It’s that time at last! The time I finally get an excuse to gush about a game that really deserves more attention. Deathloop. A game released exclusively for the PlayStation 5 last year by Arkane Studios, the makers of Dishonored and the reboot of Prey. Despite releasing such a long time ago, now is actually the perfect time bring it up. Not only is the game coming to PlayStation’s Premium service it is also being released on Xbox soon as well. And I know I say this a lot about a lot of games, but please check out Deathloop if you get the chance! It may have gotten glowing reviews on release but it ended up getting pretty overlooked when it came to sales. And as you probably guessed, I don’t think it should be that way. So I’m going to do my best to try and change that right here and now!
First of all, unlike a lot of the games I try to recommend on this blog, I’m going to assume most people have actually heard of Deathloop. PlayStation talked it up a lot for probably a good year or so, giving the game sometime in every showcase they had up until it was released. Oddly enough, this is when a lot of people wrote the game off… As the game’s release got closer and closer people would not stop complaining about hearing so much about the game. Always getting annoyed any time PlayStation talked about the game during a showcase or presentation. This meant the game had a negative stigma right from the get go. And to be fair to the people complaining like that, I will agree that PlayStation did over market it just a bit. But that might have been because of the other thing most people were saying about the game online. Apparently, many people didn’t understand what Deathloop was really about, being confused on what the game play is actually suppose to be like and what your goal in the game is. And this was despite all the marketing that people were getting tired of seeing. Now you could try and brush this off by saying people just weren’t paying attention or not thinking enough about it but I’d have to disagree actually.
When promoting the game it really was a bit hard to understand what exactly the game was about. Mainly because Deathloop is much easier to explain when you compare it to other games, something you really can’t do when you’re trying to market your own game. It actually reminds me a lot of Death Stranding and it’s release. A lot of people were extremely confused about what the game was meant to be and ended up hating it when they actually gave it a try because they had the wrong expectations when going in. Death Stranding was a pretty hard game to explain without playing it for yourself after all. That and Hideo Kojima, Death Stranding‘s creator, has always liked to keep things vague and clouded in mystery, for better or worse. Once the game came out though and people were able to really understand it, it managed to get it’s own following as people finally understood what the game was meant to be and as such knew what they were getting into when picking up the game. Death Stranding has gained a much more positive reputation now as the people who would be interested in that type of game found their way to it after hearing from people who actually played it. Sadly, this never really happened with Deathloop…
From what I can tell, Deathloop didn’t really sell all that well even with the amazing reviews. People either didn’t understand the game or just didn’t want to hear about it anymore. That and when a game gets a negative stigma like this, most people just want to see it fail or will pile on the game with everyone else hating it. And while I can’t really help the people who are tired of hearing about the game, I can try and help the people who didn’t understand it! Because I ended up falling in love with the game and I wish others would too.
So! The easiest way to describe Deathloop would probably be to compare it to The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. Something that might seem like an odd comparison but just hear me out. From what I can tell, most of the confusion about Deathloop and it’s game play comes from the actual time loop concept. A concept it shares with Majora’s Mask as that game is also about being stuck in a time loop and repeating the same events over and over again. The premise of Deathloop is that you are stuck in a time loop where you repeat the same day over and over again and the only way to break the loop is to kill all the Visionaries running the island, and to do it in one day. A lot of people seemed to assume this meant the game would play a lot more like a roguelite where you had to try and kill all the Visionaries in a single run with each Visionary getting their own level or something like that. This isn’t really the case though. The game is much more about figuring out a strategy to kill all the Visionaries in a day over the course of many different loops. Unlike a roguelite where dying in the middle of a run and starting over is a failure, you are expected, and required, to have multiple runs, or loops, in order to come up with an effective strategy and gather up the tools you need to pull it off. In this way it is similar to Majora’s Mask which is also based around multiple playthroughs where you have to rewind time in order to get everything done and save the day.
Of course, Deathloop‘s actual marketing couldn’t really bring up Majora’s Mask when trying to explain how the game worked and as such they didn’t really have much to compare it to in order to explain things which led to lots of confusion. Despite how it might sound by describing the premise, Deathloop isn’t a race against time, it’s the complete opposite actually. It is very much stated in the game that you really have nothing but time! You can loop the day as many times as you want with really no draw backs, a detail that did appear in the marketing later on but at that point people were already tired of hearing about the game. So Arkane was left between a rock and a hard place. People didn’t understand the game and they were tired of hearing about it so no matter how much they tried to explain things it only ended up making things worse.
In the end, I would probably describe Deathloop like this: It’s a game all about planning and experimenting. A game you can really take your time with to figure out how exactly you want to go about your task. It’s a lot like Majora’s Mask where you rewind time to complete different quests that normally would conflict with each other if you tried to do them all at once. But Deathloop just happens to feature a lot more shooting and killing… Hopefully that’s a good enough explanation as to what Deathloop is though! If it’s not, maybe explaining the story a bit and how it sets up the time loop scenario will.
The entire game of Deathloop takes place on the island of Blackreef. An island used for government experiments in the past that has now been turned into a “paradise” where time never ends as a single day is repeated over and over again in a time loop. This whole thing was set up by the Visionaries, a group of eight that all came together to set up this island for their own selfish reasons basically. All of them come from very different backgrounds though. Some from science, others art, and some are there just because they had enough money. Among the Visionaries is the man you play as, Colt. Originally he came to the island to act as security for the place, however, for reasons unknown even to Colt himself, he is now trying to break the loop! Now how are the reasons unknown even to Colt himself? That’s because he starts the game with no memory what so ever! He only learns that he has to break the loop from past versions of himself that left behind plenty of clues for him to follow.
Now it’s up to Colt to kill all the Visionaries in a single day before the start of the next loop. This is much easier said than done though as the Visionaries, as well as everyone else on the island, know what Colt is after and they will do anything to stop him! Meaning Colt has a whole island of crazy killers to deal with as he hunts down the other Visionaries. Lucky for Colt, he is also stuck in this loop, so even if he is killed he’ll simply wake up the “next” day and try again. In that sense, there really is no actual timer to finish the game despite what the premise may imply. Sure you need to kill all the Visionaries in a single day but you have so many days to do that. Well technically you just have one day but you get what I mean! Planning and taking your time are the best tools you have at your disposal. Just relax and take your time working things out your way. This is actually a good point to jump into talking a bit more about the game play though! As it revolves a lot around this planning.
Like a lot of other Arkane Studios games Deathloop is a first person shooter with plenty of stealth elements. While stealth isn’t the only option it is generally the best as it’s much easier to kill your target when you don’t have people trying to kill you. Now, how you actually go about killing your targets, the Visionaries, is really up to you! Some options are clearly better than others but you are given a lot of freedom when it comes to your play style as well as recognizing what kind of opportunities each Visionary gives you for killing them. A lot of this freedom comes in the form of the game’s Slabs, which are special abilities given to each of the Visionaries. Once Colt manages to kill one though, he can take the Slab for himself and you can use them across multiple loops. These abilities vary from teleporting to turning invisible to even telekinesis so you can throw people and objects around all you like! Something that also wasn’t brought up in the marketing much was the fact that you would be able to keep some weapons and items between the game’s loops, further separating Deathloop from a roguelite. The game has it’s own currency that you get for doing certain tasks or just killing people and the Visionaries. This currency can be used to basically buy guns and abilities that you’d like to keep prematurely between loops. Like I said before, planning is your biggest advantage in Deathloop so getting an arsenal of weapons and abilities you want is important. And to get all the Slabs and weapons you want you will have to loop quite a few times, another reason why looping shouldn’t be seen as a failure.
Beyond your weapons and abilities though, you will also need to form a plan on how to kill each of the Visionaries in a single day. This will require you to learn their schedules and plans so you can make sure they are all available to kill in one day in the first place. Because the Visionaries aren’t going to make this easy for you! They are well aware of how to break the loop after all. This means you have to use their schedules, and a lot of time their egos, against them! And this is the real fun of the game. There are only four time periods throughout the day. Morning, Noon, Afternoon, and Evening. In that time you are able to visit anywhere on the island, but once you select the area you want to be in, there’s no going back. For example, there’s an area called Updaam. If you select it for the Afternoon time that means you will be spending that time slot exclusively in Updaam. You can’t get to any of the other areas once you are there. And when you leave, it will switch right over to Evening. So, it’s your job to manipulate the Visionaries into setting themselves up in ways where they will all be available at different times over the course of the day. This will require many, many, loops to complete.
Let me provide an example of how this works to better explain everything. Two of the Visionaries, Egor and Aleksis, are only available to kill in the Evening but they are in two different locations at the time, Egor will be at The Complex and Aleksis will be at Updaam. Meaning it’s impossible to kill them both at that time. However, after doing some snooping around, you find out that the reason Egor is hanging around The Complex in the evening at all is that he has a breakthrough with his experiment and he’ll be so excited that nothing else matters. Including the invitation that Aleksis sent to him for the party he was throwing in Updaam. But, if you were to sabotage his experiment earlier in the day, Egor would instead take that invitation! Setting them up perfectly to be killed together in Updaam that Evening. This right here is the best part of the game to me. Coming up with the perfect plan over different loops and then having it all come together is such a rewarding feeling! It’s really amazing.
However, despite all that planning and preparing, there will always be one massive problem standing in your way. Julianna Blake.
The most cunning, smart, and deadly of the Visionaries, Julianna is easily Colt’s biggest problem. In fact, you actually start the game with her killing Colt! Unlike the rest of the Visionaries, Julianna seems to know way more about Colt and what he plans to do. She actually seems to know more about Colt than Colt does! Now I’m not going to spoil how she knows all that but just know that her and Colt have a lot of history together which makes things a lot more personal for the two of them. Julianna is basically the opposite of Colt though. He will do anything to break the loop and she will do anything to protect it. Strangely enough however, it becomes very clear that Julianna seems to be just playing with Colt, she’s clearly having a lot of fun with all this. With the radio you get at the start of the game, she is basically in constant contact with Colt, having some dialog with him at the start of each level. She is snarky, sarcastic, teasing, and rude. And I love her! Despite all that I just said and the fact that Julianna is a massive thorn in the side of the player and Colt, it is hard not to enjoy her. This could just be me honestly, but I love a villain who loves being a villain. Julianna takes pride in messing with Colt and you have to respect that to some degree. Also, her and Colt’s back and forth over the radio are some of the best parts of the game. Jason Kelley and Ozioma Akagha, the voices of Colt and Julianna, have such amazing chemistry together! I’m not joking when I say I would pay for DLC of just them having more conversations as Colt and Julianna. But all that gushing aside, how does Julianna play into the actual game play of Deathloop? Because she does come up in game play, and in a very major way! You see, Julianna is far from all talk, she’s not afraid to put Colt in his place personally…
At just about any point in the game there is a chance that Julianna may appear to hunt down Colt! And the only way to escape her is to either kill her before she kills you or hack into the device that is locking all of the exit doors so you can sneak away. And to make matters worse, most of the time Julianna will be controlled by another player! On the main menu of the game, after finishing the tutorial and getting a handle on the game, you will be given the option to play as Julianna yourself. You can either invade a random player or invade a friend if any of them are playing at the time. It’s very similar to the invasion mechanic for the Souls series! Julianna can be extremely powerful too. She basically has all the tools that Colt has and then some. The only thing she can’t do is hack into turrets and other devices like that, but she can tell the other enemies around the area where to find Colt if she happens to see him, completely blowing his cover. Having Julianna be so powerful though really feels fitting honestly. It’s how she is presented in the story after all. And while it might seem a little unfair at first, you should keep in mind that, as Colt, you get three lives. Meaning Julianna needs to kill you three times while you just need to kill her once. This really levels the playing field. Julianna can also be controlled by an AI if you have the online features turned off as well, which makes her extremely less deadly. Still! Getting that alert that Julianna is on the hunt will always be frightening.
If I’m being totally honest, I thought that playing as Julianna would be just a distraction from the main game. Something to do if you’re a little tired of playing as Colt. But to my surprise, I had a total blast playing as Julianna! Normally I’m not one for player versus player type stuff like that, despite playing all the Souls games I almost never invade people, but I got completely hooked on playing Julianna. It was always such a thrill getting to hunt down Colt and seeing other people’s play styles as him. It’s hard to describe but it’s very easy to get lost in the role of Julianna and just messing with Colt as you hunt him. It can be a ton of fun playing the villain! The game also has optional objectives for you to spice things up. Like having you try and kill Colt three different ways for his three lives or setting up a mine so it’ll blow Colt off the edge of a cliff when he sets it off. That’s something else to keep in mind too, as Julianna you don’t just want Colt dead, you want to kill him yourself. If Colt dies for a reason that you aren’t responsible for, like he accidentally walks off a cliff or steps on a mine you didn’t set, you don’t get points for that. In fact, Julianna will normally make a comment about being annoyed with either Colt or the fact that she didn’t get to kill him. The game does a really good job helping you get in the role of Julianna! So much so that I may have played as her more than I played as Colt in the end.
Regardless of who you enjoy playing as more though, whether you want to break the loop as Colt or protect it as Julianna, it’s not hard to have a ton of fun in Deathloop! I will never fully understand why this game seemed to get ignored when it first released, but I’m really hoping that it will gain a bigger following now with it coming to PlayStation’s Premium Service and Xbox soon. Beyond just the fact that I had a great time with it, it’s clear that Arkane Studios put so much love and care into the game. This was clearly a passion project that they had a ton of fun making. It feels like everyone involved in the project was giving it their all. I just hope more people will be giving the game a try so they can see that for themselves!
But those are just my thoughts! What are some of yours? Thinking about giving Deathloop a try now? Are there any games you feel went overlooked for no reason? I’d love to hear your thoughts so don’t be shy!
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