- Karnaca remains a stunning world to explore
- Certain gameplay elements have been streamlined and feel better than ever
- Billie Lurk returns as a truly convincing heroine
- Immense potential for multiple playthroughs
- Story can unfold out of sequence due to freeform exploration
- Getting caught in the early hours can be frustrating
- Review Price: £19.99
- Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
- Developer: Arkane Studios
- Release Date: Out Now
Arkane Studios hit a homerun with Dishonored 2, producing an absolutely stellar stealth adventure that transcended its predecessor in almost every way. Roaming the unsettling streets of Karnaca as Emily Kaldwin and Corvo Attano was a brilliantly atmospheric experience, and now we get to revisit the same city from a completely new perspective. Death of the Outsider is an excellent addition to the Dishonored universe that’s easily worth the price of admission.
Taking place after the events of Dishonored 2, the land has a new ruler in the form of Emily Kaldwin, and its people are slowly adjusting to an unknown realm of law and jurisdiction. Of course, there is still plenty of darkness left in the world, as Billie Lurk is very quick to discover upon coming across Daud, her aging mentor and legendary assassin, whom she hasn’t seen for over 15 years.
This is where our story begins, stepping into the shoes of Billie as she and Daud attempt to take down the Outsider, if the title didn’t give that away already. While the narrative isn’t as competently told as previous games, it still swept me up in its tumultuous tale of supernatural cults and societal corruption. However, the real star is found in the city of Karnaca through its troubled inhabitants and wonderfully compelling backstory.
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While working to complete the task of killing the Outsider, I was constantly sidetracked by the world around me. Arkane Studios has crafted a stunning setting with top-of-the-class environmental storytelling. Nearly every room in Death of the Outsider tells a story, whether it’s through a crumpled document or a corpse rotting morbidly in the corner. Billie always comments on her surroundings, too, describing just how far this city has fallen. I’d switch on subtitles, though, as it’s easy to miss neat lines of dialogue amidst all the murderous sneaking about.
A couple of highlights include a corrupt taxidermist feeding innocent people to blood-flies in her basement. She seems perfectly innocent, but I wanted to go further and uncover her backstory, rewarding me with a wonderful anecdote that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. Because I’m a good person, I fed the woman to her own bugs in an act of poetic justice.
Another wonderful example involved a cult leader practicing his speech on a wooden stage. Standing above a precarious trap door, you can probably put the rest of the grim pieces together. Many of these little stories could be overlooked if you decide to mainline the core narrative which, in my opinion, doesn’t possess the same sense of innovative brilliance as Dishonored 2. This isn’t a writing problem either, but a mechanical one.
Because I was far more compelled to explore on my own terms I found myself completing some mission objectives in the wrong order, meaning Billie’s narration on new characters and objects made little sense. I feel like Death of the Outsider actively rewards straying from the beaten path, but hinders its own storytelling as a consequence. Luckily, this didn’t infringe on Karnaca’s excellent atmosphere and genuine feeling of place. I was convinced the city was real, absorbed by its troubled history and dark, sinister citizens.
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Death of the Outsider plays exactly like previous Dishonored outings, but streamlines certain aspects that improves on the overall experience. Mana is now restored automatically instead of using elixirs, and your number of supernatural powers have been reduced significantly. This helps Billie feel like a more capable character in charge of her limited yet devastating arsenal, and meant I never felt overwhelmed by skills I never even used in past games.
She’s capable of stealing the identity of unconscious NPCs, teleporting a small distance to traverse obstacles and even becoming a disembodied spirit to scout the area and mark potential threats. Such a malleable trio of abilities allows you to approach situations in a multitude of ways, encouraging multiple playthroughs I’m very eager to indulge in. Runes have been removed completely, meaning upgrades can only be bought from the Black Market in certain levels. Or you could break in and rob them blind, leaving the shopkeeper for dead.
Every situation Death of the Outsider presents can be approached in a multitude of ways. I could have marched through the 7- to 10-hour campaign without hurting a soul, opting instead to hide bodies away in darkened storage rooms. Or, I could dismember every foolish guard I came across, ensuring nobody remembers the face of the woman who finally killed the Outsider. I landed somewhere in the middle, screwing up my stealthy approach and eventually opting for some cheeky murder. One scene outside a bank quickly turned into a morbid bloodbath as I lobbed grenades into a crowd desperate for my own survival.
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Your personal approach to success can be helped or hindered by the implementation of bone charms. These intriguing relics can be found hidden throughout the game world, providing your character with advantageous upgrades such as silent sprinting or the ability to climb obstacles at an increased speed. Corrupt variants of these accessories also exist, which are present only to make your life more difficult. I never used them myself, but those looking for a deeper challenge may love what they have to offer.
All of Billie’s skills, equipment and even her melancholic origin story feel engineered to inform one vital design philosophy, which is to provide the player with a living, breathing world they truly feel agency within. Karnaca is one of the finest settings I’ve seen in recent years, boasting a historical influence and aesthetic that feels strikingly original and a joy to witness. Having the chance to explore it at my leisure makes it all the better, I just wish the core narrative was better suited to Death of the Outsider’s outstanding approach to free-form exploration.
Death of the Outsider is a fantastic addition to the Dishonored universe that once again brings the broken city of Karnaca to life.
Exploring Arkane Studios’ beautifully realised world feels fresh once again thanks to Billie Lurk, a morally ambiguous heroine with a flexible repertoire of skills that are a joy to experiment with.
Death of the Outsider achieves more in terms of content and narrative than many games strive for, which is a fascinating achievement considering its meagre price tag.