Deathloop (2021)

Arkane games are a bit of a missing piece of my gaming background. When Dishonored came around, I was captivated by its artstyle, reminding me very much of Bioshock mixed with Half-Life 2. But sadly the gameplay itself relied so heavily on stealth that I really didn’t get into it the way I thought I would. I didn’t even attempt Dishonored 2 and I only got like an hour into Prey (still partially bummed out it wasn’t anything like the 2006 Prey and just used it’s name for no reason whatsoever). So when Deathloop was announced it was basically put on the “maybe someday I’ll get to it, but only if I’m really bored” pile. Luckily it being 50% off on a Steam Sale, got me to give it a try and once I started understanding what the game really was… I couldn’t put it down.

I hate time loop games, because it’s main gameplay mechanic is something I absolutely hate. Doing something I already have done, over and over again. Deathloop is exactly that, dying and doing the same day over and over again, and it’s a trope in games that have popped up so often in the last year that I’m already really sick of it. Which is why I disregarded the game initially. The spin is where it really stands out from the other games in the genre. So here is a quick rundown of what the game really is.

Deathloop is a mixture of Borderlands and Hitman, with the artstyle of We Happy Few. Characters who love to talk and goof around, while meticulously crafting a path throughout a level to assassinate a specific target, and getting clues on different ways to lure them to their deaths, while being drenched in a weird British 60’s aesthetic.

You play as Colt, a guy who washes up on the shore of an island called Blackreef. You have amnesia and don’t know who you are or anything else. A girl named Julianna talks to you over a radio and you learn that the island you are on repeats the same day. If you die, you wake up back on the beach, you lose everything you collected, but retain information you have learned. So it’s up to you to find out how to break the loop. You do that by killing 8 special leader characters around the various maps and different times in the day, before it resets. Simple enough.

However, while Julianna is talking to you and giving you some information she also hunts you down and kills you, resetting any progress you make. And it’s right there where I almost put the game down. When I originally started the game, I was having a lot of fun just taking my time, exploring the game, reading all the information and just learning the layout of the levels. But Julianna would pop into my game and kill me. The game defaults to a “always online” connection, so other players can invade and disrupt your game, which I can’t stand. It really ruined the experience when I spend 45 minutes meticulously taking out an entire level and learning where health and everything else is and just immediately get gunned down by a sniper who has been playing the game every day for the last several months. Once I turned the game into “Single Player Mode”. Julianna still shows up, but way less frequently and usually wasn’t too difficult.

The other thing that almost immediately turned me off to the game was the insane amount of menu tutorials and its layout right from the beginning. Starting the game, the first few times you open the menu, you go through what feels like a novel of tutorials on how to navigate the menu and what everything does. It was so overwhelming right at the start of the game. Menus are usually easy enough to spend a couple clicks, read what everything says and understand it. I don’t need thousands of words on the menu to tell me how to make an objective active.

The Objective menu is also just something that I really thought could have been done much better. Each “Visionary” (one of the leaders you must kill to stop the loop) has their own time schedule and you can follow clues to bring them out, or bait them into a certain scenario to kill them, but the menu is laid out as a linear timeline that is so hard to move around and find, and just felt really odd. There must have been a better way of showing me all the info and different routes I could follow to bring them down.

While it might sound like there is a lot of bad stuff about the game, there really isn’t, I just feel like stating certain things could have been done better. Because I did notice it and it did hinder part of my playthrough. I feel if the menu system and some other elements could have been streamlined, I would have a shorter playtime with the game, and not feel like I was wandering aimlessly for a couple of loops (which equate to a few hours at least).

Taking on the task of killing 7 visionaries in a single day along with Julianna who hunts Colt down as well, while not dying and resetting the game, it felt like an monumental task that was going to take forever… and at points, when I realized I spent nearly an hour in a single map in the morning, and barely escaped… It felt like it. But with some perseverance, and once I got over the fact that dying doesn’t mean you lose all progress, I was able to lighten up a bit. Getting the proper weapons and learning where and more importantly when certain objectives happen, everything started to click into place, and I saw the game more as a clockwork set piece.

The weapons played a huge role in allowing me to feel properly equipped and powerful enough to take on the massive amount of enemies in all the maps. Each enemy has the opportunity to reset your progress, and when around 12 are surrounding you, and an alarm is going off and more are coming to where you are located, it was handy to have a shotgun with 42 rounds with upgrades attached to clear a path to get to safety. Following leads to acquire special weapons, and being able to bond those weapons and upgrades to myself to be able to keep on a loop reset was invaluable. Once I got a nice handgun that could continue being shot while reloading, a super powerful sniper rifle, and that crazy shotgun, I felt like I could take on the world.

I think what took me the most time to figure out was getting my mind to change and focus on a single task or objective and then continue that until the day ended. I would constantly veer off the path and try to clear out other objectives and run into issues that I wasn’t able to get passed because I didn’t start it from the beginning. Certain objectives have to be done in a certain order. For example; you must save the mask salesman in the morning while one leader is killing him, if you save him, you have to come back to that level in the afternoon to be able to get the mannequin head to use on the vending machine. Special tasks have to be done in a specific order and require much more planning, and have to be in certain locations at certain times. It’s just a lot to keep in your mind, and the game doesn’t do the best job of keeping track of some of the more obscure stuff.

I think the best way to play Deathloop is to just follow its main objective, if you stumble on a new track, put it off till the end, because most of the random things don’t reward you enough for the time investment. The main story is enough to hold the game up on its own for at least 20ish hours.