A great story, clever twist, and fantastic level design come together to make an unforgettable experience. Arkane Lyon has truly created their best game ever.
Developer – Arkane Lyon
Publisher – Bethesda
Platforms – PC, PS5
Deathloop is the latest opus from Arkane Lyon. Deathloop takes after Dishonored and Prey in terms of it’s ingenuity, level structure, and sublime game design. Although it’s not a roguelike, Deathloop takes the basic stealth game formula, and how repetitive it is by nature, and turns that into a full fledged game built around that core concept. The stealth game, has been revolutionized.
Deathloop at it’s core is an extremely simple concept. Wake up, kill the visionaries on Blackreef Island, and try to break a timeloop. Essentially Hitman and Groundhog Day rolled into one unique world.
The strength of Arkane Lyon however, is in taking that simple concept and going all the way with it in this game. The very core of what they have done in the past. If you think, Dishonored, or Prey, is marvelous level design combined with unique stealth mechanics and powers. In most of their titles however, replaying a stage is an optional choice, one the player can choose to embark on if they want to try a different approach once they’ve gained level knowledge or discover a secret.
Optional, not mandatory level design. Hitman does this as well, with master challenges and elusive targets. Once again, optional, not mandatory. Players who do choose to dive deep into these stealth action games, can reap so much rewards. The patience required for pulling off the perfect hit, or using a carefully scouted path to escape is an adrenaline rush only the best games and most patient players can usually attain.
Deathloop succeeds because it takes that optional experience and builds the entire core game structure around that concept.
You play as Colt, head of security at Blackreef Island and after a short but brutal intro sequence the title is explained. Every time you die, you wake up at the shore, with all gear stripped away but your memory intact. An assassin named Julianna is hunting you down, and her goal is to keep Colt imprisoned in this time loop. Colt tries his best to figure out the nature of the time loop, the visionaries occupying the island, and escaping the prison he is trapped in.
Although not a true open world, Deathloop embraces a hub design which each bespoke location containing a treasure trove of secrets, opportunities, gear and targets to take out. Although guns and a machete are your primary weapons, various slabs can be discovered through out the game.
Think of slabs as this worlds version of Bioshock or Dishonoreds powers. They allows you to force lift objects, blink, and all sorts of unique abilities that help Colt on his mission. Julianna, in a new twist, isn’t just appearing from time to time to take you out, she is also a conduit for the games multiplayer functionality.
Once the prologue is complete, you can opt to play as her and invade friends or random players games which can cause all sorts of trouble. if you don’t want to be bothered, you can choose to have an A.I play as her. No matter what, her presence adds another layer of sophistication and fun to the game’s addictive and run based nature.
Visually the game is a treat. On the PS5, I chose performance mode and it ran perfectly from start to end. I don’t have a pixel counter or frame rate reader but it looked very nice and ran smooth. The visual styles that every one of the games 5,745 pre-release trailers is thankfully represented in game to perfection. Every hub location sprawls out with opportunity, and Blackreef Island is home to gorgeous vista’s and style everywhere.
Deathloop even uses the old text as part of the world to help narrate story and doll out hints, as it’s presented by Colt writing to his next incarnation on the loop.
As typical with Arkane Lyon, the story doesn’t take a backseat to the game. The plot may seem straightforward, but as you uncover each new clue or hint as to what the nature of this island and loop is, the tension ramps up nicely. The game even ends on a strong note, unlike most games with unique ideas that fizzle out near the climax.
Colt and Julianna carry the bulk of the games narrative. Each one of them is brought to life by some of the best writing and performance in a long time. They are both memorable, and deliver their lines with a gusto and panache that truly helps sell the exhaustive nature of this deadly game of deadly Groundhog Day tag.
To say much more would give too much away, just go in knowing that Arkane Lyon has truly created their best game ever. Even more so, they figured out a way to bring the deep elements that only hardcore stealth fans get to experience in this genre. A great story, clever twist, and fantastic level design come together to make an unforgettable experience. The best game of this year hands down.