Death of the Outsider feels like the beginning of the end for a particular period of the Empire of the Isles. A period of murder and magic and whale bones. A period that, in a few years, will be referred to by old ladies with translucent skin as ‘the old ways.’ While some people are still desperately, violently holding on to it, others are setting it on fire or replacing it with machines. And it all feels a bit futile because, no matter what fantastic feats you pulled off as Corvo or Emily in order to tear your Empire back from the brink of ruin, as Billie Lurk you see that for the people on the ground nothing has really changed. Aside from the fact that a mysterious and horrible cult known as the Eyeless are the new big name in town, that is.
Billie Lurk was a supporting character in Dishonored’s DLC and in Dishonored 2, and is a slightly more rough and ready assassin than previous player characters. In keeping with a slightly shorter experience, the character systems have been streamlined. Billie has only four powers and they can’t be levelled up, though she can augment them with bone charms, and purchase combat upgrades from black market shops.
Billie can sneak and stab, Displace to move distances quickly (like Corvo’s Blink), leave her body to scout the area with Foresight, and steal another’s face for a short time with Semblance. She can also listen to rats, who have whispery and often violent thoughts that can give Billie valuable clues. Added up it means that when Billie Lurk destroys you, it tends to be up close and personal, though there are a lot of fun weapons and traps too.
To supplement the quest for revenge against the mysterious and unknowable god (but growing more known all the time) the Outsider, Billie can undertake optional contracts while on missions: kill the mime, but make it look like an accident; steal this information, but you can’t be seen. There’s also the usual lovely array of sometimes unseen consequences to actions, that you only find if you return to the scenes of some of your crimes. There are the little written secrets to uncover: treatises on the nature of the Void, about converting from whale oil to green energy, and a fragment of in-universe Corvosider fanfiction. You can find horrible things happening in basements. What with this and the Original Game+ mode there are plenty of reasons to return for another 8 or so hours.
Death of the Outsider’s existence is a tribute to the tight storytelling Arkane has employed over the whole Dishonored series. Call it Chekhov’s assassin: if you say in your first game that there is a Billie Lurk hanging around, then in your second or third game she absolutely must go off. In Death of the Outsider she does, often quite spectacularly. I felt no moral imperative as Billie Lurk to not absolutely muller everyone in my path.
In fact I often felt quite angrily righteous about it. One level in Death of the Outsider revisits a location from Dishonored 2 that I loved (and you should really play Dishonored 2 first). Practically, of course, this is a very clever way to repurpose a huge and very good existing area and make it feel new and unfamiliar — not quite all of Death of the Outsider’s areas have as many lovely eldritch layers as in Dishonored 2, and in fact it gets, dare I say it, a little linear by the end, though there’s things like a really smashing bank heist to be getting on with — but it also felt like a microcosm of Death of the Outsider.
In Dishonored 2, you cleaned witches out of this area. When you arrive as Billie, the Abbey of the Everyman has pitched up in their place. The Overseers have turned all the lights on, covered vast swathes of the building in white tarp, and are burning books on the street outside. They’re keeping witches prisoner in the basement to experiment on, and have swept aside magic circles and put up their own altars. They had removed everything lovely and weird and it made me very angry. I happily slaughtered every last one of them as recompense for how they’d treated Delilah’s witches, even though as Empress Emily the same women had been my enemies, because it felt so cruel and wrong to take all the magic out of the world. I was angry that it seemed like a natural progression; I was raging against the dying of the light.
But at the same time, that is Billie and Daud’s goal: to kill the Outsider, a punishment for gifting the power of the Void to only a few individuals (who are often corrupted by it). It seems that Billie is conflicted even on this initially uncomplicated quest, because as a child she, and all the other broken outcasts, would long for the Outsider to appear to them. She seems to both hate and enjoy the powers, and is further confused that he gave them to her at all when her ultimate aim is his destruction. In the end, as was always true, it’s about personal responsibility.
Developer: Arkane Studios
Available on: PlayStation 4 [reviewed on], Xbox One, PC
Release Date: September 15 2017