Deathloop: Promising but maybe a little too ambitious

I was still wondering what the hell Deathloop was in the weeks coming up to launch nothing had really explained well what it was how the gameplay worked. Put simply it's a more murderous groundhog day.

Made by Arkane games who did the excellent dishonored series and the Prey reboot (that was also pretty good if weird) Deathloop is set on Blackreef island which is stuck in a time loop groundhog day style. The protagonist Colt wants to break this loop for unknown reasons the rest of the cast of weirdos that make up the enemies want to stop him living forever in a hedonistic violent cult where death is temporary and at the end of the day everything resets.

The mechanics of Deathloop work thus there are various areas in the island you can go to and each day has 4 distinct time periods morning noon afternoon and evening. You can visit any of the locations in any of the time periods (you can also skip a timeperiod to advance to the next one if you need to progress a mission or somesuch). Every day consists of those time periods one after the other as you would expect but the areas you visit change depending on what time of the day it is certain areas are only open at certain times and similarly enemies will be in different places at different times. When the day completes it resets back to the beginning again with the morning period and you wake up on a beach with nothing everything reset (at least initially). Also you can effect changes to the time loop by causing or preventing certain events ahead of time thus altering the flow of events later in the day sequence. This is something I've so far not done but seen the hints of in one of the areas in the noon time period I found a building had burned down so I suspect I could on a subsequent loop stop this from occurring in the morning and then have access to that location in the other 3 time slots.

Your objective is to kill the visionaries bosses who run the island and have various powers from using the timeloops power and various weird artifacts generated by it.

Initially you have one power the ability to survive death two times this is essentially a quick save you get an additional two lives if you get killed and then you have to start over at the beginning of the loop back at the beginning of the day. When you start out every time you reset the day you lose everything you've picked up or collected weapons powers other add ons all gone. You can go and pick them all up again as they all reset back to where they were but obviously this would get tedious so one of the first things you should to do is unlock the ability to collect Residuum. Certain objects and even corpses have a sort of rainbow shimmer that means they are full of Residuum which I guess is time magic dust once you unlock the ability to collect this you can use it to infuse weapons powers trinkets etc so they stay with you on a day reset and you can have access to them on the next loop without having to go get them again. This is especially useful for the powers as they can only be got by killing visionaries or Julianna.

Julianna is sort of the main active antagonist she is constantly berating you over the radio taunting you and occasionally she invades an area to hunt you down locking the exit till you either kill her or hack the antenna to unlock the exits. The games multiplayer involves you becoming Julianna in other peoples games invading them over the network, I turned this off as fast as I could as soon as I could, so in single player games Julianna is AI controlled.

Gunplay is pretty solid you have access to three or so guns at a time all different types from pistol rifle machinegun shotgun even a silenced nail gun thing as well as a machete with the option for stealth kills. With single handed weapons you can dual wield another weapon or a tool or a grenade the hacking tool has been my goto converting turrets to my side overriding cameras hacking certain doors. The grenade is configurable to be either a normal grenade or a sort of proximity mine. Bodies evaporate so you don't need to hide in a secret corpse pile ala dishonored but they leave behind a sort of stain that if other enemies see they come to investigate.

You can go full stealth or full guns blazing or a combination, I tended to the stealth till fuck up then machete wielding madness approach. Guns can jam (at least the crap ones I had access to initially do maybe the fancy upgraded ones don't) and machete's never run out of ammo so I tended to snipe some enemies with a silenced nail gun thing sneak up knife the others in the back and when it all went a bit pete tong flail madly with the machete. You can also hack things like turrets and leave traps and so on distract enemies with hacking or throwing stuff the gameplay is very sandbox.

Rather than having a whole host of powers and weapons you swap out at will you go into a time slot with a particular load out. You can pick two additional powers on top of Cole's default quicksave power and then 4 modifier powers called trinkets (these typically enhance something like giving you more health or a double jump and so on) You can then pick your weapons and add modifiers to them for things like faster reload or some such. You can swap out the weapons on the fly but your powers and modifiers are fixed for that run.

Timeslots don't advance time as you play only when you exit and chose to move to the next time slot so you can spend as long as you want in the area looking for clues and loot.

The story has Colt wake up on a beach not remembering anything but then getting berated by Julianna and receiving messages from other versions of himself projected onto the world as glowing words instructing him to break the loop. As you play you learn more about what is happening on the island and collect information from notes conversations and audio recordings strewn over the landscape. You collate this information and use it to work out how to progress the game. Learning someone will be in a certain place in a certain time period lets you plan to attack them there. Learning the access code for a locked door or the location of some hidden cache and so on.

The idea of building more and more information to plan how to approach a certain objective is pretty interesting so one note told me that two of the visionaries are meeting in secret together at a certain timeslot in a certain zone meaning if I can find where that is I can kill two birds with one stone as typically the visionaries are never in the same area at the same time. It's an interesting play mechanic and a good use of the idea of a time loop in that you can leverage the repeating nature of it to plan learn patterns and lay traps or get ahead of enemies. The implementation is maybe not perfect and somewhat crude but it's not something I've seen anyone else attempt before (except maybe the outer wilds).

It has a feel of a roguelike in some respects the constant reset but then slowly being able to build up your arsenal of saved powers weapons trinkets and other upgrades. The dna of games like Dishonored is clear one of the first powers I got was the blink style teleporting shift which makes for interesting options in traversal and sneaking. You can use Residuum to upgrade powers weapons and so on once you've infused them to keep something I've not done yet as I'm still early in the game.

The esthetic is a bit odd some 60's 70's party esthetic with all the various goons wearing masks and face paint and bright coloured costumes. It's a bit odd and I think I prefered some of their other games esthetic but we'll see. There is a fair amount of humor some of it dark Julianna constantly poking you Colt with his more stoic and sometimes tired with this shit sort of attitude. There was a funny sequence when I first unlocked the ability to infuse and saved my first gun over the loop where colt spends ten minutes talking to himself working out what to call his new saved weapon, "mini colt" "Colt jr" "the annihilator" and many other options. The voice acting is pretty solid there is a fair amount of environmental story telling with overheard conversations and such.

There are a few bugs and the AI is not the smartest tool in the box you can often take out a guy right next to another and they won't even notice. Julianna also seems a bit buggy one time she invaded an area I was in and then promptly teleported into a unreachable location behind a locked door and got stuck. This meant she just stayed there shouting abuse at me where I couldn't get to her. Luckily you can just hack the transmitter to unlock the exits and escape you don't have to kill her to end the invasion.

At it's best it feels like a bit of a puzzle game hunting down clues expanding your knowledge to plan other loops pick targets to gain their powers or weapons using the foreknowledge to alter the flow of events. Sometimes this is a little clunky and imperfect but it's an interesting attempt to make this sort of game. The action is pretty fun the abilities add options to combat teleporting into places or out of danger. it feels more action focused than say dishonored which leaned more stealth. It has more of a sense of fun and humor than the grim dark dishonored games with their plague ridden dystopian nightmare world fueled by Lovecraftian horror whales.

I'll have to see how the time loop mechanic holds up as the story progresses the possibilities of it seem pretty interesting but I don't know how well the implementation will hold up to that. Breaking it down into a small set of specific locations and time slots seems a sensible compromise to something more elaborate and clock work. In the small sections the time looping is basically not a factor events only progress that way between sections. It reminds me a little of the excellent Hitman games of late with their carefully crafted clock work worlds where you can push events in certain directions or learn a targets routine to pick the best point to off them.

It's good to see something a bit different attempted in the action FPS genre pushing the storytelling and gameplay in new directions.


This is a game that has peaked my interest, and I can see myself picking it up on PC. I love a good roguelike/replay model, and I like the story and style as well. I know there are a couple of bugs in the PC version right now, and I'm hoping they implement DLSS as well, which should make it run far better on my (overpowered for a laptop, but underpowered for a PC) setup.

I've watched (well, had on in the background) a playthrough of the first couple of hours, and it all looks pretty slick.

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