With the release of the original Dishonored in 2012, Arkane Studios more or less revitalized popular interest in stealth games. Until that point, most entries in the genre were either action games with stealth missions or frustrating exercises in patience and memorization, especially for players still learning the ropes. In Dishonored, you were certainly encouraged to remain hidden in the shadows, but there was nothing stopping you from utilizing a wide array of supernatural powers and lethal gadgets to kill everyone in sight if you decided to go toe to toe with a few guards. There was suddenly a degree of freedom while playing, as being detected was not the death sentence it used to be. In Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, Arkane Studios once again gives you the liberty to play how you want, but with even greater freedoms thanks to a few tweaks to the series' core gameplay mechanics.
Chief among these tweaks is the fact that your supernatural powers are no longer a limited resource. In previous games in the Dishonored series, your most powerful abilities required you to have a certain amount of mana, meaning that you had to hunt for elixirs if you intended to stop time or posses people on a consistent basis. This became a bit of a hassle given the pseudo-open world nature of the game. In Death of the Outsider, this mana elixir restriction no longer exists, so you can teleport across rooftops without pause to your heart's content. Of course, you still have to wait for your mana to recharge once you fully deplete it, but this is a far better alternative than having to wait a couple of seconds in between Blinks to maximize your mana efficiency.
As a result of this change, you no longer have access to the wide variety of powers that you once had as Emily or Corvo in Dishonored 2. You instead play as Billie Lurk, sporting abilities and gadgets that are arguably less powerful, but far more interesting. For example, instead of summoning a swarm of flesh-eating rats to clear away some guards, you can simply steal some poor guy's face and use it to gain access to otherwise inaccessible areas. Similarly, you can use the power of Foresight to scout ahead of your body telepathically, or teleport into your enemies and turn them into a fine red mist. Alternatively, you can throw a few Hook Mines at some NPCs and marvel at their ability to pin people to walls, ceilings, or other people with potentially lethal force. If all else fails, direct combat and raw violence is always a satisfying option, even if it is a dangerous one.
Fortunately, seeing as how your character is an assassin by profession rather than circumstance, you will have plenty of opportunities to test your new abilities and gadgets. Over the course of the game, you have the option of accepting a number of side contracts, most of which tend to involve killing someone, though many also have unique stipulations (i.e. making a mime's death look like an accident, kidnapping a barkeeper, or merely rescuing someone). This new feature is quite an improvement to the standard Dishonored gameplay formula as it encourages you to interact with some of the generic NPCs who would otherwise simply walk around and spout lines of dialogue at each other.
Unfortunately, since the Chaos mechanic is no longer present in Dishonored: Death of the Outsider (or at the very least, its effects are much less noticeable), the world no longer really changes based on your actions. In previous games, going on murder sprees meant that subsequent missions and the narrative itself would become more and more gloomy but in Death of the Outsider, that's not an issue. The consequences of some of your more major actions become apparent in subsequent missions (i.e. whether or not you killed a notable individual, whether or not you helped a certain civilian, etc.), but for the most part, you don't really get to leave your mark on the world. Such a departure from previous games in the series does feel a bit liberating (especially since you don't have to worry about whether or not you accidentally shifted the game's narrative by stabbing a couple of guards), but it does dilute the Dishonored experience by a little bit by removing the feeling that your actions have weight. This may not be a change that bothers everyone, especially if you tend to play such games in a more nonviolent manner, but it is still a rather noticeable change.
Speaking of narrative changes, being able to play as Billie Lurk gives you the chance to see the world of Dishonored through a different perspective. For once, the Empire of the Isles isn't in the midst of some calamity, so you get a glimpse of how people lived under more normal circumstances. Still, it wouldn't be Dishonored without some shady and outright immoral things happening under the facade of a recovering Empire, and there are more than a couple of seedy side locations that you can discover with a little exploration. Needless to say, Billie is not part of the upper echelons of society, and she is more than happy to provide you with a commoner's thoughts on the wealthy and corrupt. Death of the Outsider's excellence in worldbuilding continues as you encounter the occult and mystical places of the world, many of which are both unique and awe-inspiring. Perhaps they're even horrifying once you consider the nature of such locations and the Outsider himself, but that is an experience that is best left unspoiled.
That being said, there aren't a lot of other main characters to talk to, which results in a rather lonely feeling that bookends each mission. Given that Death of the Outsider takes place after the Low Chaos Emily ending of Dishonored 2, it makes a bit of sense that there aren't any other friendly NPCs to interact with, as most of the characters that you met in the previous games are either dead or long gone from Karnaca. Nevertheless, the result is a story that feels a bit dry. There's no eclectic cast of rebels, no secretive cadre of assassins, no real support staff other than an aging Daud who is too weak and world-weary to do much of anything. If you didn't like talking to the friendly NPCs in previous games to see what they think of things, then this obviously wouldn't affect you, but for story aficionados, this is a huge blow.
Ultimately, Dishonored: Death of the Outsider does a lot to make its core gameplay feel more dynamic (especially with the change to how mana works) but this came at the cost of the game's liveliness. Sure, tackling a god in his own domain is a fascinating direction for the Dishonored series to go, as the Void is always an interesting place. However, you never get a sense that your actions here have had as much of an impact as they did in previous games. In addition, the gameplay can feel monotonous at times since you have access to a far less powerful array of supernatural abilities; there is just no real room for experimentation, no real "wow" factor after the 20th time that you steal someone's face or nail someone to a ceiling with a Hook Mine. Dishonored afficianados will most likely love Death of the Outsider, as it delves into the more mystical aspects of the series' lore while providing a more fluid gameplay experience that they are already familiar with. For newcomers, Death of the Outsider is a hard sell, especially if you want them to latch onto the series.
Our Dishonored Death of the Outsider review was conducted on Xbox One with a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PC via Steam and PlayStation 4.
An excellent game that delivers an above average amount of gameplay for its cost, giving you the freedom to utilize an interesting set of powers to track down and kill a god. Beautiful environments and varied objectives more than make up for changes to the Chaos mechanic from previous games in the series.(Review Policy)
- Supernatural Story With Plenty of Worldbuilding
- Gameplay That Emphasizes Player Freedom
- Interesting New Powers and Gadgets
- Monotonous Stealth For Newcomers
- Low Quantity of Powers
- Limited Supporting Cast