You can deny the gift of magical powers, leaving you with a somewhat more realistic game, but realism is never a goal for the Dishonored games. It knows it's a video game and uses it to its advantage. Some suspension of disbelief is required (more than in some other games), such as how some people are scripted to be performing some task, like calibrating a harp, and they never stop performing said task. Or how picking up valuable objects instantly gives you money. They didn't want to include a general inventory and selling mechanics, as it'd disrupt the pace and doesn't belong here.
The Void, a mysterious world inhabited by The Outsider, who may remind players of G-Man. More is learned of him in this game.
It is a sandbox game, which means it has large and very open levels but linear plot progression and no backtracking beyond the current mission. The levels are very large, even larger than Dishonored on average, and they are more open as well which says a lot given the fact that Dishonored is one of the most open, unrestricted non-open world games ever made. There are too many ways to count how to advance through levels and approach objectives. Sure, maybe one specific place within a level has only one or two or three ways to advance, but most of every level has so many. More than Dishonored thus more than almost everything else.
It's also clear that the developers tried to include as few loading screens as possible. For these reasons combined with the unique quirks on each mission and the amazing level design, the mission design of Dishonored 2 is as good as it gets for an action game. My mission length was typically between 4-5 hours with earlier missions being closer to 3. This was with a stealth playthrough; an assault playthrough would be faster.
Although the level design isn't without its flaws. It is not yet complete! You can often see in between the tiles like so:
This is the biggest downside to level design really. I did find one location that didn't make a whole lot of sense; an apartment with its entrance completely sealed off, yet two normal women occupied it. The only way to enter/exit would be through the window but it was high up, superior athletic ability would be required to reach it. Not a place for your average pair of civilians.
Furthermore its environments, including the graffiti/propaganda, seem a bit more repetitive than the first, but nothing truly offensive can be found in this regard. The world is interactive. Object interaction is present, but not quite as much as we'd like but thankfully bodies can be carried like in the first game. You can put out candles but virtually no other light source can be extinguished, a severe drawback for a stealth game.
Each protagonist, Corvo and Emily, have five unique powers if you choose to accept the Outsider's mark. An additional power is available to both, called Dark Vision which by default highlights living creatures through any solid material. All powers, as well as the six Enhancements available to both protagonists, can be upgraded.
Powers and Enhancements are upgraded with Runes, which are found throughout the game world. Bone charms can also be found, which are worn items granting special properties (either benefits or both a benefit and a drawback). The amount of bone charms you can wear can be upgraded, as can your carrying capacity, and your magnifying lens. These upgrades are done at black market shops.
A currency system (coins) is present for buying and upgrading at black market shops. Coins can be found around the game world, and valuable objects when picked up are instantly turned into coins as mentioned earlier. Some loot is hidden in safes, which can only be unlocked with the correct code which seems to be generated differently for every playthrough. Since they're only 3 digits, it's easy to try all combinations and eventually get the right one. But the codes can always be found somewhere.
Like the first game, Dishonored 2 is one of the most fluid and responsive action games ever made. The movement is wonderful. Even though both Dishonored games are built on entirely different engines, they managed a very similar but even better feel. The improvements are most noticeable in melee combat which is a bit more responsive in Dishonored 2.
However, one odd change stands out. Leaning in Dishonored 2 (at least it has leaning, which is extremely rare nowadays) is toggled, not held. I don't think most people will prefer toggle lean, although movement cancels leaning which is good. Surprisingly, a lean forward ability (Alt+W by default) is included, something I've only ever seen in the classic Thief games. It is useful for peeking over objects.
Crouch is toggled, and is surprisingly laggy. There is a considerable delay between pressing the crouch key and actually crouching. Not ideal for any game let alone an action game like this.
Arkane Studios raised first person melee combat to new heights with Dark Messiah: Of Might and Magic back in 2006. Mechanically, that game is still #1, although it is clunky by today's standards as there are strange delays between mechanics and such. Dishonored 2 wins in fluidity, but has less use of physics in combat, and is a bit less advanced. Primary sword attacks in Dishonored 2 include a basic swing (press LMB) and a power attack (hold LMB). There is also the drop assassination, in which you drop down on top of an enemy and instantly kill them, but there is a non-lethal version of this too (for non-lethal, press CTRL instead of LMB by default).
Blocking is present and timing it perfectly results in a parry that throws the enemy off balance. When an enemy is thrown off balance, you can immediately follow up with a death blow, or you can grab a hold of the enemy and spin them around and apply a chokehold. When choking such an enemy, it is the same state as choking them from behind. You can choke them until they pass out, at which point you can let them fall to the ground or carry them, or you can push the enemy forward (useful when enemies are in front of you).
But there is a problem here. When choking an enemy and shielding yourself with him/her (which is always the position when choking someone), that enemy's allies never care about his/her well being. They always kill him/her to get to you, regardless of faction. This is just lazy AI programming, using one behavior for all when it shouldn't be the case.
Your sword is a one handed weapon, thus your other (left) hand is free. In your left hand you may equip a crossbow (sometimes fired bolts can be reclaimed if they don't break, as they have a random chance of breaking after being fired), pistol, powers, grenades and mines, and some specialty items. By default, LMB controls sword attacks while RMB controls your left hand. Block is assigned to CTRL by default but of course it can be configured.
You can jump and climb any ledge, just like its predecessor. No overly limited contextual garbage here, true freedom of movement. But right now a few ledges are glitchy and have issues when climbing them. You can peek through door locks, and of course doors open both ways again. There is no lockpicking, which makes sense since you aren't a thief. Once again there is no first-person mesh or even first-person shadow, which is disappointing.
"Dark Vision" power, the only one shared by both Corvo and Emily.
As for the magical powers, they are all incredible. I highly suggest using them. Corvo has abilities useful for both stealth and combat, while another is mostly geared toward stealth and another is only useful for combat. All of Corvo's powers are the same as in Dishonored but have some new upgrades.
Emily is more of a stealth specialist, but most of her powers can be very deadly as well.
The AI is glitchy right now and has navigation issues, but improved over the first game when properly functioning. Their movements are more dynamic usually, enemies don't always walk the same paths. AI actually see out of their eyes, which is great. Sometimes people turn their head when walking and this can greatly impact stealth (visibility).
Darkness helps conceal you, but it's not as exaggerated as the classic Thief games or Metro: Last Light. Dishonored 2's AI detection, at least on Hard mode, is less forgiving than most stealth games. Less forgiving than Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, and every Metal Gear Solid game for sure, but more forgiving than PAYDAY 2. Unconscious and dead bodies are detected by AI, but unconscious ones don't always raise an alarm; sometimes when an unconscious body is discovered, the one who discovers it gets angry at the person for napping.
Dishonored 2 provides a lovely amount of HUD customization and input options (including the ability to disable mouse smoothing) just like its predecessor. This can strongly impact gameplay. You can see these options below.
The UI is very similar to the first game. It's clear and functional, never confusing. Examples can be seen earlier on this page. Missions are tracked like most other games with a history filter to show completed ones, and the ability to show/hide objective markers (although if you turned it off in HUD options which we recommend, they never show).
Mission Clues exist to help guide players along. Lore & Maps shows picked up documents and maps. Travel Log is a narrative aspect in which the protagonist summarizes his/her journey and discusses his/her feelings on everything that happens in the story. These are created automatically, and for some reason, on the Dreadful Wale you can write in your journal which just duplicates the last entry. An incomplete mechanic perhaps?
Aside from AI navigation glitches and some clipping issues, our primary gameplay complaint is the inability to destroy most light sources, most of which are dynamic even. This limits its stealth somewhat. But the first game had the same problem. In terms of gameplay, Dishonored 2 is a universal improvement over the first and both are easily among the top 5 best action games ever, and top 4 stealth games (of this type of stealth subgenre that is). It is as great an action game as it is a stealth game, something only accomplished by its predecessor and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided to our estimation.