Deathloop, the latest game from Arkane Lyon, is a frenetic and fluid action game riddled with signature Arkane gameplay and stealth. It’s unlike anything I’ve played in a long time, and after finishing it, I now realize why it’s been such a challenging game to show off and explain to people.
Deathloop Review | Here We Go Again
It’s hard to put into words what exactly Deathloop is, but I can certainly tell you what it isn’t. It’s not a roguelike; it’s not a race against the clock, it’s not just *another* Arkane game. It’s entirely its own thing.
The premise is simple. Your character Colt is stuck in a never-ending loop where it reverts back to that morning at the end of every day. All of the residents don’t remember the previous day, and everyone continues living the same day over and over again. Colt can remember information between loops and is on a mission to escape this world.
The island of Blackreef, the game’s central location, is divided into four distinct districts. The docks and hangar of Karl’s Bay are vastly different from the rocking clubs and neon signs of Fristad Rock. You’ll be spending a lot of time in these four areas throughout the game.
In typical Arkane fashion, these locations are so densely packed with notes, character conversations, and environmental storytelling. Each area is home to eight Visionaries. Each Visionary is the key to breaking the loop, and Colt needs to take out all eight in a single loop.
This is where the game’s story begins. Throughout your time in Blackreef, you’ll be tracking down leads on how to set up all of the Visionaries in the ideal spot to take them out. Deathloop provides excellent UI and tracking systems to keep you on track for whatever lead you are following.
In between each loop, you’ll be able to plan out your days and follow up on your leads. The Visionary lead board has all of the information presented clearly and organized to mitigate the player from feeling overwhelmed.
Each loop is broken down into four distinct parts, Morning, Noon, Afternoon, and Evening. You can go to different locations at each time of day, and the only way to progress time is to either escape and extract from the area you’re in using the tunnel systems around Blackreef or die.
Different leads will only be available at certain times of the day. For instance, the scientist Egor is invited to the Visionary Aleksis’ party in the evening, but he doesn’t go. Maybe there’s a way to get Egor to go to put both Aleksis and Egor in the same location setting up an ideal kill. That’s what Deathloop is about. Learning about the Visionaries and how to use the information you find around the world to your advantage.
This, of course, is coupled with the signature Arkane gameplay you’ve seen in Dishonored and Prey. Powers like Blink from Dishonored are present in Deathloop and help bolster the gunplay in Deathloop. Powers are found around Blackreef in the forms of Slabs carried by the Visionaries. Kill them to unlock special abilities like teleporting, going invisible, and more.
Some of the platforming in Deathloop can feel a bit stiff, especially when you get caught on small parts of the environment when trying to make a quick getaway, but it doesn’t hold back the excellent gameplay too much. It’s more of an annoyance than anything else.
The guns in Deathloop are unique, pack a punch, and sound incredible. You can go stealth with the Spiker, a nail gun that takes targets out quickly and silently, or maybe you want to go loud with the Strelak shotgun that can absolutely decimate your enemies in a bloody pulp.
There are also mighty legendary weapons to find around Blackreef. It will require some lengthy side quests to obtain weapons like the Heritage Gun or the Sepulchra Breteria sniper rifle, but these weapons are worth it. Searching for clues to the whereabouts of these hidden gems is part of what makes exploration in Deathloop so rewarding.
Your weapons can be given unique trinkets that add bonuses like increased range, faster reloads and more. This gives players another level of customization to how they want to play Deathloop and provides a great variety to the different builds for Colt’s arsenal.
Character trinkets give Colt some passive abilities like decreased damage taken, increased hacking range, and even a double jump.
Blackreef is filled to the brim with profound lore and hidden puzzles to solve. Every room or corner you look in has something of value.
Whether it’s a computer terminal with the Visionaries chat logs or a door filled with valuable items behind a password lock, there’s no shortage of things to search for in Deathloop. You’ll need all of the help you can get to take down the Visionaries.
Having a strong arsenal is also important because one of the game’s main antagonists, Juliana Blake, will hunt you throughout your time in Deathloop. Set up almost instantly, you learn that Colt and Juliana have been killing each other for a long time. While Colt is trying to break the loop, Julianna is here to protect it.
The banter between Julianna and Colt is incredible, witty, and real. The voice acting from the characters provides line reads that don’t feel forced or unnatural. Their constant bickering over the radio offers a level of comedic relief and storytelling that gives players just enough to keep asking questions.
Outside of being one of the main antagonists of Deathloop, Julianna Blake is also the crux of the multiplayer mode in the game. Players can invade their friends and other random timelines in Deathloop as Julianna. It then becomes a game of cat and mouse as a player-controlled Colt is trying to complete whatever missions he’s on, and the invading player can either immediately try and hunt them down or set up traps and wait for the perfect moment to kill.
I found myself setting up traps for other player-controlled Colts and perching up with a sniper rifle, hoping to line Colt up in my crosshairs. It forces you to play smart because you’re no longer trying to outsmart the AI but going against a human player changes the way you approach situations. Constantly looking over your shoulder, praying Julianna doesn’t pop up at an inconvenient time, provides a level of tension that permeates through your bones.
Of course, you can turn on a single-player-only option that will not allow players to invade your game if you do not want them to. You’ll still have an AI-controlled Julianna invade as part of the story, and she can be just as terrifying. If you manage to take out Julianna Blake, she will drop some pretty great gear for Colt, so it’s not always bad when she shows up.
The story in Deathloop is told primarily through Colt and Julianna’s radio conversations or Colt finding bits and pieces of information through in-game documents. Colt will verbally comment on the information presented in the world to help reinforce essential story bits or knowledge.
This is also paired with floating text scattered all around the map that provides information gained in previous loops or cryptic teases of what’s to come. Visually it adds a flare and mysticism to everything around it. Walking into a room for the first time and having moving text scrawl on the walls around it keep players entranced and enchanted with Blackreef and the overarching story of what’s going on.
This brings me to one of my only real negative critiques of the game. The main story, which we won’t spoil, seems to wrap up rather quickly and feels a little unceremonious. I walked away from the ending of Deathloop, wishing there was more time to flesh out some of the questions I had. It didn’t feel like it was an “up to interpretation” ending, but rather one that could have used a few more scenes overall.
This being said, I don’t think it’s terrible. I actually think the story of Colt, Julianna, and Blackreef is fascinating. Arkane once again knocks it out of the park with the world’s environmental storytelling and deep lore.
There is plenty to sink your teeth into with Deathloop, whether you’re a fan of previous Arkane games or have never played one before. Deathloop is unlike anything I’ve played in a long time and more proof that Arkane Studios does not miss.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review
- Gorgeous Environments and art direction.
- Exploration and sense of discovery are top-notch Arkane.
- Gunplay feels responsive and customizable to suit your playstyle.
- Some wonky platforming
- The story stumbles a bit at the finish line