Some people are waiting for the next Rockstar game, others for the new FIFA, I’m waiting for the latest creation from Arkane Studios. Whether it’s the studio in Lyon or the offices in Austin, it’s always a magical moment when you get your hands on the baby of this company that knows how to surprise us every time.
The studio has already shown us its know-how in the past when it comes to FPS with an ingenuity that can’t be beaten and it intends to delight players with Deathloop.
Leaving the Dishonored “comfort zone” to create a new universe, a risky bet. Deathloop is a real nugget for video game lovers who like it when we are allowed to be actors of the stories we are told. It’s enough to shake up the codes of this genre which sometimes gets dusty and starts to go in circles (and in battle royal).
Deathloop plunges us into the fictional island of Blackreef under the command of Colt Vahn, a character as charismatic as he is amnesiac. This island is a real military stronghold where crazy experiments on space-time are held.
Without really knowing why, you are “temporally” stuck on this island. Indeed, you will live the same day over and over again until you manage to eliminate the “visionaries” (the bosses) who live on the island.
For that, we move freely among 4 districts of the island during the 4 moments of the day at our disposal (morning, noon, afternoon, evening).
The goal is to understand the motivations of each visionary, to learn their schedule and to influence the course of the day to succeed in killing all 8 visionaries during the same day.
Deathloop is a FPS where you will shoot enemies, climb houses and explore a lot. You walk through the four levels that the game offers, trying to collect clues. You have to listen to the discussions of the NPCs (guards all masked, dressed in improbable colored clothes) while advancing with your weapon in hand to clean up if necessary.
As with Dishonored, the game offers us to play our way. We can decide to be discreet and try to infiltrate the buildings without being detected. This will be the perfect opportunity to equip a weapon with a silencer or to use one of our powers to make us invisible.
But you can also very well want to make all the enemies disappear in your path with a shotgun or a machine gun, using a power that makes you stronger for a few moments.
Deathloop offers us all the right items and equipment so that we can enjoy ourselves as we wish. Whether it’s thanks to the different types of firearms that you can customize with “charms” that allow you to improve certain characteristics (such as accuracy, magazine size, reloading speed…) or thanks to the “magical” powers you have (teleporting over a short distance, making yourself invisible or levitating your enemies).
Most of the time you play with the same weapons as the guards you meet, and if you want to get a more rare equipment, you will have to use it directly on the corpse of one of the visionaries.
There is no difficulty level in Deathloop, but the fact that our enemies have the same weapons as we do means that we are at least as well equipped as our opponents.
If dying is not an end in itself, it’s still an important event because when you die, you lose all the weapons and charms you have collected during your day. To compensate for this, you can “infuse” a weapon or a charm.
To do this, you have to collect a resource during your game (this one also disappears at the end of each day, or when you die) and “spend” it on the weapons you want to save. Once a weapon is infused, you will be able to select it again each time you start your day.
This allows you to avoid starting from scratch with each new loop.
This system is smart because the more you play, the better equipped you’ll be, even if you’re struggling to get through the story. Players who explore the levels completely will be at an advantage since they will collect more resources than others, so it’s all good.
The first is that your “magic power” gauge automatically refills. This feature will allow you to constantly test the powers at your disposal and you will quickly become completely addicted. It’s a lot of fun to play, and it also allows you to have very fluid combat phases.
You don’t avoid gun fights, you go running (or discreetly) and it’s a real pleasure to play.
The second is that we rarely run out of ammunition. Okay, we don’t have infinite magazines but we can easily find bullets for our weapons, either by walking around or on the bodies of enemies just shot (anecdote: an enemy who shot at you will leave less ammunition behind than an enemy you kill discreetly).
Finally, you can die three times per game. Since our adventure is perilous, it would be a shame to die stupidly by falling off a cliff in the evening before having killed the 8th visionary. Colt has a constant power that allows him to die 3 times before the day starts again.
When you die you are teleported back to where you were a few seconds earlier.
If the scenario of Deathloop can be scary at first sight, the game constantly guides us during the first steps of the adventure (and the following ones if you are lost). We start by waking up on a beach, alone, and we discover messages that help us understand what we are doing here and how to move in the different levels.
These messages come in many forms. They can be documents left by other characters in offices, audio recordings, discussions on computers or even conversations with Juliana.
Juliana is the woman who wants to kill you to prevent you from breaking this time loop. Why would she do that? We don’t know. Her particularity is that when the day starts again, she remembers what you did. In fact, only she and you know that you are in a time loop.
All other characters are unaware of this information and that is why you can collect data about the course of the day.
Juliana is without a doubt THE best idea of Deathloop for many reasons.
This is the person with whom our character is constantly communicating when he starts exploring an area of the island. A few sentences that comment on our actions, making our experience more vivid.
She is the free electron of the game (even freer than us since the guards let her move without flinching). If the days are repeated, her behavior is unpredictable. She can invade our game at any time of the day, in any part of the island. And when she does that, she goes on a hunt to kill us.
She has powers (random) and weapons (random), which will give us a hard time during our game. But it’s a good way to get powerful equipment if we manage to kill her before she does.
It is important to know that we can normally leave the island’s quarters at any time by going through tunnels to end our exploration. Unfortunately, when Juliana attacks us, the doors are blocked and you have to hack a relay antenna in the middle of the level to reopen these accesses.
This principle forces us into the open and it’s a giant cat-and-mouse game to try to survive.
As an added bonus, Juliana can be controlled by another player. Instead of playing as Colt, you can decide to play as Juliana and invade a player’s level. You then have the ability to choose your weapons, powers and go on a hunt to kill Colt 3 times in the same game.
Juliana’s concept allows us to “live” our solo adventure, to give Colt a relationship, which allows us to discover our character’s personality as well as his past, but it is also a free electron that breaks the routine that can settle in our adventure.
It is finally a total pleasure if you have explored the game quite a bit as Colt since you start chasing the player you were a few hours before if you take control of Juliana.
This is also the only way to unlock alternative costumes for Colt and Juliana, costumes that are only cosmetic but allow you to shine a little when you get invaded or are the invader.
Deathloop is no exception to the rule, you will be able to use the environment to fight. Hack into an enemy turret, climb on rooftops, disable security systems, you can do whatever you want to achieve your goals.
The game doesn’t offer you peaceful solutions to get rid of your opponents. You won’t put a guard to sleep like you could in Dishonored. But now you don’t have to worry so much about whether you want to be violent or not, what you have to choose is how you want to get rid of the guards that are blocking your way.
And if the method we just used doesn’t suit us, we can always try another one in the next loop. This is the option we missed in Dishonored. We finally have a good reason to try several techniques on the same enemies, in the same buildings, without having the impression of starting a level again “for nothing”.
We quickly start to like the universe of Deathloop and its improbable island. Where scientists, megalomaniacs, improbable singers and crazy computer scientists meet. Each visionary has his own personality, and we love to dive into their areas that perfectly reflect their character.
There is no one right way to get rid of a visionary, there are many. The story and the system of clues make us discover some of them, but we can improvise and always find other improbable techniques to get rid of the protagonists.
There is only one way to get through all 8 visionaries in one day, and if that’s your ultimate goal, you can follow the logbook that Colt keeps to figure out how to come up with that perfect plan.
The option menu records all the information that we discover during our game and it shows us the objectives that we have to reach in order to progress in the story. This is essential because without it, it would quickly become extremely complicated to remember everything and many players would give up.
What we like about Deathloop is that we can directly see the impact of our actions during our game. If you destroy surveillance cameras in the morning, you can spend the afternoon in the same place without any problem because the guards won’t have had time to install new ones.
If a particular visionary is eliminated at noon, he or she will not be able to attend an event in the evening, and this changes the flow of activities. The messages that come over the city’s loudspeakers also change depending on your actions.
Just like the documents we pick up scattered around the city. It is all these attentions that make our curls look the same but have a different flavor. We are always looking for those little differences, to see where the tidal wave that results from the flapping of our butterfly wings is.
On top of that, the environment is beautiful and the atmosphere perfect. Whether it is the music or the scenery, we spend dozens of minutes exploring the neighborhoods, looking for ideas to develop our deadly plan, but also to learn a little more about the visionaries, the guards but also about ourselves (and Juliana).
Nothing is left to chance. Each building can be discovered in multiple ways, by the roofs, the sewers, the front door, the windows, and these entrances sometimes change according to the time of day and the actions that one has performed during the morning…
It feels like there are no endings, that there will always be a new way to do something.
Deathloop on the other hand rewards curious players with an original experience, sometimes twisted puzzles and information about the world around us. However, don’t expect to unlock an ultimate weapon or a fabulous power after completing an optional quest. It is the puzzle itself that is the gift, the “powerful” items are easily found if you follow the main story, so as not to frustrate players who have less patience or who would involuntarily miss these side stories.
Deathloop is a perfect mix where no detail has been forgotten. Whether it’s the story, the game mechanics, the narration, the atmosphere, the art direction, the possibility to play solo or 1 vs 1, nothing has been left to chance.
I’m going to stop here because I can easily write a few hundred more lines about this nugget that Arkane offered us (whether it’s the kicks, the possibility to have two weapons at the same time, the fun powers, the really great dialogues, the acting of the dubbers that is perfect…).
It takes about 30 hours to discover almost all the secrets and complete the story if you are curious and exploration is your thing. If you ever get into playing Juliana to invade the other players, it may become your perfect game to decompress at the end of the day.