Dishonored: Death of the Outsider Review
In 2012, Arkane Studios introduced the world to the city of Dunwall, a dark fantasy kingdom inspired by Victorian London, where nobles stabbed other nobles in the back for crumbs of power when they weren’t busy grounding the poor into dust. For nearly five years and across multiple entries, Arkane has built its fantastical universe around assassins and vigilantes, people sick of corrupt politicians and tyrants molding the world in their image and willing to do anything to stop them – even making deals with the devil. In the world of Dishonored, the closest thing to the devil is The Outsider, a mysterious figure on the outskirts of reality who grants those he deems worthy of his interest supernatural powers.
It’s no surprise that Death of the Outsider, supposedly the last chapter in Dishonored’s story, is focused on The Outsider. He’s always been the most compelling character in this universe as well as being the one person tying everything together across every game. While Death Of The Outsider isn’t the strongest Dishonored game, this standalone expansion does justice by its enigmatic character and serves as a strong finale for a series that’s mined the depths of revenge, justice, and the absurdity of existence for all of its combined worth.
In Death of The Outsider, you play Billie Lurk, Daud’s pupil and a returning character from the original Dishonored’s first DLC, The Knife of Dunwall, as well as Dishonored 2. Lurk finally reunites with Daud after years of separation and her former teacher presents her with one last job: to kill the Outsider and end the chaos that he introduces into the world. Death Of The Outsider does a great job of setting up both Daud and Billie’s motives for wanting to do so. They’re both old, hardened killers who had many years to try and come to terms with their years as assassins. They’re filled with regret over their actions – including killing Empress Jessamine Kaldwin at the beginning of the original Dishonored – and are looking for redemption. Daud’s on his last leg, coughing with disease, so it’s up to you to do the job. Luckily, as is Dishonored’s inclination, you’re given more than enough tools to get it done.
Death of the Outsider replaces the abilities from Dishonored 2 completely by giving Lurk her own three abilities: Displace, Semblance, and Foresight. All three powers are essentially mutated versions of powers from Dishonored 2, but the mutations make them worthwhile.
Displace lets you teleport from place to place like Blink, but it’s switch-oriented instead of instantaneous. So you can place a marker in a safe spot, run into a zone filled with enemies, kill a few of them, and then zap back to where the marker is before you’re overwhelmed. You can also use that same power to ‘displace’ an enemy, meaning you can teleport inside them and literally cause them to explode into gory chunks. Nifty. If you’re a pacifist player, Semblance allows you to literally steal your enemies’ faces and walk around as them, passing through checkpoints. The New Game Plus mode lets you play through the campaign with the powers from Dishonored 2 as well.
On a gameplay level, Dishonored has always been about giving players a variety of skills and abilities to accomplish their objectives and then letting them go hog wild. Death of the Outsider might be the strongest version of that series concept thanks to one seemingly small, but important tweak. While previous Dishonored games required you to constantly find or buy potions to recharge your mana, Lurk’s power currency, called ‘void power’ is constantly recharging so that you can use your abilities as much as you want – they just have a cooldown that lasts a few seconds. This change eliminates you having to worry about rationing power use and instead encourages you to use it all the time, stringing together powerful combos like displacing behind a target and then using Semblance to steal their identity and walk through the entrance of an enemy base smooth as hell.
The chaos system, which determined what ending you would get in Dishonored and Dishonored 2, is gone completely. You can kill as many people as you want and suffer no narrative consequences for it. This tweak also turns out to be for the better, giving you the freedom overcome obstacles with whatever means necessary, lethal or otherwise, without any systems in place to hold you responsible for your actions in an artificial manner.
Death of the Outsider is a fairly short experience, about half as long as Dishonored 2. However, peppered throughout every level are a number of side quests you can do called contracts that reward money and are often skilled-based challenges. I ended up doing most of these and enjoyed them for their variety, as they’re much more than just wetwork. One quest requires you to infiltrate an enemy bar, knock out the bartender, and bring him across the city. How you do that, whether you go in stabbing everyone or sneaky, is up to you. Other contracts include stealing the contents of a lockbox from a bank and, amusingly enough, killing a mime and making it look like an accident.
The biggest strike against Death of the Outsider is while its levels are fun and open-ended in the way series fans have come to expect, none of them are particularly memorable enough on their own. Don’t get me wrong, I had fun pulling off a heist with minimal casualties and navigating The Void while being pursued by giant monsters, but there is no level that comes to matching the enigmatic wonders of Jindosh’s Clockwork Mansion or the time-bending puzzles of Artemis Silton’s house.
The storytelling also occasionally leaves something to be desired. On paper, having a game centered around killing The Outsider is a fantastic concept worth ending the series on, but the game has trouble rising to the occasion. For example, The Outsider himself has a habit of showing up and giving Lurk special powers or presenting her with frustratingly dull philosophy 101 questions about people and the choices they make. My reading was these scenes were intended to be mystifying, playing into The Outsider’s reputation as an enigmatic figure who just does whatever he wants, but in the end, they mostly annoyed me as they felt like scenes that existed to strike a wobbly balance between fan service and pushing the plot forward at breakneck speed.
Some of Daud and Billie’s character development feels rushed as well, with limited conversations between the two failing to capitalize on the dramatic history between them. Luckily, everything comes together in the end in a predictable but satisfying way, making these occasional weak points bumps in the road on a journey worth taking.
Death of the Outsider ultimately emerges as a strong chapter in one of the best modern action/RPG series thanks to gameplay refinements and dedication to its dark fiction. This standalone expansion doesn’t revolutionize the series but instead does something more important, navigating the familiar to bring everything to a satisfying conclusion.