While Dishonored 2 mostly follows the same formula as its predecessor, you now have the choice between playing as original Dishonored protagonist Corvo or his daughter Emily, both of whom employ different abilities and approaches to the same missions. Here’s a rundown on the shared talents of each and their unique abilities.
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Stealth or head-on combat?
Dishonored 2 monitors the amount of Chaos you cause and absence of chaos (known as a Ghost rating), and it influences the way each level plays out beyond the narrative. Chaos is measured by kills, and will increase as you use more lethal methods of play.
If you kill a lot of enemies the game will throw more of them your way in subsequent levels, and if you use stealth, enemies will become less aggressive and the maps will become less populated. In a sense, it caters toward your playstyle as an organic difficulty setting.
Consider going all or nothing in any given save file, and keep that save file clean. What do we mean by that? Well, if you’re building a character toward a low Chaos run with stealth abilities galore, make sure that your save file has nothing but stealthy play on it. If you go all out on one level and kill everyone, the next will add more enemies on the map, and you won’t have as much of a chance to take advantage of your stealth approach.
As a rule, Ghost players will avoid being seen,successfully hide bodies and refrain from kills. You can still go mildly Ghost if you only kill sometimes, but the best approach is to try to sneak around without any interaction at all. Use those quick saves if you’re getting into a heavily populated or tricky looking area.
The Tell-Tale Heart
The heart item returns again, and it serves as a radar for just about every hidden rune and bonecharm in the game. By equipping it (and thus, using up your ability slot), items comprised of both of those categories are highlighted on the map, with a handy distance marker for each collectible.
If you’re comfortable with keeping the heart out and not using stealth abilities to avoid enemies, you can track down multiple runes or bonecharms at once with ease. For the rest of you, you’re going to want to lock onto one item at a time then swap back to a helpful talent, whether that involves an offensive or defensive approach to grabbing said item. Locking on will ensure that the item is still highlighted if you switch off of the heart in your active inventory.
A good tactic with the Heart is to use it occasionally to figure out where a hotspot (read: an area with multiple items, like a large building with multiple floors) is, then put it back into your bag for later use. Try to thin out enemy herds before moving in on a building just in case you need to move around the back or the side to actually grab an item.
If you find yourself constantly looking for goodies, grab the Dark Vision talent (which is shared between characters) right away. It’ll allow you to see through walls, which includes sight for enemies and hidden objects.
Runes, blueprints and bonecharms
There are two main collectible items in Dishonored 2 that — runes and bonecharms. Runes provide players with skill points and bonecharms are equipment that provide buffs. You can also locate blueprints directly, which are not highlighted by the heart, and provide equipment to purchase at the black market shop.
Runes, quite simply, are upgrade points. on pickup. As soon as you locate and procure one of them, it’s available in your skill list ready to be used. They’re one of the most important things to find in any given level, as they’re directly tied to your offensive and defensive capability ceiling. If you want to take down some of the tougher gauntlets or enemies later in the game, you’ll want a lot of points at your disposal. If you loathe the idea of constantly going on errands to get extra items, consider at least using the heart to lock onto runes that are on the critical (required) path for each mission.
Bonecharms on the other hand are a little more of a wildcard. They’re preset pickups that represent upgrades that can be equipped on your person, such as additional bullet capacity. Corrupted charms provide additional bonuses but also have a downside. Unless you’re a completionist, we wouldn’t suggest going out of your way for these as they might not even involve any abilities you’re using in your specific build.
You can craft them by buying the crafting skill for one Rune and by using Raw Whalebone items, and if you invest enough points into it (seven Runes in addition), you can eliminate its chances of being crafted as a corrupted charm. For four more points, you can even break down or craft Runes with collectibles. Early on when you don’t have enough Whalebones to make an impact it isn’t all that powerful, but consider looking at the system around chapter five, when you’ve accrued more items. Again, the crafting system takes the pressure off of players to become obsessed with locating the static Bonecharms on the map.
One last thing regarding collectibles — make note of any paintings you see scattered around the world. These can be picked up immediately and sold for a massive amount of cash.
Although both characters are prone to both Chaos and Ghost playthroughs, Corvo has a kit that involves a more aggressive style of play that will appeal to players who prefer a head-on approach. In our opinion, he’s a little easier to pick up than Emily, mostly due to the ease of his Blink power.
Corvo’s Blink, quite simply, is superior to Emily’s Far Reach. The difference between the two is that Corvo’s is basically a teleport that can avoid enemy line of sight while used, and Emily’s is not. Use this to your advantage, as Blink is pretty much foolproof when moving right in front of the noses of your foes.
Where Corvo excels however is ambushing, as he has three abilities dedicated to possession — whether it’s of animals like rats and wolfhounds, corpses, or humans. It not only allows you to get around quicker, but entirely unseen, and can open up new paths for you to use. As an added bonus, enemies won’t know where you are if you use it to escape, and can cut down on unnecessary reloading after a botched indoor getaway. For just five Runes you can grab the base skill and the corpse possession upgrade, which is a steal.
One of the issues with Bend Time is that most of its effectiveness hinges on getting into a situation, at which point you’ve already put yourself at a disadvantage. For five Runes it’s very pricey, and although it can be used as a "get out of jail free card" with the power to slow down the game, you should attempt to master Corvo to the point where you’re not even seen in the first place.
Bend Time can help in that regard with better sneaking potential (especially if you distract a guard and force them to look at another area even briefly, then bend time), but you’d be better off building into something a little cheaper upgrade-wise and something more mana efficient.
Windblast is another limited power that deflects projectiles essentially works as a "Force Push" in similar Star Wars games that feature Jedi protagonists. Again, it’s mostly used as an annoyance unless you get "Greater Windblast" (which is a whopping seven Runes in all), so skip it entirely if you can.
Swarm is too good to pass up, as it’s not only an entertaining ability, but an impactful one as well. Corvo calls an army of rats to h is side, which can eat enemies or distract them. Like Emily’s Doppelganger, it’s a multi-faceted tool that can get you out of a jam or prevent them all together. When combined with possession, it can create a lot of opportunities. Considering picking up the two of them after building your Blink tree.
One of the first upgrades you should buy is the "Greater Blink" skill, which extends the reach of your teleport.
Even if you’re focused on taking out enemies directly it’s useful for things like setting up kills or escaping. In fact, upgrading Blink to stop time while you’re aiming it and automatically take out enemies after teleporting into them is one of the best uses of your points, and will only cost a grand total of eight Runes, as the Blink power is given to you for free at the start. Building into other talents (like Bend Time, which costs five Runes to even buy, or Possession, which is four) right away will be a slower uphill battle.
From there, we highly recommend building into the shared talent tree, with skills like Vitality (which ups your health and regeneration), Dark Vision (see through walls), Agility (better jumps and movement), and Shadow Kill (turns enemies into ash after killing them). The latter is one of the most important choices for Corvo if you’re looking at a Chaos run, as you can combo this with your Blink kills to instantly turn enemies into ash that can’t be identified or discovered by patrols.
Emily is a more subversive, nuanced character, and she sports abilities that reflect a slightly more complex playstyle.
While Far Reach isn’t as stealthy as Blink, it’s still an effective ability. Think of it like a slingshot, as you can run and/or jump and use it to go further if needed. Try this in the first chapter on top of buildings in safe zones to get a hang of the feel, so you don’t jump to your death later on.
Stealth players will want to look at using a heavy amount of weapons and ammo (bought through cash) with the Domino skill. For the cost of four Runes, you can link two human targets together, who share their pain (lethal or non-lethal) when inflicted on either individual. For the cost of three or six Runes respectively, you can up this to three or four targets.
Simply put, this is yet another open-ended skill that relies on your imagination. You can go for a non-lethal Ghost run and use sleep darts to bring an entire room down with no effort, or shoot them in the head with an arrow and end it all. As long as you’re sure you’ve casted Domino on the entire room so no patrols will get suspicious, it’s a good idea to link it with Shadow Kill so they all turn to ash right away.
This is the first ability you should purchase with Emily as it opens so many doors for all styles of play. Creating a shadow clone of yourself is useful in just about every situation, and since it doesn’t actually trigger the real "alarm" unless your original form is seen, it can also be utilized to reset enemy positions.
Think of Shadow Walk as a shroud of sorts. Enemies can still see you, but you’ll be less visible at all times. Since the line of sight system in Dishonored 2 can be incredibly forgiving, this is another smart buy as you can use it as an Emily player pretty much all of the time. Killing or taking out a guard will end the process if you only bought the base skill (it can be upgraded to increase to up to three targets), but advanced players will be able to get around without taking out anyone, especially if you combine it with the Shadow Run upgrade for just two Runes to increase your speed while the power is in use.
While Mesmerize has its uses, it’s better to build into something that isn’t so specialized. It’s a charm spell, in essence, that can be used to charm two guards at its base power, which can be upgraded to three or fourth for three Runes each tier. But as you can probably tell, it’s limited, because if any outside patrol walks in you’re going to be seen. Whereas if you had an ability like Shadow Walk or Doppelganger, you could avoid conflict entirely.
Unlike Corvo, Emily’s Far Reach is not really worth building into right away.
Instead, buy the Doppelganger skill for four Runes, as it serves as one of the more versatile abilities in the entire game. With the power to summon a clone of yourself, it can not only distract enemies and allow you to sneak away, but also fight if you buy the "Deadly Shade" upgrade for three Runes (something you should do immediately with a Chaos character). Or, more stealthy players could go for the Baffling Shade upgrade for one Rune that causes a short period of confusion for enemies surrounding it after death. If you’re so inclined, you can create a Doppelganger below then leap onto it to survive high falls.
After building up Doppelganger, go for Domino. This allows you to link an entire room, and even if more targets pour in or you’re out of ammo, one swift kill will take them out and still leave your clone (or clones if you upgraded) to take on the rest. Once you’ve reached this point in the game and are quick with your Domino linking, you can take out most mobs before they overwhelm you.