While most people were expecting to see downloadable content for Dishonored 2, Bethesda surprised a lot of people at E3 this year by announcing a completely new and standalone expansion centered around Daud’s right-hand assassin, Billie Lurk.
Dishonored: Death of the Outsider not only comes in at a budget price but it’s also intended to be the final piece of the Dunwall trilogy of games involving former protagonists Corvo Attano and Emily Kaldwin. This time around, however, Billie would be using brand new powers in an all-new story centered around the hunt to finally take out the mysterious figure known as The Outsider.
After playing through about half of the campaign, how does this smaller Dishonored experience stack up to its predecessors? Read on to find out!
Set after the events of Dishonored 2, Billie is on a mission to find her former leader, Daud, who remains hell-bent on taking down The Outsider for all the chaos he has brought to the world.
Let’s be honest here, with a subtitle of “Death of the Outsider” the story is pretty telling for what you’re about to be doing. Yes, it has cutscenes, in-engine cinematics, and plenty of storytelling through items around the world, but the game is essentially focused more on gameplay. I will say that longtime players will find plenty of nods to the previous games, even going as far as filling the player in on what some previous characters are up to such as Emily and Anton Sokolov. Billie even has a journal players can read before the start of each mission, giving them insight into what she’s thinking of the events that are unfolding. Much of it is optional, but I definitely appreciated having it there.
Gameplay wise, it still feels like Dishonored, which is a good thing in my opinion. The levels are still beautifully crafted and teeming with civilian life. I was amazed at how busy the streets were with normal citizens going about their lives and even having conversations with others. There’s plenty of places to go, documents to read, and places to explore off the beaten path as well.
Speaking of off the beaten path, Billie can also take on completely optional side missions if she’s looking to earn some extra coin. Contracts can be found at the Black Market and usually have her fulfilling a grudge or request for some random NPC, only to be rewarded at the end of the mission if successful. These are fun little challenges and diversions, but if you’re trying to play a certain way (such as non-lethal), you likely won’t be able to fulfill a few of them.
Unlike previous protagonists Emily and Corvo (or Daud for that matter), Billie doesn’t have the Mark of the Outsider granting her supernatural powers. Instead, she relies on a new set of abilities gained from artifacts, each bringing an interesting quirk with them. Displace is her teleport/warp move, letting her place a marker in the world and either warping to it immediately or saving it to use as a sort of escape move to flee danger. Foresight stops time and lets the player essentially scout an area to mark targets, items, or placing a Displace marker for quicker teleporting. Finally, Semblance lets Billie impersonate another human that is either conscious or unconscious (not killed) for as long as she has void energy left.
I was also surprised to learn that Dishonored: Death of the Outsider changes up a few core features of the franchise, which have a massive impact on the game. First off, the Chaos System has been completely removed. Essentially, this was a behind the scenes system which basically determined if you were going to get the good or bad ending depending on how you played. Killing people resulted in an increase in rat or blood fly swarms in levels and ultimately gave players a high chaos level along with the more violent/depressing ending. Going non-lethal obviously earned the low chaos or good ending along with less rat and blood fly swarms through each level.
Death of the Outsider completely removes those shackles, letting players essentially go all in, however they want without major implications. You’re still graded at the end of each level, but ultimately you could kill every person in the level with little to no consequences for it. As someone who always plays non-lethal for the low chaos ending, I felt a sense of liberation. Knowing the game didn’t really care how I played this time around, I didn’t mind lethally taking out people now and again.
The other massive change is to Billie’s powers and abilities. Not only does the game give you access to all of them right away at the start of Mission 2, but you no longer need to find blue elixirs to replenish your mana after using a power. Instead, it recharges fully (pretty quickly I might add) all on its own. This really lets players use their abilities more often, allowing for a bigger expression of creativity due to fewer limitations. It also allows for greater exploration as I found myself Displacing all over the place to find hidden rooms and alternate paths.
While cool, these changes don’t always work effectively. While it was great getting access to all powers right away, I found myself missing the progression aspect through obtaining and upgrading the powers ones I cared about most. Outside of Blueprints and Bonecharms, there are no passive abilities Billie can upgrade either, so at the start of Mission 2, this Billie Lurk is essentially the only one you’re going to be the rest of the way. I’m about halfway through the campaign now and I can’t help but wonder if that lack of progression is going to feel worse by the end.
Ultimately, you should already have a sense of how you feel about this franchise. It’s really the third entry in the franchise at this point and it’s an easy recommend if you’re already familiar and enjoy the series. For newcomers, it’s still welcoming so you won’t feel lost if you’ve yet to play the previous two games. Even with the small concerns I noted above, I’m still having a great time, and the gameplay is as rock solid as ever. Definitely worth a look.