If there’s one character who deserves to get her own spin-off from Dishonored it’s definitely the plucky Billie Lurk. The ex-Whaler Captain who’s just a little bit badass is back and what’s interesting is that she’s got some new powers that make Death of the Outsider feel like more of a standalone game a la Uncharted: The Lost Legacy than your average Dishonored 2 DLC... or any DLC for that matter.
Billie’s story, as the title suggests, is all about a journey to kill a god. The infamous assassin is partnering up with her former mentor Daud to take out The Outsider, the same mysterious being who gave powers to Emily and Corvo in the original Dishonored and its sequel. The Outsider is number one on their new hit list, with the pair believing he’s responsible for most of the evil in The Empire. But of course, there will be much more blood shed before Billie can shove a sword into him, whether from behind a door with a well-timed electric dart or with swords clashing in the cobbled squares.
The section of Death of the Outsider I play at GamesCom sees Billie trying to track down a series of gang leaders in the underworld of Dishonored 2’s Karnaca, including the singing Shaun Yun and his cronies. And although I only get to spend half an hour with the game, there are some rather crucial changes and gameplay tweaks that developer Arkane is introducing with this DLC pack that make this feel like the end of one chapter and the beginning of another.
There are no grand deviations in terms of the main gameplay tropes. You can still go into any mission stealthily, take a non-lethal approach or jab your sword into anyone who looks at your funny. You can still utilise the suite of powers and gadgets on offer to achieve your goals and move around the world unnoticed too. But it’s the more granular stuff that makes Death of the Outsider so interesting.
For a start, whether you decide to go lethal or spare their pitiful lives, it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of Billie’s life. Arkhane has ditched the chaos system for Death of the Outsider, because we already know that Billie knows the effects of her actions through the previous experience we’ve had with her. It gives the combat a little more freedom. No longer do I feel bad for ruining a run of non-lethal combat with a seriously impressive sword attack or working out that Billie’s new hook grenades are brutal enough to rip a man in half. Instead, there’s an emphasis on experimentation in a way that doesn’t come laced with a requirement to follow a specific path. There are no penalties for mixing it up here.
And then there are Billie’s new powers, which might just be the best in the series. Firstly, you’ve got Displace, which seems to be Billie’s version of Corvo’s iconic blink ability. Using Displace, you can project a version of her to a different location, leaving it dangling in a purple haze wherever you want to move next. You don’t have to warp there straight away, you can almost queue it up so it’s ready for you to leap when a guard’s back is turned, or a target is in position for a little death from above. It’s annoying that you can’t Displace through metal grid gates or through walls, but it feels like that would makes things far too easy. It’s a tool rather than a shortcut maker.
Billie’s second power is known as Semblance, which allows you to blend into a scene by stealing the identity of any guard or civilian you find. But she does this by ripping the face off them and using it as a magical mask that hides her true identity from the authorities, a bit like the Faceless Men in Game of Thrones. In my preview I find it nowhere near as useful as Displace, mostly because I’m quite happy warping around Karnaca, but it’s definitely got potential.
What I do use very regularly, though, is Billie’s third power - Foresight. It doesn’t quite give her the ability to see into the future, rather it’s focused on allowing you to build a strategy. It freezes time and allows you to float around the surrounding area, tagging enemies and taking a look at their vision cone. It allows you to answer questions like “can that guard staring at my wanted poster on a pillar really see me if I sneak past?” or lets you see a potential route around a locked door. Yes the glowing yellow shadows of the NPCs in that sector might be terrifying, but it’s a powerful tool to have at your disposal.
And what’s more, if you complete Death of the Outsider and start again using a feature called original game plus, you unlock all of Corvo and Emily’s powers too, making Billie quite the powerhouse of play.
But the real beauty is that Billie’s energy isn’t linked to collecting elixirs. She’s gained these powers by tapping straight into the void itself and so her energy isn’t reduced every time she uses an ability, it’s just on a cooldown timer. Wait 30 seconds or so and you’ll be ready to play with powers again.
It’s this sense of true experimentation, unlimited by the chaos system and elixirs, that makes Death of the Outsider feel so fresh. It’s not that Dishonored needed a new lease of life of course, but with Emily and Corvo’s story closing out at the end of Dishonored 2, this is a very promising slice of what will be hopefully be the franchise’s next chapter.