If you’re about to play Dishonored 2, be warned. It’s pretty good (except for ), but it throws you one terrible decision right off the bat. You have to choose from one of two different characters to play through the entire game with, Corvo or Emily. Horrifying, I know. If you’re like me and you can hardly choose which damn burger to order from a truck stop cafe menu, then this will be one of the most difficult decisions of your life. No worries, we can help you commit.
Both characters are capable of ghosting the entire game or ruthlessly murdering everyone in their path—it’s not like Emily is The Stealth Character and Corvo is The Maniac. They’re just two different talking toolboxes with a few inherently different ways they express aggressive or silent play. Let’s break it down.
Distance versus time
The most apparent difference between Corvo and Emily are their first short traversal powers. Corvo’s Blink teleports him a short distance in an instant, while Emily’s Far Reach flings her there. Blink is impossible to spot between its origin and destination, but Far Reach is visible along its entire path, just a bit more difficult to spot than Emily’s default standing state.
It’s also worth considering how each movement ability upgrades over time. Far Reach basically becomes a gravity gun shadow whip that can not only fling Emily across an environment, but pull objects and people towards her. If you’re going high chaos, whipping a guard directly into your blade is pretty rad. Blink gets more precise with upgrades, allowing Corvo to stop time completely while aiming Blink, or take out guards instantly with Blink Assault.
Choose Corvo if you want to take your time plotting quick, precise movements and don’t mind the limited reach of Blink.
Choose Emily if you want to feel a bit more like a Heretical Spider-Man physics god with a higher chance of being spotted.
Managing others versus yourself
This is where things get a bit more technical. Do you prefer a hammer or a nail gun? Corvo’s Bend Time ability is useful for taking out individual guards in creative ways—the classic freeze time when a guard fires at you, possess him, and move him in front of his own bullet is a good example—while Emily’s Domino is a streamlined method for attacking a ton of guards at once. She can link a handful of enemies with Domino and choke out one to choke out them all, or in a more chaotic turn, link several guards and then pull one through a wall of light to dissolve them all.
Corvo is focused on managing his position in relation to threats with smaller, more precise movement abilities, while Emily is about managing the threats’ positions in relation to her—she’s an AoE character, essentially.
Choose Corvo if you want manage objects and smaller groups of enemies with precision.
Choose Emily if you want to manage several enemies at once with a higher chance for mayhem.
How you like to clean up messes
Screwing up and alerting more guards to your presence than you’re capable of handling is going to happen. When shit hits the fan, how you use your abilities to escape a tricky situation is half the fun, and each character has unique ways of getting out scot free. Corvo’s Possession ability lets him hop into an incidental rat or bloodfly for a tiny getaway, and with the Corpse Possession upgrade, you can ditch your material form and hang out inside a dead body until the scene clears up. Windblast is good for knocking groups of enemies to the ground while you blink or skitter away, too. If you’re a madman and need a handy vessel to dip out with, summon some rats with Devouring Swarm.
Creatively making messes is an option too.
Emily’s powerful guard-chaining abilities are easier to mess up with—if you alert one guard that’s Domino-ed, it’ll alert everyone in that chain no matter where they are—but they also make mistakes easier to fix. If multiple guards are chasing you, chain as many as you can together and cast Mesmerize. It’ll completely enthrall nearby guards and whoever they’re chained to, effectively freezing the room. Her Doppleganger ability makes a great distraction too. Throw out a double and Far Reach the hell out of there.
Choose Corvo if you’d rather hide in a corpse than clean your room.
Choose Emily if you prefer a shop vacuum to a dust pan.
Who do you want to get to know?
Remember, both characters are capable of stealthy and violent playthroughs, so don’t sweat it too much if the differences in their abilities hasn’t spelled out a decision for you yet. Do I want swiss cheese or cheddar on my burger? Does it really matter?
Instead, use the characters as a guiding principle. Who do you want to get to know better? If you really like Corvo and aren’t ready to part ways with him yet, Dishonored 2 features him in a speaking role, voiced by none other than Thief’s Stephen Russell. And most of the game takes place in Serkonos, which is where Corvo is from. It’s an unexpected homecoming party for him, and there’s a lot to learn about this gruff assassin’s history through his narration. It’s also nice to see where he came from and how he dotes on his upbringing from time to time. Corvo used to drink and dance too, you know.
On the other hand, it’s fascinating to learn how Emily changed in her bumpy rule of Dunwall as Empress of the Isles. She doles out a ton of insight into who Corvo is at his most vulnerable, and hearing the details of their relationship unfurl through a new perspective is refreshing. He’s not the Gruff Videogame Protagonist he came off as in the first game. Emily is also just an interesting character on her own, hardened through years of difficult rule of a musty, torn land, and forced to grow up faster than anyone ought to. She’s equal parts stern and empathic, and shaping her as a vengeful or merciful assassin is a constantly engaging arc.
Choose Corvo if you want to see the silent protagonist made into a troubled, loving human.
Choose Emily if you want to see how tragedy shapes a young person and experience what is essentially an entirely new character.