Deathloop for PC is Awesome and I Absolutely Cannot Recommend It

Bethesda and Arkane have made some of my favorite video games in recent years, most notably the Dishonored series, which had a delightful balance of worldbuilding and the ability to magically hoist bad guys into the air, all the better to stab them in the neck. When they announced Deathloop, which promised all the stabby joy of Dishonored with a nifty retro sci-fi aesthetic and a wild time-loop mechanic, I was all in. Now that I’ve dived in for about twelve hours worth of gameplay on my PC, I can absolutely say that as a game, it lives up to its advertising and is a whole lot of fun to play. Also, there’s no way you should buy it right now, because getting it to run on a PC is a huge fucking nightmare.

I noted this yesterday on Twitter:

This is not an exaggeration. When I open up the game on Steam, it’ll get to the opening splash screen and then close, throwing up a huge dialog box of crash data. So I open it up again, and then again, and then again, and then again, and eventually if I open it up enough, it’ll work and I can play. Why does it work on the fifth or eighth or eleventh try? Got me. My PC, although not new, is not meagerly specced; it fits the game’s minimum system requirements with some headroom. So that’s not the issue. It’s just temperamental, and when I say temperamental, I mean I’ve discovered that Deathloop has a better chance of opening and being playable if, while I’m firing up the game, I also have Chrome open and am actively scrolling through a Web page. Why? Who the hell knows? I don’t and I imagine neither Bethesda nor Arkane knows, either.

Which, you know, is a problem. I shouldn’t have to rely on janky heuristics and finger-crossing to get a multimillion-dollar, AAA major studio game to open on a computer that fits the game’s minimum specs, and neither should anyone else. Some people are pointing fingers at the game’s DRM system, while others are noting it plays poorly with modern graphics cards, or whatever. At the end of the day, however, a new game should be able to be played out of the (these days virtual) box, or at the very least have a reasonable explanation for why it cannot.

When the game can be played, it’s pretty terrific. As a character named Colt, you wander about a time-looped island trying to figure out how you got there and why another character named Julianna is going out of her way to kill you. Along the way you discover that in order to break the time loop, you have to kill eight “visionaries” (think: level bosses), and you unlock various quasi-magical skills to do it as you go along. The gameplay is fun, the story is compelling, and it’s fun murdering a whole bunch of temporally-locked jerks who are trying to kill you. When it works, it’s probably my favorite game of 2021.

But it doesn’t work enough, and when it does work, it runs the risk of suddenly not working anymore (the latest crash involved the game telling me to “infuse” a weapon I didn’t have, and didn’t give me a way out of the screen it had put up to have me do it, and when I tried to alt-crtl-del my way out, it shut down). Given all the reports on the Internet about Deathloop, I know I am far from the only one having problems with the game on PC (I understand the PS5 version has its own problems as well). The excellent game experience is deeply and terminally compromised by the overall user experience.

Which is why I say: Deathloop on PC is awesome, and I absolutely cannot recommend it. This game needs to be patched waaaay the fuck out before I can suggest that anyone else spend $60+ dollars on it.

Further, game studios should not ship games that don’t work. I bought Deathloop on day one, because as a video game player, Bethesda and Arkane earned some credit for their previous terrific games. But here on out, I’ll be waiting a month or two (at least) before buying any game of theirs on PC, because they can’t be trusted to make a game that runs on day one. That’s bad news for both, since a game that’s not bought on day one has a much better chance of being a game that’s not bought at all. But them’s the breaks, when you ship a broken game.

— JS

23 Comments on “Deathloop for PC is Awesome and I Absolutely Cannot Recommend It”

  1. Arkane is probably my favorite game studio, so I’ve been excited for this game awhile. I’ve still been unable to get my hands on a PS5–and I’d heard the computer port was a huge mess—so I guess I have to wait until I get a PS5 to play it.

  2. If you’re going to name your game deathloop it seems to me you might want to try to avoid releasing a game that might be uncharitably referred to as…. Being stick in it’s own death loop…

  3. I would have never put you as a sneaker fan. Dishonored is the spiritual sequel to the Thief series on the PC some 20+ years ago. Thief 2 was best, Thief 3 was an unfinished gem.

    Dishonored is a great game.

    If you like sneakers you might look into Sniper Elite 4.

  4. Having just finished the game this morning with nary a bug I have to ask, “how are you so cursed?” I also had a grand total of 2 crashes and no t-poses in Cyberpunk 2077 when I beat it at launch, so maybe I just lead a charmed life.

  5. I beat the game within a day as well as probably 1000’s of others. It wasn’t cool they stereotyped blacks as thugs that only use cuss words to get their meaning out. I did run into bugs but nothing major on Ps5, i couldn’t get it to run have the time on pc with a pretty decent rig. The only real enemies are the bosses, small areas, most of the story is copied from other games and movies, and theres not a ton of story, and after you beat it you might not ever pick it back up ever to play it seriously. I asked for refunds and got them because i felt like its not a 60 dollar game and where it looks like it could shine all the hype up killed that. Its definitely a niche game and not for everyone and the gaming industry has gotten bad for touting something like this as game of the year. I know everyone loves Arkane but i used to love Squaresoft, Aklaim and Blizzard but just look how far they have fell from their former selves.

  6. Are you playing in multiplayer mode? Deathloop is on pretty non-stop at my house on pc but not in multiplayer. I wonder if that makes a difference.

  7. This is nothing new eh? Dishonored 2 got trashed in the press for running like garbage on a lot of folks PCs. You’re just the unlucky one this time.

    I remember, back before I gave up PC gaming, a game crashing constantly. I look up the issue, and oh, it’s a known problem the game doesn’t work with motherboards that have the same northbridge chipset as mine.

    Is that mentioned anywhere in the official specs? Nope. You can only find that out in a fan forum.

    I finally swore off PC games for good when Valve took over. They activated Steamguard on my account and locked me out of all my games for no reason. I have my username and my password, but they refuse to allow me into my own account to play my own games.

    Their tech support page was a forum. The link that supposedly pointed to where I was supposed to find instructions on how to get my account unlocked pointed to a 404 error.

    I finally find the correct page (that was hidden by Valve) with instructions on how to get my account unlocked.

    I have to send an email with this exact information to Valve tech support. I do.

    Valve takes 3-4 days to respond. And when they do, they say the information I gave them (the exact information they asked for) isn’t good enough.

    We go back and forth. Each time I have to wait 3-4 days for a response.

    They finally unlocked my account (weeks later) after I produced a SIX-YEAR-OLD PayPal receipt for a game I bought on Steam.

    How many people can’t produce a six-year-old PayPal receipt and just get permanently locked out by Valve and have to repurchase all their games? Valve will never tell. They’ll just be laughing all the way to the bank.

    After that I bought a PS3 and never looked back. PC gaming is for people that enjoy the abuse.

  8. Glenn Berry – Glenn works as a Services Database Engineer in Elizabeth, CO. He is a Microsoft Data Platform MVP, and he was previously a Microsoft Data Platform MVP from 2007-2017. He is also an Adjunct Faculty member at University College - University of Denver, where has been teaching since 2000. He has completed the Master Teacher Program at Denver University - University College. He is the author of the book SQL Server Hardware. Glenn blogs regularly at https://glennsqlperformance.com/. He is active on Twitter as @GlennAlanBerry.
    Glenn Berry

    I can sympathize with your frustration. There is no excuse for releasing buggy AAA PC games, even though it seems to happen a lot.

    OTOH, if you provided a little more detail about your system beyond “My PC, although not new, is not meagerly specced; it fits the game’s minimum system requirements with some headroom.” it might be easier for the hardware geeks (such as myself) to figure out whether your system is part of the issue or not.

    The term “Not new” has different meanings to different people. Your system might be anywhere from a few months to several years old. It might have been mid-range to high-end when it was brand new.

    Not everyone has the time or interest to dive into the gory details about their gaming PC.

    If it were me writing a post like yours, I would have answered these sorts of questions:

    Is it a laptop or a desktop?

    What screen resolution and in-game graphics settings are you using?

    What exact CPU and GPU and how much RAM do you have?

    Is the system relatively up to date as far as the BIOS version and GPU drivers?

    Anyway, I hope the game becomes playable for you as they release patches.

  9. Joe, Hi,

    I don’t see what the big deal is. Not being able to run decently is the signature of an AAA game worth its salt nowadays.

    So, yeah…duh.

  10. I haven’t played a video game since the days of the Atari 2600 but I’m so glad I read this post because the phrase “janky heuristics” will stay with me for quite some time.

  11. I beat it on ps5 last night. no crashes but I did have it freeze in a menu once (I managed to fix it). there were a handful of other frustrating bugs though that ranged from loot drops frequently being in inaccessible places to events not triggering correctly near the end of a sequence of events I’d set up over an entire day that I then had to redo from scratch. very frustrating. I did enjoy it, but even not counting the bugs and terrible enemy ai it wasn’t the 10/10 reviewers gave it (so weird it got those reviews with the ai being what it was).
    It had a lot of really cool ideas and some extremely fun parts but also some annoying slogs after I’d redone the same area at the same time in multiple loops and was just there to finish one minor side quest that ended up being pointless. there was just not the same joy of combat that I got in dishonored. felt like there was a really great game there somewhere but they fumbled the execution in some places. still, worth finishing if and when they ever patch the pc version. also the soundtrack was fantastic

  12. One would think that after the Cyberpunk debacle publishers would be extra wary of shipping broken products. Perhaps the fact that all the critics were given PS5 copies to review should have been a sign.

    At least I’m lucky enough to have gotten my hands on a PS5, and all indications are that that version is fine, so I can still get it if I want to. I think I’ll probably wait anyway. I rarely buy games at launch anymore, I’m too busy and they’re too expensive.

  13. I have only 2 comments: Although I’m jealous of you getting to play the game, it will likely be ported to Xbox Game Pass eventually, so I’ll get to play it there.

    Also, I am curious about alt-ctrl-del… is that just a alphabetical reordering, or a Scalzi quirk(C)? Or maybe you have a Dvorak keyboard?

  14. Bad Scalzi! I didn’t have time for this rabbit hole today. **goes to add to ‘Wishlist.’

  15. One would think that after the Cyberpunk debacle publishers would be extra wary of shipping broken products.

    Or, alternatively, it worked on all the hardware configurations they tried in the office.

  16. @Glenn Berry: fellow hardware geek and Problem Fixing Inclined person here, and that’s all beside the point. Deathloop isn’t just crashing on Scalzi’s PC; the bugginess is widespread; and if a game says it runs on particular specs, then it should run on a PC with those specs.

  17. @Aaron Doukas: I mean, yeah, it’s true that it’s impossible to test for all PC configs.

    There’s a particularly fun story about this that was featured on the Giant Bombcast (video game podcast) years ago. Basically, a guy couldn’t get a PC game to work properly and called support. After much troubleshooting, it came to light that this guy had a USB stick plugged into his computer that had a program on it to drive/control a remote rocket launcher. And when he unplugged the rocket launcher, everything worked just fine!

    But while you can’t possibly test for everything, one would think they’d have been able to test enough of the more common configurations to figure out there were widespread problems and delay the PC release. Ah well. I’m sure it’ll all be fixed eventually.

  18. The story about the USB rocket launcher kinda shows just how crazy things can go when the various parts of your PC start interacting. First there’s all the potential interactions between your pieces of hardware and any associated drivers. Then add in all the software that might be running and badly behaved; maybe our host’s app he’s used to keep off of social media when he needed to hit a deadline has a negative interaction in some way with Deathloop. When it comes to minimum specs, not hitting them generally manifests with massive performance slowdowns, rather than outright crashes. When I got Wolfenstein 2 I experienced single digit frame rates because I was running two GTX 670s that were SLI’d and the engine didn’t support SLI. So while the graphics cards had held up for most releases it was seen as a hilariously out of date card for this game.

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