Developed by Arkane Studios
Published by Bethesda Softworks
Available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC
Rated M for Mature
You know, I just realized I have no idea what the combat in Dishonored is like. I’ve heard it’s pretty good, but for all I know it could be just as tense and rewarding as a participation award in the elementary school talent show. I’m aware the games have combat, hinted at in the locked away skill trees I never bother leveling up. But I’ve always played these games as a non-lethal master of shadows. Not that I have any moral standpoint against killing. I always just feel like the game is judging me if I indulge my murderous impulses and go in guns blazing.
That being said, I’ve always really liked these games. The original Dishonored was a fresh return to form for Thief-likes, arriving just in time to save us from the 2014 Thief. I don’t remember much specifics about Dishonored 2, but judging by my review score I must have really liked it. I’ve liked most everything Arkane Studios has done, so surely more of the same with Dishonored: Death of the Outsider will be a hit! If Death of the Outsider was a $15 DLC pack, this would probably be the case. However, this is a $30 standalone titles. At the price of a full budget game, Death of the Outsider just does not deliver the content to justify the purchase.
That’s not to say it doesn’t do a lot right. Following in the footsteps of Knife of Dunwall and The Brigmore Witches, Death of the Outsider is it’s own full experience with an independant and developed story. It more or less serves as a sequel to both Dishonored 2 and the Knife/Witches storylines. Following the exploits of Billie Lurk, you embark on a quest to save your previous mentor Daud and assassinate The Outsider. It’s a lot to wrap up in just five levels, but Death of the Outsider tells its story quick and well. This is classic Dishonored, and what you learn from exploring the world does as much to flesh things out as the cutscenes.
Structurally, Death of the Outsider is on par with the best of Dishonored 2. The levels are well designed with many access points, and some of the more clever paths are genuinely tough to uncover. It’s true that there really isn’t anything quite like Dishonored’s level of verticality. There are some cool alternate objectives that can greatly impact how things play out. Take time exploring, and you will be rewarded. I assume the combat is also still good, but as I previously stated, I wouldn’t know.
That’s not to say that Death of the Outsider is just a carbon copy of Dishonored 2. Billie really does feel like her own character, with a unique arsenal and set of magic powers. She has her own version of teleport, a time stopping Foresight that lets you scout with ease, and a face stealing power called Semblance. Semblance steals your target’s identity (in the full sense, you actually take their face), allowing you to sneak into enemy lines and complete some objectives. There’s a combat ability called Void Strike, but I wouldn’t know how it stacks up. Billie also has her own special wrist gun that functions as dual crossbow/pistol, and a new hilariously effective hook mine that can be used both lethally and non-lethally. There are some returning staples like the grenades and spring razors, but overall there’s enough new to feel unique.
So there’s a lot good, but for every step in the right direction Death of the Outsider stumbles twice. There are only five levels, two of which are the same and a third recycled from Dishonored 2. The maps are also much smaller this time around, at about half the size of Dishonored 2. Seriously, even the level they recycled from that game is just cut in half. There’s only one new enemy, and ultimately it’s just a spooky version of the Clockwork Soldier.
While the new powers/gear is cool, it also feels hollow. You get some upgrades for your gear, but it all comes very fast and doesn’t feel super impactful. I had all the upgrades by the third level, and didn’t think twice about it. Aside from Semblance, none of the new powers are actually that new. They are just new takes on things you could already do, and more importantly can’t be upgraded. With no skill progression, your main form of augmentation comes from Bonecharms, of which there are 74. So yeah, prepare to hunt around for those.
My biggest gripe with Death of the Outsider comes from the story. I said before that I was pissed that Dishonored 2’s story relied so much on the Knife/Witches DLC, which came out a full year after Dishonored launched. I shouldn’t have to play the late DLC to understand the sequel. At the same time, I don’t think that DLC should be pointless fluff. In that regard, Dishonored: Death of the Outsider gets points for being an actual standalone game. You can buy it and play through it without owning Dishonored 2, which is a godsend if you jump platforms like I do. The story is pivotal for reasons I won’t spoil, and I expect it will have a big impact on the next game.
That being said, I don’t have any idea why I’m killing The Outsider. I get why I want to make nice with my old mentor who I tried to kill. I get that he wants to kill The Outsider as the source of all supernatural powers and his lifelong regret for killing the Empress. As Ted playing a Dishonored game, I never got the sense that The Outsider was the bad guy. He’s always just been an enabler on the peripherie, granting power to the powerless and letting them go about earning their revenge as they see fit. He never makes people do anything. He doesn’t call for blood and demand sacrifices in return for his gift. He just gives it to you, and then watches. The game’s also gone to some significant steps to make you feel bad for him, making the ultimate goal of murdering him off-putting.
I’d have to be pretty stupid to call Dishonored: Death of the Outsider “bad.” It’s just a decent, overpriced, short, dull episode in a series of games I really like. If this was a $30 indie title, I’d still say it was overpriced. It’s much more suited at the $15-$20 range. If it goes on sale, pick it up and get some decent kicks. But if this is the endcap to the series, I’m disappointed.