Deathloop Follow-Up, or, Hey, I Finally Got This Game To Work On My PC
Roughly six weeks ago I wrote a first impression/kvetch post about Deathloop, the new video game from Bethesda and Arkane Studios. In it I mentioned that I thought the game was pretty great, I just couldn’t really get it to work on my computer at all. In the interim, Bethesda/Arkane sent out a couple of patches to address some of the issues I and other people had getting it to work on PC, and also, I basically kept fiddling with the game on my own computer to make it work (how to make it work on my computer: Put it in windowed mode, for starters, and then check through the game forums to see if anyone had the same specific problems I had and learn how they fixed it).
So now it works! And now I have played the game to completion. I still have complaints about the technical issues involving the game and how it runs on PC — really, it should not have been that difficult to get it to work on a perfectly standard, reasonably robust, pre-built PC — but, hey, I did get it to work, so, let’s just talk about the game, shall we?
To begin, and once again, the game itself is pretty great. The story, which is essentially “Groundhog Day meets The Prisoner, with guns and trust fund assholes,” focuses on the character of Colt, who wants to break the time loop he and everyone else is trapped in, and along the way muddle through his amnesia and figure out why he’s in the loop in the first place, and also Julianna, who likes being in the loop and thus wants to kill Colt before he can mess it up for everyone else, who also seem pretty happy with their louche-yet-static life. To break the loop, Colt needs to murder the several “visionaries” who helped to create the loop in the first place; think of them as human horcruxes with just about the worst personalities imaginable.
Nor are Colt and Julianna exempt from this “worst personalities” assessment; they’re both kind of jerks, to each other and to others. As the game goes along we learn more about Colt and Julianna’s relationship to each other, which casts a different light on the banter that’s come before, not necessarily in a great way, and yes, I’m being cagey to avoid spoilers. Nevertheless, Colt has to relive the same day multiple times in order to figure out what happened to him, and to figure how to kill all the visionaries in a single day.
This means the games has a lot of repetition: there are four map areas, and four times of day. But this repetition is a feature, not a bug, because while everyone else (except Julianna) has no memory of previous loops, you do, and so every loop is ever-so-slightly different from your perspective. As time goes, uhhhh, on, you learn how to be in the right place at the right time to kill the right people, and to unlock objectives relevant to your mission. Be prepared to go through every nook and cranny of the map and read everything you see.
Even then, you might need some outside help. I liked the story — mostly — but I think Arkane (who designed the game) was possibly too obscure in presenting all the information one needs. Even as I was wandering through the entire map there were still things I missed. At one point I achieved the ostensible goal of murdering all the visionaries in a single day, but learned I couldn’t finish the game because there was a side mission I had entirely missed which nevertheless needed to be completed. The only way I knew about that was by googling “Killed Visionaries Deathloop What Now” and by cruising through the Deathloop subreddit. From both I’m aware that there are still a bunch of side missions I’d otherwise be clueless of.
The flipside of this is that there’s a bunch of extensibility to Deathloop, in terms of what’s to be explored in later editions of the game; I expect future DLCs and sequels to more fully explore the history of Blackreef, the island the game takes place on, not to mention the quasi-military mission to the island that preceded the events of the game. There’s also a strong indication that Deathloop (somehow) exists in the same universe as Bethesda/Arkane’s “Dishonored” series; if that pans out, I’m excited for the crossover potential there.
More practically, Deathloop shares a lot of game mechanics with the “Dishonored” games, including special, somewhat magical abilities that allow one to, for example, shift through time and space, force push people off ledges, and make one’s self practically invisible, all the better to sneak up on someone to knife or shoot them at close range. Both the magical abilities and the more conventional weapons are upgradable; I am particularly fond of the large-bore rifle that shoots exploding bullets. You can do a whole lot of damage with that one.
Ultimately that’s what you’ll be doing: Damage. All the NPCs on the map are there to kill you (they’ve been told to do so by Julianna), and they’ll show up again in the next loop anyway, so killing them by the score doesn’t feel too karmically awful. Kicking them off ledges or dropping statues on them or stabbing them through the spleen or whatever is just good clean fun. I’m generally a fan of the first person shooter genre, and this iteration has enough style and variety to keep me mostly happy just by clearing the map of these miscreants. There aren’t any innocent people to get in the way — they really do all want to kill you — so it’s soothing for me just to blast away and chortle to myself as I do so. Even though I have finished the objectives of the game, I imagine I’ll go back in from time to time just to rack up some carnage.
I’ll also take a moment to praise the game’s design aesthetic, which is best described as “trashed mid-century.” Blackreef is retro-hip but gets increasingly damaged over the course of the day, and not just by you — inasmuch as everything just loops at the end of the day anyway, none of the “eternalists,” the game’s NPC cohort, seems invested in keeping things neat and tidy. This game doesn’t really have anything good to say about what people would do when nothing actually matters. Another reason, I suppose, to clear the deck of them.
I really like Deathloop and I think it’s worth people seeking it out. I’m still hesitant to recommend Deathloop on PC, simply because I think it’s really finicky and I don’t know that everyone wants to spend as much time as I did fiddling with it to make it work, even after the updates. If you have a PlayStation 5, the console version may be the way to go. Alternately, if fiddling with the workings of your PC and tweaking settings is your thing, then go nuts. However you decide to play, once you get Deathloop running, I think you’ll find it intriguing, and possibly, as I did, one of the best games of the year.