Tense stealth? Check. High stakes supernatural shizzle? Check. Terrifying enemies? Check. You're good to go, Dishonored: Death of the Outsider.
Dishonored: Death of the Outsider came out last week, and is a shorter experience than the two full-blown numbered Dishonored games. Everyone else seems to have managed to get their review out in a more timely fashion, which I credit to three circumstances. One, I had to play a lot of Destiny 2. Two, every Dishonored game takes me forever because I save scum and spend more time replaying muffed encounters or watching the loading screen than actually doing murders.
Three, the final mission in Dishonored: Death of the Outsider introduces a new enemy that made me frightened and unhappy, which caused me to develop a sudden interest in cleaning my house, playing fetch with my cat, taking healthy walks and being anywhere besides cowering behind a rock formation as something horrible lurched past on its nasty pointy legs.
Remember the Clockwork Soldiers in Dishonored 2? Weren’t they just the worst? Making them immune to strangles and also inapproachable from the back knocked a significant number of players, including me, on their arse. Suddenly the save scummer’s favourite tactic of knocking everybody out one by one and dragging them far away was no good. To take down a tick tock without an alert, you needed to be very good at stealth – and so too did you need to be good at stealth in order to avoid them altogether.
I love this. I mean, I also hate it, but I love that it gently insists that unless you’re a fairly skilled player you must let go of your ambition to perfectly ghost levels via save scumming, and instead spend a little time in a different mode of play – whether that’s accepting an alert and the subsequent action, or exploring the lethal end of the power wheel (tick tocks do not count as kills).
All the Dishonored games and add-ons to date have been magnificent riffs on how teleportation expands the stealth sandbox. This enables fast-paced, reactive and tactical play that emerges when you’re under pressure – and it's both fantastic and a lot more fun than reloading your save, honestly. Being pushed into scenarios where I couldn’t systematically choke away all possible detection threats encouraged me to explore and appreciate other play styles, and that’s great. So well done tick tocks!
But I also loved the tick tocks because they gave me the willies. They’re horrible, in a sort of Cybermen, Dalek, implacable mechanical force way, with their jerking movements and cheerful pre-recorded voices. For Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, someone at Arkane decided maybe tick tocks could be worse, and slapped a grinning face on them. Billie comments on how awful this is and she’s absolutely right: it’s horrifying. Slash wonderful!
The horrible new tick tocks are prototypes, though, and can only look in one direction - which makes them easier to sneak around in-game. Don't worry though! There's a new, even more horrible enemy seemingly capable of sensing you behind them: the Envisioned, which I love, and also hate. We’ve seen these lads lurching about in trailers so I don’t think it’s a spoiler to discuss them, but I won’t talk about who or what they are and where you encounter them, for story’s sake.
I don’t really even want to talk about their abilities and what it’s like to fight them, because my own discovery of what the Envisioned can and will do was a real capital e Experience. I sailed into that first confrontation full of confidence, and was summarily humbled. I shrieked. I jumped. I knocked the cat off my lap. I slid down onto the floor saying “oh, no, oh fuck, nooooooo” and wondering when I’d last made a scummable save.
Once again, the introduction of a new enemy upended my playstyle. My favourite tricks stopped working. The section of game where you encounter the Envisioned probably takes about 90 seconds to stroll through, start to end, and I honestly couldn’t tell you how many of them populated that space. Perhaps ten?
It took me over two hours, I think, to make that journey. The thing about the Envisioned is that they feel exponentially more numerous than they are. When I saw one, there was almost certainly two in the area. If I saw two, there seemed actually to be four. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn they doubled every time I turned my back. I couldn’t keep track of them. I’d scout an area out carefully and be certain of a safe path, and then – boom! Eventually, my nerves were so frayed I didn’t dare try to take any of them out, in case another one turned up on its heels.
In the end, about halfway through this death zone, I gave up – and somehow pulled off one of the smoothest traversals I’ve ever managed in a Dishonored game. I turned Billie towards the objective, took a few deep breaths, and teleported hither and yon in a mad scrambling dance, a Gladiators gauntlet of detection cones and verticality around two sharp bends. At the very end I nearly fell off a cliff, only just pulling myself back from the brink to stand, teetering, almost at an Envisioned’s right shoulder.
“Fuckkkkkkkkk,” I said – very quietly, because like most people with too many feelings I occasionally become convinced video game monsters can hear me. Without taking my eyes off it, I crouched walked backwards into the objective, whipped around while mashing the interact key, and collapsed on the other side in a sweaty mess.
In other words, a very good time was had! Dishonored has always been so good at conjuring up tension and atmosphere as soon as things get a little bit weird, and Death of the Outsider piles on the weird with joyful abandon. The creepy witches return (I love them), the Overseers are back on their preverse bullshit (I love them), Wolfhounds still make me question whether the rule about All Dogs Are Good Dogs is true (I love them) and the Oracular Order join the fray, proving also to be wrong, wrong, wrong in all the right ways (I love them).
All the other series standbys are in place, too. Breaking into apartments and rifling through diaries still turns up odd little stories and chains of connection that ground the world. Every corner of the game world is layered in baroque visual detail. There’s a fantastic infiltration mission in a bank with a circular corridor you unlock by travelling all over the place, backed up by an optional objective or two that can make it tense as all get-out. Every single area is once again dense with pockets and paths and possibilities. The Outsider remains glorious, and Billie is an absolute champion. Displace somehow reinvents teleportation in new and interesting ways yet again, and the murder sandbox is amazing if you prefer the high chaos route.
Dishonored is one of my favourite game series, and Death of the Outsider was a fantastic way to spend my weekend – even if I did play some of it from behind the couch, where the monsters could not get me.
Dishonored: Death of the Outsider is a standalone title available now for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.