Earlier this year, Bethesda announced "Dishonored: Death of the Outsider" – a brand new experience that builds upon the successes of Dishonored 2. However, moving away from the traditional post-launch downloadable content (DLC) model, the adventure is being served up as a standalone experience, with a $29.99 price tag.
Death of the Outsider brings back a lot of the strengths of the main games, condensing the core formula into a much smaller package. And while the game should be an enjoyable return to the world for fans of the series, its predecessor is significantly more welcoming to newcomers.
From savior to god-killer
Unlike previous Dishonored games, where Emily Kaldwin and Corvo Attano were the focus on the narrative, Death of the Outsider shifts the spotlight over to a pre-established, although less explored, character in the universe. After appearances in both the first game's DLC and Dishonored 2, Billie Lurk is the star of the new experience, accompanied by several other returning characters from the series.
Death of the Outsider picks up months after Dishonored 2, returning to the coastal city of Karnaca. Following the events of the second game, Lurk embarks on an adventure to hunt down Daud – the ringleader of the Whalers and her mentor from a young age. After tracking down and freeing Daud from the capture of the Eyeless Gang, Lurk is given a final task of tracking down and killing one of the series's most prominent characters, known the Outsider. This sets up the premise of a far majority of the game's challenges, in a search for the tools to do so.
Dishonored: Death of the Outsider wraps up the events of its two predecessors, but it can also be seen a fresh take on the formula. As the first standalone expansion, an effort has been made to explore new characters and their relationships, while still developing the context for those unfamiliar with the Dishonored universe. However, previous events still play a major role in providing context for the narrative, meaning returning players will still get the most out of the experience.
New skills, new opportunities
Despite being a much smaller package than the main installments of the franchise, Death of the Outsider still contains all the pillars that make up a Dishonored experience. The game's five main missions each take place in various open sandboxes to explore, which introduces a huge variety in the way situations can be approached. These levels are once again packed with the depth and scope seen in its predecessor, complemented by sharp AI, huge scale and verticality, and secrets to explore. Dishonored 2 laid the foundations for a strong sandbox, and Death of the Outsider takes full advantage of these.
Beyond similarities, Dishonored: Death of the Outsider brings some significant changes from earlier games in the series. Abandoning the complexities of previous titles, the game feels like a refinement of the series. While some of the spectacles of a full-scale release are absent, the game still very much feels like Dishonored.
One of the biggest changes for returning players is the new abilities, which should provide an increased learning curve even for veterans of the Dishonored franchise. Lurk has access to three main void powers as a part of her skill set, which each bear their own mechanics to grasp.
"Displace" is a new movement-based power, allowing Lurk to teleport between locations, through a placed beacon. Unlike the existing "Blink," where players could instantly teleport to a specific location, Displace requires a ghostly beacon to be placed beforehand, with a second tap of the left trigger to teleport. Furthermore, the chosen location must be in your line of sight to teleport, adding a strict limitation to its capabilities.
Arguably the most creative ability in Lurk's skillset is Semblance, which allows her to approach a non player character (NPC) from behind and "absorb" their likeness. This gives players access to hostile areas without suspicion from enemies, at the cost of rapid energy drain while moving.
Lurk's final main ability is Foresight, which allows her to shift into spirit form and freely fly around the map to scout out locations. Although interacting with the world isn't possible in this form, this is a great way to assess upcoming situations ahead of taking action. At first, I felt this ability would feel overpowered, but limitations to range and energy drain prevent players from abusing its potential.
All three of Lurk's powers are best suited for stealth gameplay, however, when used creatively and can also be used for more aggressive styles of play. Over time I continued to discover new ways to use these abilities and even seeing other people play since, I've discovered approaches I hadn't considered during my playthrough.
After my time with the game, if one gripe remains, it's the lack of the series's iconic Chaos system. Over the years, the Chaos element of gameplay has become synonymous with the franchise, changing the outcome of events based on your play style. However, in Death of the Outsider, it's exclusion means a fixed narrative regardless of your strategy.
The lack of weight to your decisions falls both in the game's favor and to its determent. While not worrying about the consequences of actions allows for more experimentation, this has removed an incentive to challenge yourself and get creative with abilities to pursue a certain approach.
Is Dishonored: Death of the Outsider worth a buy?
Dishonored: Death of the Outsider builds on an already established foundation for both storytelling and gameplay mechanics after two main releases. This latest expansion leverages several of Dishonored 2's biggest strengths into a much more condensed form factor, without compromising on the core philosophies of its predecessors. Even after stripping out some of the complexities of full games, Death of the Outsider still has much of the substance of a full Dishonored experience.
- Builds on the strong mechanics from Dishonored 2.
- New abilities make for creative gameplay.
- While brief, that's justified by its price point.
- Lack of Chaos element is disappointing
Dishonored Death of the Outsider is now available for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Windows PCs. Priced at $29.99 in the U.S, the game serves as an enjoyable return to the established world. With a mostly self-contained story accessible in a significantly shorter and cheaper package, this could be a valid entry point to the Dishonored franchise. However, we recommend playing through Dishonored 2 first for greater context.
Disclaimer: This review was conducted on Xbox One using a copy provided by the publisher.