Dishonored 2 beginner's guide: 10 tips for all you aspiring assassins
Hot damn, Dishonored 2 is here. Having trouble figuring out what all the fuss is about? Can't tell your folding sword from your fundament? Our tips will soon have you flitting hither and yon, the deadliest thing they never saw.
If this is your first Dishonored game it's really worthwhile playing the quick tutorial available from the start menu, which will teach you the controls, how to chain movements, and the basics of stealth and combat.
Text tutorials will unlock as you progress through the campaign, too; read them immediately via the on-screen prompt, or access them from the pause menu later. You should also keep an eye out for the tips on the loading screens: use the d-pad to scroll through them, as there's heaps of good information there.
Dishonored 2 isn't as straightforward as many other assassination-themed games, so don't despair: we promise it's worth it, and you'll get a handle on it soon.
1. Don't give up before you leave Dunwall
Like the first Dishonored, Dishonored 2 doesn't give you your signature power until you've completed the first mission in full. This is a bit frustrating because it means you may spend an hour or more exploring and learning without ever seeing the real game and its potential.
So here's my advice: don't worry too much about that first mission in Dunwall. Just get it over with. Get out of the tower, get to the ship, and get your first ability. That initial mission is a good way to learn the basics of Dishonored 2's sightline-based stealth, but if you're not having fun you should get to the better parts as soon as possible so you have a reason to bother.
You can actually choose to play the whole game without powers if you like, which is a vastly different experience intended for veterans. Really, it's like night and day: Dishonored 2 is two totally different games. Well okay, it's four, since you can play as Emily or Corvo. Make that eight, with Low and High Chaos variants. Oh, gosh. That brings me to...
2. Don't worry too much about Chaos, Ghosting or going "pure" stealth
Yeah, I know you want to get a perfect assessment at the end of the level, but seriously - save that for a second playthrough, if ever. Once you really know the level layouts, understand the stealth and AI, and have a bunch of powers you'll find you can go hours without alerting the guards. At the start, though? Don't worry about it. It's okay to get caught a bunch of times.
Think of those end of mission screens as informational rather than judgmental: they show you your playstyle rather than telling you whether you succeeded or not. If you want to get really good at combat and confront all your enemies, go for it! There are a bunch of tools and skills in this game that really shine in that context. It's sandbox. Play in it.
So don't be disheartened if you're struggling with the stealth, and don't think you're playing Dishonored 2 badly or wrong. That said...
3. Master the lean
Even if you're going to murder everyone in face-to-face combat there will be times when you don't want to be seen - perhaps you're scouting the area to see how many and what kind of enemies are around, or maybe you're setting a nasty trap for shits and giggles. For that, you need to understand how Dishonored 2's stealth works.
Basically, it's all sight lines. If you are in stealth mode (crouched), and there's an object between you and a guard, you're fine. You don't make noise in stealth mode, and if you can't see a guard's eyes the guard can't see you.
But - and here's the good bit - if you can't see a guard's eyes, and then you lean (triangle/Y and the left stick) until you can, the guard still can't see you. Leaning does not count as moving out of cover. You can get a really good look around this way, risk free - as long as nobody's sneaking up on you.
4. Let your mana regen after using basic powers
Your health and mana don't generally regenerate in Dishonored 2, and recovery items are limited. It is quite possible to end up in a world of trouble, having used up all a level's consumables and having nothing to go on with.
Avoid this situation by hazarding your resources, including your mana. You'll notice that after you use Blink or Far Reach once the mana bar will refill as long as you don't use another power for a few seconds. This is a really important way of ensuring you can use these powers an unlimited number of times - provided you don't spam them.
Mana also regenerates when you use Dark Vision, another hugely important basic power. Speaking of which...
5. Use Dark Vision
When you first enter a new area, Dishonored 2 can feel like trial-and-error gameplay. No matter how carefully you listen and peek through keyholes, there's always an unexpected enemy somewhere. Do you reload your save and try again, or put with alerted guards for the rest of the mission...?
Neither: you use Dark Vision to avoid the whole problem. Unlockable early in the second mission, Dark Vision gives you a limited form of heat sensitivity, allowing you to spot guards through walls and doors. It's cheap to unlock, it's a free power (that is, it costs no mana if you're careful - see previous slide), and it can be upgraded in ways that make it even more useful.
Note that Dark Vision tends not to work through many external walls; you'll often need to get inside a structure to spot the baddies rather than going all x-ray specs from the rooftop opposite.
6. Use Decoys
Whether you're trying to stealth your way through or just can't be bothered with a particular enemy, a good decoy is your best friend. There are several ways to get guards to break patrol or change position, and they each have their own specific uses.
Noise: Break a door, set off a bomb, smash a glass cabinet, bang on a bell - if you make enough of a ruckus all the guards within earshot will come see what the issue is. Handy when there's a pack around something you want and get to in a hurry if only they'll all bugger off.
Thrown objects: Lobbing a bottle or glass is more versatile than just kicking up a fuss because you can aim it away from yourself, making it even easier to pull guards away from you. You have to give them a few moments to turn around before you leg it, and don't expect it to hold their interest long, but for best results aim it behind some nearby cover so they have to actually wander off and check. You can throw explosives too, but then they take forever to calm down.
Alarm clocks: These are great because they take several seconds to sound, carry a fair distance, and will bring guards plodding slowly upstairs at a very slow pace. Ambush gold.
Bodies: Drop dead or unconscious guards somewhere in line of sight of a patrol and they'll go well out of their way to investigate. This counts as an alert on your end-of-level assessment screen, but it's useful. If you've been chopping bodies up, you can lob heads, limbs and whole chunks like torsos around much more easily than you can manoeuvre whole corpses. Bodies will also attract blood flies, which can be very handy.
Power-based decoys: Investigate your skill tree. There's a lot of fun to be had here.
7. Tidy up
Unless you're aiming to go full High Chaos berserk warrior style (which is fun), put your bodies away, whether they're unconscious or dead. Don't assume it's fine just because there are no other guards in that room; if someone goes wandering for any number of reasons, the shit can hit the fan big time.
Drop bodies in dumpsters and containers. Tuck them behind screens and bushes. Put them in previously locked rooms. Carry them under low tables. Make a lovely pile behind a couch. Get creative.
Do check all your fallen foes for loot, too; it's not common, but ten coins are ten coins and not to be sneezed at.
8. Make friends with quick save and quick load
Dishonored 2 is really generous with manual save management, for a console game - you get three campaign slots and each can host a whole stack of save files clearly marked by mission and current chaos level. Make plenty of manual saves at key points like the start and end of new missions and zones.
But you don't have to faff around with that while you're playing: quick save and quick load are incredible tools for the merry save scummers among us (holla). Not sure if you can survive a drop? Quick save and quick load. Have a habit of pressing the murder button when you don't mean to? Quick save and quick load. Not sure what's going to happen when you press that interact button? You get the idea.
One important caveat: don't accidentally quick save in a situation where you're about to be discovered or die, or you could end up in a death loop. Luckily, your quick save is kept in a different slot to your main saves, so you can always go right back to an earlier one if shit goes south. Dishonored 2 also makes multiple autosaves, so if you drop the ball there's usually some way out - even if it means going back to a checkpoint.
9. Advanced takedown techniques
Here are a couple of miscellaneous tips for taking down enemies which work for both lethal and non-lethal attacks:
Drop attacks protect you from all fall damage. Use this to your advantage in surviving long falls and moving quickly.
Sprint attacks can help you recover from fumbled stealth attempts. Mistimed your ambush sequence? Sprint up to that last guy and choke him out before he turns around.
Surprise attacks will save your bacon if you walk around a corner and run right into a guard's arms, or similar calamity. Smash that takedown key (choke or stab, your choice) straight away and you can often get away without an alert.
You can walk and choke, so don't hang about waiting for your buddy to fall asleep: get moving straight away and take advantage of those precious extra moments of mobility. Press Square/X as soon as a choked enemy goes limp to transfer to carrying the body straight away. These two tips combined mean you can take out guards and hide their bodies in much shorter patrol windows than you'd otherwise believe.
10. Loot, loot, loot
Want to buy a lot of gear upgrades? You'll need a stack of cash. Be thorough as you explore for best results.
Open all the cupboards and steal everybody's stuff. Pick up individual coins, raid cash registers, collect all those bathing salts and copper wire spools. It does add up.
Pickpocket guards, gang members and civilians whenever you see an opportunity. Most but not all pickpocket opportunities can also be looted from bodies if you miss your cue.
If you find a combination safe the solution is usually nearby. Unique loot items like charts and statues are found in key locations and are worth a lot more than the bits and pieces you pick up in cabinets. If you can see an item inside a glass cabinet with a faint shimmery outline, that means it's lootable. You'll have to smash the glass; be careful not to alert nearby guards.
Finally, look out for the big money in each zone: the collectible paintings are worth a stack of cash.