Report Card- Deathloop

Reviewed by Nick Edwards

It feels good that the secret is finally out and more people are now aware what a powerhouse Arkane studios is. The studio has been putting out critical and cult hits for what seems like forever and after a huge acquisition from Microsoft made those cult hits available to the masses via GamePass it seems like more and more people got the message and the hype for their latest, Deathloop got more and more intense, even if the countless trailers didn’t do a great job at telling people what it is. And what is Deathloop after all? For fans of the studios the easiest answer is that it’s a culmination of the past ten years of work, for all the new converts, it becomes a little harder. You see Deathloop is a melting pot of genres. You can easily see traces of Rogue style games, immersive sims, first person shooters clearly, metroidvania and a good chunk of point and click puzzle solving in weird way.

The main objective in Deathloop is to break the time loop that as you stuck living the same day over and over and over on the remote island of Black Reef. That means destabilizing the actual loop itself which is being held together by the eight founders of the AEON program, the group responsible for the loop and your shitty case of deja vu. Getting to all 8 before the loop resets itself is a puzzle you must solve. Each member is only accessible in one of the islands four districts at one of four times of the day, meaning you must relive that day enough times to collect enough information to get them together to make your job easier. This is the meat of the game as clues and objectives are also time locked so to break the loop you have to have a clear plan of where to be and when to pull off those eight kills add in world building, story moments to look for, weapons and powers to horde and you’ll be in for Groundhog day levels of replay. Each new piece of info or power is an invitation to relive that day and learn more or perfect your runs. The loop itself never feels repetitive save for the hand holding portion in the first few hours.

Trying to stop your progress is Juliana, heir to security and now in charge of protecting the founders. She enters whatever district you’re in via AI or player controlled through online play to hunt you down and stop you. You never really know when a Julianna is going to enter your game and this is often enough to break the typical gameplay loop and keep it fresh. Often times the AI controlled Julianna is a nuisance more than a real threat but having friends or randoms invade your game really drives up the tension, because dying screws up that days progress and any items you may have gotten will be then lost to the loop. Enemy AI seems to be more menacing than Julianna herself. This also means you have the opportunity to mess with peoples games and male them curse your name. I often found the match making to frustrating and long in most cases and generally not worth the wait unless everyone you know is online playing Deathloop. The voice acting and story unfolding between the main characters Julianna and Colt is simply stunning. It is honestly the highlight at times.

We often hear talk of a game or studios identity or DNA, like how you can tell an Ubisoft game from the similar mechanics, menus and features. Deathloop is pure Arkane. The art and design often shares an oil painting look with a 1960’s aesthetic. There is tons of detail in the buildings and environment and Deathloop is no different. If you’ve played any other games from Arkane you will recognize the various powers you collect in Deathloop although called slabs versus gifts from the Outsider. Why it wasnt my biggest issue with the game I wish the team did more with the slabs to differentiate them from other Dishonored and Prey. Environmental story telling often has you pulling on threads that will have doing multiple loops to figure out the different mysteries of Black Reef. Maps aren’t huge but offer plenty to discover. Gunplay for the most part feels really good although I often had issues with shots over distance. Even the games legendary sniper rifle feels short changed in terms of range. Guns as well as upgrades for them and yourself come in different rarities that you will be able to eventually save between loops. Successful loops where often defined on swapping out trinkets and weapons with traits that fit my style of gameplay.

Deathloop is a culmination of everything Arkane has done and that is a really good thing. While not perfect I think it will be on many peoples game of the year lists. It is certainly in my top three. Small issues like texture pop ins and brief graphical hiccups and occasional slowdowns where not enough for me to shelve the game. In fact I often found myself in my off game time planning on what I needed to get done to make the most of my loop. Deathloop is worth a purchase so we can continue to get these fun, unique games but my instincts say the better experience will happen when it comes to Game Pass next year. I give Deathloop 4.5 out of 5.

The Good:

Satisfying gameplay loop
Wonderful voice acting/interesting story

The not so good:

Some powers often felt useless

Small performance issues here and there

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