Deathloop is an enigma. Is it a stealth game or a shooter? Is it connected to the Dishonored
franchise or is it not? Is it Arkane Studios
’ best game or their worst? Ask folks on the net and you’ll get no shortage of different answers.
It doesn’t take a magnifying glass to spot the DNA of Arkane’s previous games here. Roguelite elements, like those in Prey: Mooncrash
, play a central role. Most of Dishonored
’s supernatural powers are back but with new names. The process of collecting environmental resources and spending them on upgrades, a la Prey
, is here too, albeit in a different form. Even fragments of the ill-received Wolfenstein: Youngblood
(which I enjoyed more than most) are on display, in the form of satisfying gunplay.
This last point is key, because Deathloop throws Dishonored’s morality systems out the window. Gone are the gameplay and storyline repercussions for shedding too much blood. The island of Blackreef is partying like it’s Groundhog Day
and you’re invited. Kill someone? No big deal. They’ll be back tomorrow and so will you, still suffering from the same perpetual hangover.
The loop is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it removes the shackles of perfectionism that restrain some imm-sim players (including myself) from embracing the messiness of experimentation. When there’s always another loop, abandoning stealth and getting into a firefight isn’t a big deal. The game’s looping nature also largely negated my desire to save scum. Even if I had wanted to, it would’ve been impossible – Arkane Lyon removed the option of saving manually. I suspect this was a very intentional choice to break the habits of players such as myself.
But the loop isn’t perfect. Because of the game’s structure, you’ll find yourself exploring the same four areas over and over. Initially, as you crawl through caves, scour offices, and loot laboratories, you’ll effortlessly uncover gossip, hints, and secrets. But as you loop again and again, the well of whispers quickly runs dry, and solving the minor mysteries that remain often feels more like work than fun.
Another major change from Arkane’s previous works is the tone. While I enjoyed the banter between Colt and Julianna, the tone of the writing in the many documents and notes littered around the island often felt over the top. The worst offenders were the chatroom-like messages between the game’s antagonists, which aim for parody but overshoot into the realm of pure inanity. Then again, I’ve never been privy to the conversations of the rich and famous. Maybe this is how socialites and billionaire entrepreneurs communicate with each other?
What really sets Deathloop apart, however, is its multiplayer. Although you’ll spend most of your time facing off against AI enemies, who are about as dumb as you would expect from a bunch of stoned, drunken partygoers, your true opponent is Julianna, who is usually controlled by another human player. Being invaded turns Deathloop into a game of cat and mouse, and brings with it a tension that few single-player games could ever match. You never know if your opponent is a dope who will leave herself open to an easy headshot, or a crafty killer who will cleverly lay traps or sneak behind you for a quick backstab. When there’s always a chance of a talented gamer dropping into your game and wrecking you, you can never feel completely at ease.
What’s my final verdict regarding Deathloop? Well, it certainly hasn’t dethroned Prey as my favorite Arkane game. Would I put it above Dishonored and its sequel? That’s a tougher question – ask me again next loop. (Or better yet, wait until Redfall
comes out and jumbles these rankings once again.)