Not many studios can claim that a singular game propelled it to being a household name, but Arkane Studios did just that in 2012 with the development and release of Dishonored. While not the first game Arkane developed, it was far and away the best. Last year’s sequel pushed the formula forward and refined it with new powers, tweaks, and two playable characters. Dishonored: Death of the Outsider looks to close the story that began in 2012, if not the series as a whole. While it is the weakest of the series, it is a good entry that ties everything together and offers the most freedom of the series.
Dishonored: Death of the Outsider: PC, Xbox One [Reviewed], PS4
Developer: Arkane Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Release Date: 15 September 2017
Price: £19.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Publisher]
Dishonored: Death of the Outsider sees players assume the role of Billie Lurk, a character with a checkered history who we first came across in The Knife of Dunwall DLC from the first game. Here, Lurk is after Daud, an assassin who mentored her and whom she considers family. After meeting up with him, Lurk learns that he wants to kill ‘The Outsider’, the entity responsible for all of the events of the series. The story is remarkably light on lore compared to the rest of Dishonored, but the conclusive nature of the story does not make this a good entry point for newcomers. The story is also significantly shorter with five missions, compared to Dishonored 2‘s nine.
Along with the shorter nature of the game, the Chaos mechanic of previous titles is also gone. In previous titles, when the player chooses a lethal approach, it would influence the game world. This time, the player can be as lethal as they please, and the game world will not change to reflect these actions. While the absence of such a pivotal and engrossing feature is disappointing, it also has the benefit of a guilt-free strategy allowing the player much more freedom to do as is necessary. Speaking of strategy, Billie Lurk comes with her own new set of abilities courtesy of the Outsider’s residence in the Void.
These abilities allow for a sneakier approach to levels. Displace is very similar to Blink from previous games in that it allows Lurk to transport short distances. Players can move short distances so long as the destination is within the player’s line of sight. However, when used in tandem with Foresight, the player can use Displace through fences or grating. Foresight itself though, allows the player to leave Lurk’s body behind and scout out supplies or enemies and mark them. Whatever is marked is tracked complete with cones of vision and travel markers. The final power Semblance encourages players to leave characters unconscious. Players can take on the identity of another character once per character so long as they are unconscious. While the power is active, other characters will behave differently. Soldiers will salute the player if they have a guard disguise, and in one instance, the player can attend an auction.
While the powers alone are great changes, the biggest surprise is that Lurk’s Void energy automatically regenerates. That’s right, no need to worry much about vials of energy in Dishonored: Death of the Outsider. This change to the energy system coupled with the lack of the Chaos system creates an unprecedented amount of freedom to the player and how they wish to tackle the game’s challenges. But, if the player wants more of a challenge, they can also modify over 20 different variables like footstep noise in order to up the ante.
It’s a shame then, that while there are important NPCs in the environment that you need to deal with, these characters are just there. It ultimately doesn’t matter if you eliminate them or not. However, this may be by design as Lurk is not interested in removing people of power, just eliminating the Outsider. As a conscious decision, it helps make the level’s goals clear and differentiates the gameplay from that of Corvo Attano’s or Emily Kaldwin’s. However, this does make characters like Shan Yun not matter. The character then becomes a hurdle that is leapt over and forgotten while moving on to the next.
Returning to some of the same environments from Dishonored 2, Karnaca still looks beautiful as a setting. Glittering mansions, dilapidated bathhouses, and abandoned mining facilities are all rendered wonderfully with details in every nook and cranny. However, sometimes during play textures would fail to load clearly. For example, while exploring an apartment, intractable doors failed to load the HD texture. It is the lone technical issue I encountered in Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, but when it happens it is right in front of you.
Sound is paramount to the gameplay of Dishonored as a series, and Death of the Outsider is no slouch there either. Sound effects sound clear and crisp, the dialogue is delivered well, but won’t be remembered. What truly sells the environment is the score from the late Daniel Licht. Licht’s score feels like an extension of his score from Dishonored 2. At times haunting, but always Victorian-inspired and string-heavy, it is well-crafted and a big part of what gives Karnaca its personality.
What began as a piece of DLC for Dishonored 2 has been made into a full game that mostly hits the right marks, but also still manages to become the weakest entry in the Dishonored series. Even so, it’s still a good game on its own that also appears to end the stories for Lurk, Daud, and the Outsider. Greatly expanded freedom makes Dishonored: Death of the Outsider feel like a sandbox meant to be experimented in.