Deathloop - Review
I've never played a game like Death Luke before. More accurately. I've played a lot of games that are a little bit like it: dishonored hitman, outer wilds, and even Dark Souls, but never anything that fits so many interesting ideas together to create something so fascinatingly unique. It's ever repeating day doom to loop until you can break it by murdering Eight targets is a playground for impactful gunplay, absorbing investigation work, satisfying experimentation, and even tense multiplayer standoffs.
Developer Arcane Studio's precise calibration of these pieces makes the loop an intricately built clockwork machine that doesn't so much quietly hum but rather confidently raw. Your eight targets, known as visionaries, have taken up residence on Black Reef, a cold and grey island made appealingly vibrant by dashes of the 1960s.
Fashion, architecture, and technology. Awakening every morning on its freezing shore is your protagonist's cult. A consistently amusing and understandably sweary gunslinger whose amnesia prevents him from knowing how he got here or for how long he's been looping. Interestingly enough, in the scenario, there's no ticking clock snapping at your heels as you try to end the cycle by taking out all your targets before the day resets and they're all resurrected.
Defloop's smartest move is to split its day into four time periods: morning, noon, afternoon, and evening; and you can remain in each of them for as long or as short a time as you'd like. You choose one of Blackreef's four unique districts to visit in each period, and you can take your time to thoroughly explore and crack some of Defloop's most elusive optional secrets without the fear of time running out.
That's not to say there aren't complications. Your targets are spread out across those time periods and locations, so much so that it's initially impossible to kill them all before the day runs out. As such, you need to herd them together so that you can murder more than one at a time. To achieve this, you must conduct an investigation into their lives and schedules.
Despite using a live-die repeat structure, it's best to think of the death loop as a temporal metroidvania. Rather than anything close to a roguelike, its chief currency is information. As you chase down objectives and unearth new leads, you'll discover clues that help you unlock doors and exciting new opportunities in areas you've previously visited both in time and space.
The details of the full location shift depending on the time you visit them. As the day goes on, the island becomes increasingly anarchic as the residents grow rowdier and smash up furniture, graffiti walls, and even crush a car into a building. In the afternoon, a snowstorm redecorates the black reef with a white blanket, and the evening is host to an exuberant party that dominates the uptown darm district.
In between those big visual changes are subtler, more meaningful alterations, such as changing enemy patrols, water freezing to provide new pathways, or a secret apartment window that only opens in the afternoon. These changes help create a constant sense of discovery. Throughout Deaf Loop's day, once you've played through all four time periods, the day resets and you start a game.
Dying will also send you right back to breakfast time, although Colt's supernatural abilities allow him to survive death twice per time period, which prevents things from getting frustrating. However, each reset also strips your inventory of every weapon power and upgrade you've picked up, forcing you to start afresh each day.
Saving you from despair is the infusion system, which allows you to permanently bind items to a cult so that they survive the loop. It requires spending residual, a resource found around Black Reef, which is rare enough to force considered purchases but in enough supply that each new loop will consistently bolster your arsenal.
This system cleverly encourages you to vary your approach, allowing you to taste many flavors without committing until you're ready. Each day involves picking up a new selection of items. Of which there are dozens, are trinkets that allow you to make meaningful alterations to both your weapons and cult, such as the ability to reload in an instant or move without making noise.
The loop cycles A buffet of options allows you to test and discover new equipment, which will go on to inspire your infusion choices. Over time, you'll build up a collection of your favorite items, from which you choose a loadout before heading into the next location. While you may lose equipment at the end of a run, a reset never disrupts your investigation.
You hold on to every single discovery you've made so far in your quest log and intel files. This means you rarely have to repeat the same activity twice, which eliminates the frustration that many other time-loop games suffer from after a heavily tutorialized introduction. You have the whole island and time loop opened up to you to explore as you please.
In any district, in any order, you are provided with starting leads for each of the eight visionaries, which unfold as linear quest lines, but how you pursue them is entirely up to you. You could opt to tug on each new thread as you find them, hopping between leads to cover as much ground as possible in a single loop, which provides a gratifying sense of efficiency.
Or you could chase down a single lead, skipping time periods and locations in dogged pursuit of a specific part of the puzzle. This remarkable freedom helps fulfill the investigator's fantasy; there's a genuine sense that each choice you make helps narrow the search. Colt's personal story is a fun and twisty history that intertwines with the lives of his targets and acts as Death Loop's overarching.
The plot might not quite come together, and without it, the short concluding chapter can feel not just abrupt but rather thin. As much as I appreciate Arcane's confidence in us to make these connections ourselves. Colt's story feels like something that should have been served up in small milestone meals throughout the loops in a way that can't possibly be missed rather than scattered like cookie crumbs across the world to be overlooked by those who just want to get on with the next justified murder.
The precision engineering of this complex looping world is held in balance by Deftloop's combat system, which is a delightfully raucous affair that roars like a dragon with ballistic breath. If you prefer to go loud, you can paint the walls with the insides of black reed violent thugs using a small but well-tuned array of fantastically heavy weapons.