The story of Deathloop is about the unexpected. It's about panic, improvisation, learning from mistakes and moving forward. It doesn't matter how many combat encounters you fail to complete; it doesn't matter whether you die or are redirected back to the beginning. It doesn't matter if you fail to make it through combat encounter after combat encounter. What matters is that you learned something that will help you next time.
Information is your main objective in Deathloop. It's how to find and kill Visionaries who act as bosses on the island. There are eight of them, and Colt Vahn, the amnesiac Colt Vahn, has to eliminate them all in one day to break the loop. The problem is that you have limited time in each part of your day, and can only visit one area of the island each time. It is difficult to eliminate Visionaries from certain areas at specific times of the day.
You'll discover new ways to manipulate your hit list as you dig deeper into their lives. This is the main part of the game. Each new lead is tracked and updated. Colt is the only person whose memory does not get lost during day loops. This means that his targets' behavior remains consistent and repeatable. It's incredibly satisfying to see all the pieces fall into place, as you begin to see the consequences of your actions and fill out your itinerary for the perfect day.
Gathering information is not limited to your primary goal. Looping repetition creates a more natural sense of discovery, which suits immersive sims well. Arkane's level design has many secrets, including hidden routes and locked doors that may lead to new ways. Dishonored rewards patience, observation, and the ability to search in dark corners and look through diaries and notes. You can certainly do this in Deathloop. However, it also allows you to take a more direct approach.
Deathloop is a stealthy game, which I think is fair. You hear it in the discordant audio cue that plays when you're spotted, and see it in the exclamation marks that appear over nearby Eternalists--Deathloop's name for the rank and file revellers that will attack you on sight. Because Dishonored's and Deathloop's powers, art style, and UI function are so closely intertwined, I naturally chose stealth as my preferred method.
Even with this mindset, Deathloop isn't going to let you obsess over perfect runs. You can instantly detect and react to an Eternalist if you remove them. This means that you won't be able to spend hours meticulously clearing the map and hiding every body so your work isn't detected. Deathloop doesn't want you to feel pressured to do something; to create a situation where you have to respond. It lets you use its powers and weapons, and doesn't punish you for doing so.
You start every day with the basics Colt has on you when you wake up. You soon learn the ability to infuse items, which allows you to carry them between loops. This can be done by spending residuum (a resource obtained during missions or by sacrificing other gear). You can permanently unlock new equipment by using Infusion. The Visionaries are the best. They have high-tier guns and trinkets, as well as a signature slab, which is a power that dishonored has created.
There are restrictions on the weapons and slabs that you can carry with you to complete a mission. If you find something you like in the field, you will have to exchange it for something else. Dropped weapons or slabs will be lost for the remainder of the day. However, thanks to the infusion properties they will be there waiting for you at each loop.
Colt isn't alone in feeling this way. Eternalists will be seen throughout the day, performing stupid stunts and vandalizing the island. Why not kill yourself with a cannon? You will hear a voice throughout the game telling you that you actually love this. It's not me trying to make a grand point about duality or something. There's literally a voice coming from the other side of your radio every time you enter a new level. Julianna is the other islander whose memory continues to last each day. She protects the loop by hunting Colt. It's something she enjoys.
This cat-and mouse relationship is at the heart of Deathloop’s story and adds to the mystery surrounding the loop, Colt, and the island. It's clear that Julianna is enjoying their game, despite their antagonistic conversations. She simply loves killing him. Colt is able to see a playful side to her goading. However, there's also a frustration that makes it all the more fascinating to uncover the past Colt doesn't know.
Julianna's hunts form the last piece of Deathloop’s systemic puzzle. Any level with a Visionary can be invaded by her, and if the game is online enabled, she can also be controlled remotely. This can lead to some very tense encounters but also lots of hilarious shenanigans. One time, a player tried to invade me. I didn't realize that I had already hacked some of the nearby turrets. They spawned and I heard a turret fire. A few moments later, the game informed me that Julianna was dead.
Certain gun perks are more logical when Julianna is involved. The Fourpounder is an absolute beast of a handgun that can create a gas cloud at impact. I was initially unsure why I would ever need it. The Fourpounder can kill Eternalists in one headshot. Anything more was just too much. This can lead to hilarious interactions, such as the time that an invader shot at my face through the flammable gas cloud and ended up exploding themselves.
While I was having fun and was eager to discover the secrets of the island's mysteries, Arkane's comments about the genre and the ways people have played it in the past intrigued me more than my own enjoyment. After another player entered my game, it clicked and Deathloop became something I enjoyed on its own terms.
Although I have finished the story in about 30 hours, I am not done. I still want to solve the remaining puzzles and discover what weapons and upgrades I can use to help me fight against Julianna. I also want to find out how the hidden paths I found as Colt can make me a more formidable invader against players who are less familiar with the levels. Colt may be determined to end the loop, but I'm not in rush.
Deathloop, despite its seemingly infinite complexity, is one of my favorite games. Arkane Studios created a world that is connected by meaningful connections. There are unique and high-concept ideas about time loops, non-linear investigation work, and loadouts are executed with elegance. This makes it feel easy to use, learn from, master, and navigate. Deathloop is an exceptional game that Arkane and other developers who have created similar games can aspire to.