The biggest flaw with Dishonored: Death of the Outsider is that it released after Dishonored 2. Memories of Dishonored 2’s busted PC launch are still all-too-easily conjured up in my mind, but there’s another aspect we don’t talk about as often: Its level design. Here’s an excerpt from my review last year:

Dishonored 2 takes first-person stealth to new heights…As far as this type of Thief-style steal-everything-that-isn’t-nailed-down stealth game goes, Dishonored 2 is a masterwork.”

A masterwork. My review focused on two levels in particular—the Clockwork Mansion, with its shifting walls and multitude of paths, and the “Crack in the Slab” mission, which [Year-old spoiler] saw you flitting between past and present versions of Aramis Stilton’s manor, one pristine and getting ready for a party, the other crumbling into dust. [End spoiler]

But those were just the two standouts. Dishonored 2 was full of groundbreaking levels. Death of the Outsider? Not so much.

Devil in the details

I alluded to this last week, as I wrote up my impressions of the first two missions. “It’s a lot of the usual—soldier-filled streets, alternate paths through pseudo-Victorian apartments, some industrial areas, some docks. I’m not saying it’s bad, but it definitely feels a bit been-there-done-that. Hopefully the game picks up a bit as it approaches the end.”

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider IDG / Hayden Dingman

It didn’t. Death of the Outsider’s third mission (of five) is probably the strongest—a bank heist. It has a strong visual style, which helps. Creative approaches, too. [Spoiler] One path allows you to knock out all the guards by pumping laudanum into the level before you enter. The catch: If you make too much noise, everyone wakes up and tries to apprehend you. The challenge is to make it through the whole bank without waking anyone. The perfect crime! [End spoiler]

The bank is also a self-contained area, which I think is important. While I love some of the wide-open levels in Dishonored 2, I think the series is best when the player is constrained—when the space is an elaborately-constructed puzzle. The Clockwork Mansion fits that bill, as does Stilton’s manor, as does Death of the Outsider’s bank.

So yeah, a high note. The fifth and final mission also wins points for aesthetic—it’s very different from business-as-usual Dishonored. You’ll see.

Dishonored: Death of the Outsider IDG / Hayden Dingman

But too much of Death of the Outsider feels rote. The first mission is notable only because you don’t yet have any supernatural powers, but is otherwise standard Dishonored. The second is one of those wide-open areas, and feels like playing the Dust District again. The third mission, pre-bank robbery, actually uses the same open hub as the second mission—frustrating because completionists will have to backtrack through and rob the same handful of apartments again for no real reason. It would’ve been better if the bank mission had been truly self-contained.

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