Man it has been hard to find the time to write of late. Let’s just say that having 2 kids in the house makes it hard to find time for everything you once did. Thankfully I have been able to skerric away time to play a few titles, just not enough to then sit down and write about them. It’s also coincided with me not wanting to invest my precious time in something that I might not enjoy and, as a consequence, I’ve been looking for reasons to not play some games rather than reasons why I should. Such is the story with Deathloop, a game I should ostensibly enjoy given it’s from Arkane Studios who brought us Dishonored, but I ultimately failed to connect with it meaningfully. To be sure I can see the appeal for some, but for me I just didn’t find anything that made me want to continue on past 5 hours.
You wake up on a beach, groggy and reeling from a vivid dream where an unknown woman murders you. However you start getting messages scrawled across your vision, telling you that you need to break the time loop you find yourself in. As you explore your surroundings more it becomes apparent that the whole island is hellbent on hunting you down, guided by their new head of security Julianna. You soon learn that to break the loop you have to kill all 8 of the visionaries that run this place and you’ll have to do so in a very specific order. Time is on your side here though as you’ll be able to replay the same day, over and over again, until you figure out what you need to do.
You can certainly tell this is a game by the same developers as Dishonored as everything has a very similar look and feel to it. This is predominantly due to the use of Arkane’s own in-house engine, Void, which was developed off id Tech 6. To be sure there are some good looking set pieces in here although it’s somewhat let down by the rather clunky and stiff animations that all the NPCs seem to have. I was kind of hoping this might be the game to really give my new rig its place to shine but, ultimately, it just feels like a higher res version of Dishonored 2. For some I know that’ll be exactly what they’re after but for myself, it was a little bit of let down (especially before the first few rounds of patches came out to fix the performance issues).
Deathloop’s core game play takes an awful long time to get itself set up which is odd, considering just how familiar most of it will be once you’re introduced to it. It’s a FPS, so the combat is pretty straightforward, although there’s the interesting balance between your items, powers and guns that you’ll need to manage since you can only use 2 of them at any one time. Whilst any weapon you find won’t survive a trip through the loop with you by default you can spend an in-game currency to infuse it and bring it along with you. You can also sacrifice items to get that currency which brings with it an interesting game of balancing out finding new things, infusing what you want and strategizing about how you’ll build yourself out over the course of a couple loops. Each loop also has 4 time periods and 4 different locations you can visit during each of them, the environments changing slightly between times forcing you to plan out your day so you can get what you need done. Just like Dishonored before it you’re given a lot of freedom in tackling your various problems including out and out gun fights, stealth takedowns or more elaborate setups that will get your objective done with no one else the wiser to who did it. This is also not mentioning the PVP part of the game which I didn’t even try, which I’m sure adds yet another layer to the game. So yeah, there’s a lot to unpack here, and I think for certain kinds of gamers this is the kind of title you could really lose some hours to.
The combat is, to be blunt, pretty simplistic as enemies aren’t particularly smart about how they engage you nor are they particularly challenging with even bog standard items you’ll struggle to not trip over. I stumbled across a silenced SMG early on in the game, once which was seemingly already infused for some reason, which could headshot almost any NPC at ridiculous ranges and not alarm a soul. Even without that though, the guns I’d use when I’d decided to go loud would one shot most NPCs and if I was struggling all I needed to do was find an alleyway to funnel them into and then just pick them off one by one as they conga-lined into my bullets. I’m sure if I invested some time into building out a run and gun play style I could probably walk the streets and murder with reckless abandon given how little challenge there was. Funny thing is though this isn’t something I’d count against the game too heavily though as I do enjoy indulging in a power fantasy every so often.
The core game loop of visiting different sections during different times of the day to pick up on clues, get new abilities and generally ass around is a solid one but it’s also one that leads to a lot of repetition very quickly. It doesn’t take too long to become familiar with the environments and then it just becomes a challenge of figuring out when you need to go to a particular place in order to unlock the next bit of information to progress. Indeed this is where I hit a wall once all my original leads ran out which left me blindly searching through each of the places just looking for another lead that I could follow. At that point, with enough weapons and a good set of slabs under my belt, I was just keen to blast through the story to the end. Instead I got locked behind a bit of a grind that just wasn’t particularly interesting to me, so I gave up.
It probably doesn’t help that I didn’t really connect to the story, world or characters very much. To be sure Colt and Julianna’s interactions are funny, bringing some levity in between the more heavy parts, but with most of the core game narrative buried away in notes, tapes and other things that you have to continually hunt down and consume I just honestly lost interest before the story had a chance to get its hooks into me. I mean, I did go back a few more times to try and get a couple more hours in, thinking I just needed to get over a particular hump to get me interested again, but the spark just never managed to catch.
Couple that with the game’s jankiness on launch and there was enough things to make me look for greener pastures quicker than I’d otherwise would. I had a few crashes, poor performance and not to mention the numerous physics bugs that could send key items into inaccessible places requiring you to restart that section. That’d be fine but sometimes restarting them would mean resetting that entire part of the day, which could lose you an hour’s worth of progress in one hit. This happened to me with one crash which undid a bunch of careful planning and plotting which was almost enough to have me quit right then and there.
I’m therefore in a bit of a tough position here. I know the score I’m going to give here isn’t really reflective of what Deathloop is and can be to the wider gaming community, but it reflects how I feel about it relative to all the other games I played. Overall it’s just a very bland, middle of the road experience that I really struggled to find the time for. To be sure I can see the numerous different things that would, should appeal to me but even after 5 hours I couldn’t find the drive to keep coming back. I guess what I’m getting at here is that if this was something you were excited about to play, ignore me and go and have fun. On the fence about it? Leave it until it’s on sale or something, there’s more than enough other things to keep you busy for a good long while.
DEATHLOOP is available on PC and PlayStation 5 right now for $99.95. Total play time was 4.9 hours with 18% of the achievements unlocked.