Deathloop is undeniably an Arkane game, but it very far removed from the Dishonored titles. It’s also a very good game, with two fantastic lead characters and is one that I personally would highly recommend to anyone who is interested in games.
As other (professional) writers have written, its hard to nail Deathloop down to one genre. It isn’t an immersive sim to the same extent that Dishonored is, nor is it a full-throated first-person shooter like Doom. You might be eliminating targets, but it isn’t a stealth focused assassination game like Hitman, and there isn’t the variety of loot that you might see in Borderlands. All in all, Deathloop is standing loud and proud on its own two feet, shouting out to the world that it is very much its own thing.
With its own unique take on blending so many influences, I can imagine that some people will bounce right off it. I’ve seen some complain that the AI is too easy and can be readily distracted and picked off one by one. There’s certainly an argument to be made that the goons aren’t particularly smart, but within the time-loop world created by the mad scientists and mega-rich egotists, the goons are faceless, nameless and expendable. The seven visionaries running the show on the island of Blackreef don’t need squads of elite guards as if they die, they know they will simply loop back to the start of the day once again.
The thinking of the visionaries is that they are destined to live forever in the loop, with only a handful aware of the danger that comes if Colt can kill them all within the same loop. Their failsafe for a rampaging Colt? His banter partner in chief, Julianna. She is the real threat during the game, invading your levels when a visionary is available to be whacked and able to use her own powers to get the jump on you. Julianna is brilliant when played by the AI, but things are cranked up a notch when you play online, and other players can fill her boots and invade.
I myself, with distinctly average skills when it comes to shooty-bang-bangs tended to play offline, especially when I wanted to make a push through the main story threads. Human Julianna’s can be swatted away like a fly (if its me invading that is), or a nightmare when equipped with a sniper rifle and intimate knowledge of what each Colt will be trying to achieve on each map depending on the time of day.
There are those who complain that Blackreef only has four locations, each fairly compact with routes around and through easily committed to memory. That’s true on the surface, but as you work your way through the visionary leads, which will allow you to piece together the puzzle of how to kill them all within one loop, or the weapon leads to find the special gear, you will unearth new locations within each map to explore and reveal new insights.
Having now completed the main aim of breaking the loop, I’ll be honest that I don’t see much desire to restart the game from the beginning. Ultimately, there is one set sequence to killing the visionaries and breaking the loop, and there aren’t too many intricate ways of bumping them off…certainly not as many as you might find in a level of Dishonored. Without the morality scale that you see in Dishonored and other immersive sims, there isn’t the same frisson of excitement to be had by eliminating a character in a specific manner.
That said, there is stuff to do once you have successfully broken the loop. Each area of Blackreef has a range of secrets, many of which you will only be able reveal by planning to achieve them and nothing else within a loop. Part of me though wishes Arkane had transposed some of the Julianna mechanics into Colt’s journey. When invading others, you earn points for different accolades (killing Colt, surviving 10 minutes etc.), and you unlock new powers and weapons to take into battle once you reach a new level. Introducing some of these elements to Colt’s journey, even if only as end-game features would add another layer to the action.
Despite some of my misgivings over the replayability of Colt’s story, the relationship between him and Julianna is at the heart of the game. Their little chatter at the start of each level evolves as you progress further in the story, going from “I’ll kill you” to “Let’s have fun killing each other” to more intimate moments. I love this pair…and so maybe I’ll put my misgivings to one side and dive back in again.