Before playing through Deathloop, I had never managed to complete a game developed by Akane Studios. I started both the first Dishonored and their rendition of Prey but lost interest only after an hour or so. It’s not that the games were bad, but their brand of gameplay just didn’t suit me. But, after falling quickly in love with Deathloop, I’m seriously considering going back and giving those games a second chance.
Try and Try again
For this review of Deathloop, I don’t want to get too much into the story specifics. You play as Colt, a man stuck in a time loop where you wake up on the mysterious Blackreef Island. When you start the game, you’re not quite sure how you got there or what’s going. As you play through the day over and over, you’re hoping to learn more about your being there, the people also on the island, and if there is a way off it.
All while you’re doing this, you’re also interacting with Julianna, who serves as the game’s antagonist and key messenger on the island. She’s well aware you’re in a loop and she’s trying to prevent you from figuring a way off the island. She plays an important role in your character’s early development. Yes, she’s your antagonist, eager to kill you if she can, but she’s also willing to discuss things you find and may give you some of the information you’re seeking.
To hopefully get off Blackreef, you’ll need to kill seven Visionaries who live on the island and Julianna. The Visionaries are on the island for their specific reasons, each inhabiting different parts. Since you need to kill all of them in a single day, it’s up to Colt to figure a way to group as many together in one spot so that can happen.
The Island that changes
As you’re playing in a time loop, there is a start and finish for each day. Unlike some other loop games that work on a specific clock and you have a set time to complete everything, Deathloop works differently. There are four times of day (Morning, Noon, Afternoon, and Evening) and there are four regions of the island for you to explore. When you explore one section, you can take your time, but once you leave that section, you move on to the next time of the day.
While this may seem like it’s limiting, each region is quite large with a lot of different areas to explore. On top of that, they change over the day. A lot can happen from morning until night. Some of it is stuff you can do to alter the area, while others just naturally happen.
Efficiency or Inefficiency, it’s up to you
This is where I was hooked with Deathloop. After you understand the rules of the island and your core goal, you will need to learn about all seven Visionaries. As you start to learn about their intentions on the island and how they interact with each other, you’ll start to piece out how to get rid of them.
Early on. there is no right or wrong way to initially dispose of them. You can’t eliminate them all at once your first go-round. You will need to run through a few loops and learn as much as you can. Expect to go a few loops discovering new things and trying to piece the best course of action.
Exploring one area to kill one visionary may open elements to dispose of another elsewhere. Don’t assume you can just go in and kill someone and just flee the scene. There is always something more you’ll need to do or somewhere you need to go.
At the same time, tackling how you kill a Visionary is open. How you get to them is entirely up to you. If you want to go the direct route and shoot as many foes as you can, good luck with that. Want to take it slow and see if there is a quieter way of getting to them, I wish you all the best.
I was constantly trying different approaches as I was piecing together how to complete the loop. Early on, I was having the hardest time trying to approach one Visionary to learn more about them. I would get close, get spotted, which would trigger a catastrophic event. Thankfully, there are a few ways of reaching them. Eventually, I managed to get rid of them and get the info I needed.
Getting better and stronger
Each of the seven Visionaries has a special ability, called Slabs, that gives them that slight edge against Colt. These vary from getting extra strength to turning invisible for a few moments. When you defeat one, you’re able to collect their Slabs and use them later in the game. Colt can only use two at a time and they are lost if you die before the day is out or you’re unable to infuse them.
If you manage to hold a Slab and reach your safe zone, you can keep them and upgrade Colt so he’s a bit more powerful. As you’re exploring the areas, there are objects in the world that contain a special resource called Residuum. These serve as the “currency” you use to infuse saved trinkets, weapons, and Slabs you’ve collected on that day. You can also sacrifice the items you’ve found and turn those into Residuum.
The weapon variety isn’t that great. In addition to a knife, Colt can have up to three different firearms, two Slabs, and four character perks. For most of my game, I relied heavily on a shotgun that I upgraded to have quicker reloading and better-ranged accuracy. I felt almost invincible at times that I rarely used my other weapons. Even the rare ones that I found were cast aside because I played best with the shotgun.
I felt the same with the Slabs. I found one Slab that I loved and used it for most of the game. It never felt like I had to change it up to advance the story. I think most people will find the loadout they enjoy the most and stick with it until the end.
Breaking the loop
For a game that has a pretty straightforward goal, end the loop, there is a lot of content here. As I already stated a lot can change over a single day. It’s up to you to maximize your time and learn where you can go and what you can do.
Some things do reset for every loop, but other things remain. This is smart. One problem I had with 12 Minutes was that you had to repeat a lot of things and in a short time frame to not mess up with the loop.
Stuff directly connected with the Visionaries must be done again to kill them all in a single day. It’s the smaller tasks that you only need to do once. If you trigger a specific audio recording, it happens every time after that. Prevent a fire from happening in one loop, you won’t have to stop it from happening the next time.
Missing out on things
At the same time, there are a lot of things to discover that you can miss entirely. There are a lot of side tasks, especially finding the best weapons, that I never completed. Also, every area has a delivery box that I assume has some nice gear inside. However, you need a passcode to unlock them. I never once found these codes anywhere in the game. I’m not sure if I need to complete a different task or if they are hiding around in some letter or note I didn’t spot. In any case, these were left untouched.
There are also a few other side missions that I completely skipped on because there was no reason to do them. One of the Visionaries has a series of games scattered in a few spots. They probably unlock a weapon reward but I never felt bothered to seek them out.
I guess that while these are optional, they also feel shoe-horned in. It’s possible the developers wanted to give people some extra stuff to discover. Since these don’t affect the story, I don’t see a reason to go back and complete them after seeing the game’s credits roll.
So much more to talk about
This is quickly becoming the longest review I’ve written for my blog. I honestly could keep sharing my thoughts on Deathloop. I didn’t even really touch upon the 60s and 70s art style that feels like the Bond and Spy films of the time frame. I also didn’t mention the fantastic music cues and excellent voice cast. There is so much to this game that I enjoyed and am still thinking about.
There is also a multiplayer mode, which allows you to play as Julianna and enter other people’s games. While I didn’t try this out, I did allow a few strangers to jump into my game and they pissed me off. Julianna is quite powerful and if you don’t know she’s being controlled by a human, then they can quickly kill you and ruin your loop. I ended up changing the settings so that only my PSN friends could join my game, which amounted to only an AI version of Julianna ever invading my loop.
Outside of my minor complaint with the side missions, the only real problems I had with Deathloop are that you don’t need to use every available Slab and the need for more weapon variety. Other than that, this is a game that I enjoyed and could barely put down once I started. I can’t recommend this game more and if I can find the time, I’m going to go play some of Akane’s earlier games.