The Dishonored series has firmly planted itself as one of the best first-person stealth games in the current and last console generation. It draws inspiration from older games of the same genre such as Thief and adds a layer of choice and consequence. What makes Dishonored, and by extension Dishonored 2 and Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, is the fact that most of your actions affect the world as a whole. Killing targets, guards, or civilians causes the world to respond with more guards patrolling key areas, more rats, creepers, and bloodflies, or lower opinions of the player character from important NPCs. I’ll never forget the time that Samuel the boatman in the original Dishonored gave me an ear-full about all the people I had killed, and promptly wished me a good life – as he never wanted to see me again. The consequences coming from my choices in these games have stuck with me more than any other ramifications in other games.
For players familiar with the lore in the series, Death of the Outsider takes a very deep dive into what make the Outsider what he is. Billie Lurk, returning from the original game, is on the search for Daud, the assassin responsible for the death of the empress Jessamine Kaldwin. Upon reuniting with Daud, Billie is tasked with killing the Outsider so that his magic will no longer mark citizens of the Isles. Very early on the Outsider discovers this, which leads to some interesting dialog between the two. Throughout the game, Billie traverses through different areas in Karnaca to find out how to enter the Void where the Outsider resides and how she can kill him. The story brings the Kaldwin era of the series (being the games that focus on Corvo and Emily) to a substantial conclusion, while leaving enough mystery which can be explored if Arkane Studios chooses to continue developing Dishonored games.
Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, a stand-alone expansion telling a sort of epilogue for the series, plays off of these fundamentals. The stealth feels well-rounded, and playing on different difficulties fairly reflects how easily you are detected and how long it takes guards to stop looking for you (something Dishonored 2 did equally well). Combat is still challenging enough that it detours most players into opting for the stealth approach, but is fair enough that you can fight your way out of some engagements. Don’t plan on taking on a dozen guards and coming out unscathed. Their AI is smart enough to know when they have the upper hand, and will use tactics such as flanking and attacking at the same time to quickly overwhelm you. In these situations you are better suited to try for a retreat and hide somewhere until they go back to their patrol, then retry your approach. If you do elect more a more direct approach, you should be able to handle two or three guards depending on how comfortable you are with parrying attacks and capitalizing on the different weapons and abilities you have.
Through bonecharms, you can build your character to fit whatever your play style happens to be. If you would rather sneak past every guard, there are charms to decrease the noise you make while moving, how high you can jump, or how easy it is for enemies to detect you. If you’d rather fight your way through a guarded area, you can find bonecharms that improve your fighting capabilities, as well ones that cause guards to misfire weapons, drop grenades, or even leave themselves more vulnerable to finishing moves. Returning from Dishonored 2, there are bonecharms that include a huge perk at the cost of a very negative effect. One of my favorites gives you the ability to use displace (teleport) without the cost of mana if you’re around people, but if you’re interrupted at all during the displacement process it will immediately cause your death.
On the topic of supernatural abilites, Dishonored: Death of the Outsider only gives you a few to experiment with. As mentioned above, the ability that you will likely find yourself using the most is Displace. This enables you to teleport to a location that is relatively close by, similar to Corvo’s Blink ability. This makes navigation very simple and has benefits for just about every play style. Displace also opens the door to more vertical navigation than you basic jump can do. Because of this, you can navigate over streets filled with guards by displacing to the top of lamps, and navigating through balconies, rooftops, and other pieces of the environment to avoid detection (and the fight that comes with it). Another new ability is Foresight. This allows you to see where guards and valuable objects are in the world. Using foresight freezes time temporarily and allows you to move around in an area to scan for anything notable. It also helps when you’re in a pinch and need to strategies a way out.
Semblance, the most unique new ability, enables you to steal the identity of any non-player characters, as long as they are alive. Not only is the handy for sneaking through guarded outposts, it also opens up some unique interactions in the world. For example, during the point in the game where you sneak into a bank, there is an optional porting where you need to steal a chemical developed by a recently deceased physicians (for a purpose I’ll let you discover). Using semblance allows you to steal the identity of a character who is going to take part in an auction where the physician’s property is being sold. Imitating the character allows you to just buy the chemicals, which is the low chaos way of getting your hands on them.
The major draw-back with the powers is that there are no runes to find which enable you to improve your abilities. The powers that you are given after receiving the Outsider’s Mark stay with you, at the same capacity, throughout the whole game. There is some augmentation that can be done through various bonecharms, but no way to change their fundamental behaviors like with the previous games. Since the expansion isn’t super long (ranging anywhere from 6 to 10 hours depending on playstyle) this isn’t a huge demerit for the game, but it’s curious that they didn’t implement it considering they had the infrastructure set up in Dishonored 2.
If you are a fan of the Dishonored games, then Death of the Outsider is very worth your time. It brings back just about every gameplay aspect that made its counterparts as much fun as they are, and tells a story that actually has significance in the world (something that’s far too uncommon with DLC). If you haven’t played any Dishonored previously, this expansion might be hard to jump into because it relies on knowledge attained by playing the first two games. If you haven’t played the first two games, I would highly recommend it. Afterwards, you will find a lot of enjoyment in Death of the Outsider.
Check out my review of Dishonored 2 here.