Gaming, like any art form, takes meaning from the one who views it, beauty in the eye of the beholder and all that jazz. While books and film have a story to tell by their very design; gaming can be more subjective. In a funny kind of way this experience is like a human relationship, it often starts off based the mechanics and looks: but then over time becomes about being invested in the story and experiences. Maybe I’m just an old romantic.
WARNING: While there are no plot spoilers for this game, details of previous games will be mentioned. Of course if you haven't played the previous games what are you doing with your life?
The Dishonored series has many strengths underneath its sleek gameplay and cruel moral quandaries, there are vaults of lore just waiting to be unearthed. The best stories, in my opinion, are ones that spread out like a spiders web, each thread an individual piece of a greater narrative. When I first played Dishonored, the big draw for me was the wickedly playful environments and sublime movement system. However, as I encountered more of the game world and its inhabitants; I started to have a fondness for the story itself.
Set a few months after the events if Dishonored 2 and played with the city walls of Karnaca: we now step into the able shoes of Billy Lurk. This stoic woman was Daud’s second in command during the Knife of Dunwall and then the protagonist's boat captain (under the name Meagan Foster) during the events of Dishonored 2. Now missing an arm and an eye, Miss Lurk has seen better days: but with the help of a few void infused artefacts; she is as deadly as ever.
To kill a God
So after rescuing your old master from captivity, you and Daud set about destroying the being that has underpinned many of the games dark events. The Outsider is a magical chap that exists mainly in the Void but visits our world in order to sow seeds of dissent and change fate on a whim. Many of the powers we have used over the Dishonored series are a result of his mark. Billy Lurk is now tasked with finding and killing this powerful being: no mean feat.
While not sporting a cool Outsider tattoo herself, Billy was infused with some of Daud’s power and coupled with her training: she is a formidable assassin. She has a more modest set of powers which come directly from her artefacts. Displace is Billy’s answer to Blink and lets you place a displacement marker that you can teleport to at any time (within range and sight). The fact this marker needs to be set up makes it a little more cumbersome than Blink, but this allows you to plan precise maneuvers like a double takedown or quick escape.
Her replacement eye gives her Foresight, allowing her to freeze time and search around in an out of body form. At first, I wasn’t keen on this power as it seemed a little too powerful but after a few hours, I now see it does have limits. You can’t move through closed windows and railing for example: however, you can place a displacement marker so these two powers compliment each other nicely. The last and most interesting power is called Semblance, which allows you to steal the mush of a living human for a set time. As long as you don’t get caught in the act you can mingle among your enemies and even have a nice chat; Hannibal would be proud.
Aside from being able to talk to the rats for information, that’s your lot for powers and some might feel this is a little lean. On one of my many runs through Dishonoured I decided to reject the Outsiders mark and just play with conventional weapons. This, in actual fact, forced me to look at the whole level structure differently and formulate new strategies. The levels are so exquisitely designed that this kind of challenge becomes very entertaining to someone who has already beaten the game with powers. This is exactly how Death of the Outsider makes me feel because while these three powers are useful, Billy is still encouraged to use her environment and wits in order to come out on top. As for conventional tools, we have the usual sword and ranged weapons with a few new bits and bobs. The hook mines, in particular, are fantastic for snaring enemies with either a lethal or none lethal trap: with some clever placement, these can lead to some very entertaining results.
So apart from Billy and her bag of tricks; how does this title stack up to other Dishonored games? While this is being called a stand alone game I do think it feels more like the DLC we have seen in the past. Not that it is short because for the price you get a lot of game here. As fans will know, the previous level design has been some of the best gaming has ever seen and Arkane have outdone themselves once again. Each area is saturated with details, secrets, and stories. Letters, books, and notes are as always there for those of us who love to dig deeper and absorb every little morsel of information. At almost every turn you are presented with options and opportunities to act. This tantalising gameplay has an even deeper layer now with contracts; small optional goals within each mission area. Sometimes you will be stealing an item or killing an NPC in a specific way. While these are just effectively a few more additions goals to tick off they were interesting and fun to take on.
Bone charms and runes have always been available to previous protagonists and here is no exception. Bone charms come in various flavours (black, cursed etc) and each will modify your skills in some way. I would say never underestimate how powerful these boons can be, agility especially is a must in my opinion. As you progress you can also unlock bone charm crafting, which lets you make a charm with up to four buffs but only takes up one slot. There are also vendors in each of the mission areas and these offer both weapons and ability upgrades. Just make sure you have bought all the upgrades you need before robbing them blind.
Is it PC?
In terms of performance Dishonored 2 on PC was a mess which I have covered in the past, so there is no need to rake over it again. I am really happy to report that despite this new game running on the same Void Engine: it performs very well. Whatever the problems were before they have been fixed or bypassed; allowing us to focus on how the game looks, which is gorgeous. Each area, each room and every corner of Karnaca is filled with sumptuous details. I’m not just talking about good quality textures here: these are the kind of details that draw you in and make you feel like this world has been here long before you arrived. Sometimes it’s almost overwhelming when entering a new building, I’m the kind of player who must see every scrap of paper (hence my review is a week late). I must also mention the incredible lighting effects which often frame these wonderfully detailed environments. When you have finished reading my review please check out my shooting gallery where I can show off all of my screenshots.
Like all the Dishonored games, Death of the Outsider is exhilarating to play and controls perfectly with mouse and keyboard. If you are a sadist there are controller options and as well as all the other bells and whistles you would expect to find in the HUD. Once nice feature is that when you have finished the game you can run through again with powers from Dishonored 2.
No game would be complete without sound work and as with previous games, we have nothing to worry about here. Each sound effect is crisp and works perfectly. Little touches like the sound effect that lets you know you’ve jumped high with agility are very much appreciated. I also think audio occlusion is something worth mentioning as it’s amazing. When in a building you can really hear where other sound sources are coming from, whether it be the low thrum of Blood Flies below you or the muffled shouts of guards outside a wooden door. Music is, of course, situational and fits well with the setting for the game.
So according to the creative team at Arkane this game represents the end of the Kaldwin story arc and what a journey it has been. I am obviously not going to discuss the events that take place past the opening scene for the sake of spoilers. If I’m really honest was hoping for one more full game before they wrapped the story and that it would be a game where you played exclusively as Emily Kaldwin. I know some fans of the series have expressed dismay at the very notion of messing with the Outsider. Regardless I found the ultimate conclusion satisfying and a worthy chapter in the Dishonoured legacy.
My journey through all the Dishonored games has been cruel, exhilarating and most of all fun. I want to personally thank the team at Arkane for giving us some of the most incredible games the industry has ever seen: they really are masters of their craft.
Thank you for reading my review of Death of the Outsider on PC. If you wish to follow my work please bookmark my site, follow me on Twitter @riggedforepic and of course tell everyone you know about me.