New game, who Dis?
Game: Dishonored: Death of the Outsider
Developer: Arkane Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Reviewed on: XBoxOne (Review code provided)
The two Dishonored games tie up the revenge and redemption tale of Royal Protector Corvo Attano rather nicely. To return to the well once again would be unwarranted and indulgent, but that isn’t to say that the world that Arkane Studios created can’t hold many more new opportunities to tell exciting stories. Each location visited throughout their games is packed full of backstory and lore, waiting to be discovered, and no doubt often ignored, by a lot of players. So choosing to focus on new playable characters and new events, as the developers did with the DLC for the original Dishonored as well, is a welcome chance to revisit and rediscover the game world.
Having aided usurped Empress Emily Kaldwin to reclaim her throne in the events of Dishonored 2, Billie Lurk finds herself haunted by nightmares of losing her right eye and arm. Trying to put this aside, she sets out to track down her former mentor, assassin Daud a.k.a the Knife of Dunwall, to make amends for her past misdeeds. Upon locating him, she finds out that the nightmares are linked to the mysterious and powerful Outsider, the black-eyed man who granted both Daud and Corvo, as well as Lurk herself, their supernatural abilities. It is then that the pair resolve to take out this god-like being, in an attempt to cure the ills of the world. Whilst not a initially enthralling as the two main games, there are enough links to events and places featured in those games to maintain the familiar atmosphere.
There is of course the usual cast of religious zealots and cultists to deal with, on your way to finding a two-pronged knife that fable tells not only created the Outsider, but could also be used to finish him off for good. This mission takes us through several new and returning locations, tackling the type of assassination and heist jobs that were so finely crafted in the two main entries in the series. There is still ample opportunity to tackle each mission in the way of your choosing, striking whatever balance you like of lethal and non-lethal, loud or stealthy. Arkane have become experts at crafting sandboxes to play with and discover a myriad of routes to success, and each stage here feels ripe for exploration, successfully continuing that legacy.
Your arsenal is augmented by your own set of supernatural abilities, but unlike past games where you must learn one at a time, you are given full access to all skills at once. Some might see this as somewhat over-powering your character, but this only further aids the feeling of being set free to experiment in each location. The developer has removed the constrictions of earning your skills, in order to leave the player free to try out different techniques and approaches right from the off. This is very freeing, and doesn’t feel too easy – despite the added fact that you no longer need to collect potions to refill your powers, they now simply recharge over time. For a shorter downloadable add-on, this makes perfect sense, as why have players waste time with basic gameplay mechanics, when they could be enjoying the levels you have built?
There are a set of new powers on offer however, which are similar but not exactly the same as those you have used before. Displace will be most often-used. Similar to the Blink telephoto power, you can place a copy of yourself at a distance, and warp to that spot either immediately or at a later time. This comes in handy for setting up escape routes, or suddenly appearing behind a target, but can occasionally be a bit fiddly to pull off correctly. As with past titles, quick save will be your friend when trying to pull off an intricate action, just in case any wrinkles arise. Another useful new ability lets you copy the face of any other character and use it to temporarily masquerade as them; especially helpful for those taking the sneaky approach, and in accessing areas needing authorisation. The new Hook Mine gadget lets you set a trap on any surface, which will pull enemies toward it, either knocking them out and dangling them out of harms way, or pulling them off ledges too their doom.
Perhaps the best new addition to this DLC package however is the introduction of Contracts in each stage. Given out at Black Market shop locations, these are bounties of sorts; several unique tasks in each stage, asking you to steal items, kill targets or complete other actions that you wouldn’t usually do as part of a regular play-through. What makes these Contracts so successful is that some of them really make you play each level through in a way that you wouldn’t otherwise, or take you to different places that you would usually just pass by. These up the replayability of the game, as well as adding some real length to each stage. Being only five levels long, this add-on still feels pretty meaty and time-consuming, and a big part of that is down to the added challenge of the Contracts.
On top of the new sets of abilities and gadgets, the extra replayability and options afforded by the Contracts, and an all-metal storyline, there is also an Original Game+ mode. Playable after completing the main quest once, this lets you have access to the powers featured in Dishonored 2, so you can go back and tackle the five missions here in completely new ways once again, making use of the different supernatural powers and adding further longevity to the DLC. By removing many of the gameplay barriers to experimentation, Arkane have truly created a sandbox which allows gamers to be creative and try whatever they like. Even though we have probably seen enough of Corvo and his related story, this is still a great addition to the overall canon.