The Dishonored franchise should enjoy a good long break
I recently played through Arkane’s new Dishonored mini-adventure Death of the Outsider (read our review here) and I enjoyed it much like I enjoyed the two previous Dishonored games before it. While I personally don’t think Death of the Outsider had the strongest of endings (no spoilers, obviously), I do believe it did an adequate job of “wrapping up” the current arc of stories that Arkane was focused on telling, giving closure to characters who definitely deserved as much.
However, as much as I love flitting through the shadows of Dunwall (and Karnaca) and exacting bloody justice on any enemies that cross my path, I also hope that Arkane takes the opportunity to let the series rest for a while. It’s clear that there are some weak spots that the studio could only address if it stepped back and took the time to refocus.
For Every Ending, A Beginning
Death of the Outsider has been played up by Arkane in the past as the end of a major chapter within the larger Dishonored saga (a chapter which includes the first two games). This suggests that more games could be on the way, but that they’d star brand new characters and be set in new parts of the series’ unique world.
I can see why Arkane would want to go that route since it has been using the same stable of core characters for three games now, but it still feels slightly odd since only a small number of the existing characters have really gotten a proper sendoff even by the end of Billie Lurk’s solo outing (though, this could also have been an intentional move on Arkane’s part).
I definitely appreciate that Death of the Outsider gave me smaller and more focused gameplay sequences to test myself against, but much like the first two games, it left me wanting more from a narrative perspective. From the very first Dishonored game, I have felt that Arkane was much better at creating immersive locales like Dunwall and Karnaca, and less so at creating compelling characters. Sure, it’s fun to teleport around avoiding and/or killing guards with near impunity, but if the only compelling aspect about a character is their ability to do things that normal people can’t, that can only get you by for so long.
I don’t mean to imply that there’s no narrative incentive to get invested in characters like Billie Lurk, Daud, Corvo Attano, or Emily Kaldwin, but Arkane has always been fighting an uphill battle to a degree by trying to humanize characters who are, at their core, killers.
The framework that Arkane has created in the world of Dishonored is as captivating as ever, a unique blend of steampunk and fantasy that contains allegories on classism, racial tension, gentrification, and more, but we only ever really get to see these issues from afar, and rarely are we able to influence them directly. I’m not saying that I’d want a new Dishonored game to abandon the stealth/combat angle entirely, but it does feel like a bit of a waste to have such a narrow impact on such a complex web of political and social issues.
Before I ramble on for too long, I’ll just say this: Dishonored is still a solid franchise with a lot of potential, and Death of the Outsider certainly presents some interesting new directions in which the series could go in the future. My one big fear is that Arkane will fall into a pattern of new game releases which, while fun, are also predictable.
I don’t want to see Dishonored become an annual franchise, mainly because I believe it’s the sort of series that benefits the most from a patient and steady guiding hand, rather than a hand that’s furiously scribbling down new ideas without even pausing to consider whether those ideas are good or not.
If it sounds like I feel Death of the Outsider was rushed in any way, that’s not my intent. In fact, I’d argue the exact opposite was the case since Arkane and Bethesda actually decided to turn it into a standalone game rather than keep it as a simple add-on for Dishonored 2. If that sort of attitude continues to be applied to the Dishonored franchise as a whole, I think it will continue to shine. So please Arkane, by all means keep making new Dishonored games, but if you have to take your sweet time doing so, that’s totally fine as well.