The games I start playing and then end up finishing in more or less one really, really long session are rare. The driving factor usually is curiosity. I simply want to find out what happens next. Not necessarily because the story is so gripping, or emotional, as was most recently the case with Hellblade-Senua’s Sacrifice. Some games simply are so full of great, crazy gameplay ideas or stunning landscapes and/or characters that they make rushing through them worthwhile.
One of those games is Dishonored, at least during my first playthrough. And while I took my time with Dishonored 2, savoring it in as many ways as I could, Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, the latest adventure of the series, had me playing all five missions in one and a half days.
There will be MAJOR SPOILERS.
Billie and Daud or Love Forgives Everything
Let’s start with Billie Lurk aka Megan Foster, the heroine of this game. Billie used to be part of the Whalers, the gang of the infamous assassin Daud back in Dunwall, that was responsible for killing a ton of people, one of them being Empress Jessamine Kaldwin, Corvo’s lover and Emily’s mother. Billie is an ambitious, capable, hard and, above all, vengeful woman, who became Daud’s favorite protege, trusted, if cocky, second and, for a while, lover. And I remember that, back when I had finished the excellent Dishonored DLC The Knife of Dunwall, I immediately disliked her. The reason was, of course, her fallout with Daud. SPOILER: She betrayed him to Delilah and her witches.
Daud is one of the most intriguing characters of the first Dishonored. Although his knife ended Jessamine’s life his name is, strangely enough, not on the list of targets the Loyalists have Corvo chase down and kill. Which makes him seem even more dangerous and which is why, when he enters the stage later in the game in what I still think one of the grandest entrances ever, the very idea of Corvo having to face him sent chills down my spine. Dishonored‘s two DLCs then tell Daud’s story after the Empress’s death and we learn that he is not quite as cold and ruthless as he may seem. The fact that Billie is alive – as well as Emily – proves that.
Now, in the first Dishonored, depending on the Chaos-level, Corvo will either defeat and kill Daud or else defeat and forgive him. In Dishonored 2 Daud is alive, as shown by documents found on the Dreadful Whale which prove Megan/Billie is looking for him. So, since I was not a Bille-fan, I was very much looking forward to meeting him again. And then Billie went and proved herself the most loyal, most loving friend one could wish for. The way she cared for Anton Sokolov in Dishonored 2, worried and fussed over him, really endeared her to me and proved that she, too, had changed.
These then, are the two characters that come together in this installment of the franchise to end the Outsider.
When I first heard of the game and saw the first trailer, I immediately knew there would be a conflict between Billie and Daud regarding the ending. Since Dishonored is all about ethical choices, or rather, to kill or not to kill, the very title “Death of the Outsider”, was an open provocation. Of course I would not have anyone kill my favorite black-eyed boy!
So I was pretty sure Daud and Billie would squabble over that, and I was also pretty sure Billie would have to make the choice. But how she gets to make it! See, the only way to kill the Outsider is by stealing the knife that once turned him into a god, taking it into the Void (easy!) and, well – stab him. Or… or else you find another way, in this case SPOILER you, that is Billie, finds out that the Outsider’s Mark is really his name and when you tell him his name you set him free. No more Outsider. Without killing. My kind of choice, certainly.
There’s a catch, though: You cannot tell him his name. That can only be done by a ghost. Inside the Void. And, no, Billie doesn’t sacrifice her life to do that. She enlists the help of an old friend.
MAJOR CHARACTER SPOILER AHEAD
So, Billie’s first mission in the game is to finally find Daud, a captive of the cult of the Eyeless, and, ultimately, to release him from captivity, a scene reminiscent of the old days, with the assassin making short work of his earstwhile captors while Billie looks on, clearly as fascinated as I myself felt.
That awesome image is destroyed instantly, though, for Daud has aged horribly and it is clear that this last effort took away most of his remaining strength (Which is actually ludicrous considering he was the prize fighter of the Eyeless’ boxing club. And of course you can have him avoid that fight altogether, if Billie takes out the Eyeless herself previous to freeing him.). He still has enough energy left to convince Billie of the need of killing the Outsider and ending the threat posed by the Void’s magic. Billie isn’t entirely sure that is a good idea, but it is Daud’s last wish, so she is willing to go along with it.
The Outsider would not be the Outsider if he didn’t know about their plans. Of course, he decides to do something about it and thus gives Billie her own set of supernatural powers. She certainly never asked for this (and is not obliged to employ those Powers), but neither did the Outsider ask to be murdered and turned into a god. That is the moral dilemma Billie faces, one she needs to solve on her own, since Daud – sigh – breathes his last on the Dreadful Whale while Billie is away on a mission, which I thought unfair! I would have wanted for them to have a more intimate, tender goodbye, more like Corvo and Jessamine had in the Low Chaos-version of Dishonored 2.
Badass, beautiful and intriguing
Let’s talk about the Outsider. That character is certainly the most intriguing of the series, mysterious, beautiful with his perfect face, elegant appearance and pitch-black eyes, a god who grants supernatural powers for his own amusement, to see how much Chaos his eight hand-picked disciples will or will not bring into the world. It is not before Dishonored 2 that we learn more of his story, of how he was turned into a god, not really of his own free will. Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, has even more revelations of that kind in store.
It is Billie’s task to uncover these secrets, which are the secrets of the cult of the Eyeless, the same cult that Daud investigated before he was made their prisoner, and as she begins to doubt the teachings of the Order of the Everyman, which claim that the Void, and therefore the Outsider, is the source of Evil, she also comes to doubt Daud’s demand that the Outsider has to die to free the world of magic. So she is looking for another way.
In the outlandish world of Dishonored the possibilities for solving a situation are endless, the characters Billie meets are all a little eccentric and not less intriguing than the entire storyline and its many, many revelations. Of course she crosses paths with old enemies, such as the Overseers in the Royal Conservatory, and I loved how her background story was woven into that. See, there is one situation where she finds out that one of the few surviving witches who previously occupied the Conservatory is being held in the basement for questioning. It’s a disgusting slaughterhouse down there and Billie, who was herself once captured by the Overseers and tortured with their music, can certainly relate to the witch’s suffering. Freeing her felt incredibly good, even though in Dishonored the witches are usually the antagonists.
Billie can also take on contracts in Black Market shops to earn money to have her gear improved or to buy ammo and health elixir.
MAJOR ENDING SPOILER
Of course I have to talk about the ending of which I have only played one so far. So I really wanted the Outsider to have a chance, right? I mean, he didn’t want to become a god, he didn’t want to become a prisoner and he was just a kid when all that happened, with his whole life ahead. And since saving Daud (Why did he have to die!?) was not an option, at least I wanted to save him.
So, if, as mentioned before, Billie can convince her old friend Daud, who is now a ghost in the Void, to tell the Outsider his name, he will be alive again. Naturally, she does convince him and who would have thought the Outsider’s eyes are actually green? Without the Outsider, without magic, the world will change. That is a given. How it will change? That, I hope, will be revealed in the next game of this excellent series.
Billie is a badass assassin with and without supernatural powers, of which she has three: Semblance, Displace and Foresight. As with Blink and Far Reach, I used Displace more than any other ability.
Semblance: Put on the face of a person you first choked into unconsciousness and walk past guards unmolested. I used that, for example, to get some information out of the sisters of the Oracular Order in the Royal Conservatory, putting on the face of a high-ranking Overseer.
Displace: Displace is much like Blink and Far Reach, the difference being that you can place a marker at some strategic location and use it later to either escape a fight or, in my case, to get to a door way above you by placing the marker on a platform you first have to raise by turning a wheel, then Displace to the marker and get through the door before the platform starts lowering again. In case you were, like me, wondering how to get around that locked gate in the mine…
Foresight: Instead of possessing a rat and scout ahead while trying not to be trodden on by guards, you can use Foresight to leave your body, scout ahead and tag enemies or interesting items. You can actually combine Foresight and Displace to get around barred windows or doors, but I only managed to put that to effect once.
Once you have first finished the game, you can also use Original Game+ to exchange the new abilities for powers from Dishonored 2, namely for Blink, Dark Vision and Domino. That’s what I am going to try out next.
The rules of fighting haven’t changed and if you haven’t played Dishonored 2 and don’t know how to deal with the Clockwork Soldiers, tough luck. Though I guess noone will play this game if they haven’t played Dishonored before.
As usual in this world, you have to put your mind to finding a solution for the challenges you face. Often, I thought I needed to use my powers to get there and took my time realising there was another way. For example, if you choose to exit the bank via the sanitation room. There is a button on the opposite end of the room and when you push it, a gate opens and in rolls a waste container. It is clear that you have to get into the container, push the button and get out of the building that way, but I tried that using Displace. Unsuccessfully. It was much easier climbing into the container and then using the voltaic gun to shoot the button from there.
Billie’s journey leads her to both familiar locations such as the Royal Conservatory as well as to previously unknown locations in Karnaca. They all have that strange, morbid beauty about them, even the bank Billie has to break into. The most beautiful location, I thought, is the opera singer’s house where I killed all the guards and choked all the servants and felt reminded of The Knife of Dunwall using the dumbwaiter to move through the building unnoticed. The most outlandish level is the last one, a place where the Void and reality merge. I really love the way the Void is depicted and whenever I see one of the giant whales pass by in the distance, I always have to smile.
The game is dedicated to composer Daniel Licht, who passed away shortly before the game’s release. I think both the artwork as well as the soundtrack make the world of Dishonored extra special.
I confess I rushed through my first playthrough because I needed to know how it would end, next time I will try and play all the contracts in each mission, explore more and maybe not drop as many bodies…
I love the world of Dishonored and this game is no exception. But I confess I imagined a grander farewell for Daud and I would have loved for the world to know he saved Emily’s life when she was a child, a fact that is casually mentioned in this game but is actually the story of the second Dishonored DLC The Brigmore Witches. I mean, there is still a price on this head! 30.000 crowns und he simply dies of old age. Nice. Listen to his recorded last message to Billie. I loved that one.