Before we get into Deathloop, a little background on why I think the game is great and why it does not appeal to those who love a classic first-person shooter. The first time I played Dishonored on PS4, I was blown away by its amazing surroundings, unique abilities and combination of stealth and action that reminded me a lot of the original Thief games. Needless to say, the sequel, Dishonored 2, not only exceeded my expectations, but the Clockwork Tower level cemented my opinion that Arkane is one of the best game development studios out there. While Arkane has also been developing Prey in 2017, I missed the game and it has been on my backlog for some time.
When the campaigns for Deathloop started, I was fascinated but a little skeptical. I was skeptical of its rogue-lite structure of reliving the same day over and over again. Although we’ve experienced this ‘live, die, repeat’ formula in Returnal (review), the way it is performed in Deathloop is much more like the movie Edge of Tomorrow than a rogue lite game. Just as Tom Cruise learns the patterns in ‘Mimics’ by reliving every day, you do the same by reliving the same day and learning the enemy’s patterns and movements to get one step closer to taking the visionaries out. But there is a catch to this formula, which we will describe below.
Before we get to what we loved and disliked about Deathloop, here is the answer to the big question – is Deathloop something for you? Well, if you are a fan of fast FPS games like Doom Eternal (review), Call of Duty, etc. or enjoy games like Far Cry (review), then Deathloop may disappoint you. Unlike Doom, which is more about running and shooting, Deathloop is about strategy planning, planning and then performing some clever moves. If you liked games like Dishonored, or Thief, or even Bioshock to some extent, then you’re in for a hell of a ride.
Here’s what we loved about Deathloop
Well-woven story with a good mystery
From the moment your character, Colt, wakes up on the beach, you get a damn story filled with some of the best written dialogues I’ve heard in a video game, and some impeccable voice acting to compliment it. How many times can you hear a man talk about reading text on the wall and chuckle at his description and analysis of what he has read? This has happened on several occasions in the game and I looked forward to every time Colt opened his mouth as I was sure there would be a clever one-liner on the way.
This kind of storytelling is only highlighted and supplemented because of the relationship between Colt and the other visionaries (the main villains you need to eliminate), especially Juliana. Without spoiling too much, the relationship between the 2 is explored a lot in the game, and their teasing is something to keep an eye on.
Colt also shares a relationship with the other visionaries, but the details are hidden in text conversations on computers and documents scattered throughout the game. I wish there was fashion dialogue between Colt and the visionaries. I just feel like I missed some great details by not reading all the documents thoroughly. Do you remember the revelation of Samuel Hayden in Doom Eternal’s documents? Despite this, the story of Deathloop is one of its strongest suits.
The battle in Deathloop is easy to learn and can be mastered if you spend some time learning the ropes. You can not carry any weapons or abilities back with you in a loop until you unlock Residuum, which is like the currency you use to attach gear, weapons and abilities to yourself permanently. The fight is a development of what we found in Dishonored. Forces from Dishonored such as Shift (the ability to quickly move / jump to places) and Nexus (the ability to connect multiple enemies and kill them with a single shot) also appear here. There are also other forces, such as Aether, which makes you invisible for some time, Havoc, which increases your damage and defensive abilities, Karnesis, which lets you throw enemies in the air and more. The unique ability of the Colt is Reprise, which essentially gives you 3 lives before resetting the day again.
These abilities can be upgraded by acquiring them again and again from the visionary who possesses them, but remember, if you do not “infuse” the upgrade using Residuum, you will lose the next day. There are other pieces of jewelry that you collect in the game that give you passive abilities like faster health regeneration, more damage, etc. While all the elements that glue the game together can get confusing, the developers have done an excellent job of holding your hand , while learning how game mechanics work. To put things in perspective, the first 3 odd hours of the game can be seen as a tutorial before the game stops holding your hand.
The fight is pretty free-flowing. You can go with weapons if you want, or sneaky send enemies. There were some races where I reached the goal without firing a single bullet. It’s amazing, and the best part is that unlike Dishonored, there are no consequences based on how you tackle the game.
The battle in Deathloop can be as simple or as complex as you like, and that’s the beauty of the game and prevents it from feeling too repetitive every time.
Fantastic voice acting and music
A special shout out to the voice actors who dress in the role of Julianna and Colt. From the moment Colt wakes up on the beach for the first time, the voice acting just attracts you. There are few games where the protagonist’s voice is so spot on that it subconsciously draws you into the game, and this is definitely one of them.
As for the music, its 60s style feels retro and in line with the game’s visual theme. When you first get into battle, the high-octave music starts in, and you feel your blood pump either to clear the room of enemies or run for your life (based on the situation). There is even this signature sound that strikes when you achieve a goal.
The best thing is how to use the DualSense speaker. All your conversations with Juliana come from the controller speaker, and so do the voice recordings you pick up. It’s such a subtle touch, but one that has an immediate effect.
As you probably know, you can control Julianna and infiltrate someone else’s game online and vice versa. There are quite a few times that a player-controlled Julianna came into my race and added a whole new challenge and distraction to the game. If you do not like this, you can always switch to playing offline. This does not prevent Julianna from invading your game, but other “more skilled” players will not be able to do so. This is not like what we’ve seen with games like Dark Souls. It has its own unique elements, and one I think fans of multiplayer shooters will definitely take to.
Fantastic pictures and unique environments
Your time on Blackreef Island is spent exploring 4 parts of the island, and you can visit each part of the island at a different time of day – morning, noon, afternoon and evening. Each area has a different visual aesthetic, enemy location, shortcuts, etc. at each time of day and adds not only visual differences but also gameplay variations. Needless to say, the game’s graphics look great, and playing in performance mode at 60FPS is a pleasure on the PS5.
What we did not like
Let’s move on to the small crunch we have with the game, and the first one is great, especially if you live somewhere with power outages
No saves in the middle of the game
To save a game, you must safely return to your bunker (the tunnels connecting the four areas). While this has its benefits, it is most annoying when you are in the middle of a great run with some incredible prey and the light goes out. I will not say more. It still hurts.
Some of the puzzles can get annoying
There are moments in the game where you need to gather some documents or hear voice recordings leading to your next track. Although the game does a good job of telling you the approximate location of these tracks, it can get very annoying when the only thing left is a single document lying on a table in the corner that you have passed a hundred times and missed.
Only 2 forces at a time
While Dishonored lets you use your suite of powers at any given time, Deathloop limits you to 2. For most of my replay, I used Shift and Nexus and was happy. But there were times when I wished I could become invisible or give the other forces a chance, and then I realized I had to quit the current section, go back to the bunker, and then change the forces. Can get a little annoying, especially when you want to shift up a bit in the middle of a run.
Overall, Deathloop is a great game. The game is a visual delight with some of the best script and voice acting. While not a traditional rogue lite game, it borrows a lot from the genre and adds its own unique twist to it. I can see that many people do not like the game for what it has to offer. On the other hand, I can see players like myself wanting to restart the day one more time to try to perform the perfect loop. Those who love stealth games, or games that make you scratch your head a bit, should definitely give it a try.
Tested on: PS5
Developer: Arkane Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platforms: PS5, PC
Price: Rs 3,999 (PS5), Rs 3,499 (PC)