Please be aware that while I’m not going to spoil the ending here, I am going to talk about how I felt about it. You have been warned. Also watch the video, I’m not repeating anything from it.
First of all, I enjoyed Deathloop. I liked running around Blackreef, shooting people, using the magic slabs (which I forgot to mention in the video review) and I was adequately intrigued by the anomaly’s mystery and the quest to kill 8 rich kids in day. If you are a fan of Arkane’s previous work, you will likely also enjoy this one. But don’t expect anything grand.
Narratively speaking, Deathloop doesn’t take advantage of the medium it was made in. It would make a great movie, because with movies, you have a single linear story. A story that has to follow the same steps to reach its conclusion every single time you play it. But with games there’s the opportunity to give the player agency in how they wish to approach the same story. Maybe play it through a couple of times to try out different tactics. But Deathloop is like a movie. It’s a story that has to follow the same steps to reach its conclusion.
Is this an unfair thing to say? Some of the greatest games are linear in exactly the same way – take the Uncharted series for example. But with a plot that’s about trying to figure out how to kill eight targets within a certain timeframe, you can imagine the need for gathering all the information and figuring out how best to do this.
So perhaps I am simply mourning the lost opportunity. Mourning what I thought the point of the game was. I suppose this musing is all to say: if you are expecting a lot of agency in the game’s progression – don’t.
On the flip side, I did genuinely appreciate the game being a whole lot more straightforward. But another translation of that would be: “Excellent, I can shut my brain off for this and play it through much quicker than I was expecting to.” Depending on the audience, this could be the best news! Though that doesn’t quieten the small thought in the back of my mind that says, “this was fun, but it could have been greater.”
(This is the part where I start talking about the ending without actually describing it, so skip this paragraph if you want nothing to do with this). There are essentially two endings (technically three), both of which left me going: “Hold up, what?” But not in a oh my gosh I’m flabbergasted kind of way, but a I actually don’t get it way. There was no satisfactory resolution. None that seemed to be explained within the game, anyway. And what resolution was given was so short I thought I had done something wrong when the credits started rolling. Did I accidentally skip something? There are theories out there that Deathloop is set in the same universe as Dishonoured – a game that didn’t hook me in the first ten minutes so I stopped playing it (sue me). And once I had watched a video on that, heaps of things started to make sense. So perhaps there is more to come? I don’t know. I can only comment on what I have seen and done at the time of writing this.
I could very well have missed some important note in some bunker somewhere that could help temper my confusion. Which, to be honest, is highly likely as the vast majority of plot information was given through notes, tapes and emails. I didn’t mind this so much. Personally, I was thoroughly engaged by it all, but halfway through it did make me think of how they could tell this same story without leaning so heavily on the written word. The short conversations with Julianna were brilliant, as you were spoon-fed information at a satisfying pace from her (and all the performances in this game are commendable). But I can imagine some people really not being able to engage with the lore and story because they can’t be bothered reading pages and pages and pages of text.
So, did Arkane get anything right? Yes, yes, I did enjoy this game! I finished it! I was entertained! The setting is intriguing, the characters compelling, and the simple idea of pulling off such a heist as breaking a time loop was fun to play. The most important things Arkane got right, and that’s why it’s still a good game. It’s just not an amazing game, is all.