The year 2021 will be remembered for the roguelike games that populated the year with their releases. Among them is the game from Arkane Studios – Deathloop. A different, fun game, but one that has some pretty significant shortcomings. Thus, this is our review of Deathloop.
Colt, the main character in Deathloop is stuck in a thermoporal loop on a mysterious island called Blackreef. The loop lasts for a day or so until Colt dies, after which he wakes up on the same beach as at the beginning, starting all over again.
There are eight targets on the island called “Visionaries”. The only way to complete the loop is to kill them all in one day. With each loop, they change location to avoid the monotony of hunting the same character in the same location.
The game’s story is very well connected to the world, which provides considerable immersion. Being a roguelike game, advancement in the story isn’t monotonous, but the story tends to fall into second place at times. You prefer to simply play without being bombarded with new information about the world and story. Overall, the game can be finished in 10-15 hours, and the story is good, but it gets annoying at times, introducing important dialogue that you have to pay attention to in order to understand the story when you just want to put bullets through some enemies.
In the game world are opportunities (leads, as the game calls them) that help Colt discover new information about weapons, targets and the world in general. This information advances the story and can be used to unlock a new location or learn a new way to neutralize a target. The game also features a multiplayer branch similar to the invasion mechanics in the Soulsborne series. Specifically, Julianna, a fairly important character in the story, can be controlled to invade another player’s world to prevent them from completing the loop. This aspect is quite interesting and offers quite a few possibilities to change that loop for the better, or worse.
Gameplay is similar to Arkane’s other series, namely Dishonored. From the gunplay, to the teleportation mechanics, and even the various changes in breaking into locations and assassinating Visionaries. You can play stealth or straight on skirmish, both ways having different strategies and opportunities behind them.
In the gameplay category is also the game’s most serious critic – A.I. This one is horrible, and that’s as nicely put as possible. You can sneak up and kill an enemy within 2 metres of each other without them hearing, and their direction of travel is very predictable. If you start a fight with 10 enemies and you wait in a corridor, they will come down the corridor one by one directly into your line of fire. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen such poor AI, they have no intelligence or strategy behind their actions. The gameplay is fun and engaging, but the A.I. detracts considerably from the fun of the game.
The game’s artwork is different, in a good way. The look of the characters and the world looks exactly as it should for the time period in which it takes place, specifically the 60′. The somewhat “comic book” aesthetic of the game, along with the weapons that look straight out of Dishonored are very visually pleasing. In addition to the aesthetics of the game, the visual effects are very good, the abilities, explosions, weapons all have excellent visual effects.
On the graphics front, Deathloop suffers from some not-so-annoying technical issues that need to be mentioned. Specifically, being a next-gen exclusive title, releasing only for PS5 and PC, the game suffers some framerate issues. We played the game on PS5, and the promised 60 frames per second was not consistent throughout the game. True, on console the game didn’t suffer as much as the PC version, but even here it had some obvious issues.
Also, some graphical bugs and screen tearing during cutscenes especially “bugs the eyes a bit”. The game’s graphics are very good, with the art style and aesthetics being the strengths. If the game didn’t have some such obvious technical issues, it could have scored much higher in this category.
The sound of the game is extraordinarily good. The soundtrack blends perfectly with the game’s atmosphere and world. The music and sound effects “teleported” me back a bit to the times when I was playing Bioshock, which is a very good thing. Also, where the sound really shines is in the dialogue and voice actors.
The dialogue is very well written, with good lines that breathe life into the characters. Mainly, the interaction between Colt and Julianna is great, and their voice actors did a very good job. The other characters in the game, especially the Visionaries, are no worse off either, but the two protagonists are by far the best.
There were instances where the dialogue didn’t really make sense, and the lines Julianna says when she invades another player are quite annoying. Nothing to spoil the atmosphere or the sound, but these moments should be mentioned.
Returning to the game’s art style and sound, these two elements blend together perfectly to create a very pleasant atmosphere. Gameplay loops (“badumtss”) also add to the atmosphere, giving the impression of helplessness in completing Colt’s mission. The locations are well structured, but seem too different from each other. On the one hand, it’s good that there’s variety in the locations, and the game’s aesthetic isn’t monotonous. On the other hand, the locations seem thrown together, yet the action takes place on an island, which is not extraordinarily large, and this takes away a little from the veracity of the world.
Also, even though Deathloop’s replayability is pretty great, it doesn’t seem to give you that much to do. Of course, it’s a roguelike, and each play session is different from the last. Still, it doesn’t rise to the level of replayability of Hades, or even Returnal, this year’s games. Thus, I didn’t really have the desire to continue playing after collecting everything I needed for this review.
Deathloop is a very good game, and a representative title for this year. While it doesn’t measure up to other games in the genre, or Ratchet & Clank Rift Apart, for a PlayStation exclusive, it’s well worth playing. The gameplay (if you can get past the A.I.), sound and atmosphere are interesting and engaging. For a game released straight next-gen, it’s not the strongest argument for a new console, but it gets the job done.
Our criteria at Games Row for rating games are as objective as can be. Of course, reviews are influenced (also) by personal experiences. So our ratings may not meet everyone’s expectations.