Dishonored 2 is an action-adventure game with stealth elements played from a first-person perspective. After playing as Empress Emily Kaldwin during the prologue, players may decide to play either as Emily or as Corvo Attano (the protagonist from the previous game). Side missions unlock alternate methods of assassination, non-lethal approaches and paths to navigate the main mission. Both characters wield swords, pistols, crossbows, a retractable blade, grenades and mines—all of which are upgradable. Upgrades may be purchased at black market shops found throughout the levels, and blueprints scattered across levels unlock new potential upgrades (in New Game Plus playthroughs, blueprints already acquired are converted into additional coin). Coin is required to buy these upgrades, which again may be found throughout a level or gained from other collectibles, like stealing paintings. Players can choose whether to play stealthily or not, and can finish the game without taking a life. Health elixirs and food consumables will restore health, while mana elixirs replenish mana.
Enemy detection works on line-of-sight, with players being able to use cover or high areas out of enemies' cones of vision to stay undetected. Darkness can aid the player in staying hidden, but it is only effective at a distance. Enemy alert meters and musical cues let the player know if they've been spotted. Noise will cause enemies to go to investigate, including noise made by broken bottles or the player striking a sword against the wall; this may be used deliberately to lure guards into traps or disrupt their patrol route. Players can look through keyholes to help them survey a room before entering, and can lean to look from cover without fully exposing themselves. The player is now able to be detected if they peer out from behind a wall for too long, a feature not seen in Dishonored. To avoid detection, the player may choke people out or have their throat slit. Bodies can be carried away and concealed. Alarms can be disabled to assure that enemies are not alerted to the player's presence. Walls of Light, barriers powered by wind or whale oil, are subject to have their power turned off or be rewired so that only enemies are killed by going through them. Whale oil canisters explode on harsh impact, and can be thrown at enemies to that end.
Dishonored 2 introduces non-lethal combat moves to throw people off-balance or knock someone unconscious—choke-holds, blocks, pushes, kicks, crouch-slides, drops from high up, sleep darts, stun mines, and various supernatural abilities—and features the chaos system used in the first game. The player gains chaos by killing characters, representative of the player destabilizing the world. The game adds a new element to the system where, at the start of a mission, random non-player characters are procedurally assigned one of three states: sympathetic, guilty, and murderous. Killing a "sympathetic" person gives the player more chaos than killing others, while in contrast killing a murderous character gives the player a lesser amount. The amount of chaos accrued affects the dialog used by Emily and Corvo and the quantity of enemies present in each given level. Further, insects called bloodflies make nests in corpses; therefore if many people are killed, there will be an increase in bloodflies. Loot can be found in the nests which, if destroyed, can be obtained. The bloodflies similarly encourage the player to hide bodies from them while on a mission. Each level in the game is intended to have a unique theme, in either fiction or game mechanic. In one level, the player is confronted with two factions each with their own assassination target, and may use the level's reoccurring dust storms for cover. In another, time distortion is introduced as the player traverses an abandoned mansion in ruins. The player is given a device that lets them glimpse three years into the past, where the mansion is still occupied and guards roam, and can shift back and forth between the two points in time.
Abilities and powers
As in the first game, the player has access to supernatural powers. These powers are optional and may be rejected. Independently from whether these supernatural powers are rejected or not, the player receives a heart item which aids in the discovery of bonecharms and runes; these provide passive perks and skill points, respectively; if the powers are not accepted, runes are converted into additional coins. The heart also reveals whether those the player comes across are sympathetic, guilty or murderous. Unlike the first game, the upgrading system was changed to a skill tree with multiple paths and more possible upgrades; a power may have a lethal or non-lethal upgrade. Each character has unique powers. "Dark Vision", the power that more easily identifies the player's surroundings, including where an enemy directs their gaze, is available to both. Another skill tree, applied to both playable characters, unlock more passive abilities which do not consume mana, such as the ability to run faster and jump higher, or the ability to craft bonecharms.
Corvo retains many of the powers available in the first game, though his progress in them has been reset. "Blink" still teleports him to a chosen location, but in addition can be upgraded to freeze time or impart damage on impact with the momentum gained from teleportation. Corvo may summon rats with "Devouring Swarm" to clear dead bodies before bloodflies lay eggs in them. While its original use allowed Corvo to possess animals and humans, "Possession" is enhanced to take control of dead bodies as well as multiple hosts in succession. "Bend Time" can be used to slow down time, circumventing dangerous checkpoints or reaching enemies unobserved. The ability known as "Windblast" enables Corvo to summon a blast of wind that can deflect projectiles and push enemies off ledges. Emily has powers new to the series, including "Far Reach", which allows her to pull objects and enemies toward her and travel without physical movement by clasping onto something to propel herself forward. She can use "Mesmerize" to distract her enemies, moving them into a state of sedation. "Domino" permits Emily to connect several of her enemies together so that they share the same outcome. With "Shadow Walk", she is turned into a shadowy cloud that moves swiftly and changes tangibility at will. "Doppelganger" conjures a clone of Emily in order to misdirect her opponents, and can work alongside "Domino".