all of them right from the get-go. Where players had to work their way up through collecting Runes and unlocking upgrades, Death of the Outsider does away with that and, in turn, gives players a remarkable level of choice right from the very beginning.
As someone that played the first two titles incredibly cautiously, I found it liberating that Death of the Outsider gave me the opportunity to enjoy a more “lethal” approach. Honestly, it even feels like the preferred way to go, given Billie’s revenge-filled disposition that the story sets her on from the start.
But with that aside, Death of the Outsider is an experience that will (likely) appeal more to Dishonored diehards more than anyone else: not that that’s necessarily a bad thing. It doesn’t quite match some of the dizzying heights of Dishonored 2 when it comes to clever level design and setpieces, especially in comparison to the twisty “Clockwork Mansion” level or the mind-boggling “A Crack in the Slab” sections of that title.
However, Death of the Outsider is a leaner and meaner take on the Dishonored series, and one that continues to highlight the special world that Arkane Studios have crafted. There’s an argument to be made for the series to continue on as much as there is for the franchise (at least in its current form) to end on a high note like Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, and with that last point, it serves as a bloody finish to a beautifully violent series.