WARNING: We have tried to keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, however, there may be one or two minor ones dotted throughout.
The Dishonored series is always one that’s been on my list but, like many other games, it’s also one that I’ve never got around to, leaving a gaping Arkane Studios-sized hole in my gaming history.
Despite not having played any of the studios’ previous games though, and the fact that Deathloop had been marketed to high hell and back, I was still very excited to dive in. And let me tell you, my excitement was more than justified.
The super-stylish, hyper-violent tone is set early as the protagonist Colt takes a giant blade through the chest, before succumbing to his injuries and thus, starting another loop.
Colt then wakes up on a familiar beach and sets himself the task of discovering what is going on and escaping the time loop hell he is in.
Like I say, I won’t go into any major details, but what really surprised me was just how deep and interconnected Deathloop‘s story is. You have to take down eight Visionaries, across four different locations at four different points in the day. The problem is, it’s not quite as simple as that.
With 16 different time/location combinations, it’s down to you to find clues, solve puzzles and cause disturbances to make the Visionaries align to a point where they can all be killed within a single loop.
It’s these small narrative threads and detective framework that makes Deathloop so clever. You may need to head to one locale during the morning to look for clues about something that is going to happen at a different place in the evening, which in turn, you’ll have to go and investigate.
While initially, I felt a little overwhelmed, Deathloop does a stellar job of nudging you towards your next destination, without ever holding your hand.
Within the menus, you have access to all your Visionary Leads, which will help you figure out your next plan of action, as well as Weapon Leads, if you want to go after some better gear plus your discoveries and documents.
The game presents you with all of the options but also gives you the freedom of how you want to tackle them. And it mostly does a great job at doing it, with only one or two sections feeling slightly obtuse.
For me, the characters’ rapport is also some of the best in recent memory.
As Colt hunts down the Visionaries, he himself is being hounded and harassed by a mysterious character who goes by the name of Julianna and the back and forth between the two is fantastic. Witty dialogue, solid banter and shocking revelations help cement the relationship between the two as a great one.
The Visionary’s personalities also help balance things out. They’re all giant narcissists and their over-the-top personalities makes it all the more satisfying to hunt them down.
While I have no gripes with Colt, Julianna and the Visionaries, occasionally Deathloop’s AI felt a little unbalanced.
Their style, a group of generic masked, brainless followers fits the theme and aesthetic of Deathloop well, however, personally I found them to be a little inconsistent.
At times, I’d be able to walk up to one and melee kill them without them noticing I was there, other times, I’d have groups somehow miraculously spot me behind a wall and hunt me down. This is only a minor niggle though, as generally, they were pretty spot on.
Minor issues aside, the placement and location of the grunts always seemed well thought out. There were never too many that it felt overwhelming and they were placed in a way that always tempted you to be stealthy, but allowed you to go all guns blazing if the need arose.
Not only does Deathloop succeed at storytelling, worldbuilding and character development, but it also nails its gameplay and a variety of interesting systems within that.
Of course, any time-looping game in which you die and then come back to life is going to draw comparisons to roguelike games, however, Deathloop is more than that.
There is a varied range of weapons, a multitude of weapon upgrades and different character perks scattered around the world and they’re yours to keep (after a certain point), providing you harvest enough Residuum.
Residuum is a faux currency, in which you can infuse with your items to carry across all future runs. It’s up to you how you spend it and ultimately, how you spec your Colt.
Different perks may help you hack faster, become stealthier or be able to take more damage, letting you play the game in the way you want and that’s a key theme throughout Deathloop. Player choice.
Deathloop is a game that will be talked about for a long time and one that will undoubtedly be in the running for Game of the Year 2021. Its well-crafted systems, gripping narrative threads and quasi-choose your own adventure style gameplay make it the best Next-Gen title so far.
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