Death of the Outsider's design decisions made Dishonored feel fresh again

Alongside our team-selected 2017 Game of the Year awards, each member of the PC Gamer team gets to champion one favorite from the year. We'll continue to post new personal picks until the end of 2017.  

Dishonored 2 was easily my favourite game of last year, and so it's little surprise that I enjoyed this standalone expansion so much. In many ways it's a similar prospect—a bunch of new Dishonored 2-style levels (and even a returning old one), offering more opportunities to stalk through Karnaca, offing jerks. Good, but not revelatory. And yet, it goes further, switching up exactly the right things to make the action feel meaningfully different. It's a great example of an efficient expansion: more of the same, but also something new.

Billie Lurk is the perfect character to lead this epilogue. The main Dishonored games centre around fundamentally sheltered people coming into the squalor of common life—experiencing it in some cases for the first time. Focusing on the murkier characters of Dishonored's story—primarily Daud and Billie—gives the expansion stories a new context, making them an important tool for fleshing out the world. To Emily, for instance, the witches are a threat—an enemy to overcome. But Billie has history with the faction, which lets Arkane reframe your sympathies as more insidious forces take control.

My play style in Death of the Outsider was more lethal than in any previous Dishonored game, and for what I perceived as justifiable story reasons. The expansion facilitated that switch by doing away with the Chaos system. It made sense to do: Billie's influence in the world is less obvious than Corvo or Emily, and her personality has already been forged in betrayal and bloodshed. Again: a small systemic tweak, but one that's rooted in the story being told, that encourages you to try something different.

That's also achieved through Billie's powers. She has fewer options than Corvo or Emily, but her power recharges without the need for vials of blue magic juice. The resource management element is clearly something Arkane felt was important for the main game. But for this shorter, more focused story, it's nice to be set free. To see a space and have the freedom to attempt whatever tactic your toolset allows, without the worry of its consequences down the road.

A brilliant sequence, full of ingenious infiltration methods

It's not all clever tweaks, though. Death of the Outsider also features some brilliant environments—missions that, in some instances, rival Dishonored 2's. The bank heist is a standout. After spending a huge chunk of time in the surrounding environment during the day, you return at night to break into Karnaca's most secure bank. It's a brilliant sequence, full of ingenious infiltration methods and different options depending on what strands of the space you pick away at. It's easily my favourite level from anything this year.

It was a toss up whether my personal pick this year would be Death of the Outsider or Prey. Each offered a different take on the immersive sim concept—Prey taking the System Shock approach, while Death of the Outsider built from Dishonored's more Thief-style systems. And each had some significant problems—for Outsider, the last mission's new enemy type made working through that space a chore. But, in both cases, the positives outweigh the negatives. I think Death of the Outsider is marginally my favourite, right here, right now. But Prey is the one I'm more likely to replay—and will doubtless enjoy more on a second go through. In a year when pure singleplayer experiences have struggled commercially, both deserve your attention and time.

Disclaimer: One of the writers for Death of the Outsider, Hazel Monforton, is a contributor to PC Gamer.