Rumor holds that Dishonored: Death of the Outsider is the final chapter in Arkane Studios’ assassin [oc]cult-hit franchise. As an early fan of the series, I’m hoping to see more of the Dishonored universe in the future. But in the meantime, Death of the Outsider delivers a strong finish as it dives headfirst into plot and leaves behind and even opens doors to greater mysteries.
For the first time, players experience the world through the eyes of the ever-present side character, Billie Lurk. The Dishonored series has a rich set of characters whose stories have always been told through lore notes and recordings scattered about the world, but it’s certainly a relief to have a recurring character make such a focal appearance. From the death of Jessamine Kaldwin that began it all, to the unraveling of The Outsider’s identity, Billie Lurk has been involved in everything, making her arguably the most integral character of the series.
The story opens up with Billie Lurk plagued by nightmares of being maimed in a fight and hiding aboard her beached ship, the Dreadful Whale. Running on little more than a hunch, Lurk sets out to track down the Empress Killer and former mentor, Daud. Upon finding him, Daud expresses concern about the rise of witches and cults in Karnaca and pins the blame exclusively on the existence of the enigmatic Outsider. As assassins oft believe, Daud’s only solution is to obtain the knife that turned the mystery child into an immortal, and slay him with it.
The Outsider is responsible for the abilities that players possess, but unlike Corvo and Emily, the Outsider doesn’t grant you his mark. Instead, he takes Billie’s right arm and eye, leaving behind an ethereal limb strapped to whale bone fragments, and a glowing stone eye, turning Lurk’s dreams into her reality. Perhaps Lurk’s powers differ from her predecessors due to the mark’s absence, or perhaps as a result of her less direct connection to the Void.
Regardless, Billie Lurk’s newfound abilities require players to more carefully map out their plan of attack. Instead of Blink where you quickly teleport to a new location, Billie has Displace, where players set markers that they can switch places with. While it ultimately has the same effect, it takes a split second longer to execute, and in combat, that’s the difference between making your mark or becoming one. To assist with the extra time that this takes, Billie also has the Foresight ability letting her freeze time and view the arena in ethereal form, planning her strike. And lastly, taking the place of Possession is Semblance. Semblance allows the user to temporarily disguise themselves with the face of an unconscious enemy.
While these are all useful tools, Billie Lurk isn’t able to upgrade her powers with runes, making her move set a very clear case of “what you see is what you get,” leaving the series’ staple Void powers just a little stale by the end.
Lurk’s other tools are more reminiscent of Emily’s wrist darts, and don’t introduce anything too new. There is the addition of the new and wonderful Hook Mine that will both latch onto objects, and pull objects toward it. With both lethal and non-lethal options, there’s no limit to how creatively these can be used. In the latter half of the game, Daud’s old blade is replaced with the cultist blade that created our beloved Outsider, and it’s good fun to use the Void Strike that comes with it (I won’t ruin it for you).
While each mission opens new areas to the player, the majority of Death of the Outsider takes place in a section of Karnaca that doesn’t wow the same way that each new stage in Dishonored 2 did. Mission two and three share the same spawn point and I couldn’t help but feel disappointed in the design. With the exception of the first and last stages, environments felt too copy and paste for a developer that historically created new arenas unique to each assignment.
With that said, Daud’s rescue set in the opening stage was a beautiful return to form with countless points of entry, great stealth opportunities, and good character motivation to destroy anything. But nothing in the Dishonored series could have prepared me for the final mission, diving deep into the Void.
While we’ve seen bits and pieces of the Void throughout the series as the Outsider pulled Corvo and Emily in to speak in riddles, the finale is the first time we enter the heart of the Void. As the name would suggest, it’s a barren world, but I was left in awe when I saw the center of the Void, Lurk’s final destination, and of course, whales.
The most surprising addition was the Envisioned, the cult that sacrificed the young boy, granting him immortality, creating the Outsider. But for those cultists who stayed behind in the Void to guard the Outsider, they’ve become crystallized into living indestructible stone that pass in and out of reality, existing solely to make players miserable.
The very title, Death of the Outsider leaves little surprise for the series’ conclusion, but it was perfect nonetheless. As all Dishonored games do, you have both a lethal and non-lethal way to eliminate your target. Arkane Studios brings closure to all of the characters involved with the assassination of Jessamine Kaldwin, neatly wrapping up this saga, but regardless of the ending you choose, the Void still exists. Why are whales so mystical? What purpose will the Envisioned find in the absence of the Outsider? Will someone take his place, or will the Void manifest itself in unexpected ways? There’s a great deal of untapped potential, so here’s hoping that this is only the death of a character, and not a franchise.