When the dust settles, the Dishonored games will be remembered as modern classics. On the ground, these elaborate playgrounds are made to last, stuffed with avenues to explore and hidden routes that reward the dedicated traveler. They’re a mathematical marvel. But from afar, the art deco touches and steampunk influences breathe life into the game’s cold, calculating geometry. Dishonored is that rare breed: a meticulous technical masterpiece that is also a work of art.
In five short years, Arkane has spun five games from the Dishonored web, and for a series about assassinating high-profile targets, Death of the Outsider introduces the biggest target of all: the beady black-eyed wonder known as The Outsider; the celestial being who has been there from the start. With the livelihood of the series’ enduring personality up in the air, this might be the end of Dishonored as we know it, but Arkane has made the most of the time they’ve got left, serving up a dish of expertly reheated ideas. As ever, there’s elegant stealth and concussive action on the table held together by a world that boasts a very real sense of place.
You’re in the shoes of Billie Lurk, Daud’s second-in-command and the boat-hand from Dishonored 2. Lurk is voiced wonderfully by Hollywood heavyweight Rosario Dawson, who brings a world-weary sense of menace to proceedings as the assassin tracks down her former mentor and then assembles the tools she needs to finish The Outsider once and for all.
Each of the game’s five levels begin in Lurk’s personal quarters before moving to an open-world hub, which is usually a slice of Karnaca dubbed Upper Cyria, that sits adjacent to the Cyria Gardens. Upper Cyria features winding roads and aerial vantage points aplenty, but for good or for bad, it’s cut from the same cloth as the world we’ve seen before. This standalone story never introduces a set of wildly new sights like those spied in Knife of Dunwall and The Brigmore Witches, the DLC stories that accompanied the original Dishonored. Who can forget the awful whaling factory from the former, or the witches’ lair in the latter? Death of the Outsider has its own high points – a daring bank raid here, a boxing club there – but it never feels quite as fresh.
Even so, Upper Cyria is a marvel. You can delay the main story as long as you like, instead searching out black market dealers who sell you gear and tackling side-quests that reward you with coin (the quests can be found on a board next to the black market store). Crucially, these diversions are challenges worth indulging. How do you grab a redoubtable bartender from a room packed with goons? How do you fake a mime artist falling to his death? While planning this second task I came across a charming woman in a nearby house who held a dark secret in her basement. This macabre find was never a marked mission on my map, so who knows how many other secrets I missed? Dishonored has always featured optional tidbits off the beaten track, but this time the asides are better built into the fabric of the world.
Death of the Outsider is also something of a thank you to players who’ve stayed the course. For all those tricky guards, tallboys and clockwork soldiers you’ve battled over the years, Arkane has made a small concession: you now no longer have to worry about filling up mana to use your powers. Yes, those blue vials are gone and Lurk’s powers recharge over time.
The first, Displace, is a play on the Blink ability of old. It allows you to set a marker and warp from point A to point B. But you can delay the final transition, coming up with some wildly inventive movements in the process. Another, Semblance, lets you assume the identity of another character in the world replete with a rather ghoulish animation, while Foresight is the most significant addition. With your mana in constant supply and Foresight. activated you can literally travel the map in spirit form, marking enemies and plotting your route forward. You can’t stray too far from your own body, but even so, it’s a powerful move that probably tips the balance too far in your favor. Later, you get access to Void Strike, a power-up ability that can send enemies flying like the gravity gun blast from the final salvo in Half-Life 2. Finally, and rather bizarrely, you can also listen to rats – yes, rats – and pick up hints in the process.
There are also some new toys, like the hook mine, which snaps enemies into its orbit and can be used to put enemies to sleep. Or, kill them outright. Speaking of death, the Chaos system has been dispensed with, meaning you can go on a rampage and suffer no consequences. Its omission is a tad strange given Dishonored’s emphasis on decision-making, but it also means that Death of the Outsider feels like the most focused entry in the series which, given the target, and given the stakes, makes sense.
By virtue of being last, Death of the Outsider trawls its bag for new tricks. The final level in the game is a nice change of pace visually, but there’s nowhere as memorable as the Clockwork Mansion, nor is Upper Cyria as striking as previous DLC favorites. That said, Karnaca makes a welcome return. Its towering greenery and tumbling architecture is a genius counterpoint to the city of Dunwall and the district walks a tricky tightrope: dense without overwhelming and capable of offering up clever shortcuts without being too cute.
Visually and sonically, it’s brilliant too. Lighting is superb. In-game cutscenes never break your point-of-view (and come with wonderful flourishes). Voice acting is best-in-class. And small things, like waiting for the game to load and switching in and out of the menu, take up less time. The addition of weighty side quests only makes it worth sticking around longer and if you take it slow Death of the Outsider is roughly as long as the 2012 original.
At $30, this is more expensive than your run-of-the-mill DLC, but it packs in six hours of gameplay and far more if you’re a completionist (it’s also a standalone piece of content, meaning you won’t need to own Dishonored 2 to play). A nifty feature called Original Game Plus lets you tackle Death of the Outsider with Corvo and Emily’s original abilities a second time around: Blink, Domino and Dark Vision.
And that, in the end, is that. If this truly is is the concluding chapter in the series, Dishonored exits with a fitting goodbye. Death of the Outsider takes a syringe to the magic formula, siphons up the good bits and leaves any and all excess behind. It’s certainly the most accessible entry in the series to date. The most memorable? Well, no. But if nothing else, it demonstrates why Dishonored is special, and why it’ll be sorely missed.
This review is based on a PS4 version of the game, which we were provided with by Bethesda.
If this truly is is the concluding chapter in the series, Dishonored exits with a fitting goodbye. Death of the Outsider takes a syringe to the magic formula, siphons up the good bits and leaves any and all excess behind.