Deathloop Review (PS5)
You have to win multiple times, I only have to win once.
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Right when Deathloop was showcased, I just knew I had to get it. Half was because of the stylish artwork used for the trailers, yes, but it did also sell me on the premise and the two main characters, Julianna and Colt, that wanted to save or break the time loop they’re currently in respectively. And that desire increased when gameplay was shown, which reminded me a lot of Dishonored and unsirprisingly it was being developed by Arkane Studios. While the only game I’ve played of theirs was Dishonored, and I only got to the part where you have to go to a party to kill one of the 3 masked sisters because somehow the save that I had locked me totally out of completing it (and I would basically have to restart all over again), I really did like it. So when Deathloop released, I was there.
Deathloop started at a pretty unexpected place for me. You play as Colt, though at the beginning you have no idea who you are as you awake on a beach with amnesia. You’re alone here on the beach, but then words start to appear and it seems to know exactly what’s going on and what you should know. As you play through, you and Colt soon find out who he is, the fact that he’s currently in a time loop that loops at the end of the day or if you die, how to end the loop, and that he’s really the only one that wants to end it. Not to mention Julianna, who is another person that can remember previous loops, that aims to stop you from ending the loop as she’s the one that tells the others to kill on sight and will often give you a little call when entering into a location (and the dynamic Colt and Julianna has is genuinely one of the best things in this game). So how can you end the loop? You must kill all 8 Visionaries in one day, but it’s not going to be easy.
There are 4 different locations (Updaam, The Complex, Karl’s Bay, and Fristad Rock) on Blackreef and 4 different times you can go there, which different things can happen at different times with Eternalists populating it more or less. Your main objective is to find out how to achieve the Perfect Day, or killing all of the 8 Visionaries in one day, which also comes with other stipulations like finding out who the other Visionaries are, how you’ll be able to kill them, and arming yourself. You’ll also be able to collect some story related notes and recordings as well as some optional stuff you can do that expands on the Eternalists. Though, having a lot of the story in optional notes and recordings (or even eavesdropping on conversations) can cause you to miss things important to understanding the story like Colt’s past or how the Visionaries came to be or why mostly everyone forgets when the day loops.
Deathloop is pretty overwhelming at first, as you find all the different information and things you need to do, but it does become clear as you go through as you focus on particular tasks. Mostly every clue or observation you hear or make is jotted down and if its important for a location, they’ll even show before going in and when in locations as you check your discoveries or Leads. Leads, which can be a Visionary or a Weapon Lead, basically gives you an easy way to track where you’re at and a way to know what you need to do next (as well as giving you a marker so you know the direction to go. Some memories will also let you to mark them if they’re talking about a specific location (though you do need to parse through these as they don’t go away). You can choose which Lead to tackle first, and what else you’ll tackle when going into a location, and you can choose how to tackle them. Some Visionaries even have different ways of killing them if you so wish, with some being achievements.
To help you succeed and stay alive, there are various guns you can pick up varying in gun types, power, and perks that comes packaged in with the gun (not to mention legendary guns that can be achieved by going through the weapon leads or grabbing the Visionaries’ guns); trinkets for both guns and Colt that vary in power and will give you a host of different perks like giving guns better accuracy or a way to have reduced damage for Colt; and Slabs which you can get by killing the Visionary that has it (or get it from Julianna’s random drop) and the upgrades you can get for them to make them even more powerful. Want more reach for Shift? There’s an upgrade for that! While you can only equip two slabs before going in, they can change how you approach things like shift gives you an easier way to travel, Aether lets you sneak around better, Nexus lets you link enemies together so killing one will kill everyone linked, Havoc increases your damage output and decreases damage taken, and Karnesis lets you grab enemies up and throw them. Some of the slabs are situational, with some being way too useful to not use them a lot, but they help you in killing anyone that tries to get in your way. Colt also starts out with his own personal Slab that gives him 3 Rewinds, or 3 Lives before he loops so its not so frustrating if you run into some bad luck, Strelak Sapper Charges that can go from being a grenade, to proximity charge, to a trip mine; and your Hackamajig that lets you hack into electronic devices so sensors or turrets can be turned against your enemies.
Considering that everything is reset at the end of the loop, there is luckily a way to keep what you got. One of the Visionaries, Wenji, actually developed a way to have things loop with you. Of course, you have to follow this Lead and succeed, but this gives you a way to gather something called Residuum that can be found on random objects around the maps or when Visionaries are killed. And while dying will make you lose all your Residuum, if you have Rewinds you can get it back from your own body. Once you get out of a location, or at the end of the day, you’ll then be able to go into your loadout and infuse weapons, trinkets, and Slab/Slab Upgrades that you want to keep. You can even sacrifice them to get more Residuum as powerful trinkets, guns, and Slabs/Slab Upgrades will cost a lot (just don’t sacrifice already infused items unless you know you don’t need them anymore).
A hot topic of the game’s AI has been going on and I guess I’m one of those weird people that didn’t find it dumb. I guess this could have been indicative of my skill, though I did get the Perfect Day three times, but I never felt the AI was too easy. Sometimes they did bug out in just walking into walls, yes, but they do a good job in spotting you and once you alert those in a building, they basically alert at everything you do even if they have no way to see you. It also does have to be said that it does fit in with the game’s universe, as the Eternalists aren’t trained soldiers, they just want to party, half are even drunk or high, and looking for Colt was just suddenly thrusted upon them.
Deathloop also has a multiplayer aspect in the form of Julianna invasions. You, or someone else, can select “Protect The Loop” on the main menu to play as Julianna. This actually reveals that you are one of the alternate Juliannas that’s visiting her current loop, pretty much how there are alternate Colts that will visit your Colt sometimes. Julianna has the same loudout/mission screen as Colt, but you’ll have to wait to be matched with someone to invade as Julianna where you’re goal is making Colt loop. She doesn’t have any rewinds to work with and can use her unique personal slab called Masquerade which allows you to switch your appearance with another’s. Whatever you do will be categorized as a Feat (whether you give Colt or not, how long you were invading, how you killed Colt, etc) which earn you points for your Hunter Rank. And ranking up will grant you randomized rewards that includes more weapons, trinkets, slabs, and costumes for both Colt and Julianna. If you’re the one as a Colt, you’ll just have to kill Julianna once, where she’ll have to kill you three times assuming you didn’t already die before she finds you. You’ll be notified that she’s invading as she’ll lock your exit, which can only be opened by hacking into the map’s antenna. While you don’t have to kill Julianna, successfully killing her will cause her to drop her weapons and a random slab/slab upgrade.
You can disable online invasions so don’t worry. I personally will recommend turning it on once you get a bit more into the game, at least when you infuse two slabs, and turning it off if you’re at an important point in a Lead or trying to get a new slab. Well, unless you’re fine with the possibility that the Julianna player will kill you and cause you to loop. If you choose to not have online invaders, you’ll instead have AI Juliannas invading, which don’t invade as often and will often seek you out. Though, AI Julianna can get stuck in some places.
I only came across two glitches while playing. The first is a weird glitch where when you’re going to infuse stuff the game gets confused as the pop ups that normally happen when hovering over the various items, not letting you sacrifice (only infuse), and when trying to exit when you notice it brings up the main menu options for “Protect/Break The Loop”. This does require you to restart the game and luckily the game does autosave whenever you’re on the mission menu. And the second was when two of my Nexus slab upgrades disappeared when I was going into the next loop (and I knew I didn’t sacrifice them as I was aiming to achieve the Perfect Day). When I opened the game back up while writing, they did return though so I have no idea what’s happening there.
While I was writing, I also learned that Julianna’s rank rewards were totally randomized, which is a weird choice. And also explains why I haven’t really gotten any other outfits or slabs and often get repeats for Julianna’s rewards. I can understand it as guns have different perks and you would want multiples of the same trinket sometimes, but there’s no way to dismantle them and put the Residuum into something else. And you can get so unlucky that the game constantly gives you guns that you don’t like (which is another case for me). This really needs a progression system especially so you don’t go so long without unlocking slabs/slab upgrades and having certain guns unlock, which they can add the level of randomness with what trinkets and other guns you get. And those that want to unlock outfits will also be out of luck as they can’t look up at what level their favorite one will be at and just hope for the best (I also wish Colt’s outfits weren’t locked behind multiplayer).
While Deathloop had an underwhelming ending, I had some glitches happen on my end, and there are some aspects that some won’t like, I absolutely loved Deathloop. I loved the gameplay (which brought me back to when I played Dishonored), the locations you’ll visit all throughout, the dialog that was funny for me, Julianna invasions (both me as Julianna or someone else) when I’m paired with someone good, and especially the conversations between Julianna and Colt. I would definitely recommend picking up Deathloop if you liked Arkane’s previous games or think this is right up your alley.