Bethesda Softworks screenshot.

Pass The Controller* is a Slice of Culture series where we highlight video games, both AAA (blockbuster) and indie. Llanes will share honest and balanced opinions on what could be your next favorite game as well as some random tips every now and then!

2021 is looking like the year of time loops in gaming.

There was the Playstation exclusive shooter, “Returnal”; the mystery thriller, “Twelve Minutes”; and there was my personal favorite so far, the science fiction adventure game, “Gnosia.”

Now, 2021’s latest time loop game is the newest title from Arkane Studios, “Deathloop.” 

Arkane is known for putting out games with very original gameplay concepts such as “Dishonored” and “Prey.”

“Deathloop” is a game that is supposedly so ambitious that it’s become difficult to market.

A new trailer has been shown in nearly every Playstation event throughout the past year, and yet the concept of the game was still pretty vague.

It is a first person shooter and it’s clear that a time loop is involved. However, nothing else was known about the game. It seemed like “Deathloop” was a roguelike, but that’s not the case at all. 

This game is set in the psychedelic, 1960s inspired island of Blackreef.

The day constantly resets so everyone that lives here is pretty much immortal and free to do as they please. Once the day resets, everyone who dies comes back to life and most of the island forgets the previous loop’s events. 

In “Deathloop,” Colt wants to break the loop and be free.

He quickly learns that in order to break the loop he must kill these eight high class citizens of Blackreef known as the visionaries.

Everybody is against this idea, especially one of the island’s residents Julianna. Colt and Julianna seem like the only two people who can keep their memories after each loop. So a rivalry forms between the two as Colt learns more about the secrets behind the island, the loop and the various residents.

So the marketing of this title implies that the game is a roguelike, but that is not the case at all.

Going in, I thought that I would have to attempt to kill the visionaries over and over again. This seemed like it would get repetitive pretty quickly.

Fortunately, this isn’t the case. 

Instead, Colt follows a series of “leads,” or quests where you must find clues about the island and ways to kill the visionaries easily. 

(Bethesda Softworks screenshot)

The combat is very similar to “Dishonored” where the game is designed so experimentation is heavily encouraged.

In most cases, there is always an option to either be stealthy or go on a killing spree. There is a wide array of weapons, magic powers known as slabs and numerous upgrades to make kills more creative. 

What makes “Deathloop” unique is how the time loop is handled.

When it comes to gameplay, the time loop is a double-edged sword. It seems complicated at first, but it became relatively easy to pick up as I kept playing.

There are four open areas to explore in Blackreef, and each of these areas can be explored in the morning, noon, afternoon and evening.

In each time period the weather, population and the location of the visionaries can differ. Time only passes when you leave the area, which adds less pressure when playing the game. 

While following the various leads on how to kill the visionaries, Colt has three lives. Once those lives are used up, he dies and the loop resets. All his weapons and abilities are lost. The only way to keep them is with Residuum. 

Residuum is a material spread throughout Blackreef that can cause weapons and abilities to carry over from loop to loop. This serves as the game’s currency.

When one of your three lives are lost, all your Residuum is dropped and must be reclaimed at the spot you died, similar to a game like “Dark Souls.”

Residuum must be found and earned in the game and cannot be bought with real money. Charging consumers to buy any in-game currency is a shady tactic that publisher Bethesda could have easily done, but fortunately they didn’t.

The loop mechanic can also lead to great gaming experiences towards the end. The final mission of the game in which all eight visionaries must be killed in one loop was pretty freaking intense.

By the tail end of the day I was down to my final life, a horde of enemies were chasing after me, and I was running around frantically, searching for my last target. 

(Bethesda Softworks screenshot)

The gameplay is pretty innovative, but it comes with some issues.

The main problem is that the enemy AI can be dumb.

Most of the time, they suck at aiming or randomly run in circles. Other times they are completely inattentive.

One time there were two enemies right next to each other. I sneak up to one, grabbing him by the neck and stabbing him to death, and his friend is just inches away, not noticing a thing.  

Additionally, some missions do get frustrating when missions have to be completed in a specific fashion.

One mission involves sneaking into a party and assassinating a target. The only problem is that nearly everyone in the party is wearing the exact same mask. I assumed that you can be stealthy or be chaotic. So on my first time playing this mission, this was me the entire time…

(FX Networks)

And later on I found out that the mission automatically fails when I bring too much attention to myself.

I wish I knew that beforehand.

It’s moments like this where ”Deathloop” becomes that annoying math teacher who would always want problems solved in the longest, most tedious way possible. 

One more aspect of the gameplay that I haven’t touched upon are the game invasions.

Other players can invade your game as Julianna so murdering her becomes another task to complete on top of any leads that need to be followed. While playing as Colt, these invasions add an extra layer of difficulty. Though it becomes rewarding whenever Julianna is killed due to all the Residuum and extra perks that get unlocked.

I do wish that playing as Julianna was just as fun.

When hunting down Colt, Julianna has similar weapons and powers. However, trying to kill the same guy over and over again got repetitive and boring pretty quickly. It also takes a pretty long time to even find a game to invade.

I’m not sure if this has to do with the game’s servers or if there aren’t enough other players who own the game or even a Playstation 5. 

(Bethesda Softworks screenshot)

As a whole, “Deathloop” is a pretty flawed, but solid experience. There’s about twenty hours of fun and inventive gameplay. 

I don’t think it’s as good as the Dishonored series, but it is a very solid game if you happen to have a Playstation 5 and wanna try something different, then “Deathloop” may be worth a shot.

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