The roguelike genre goes mainstream in Arkane Studios’ latest PlayStation 5 exclusive, Deathloop which blends raw shooter action with a 1960s James Bond-like world, on loop
The 1993 Bill Murray-starrer Groundhog Day became the unofficial term for the much-loved time loop narrative paradigm. The same temporal phenomenon is at the core of Arkane’s latest first-person shooter.
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Colt Vahn is having a terrible day, waking up with a monumental hangover of sorts on a mysterious island’s beach where the laws of time and death don’t matter. To make matters worse, he is constantly being hunted by Julianna ‘Jules’ Blake, a wise-cracking, relentless force, determined to defeat Colt. Playing as Colt, your driving force is to break the loop and end this cycle of killing by vanquishing all eight Visionaries (the game’s main antagonists in the form of scientists, artists and party animals who all want to kill Colt) before midnight.
Often the game brings up the question, ‘are you the hero or a villain?’
- Developer: Arkane Studios
- Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
- Price: ₹3,999 on Playstation 5(exclusive), PC
Killing eight people sounds like a pretty straightforward fight-through-all-levels-and-face-off-final-boss deal. Look forward to gaming tropes as clever misdirections as with the first few missions that hilariously take you to a big glowing ball at the centre of the island only to push a button which does not work. Nothing in Deathloop is as it seems, to which both Jules and the snappy writing continually refer. The banter is one of the best parts of the game, as you and Jules trade one-liners that drip with malice, love, a bit of sexual tension and a lot of crazy.
Kudos to the voice actors — Jason E. Kelley (True Blood, Lucifer, NCIS) as Colt and Ozioma Akagha (Bumblebee) as Jules — for breathing more life into this game; there are some other fun voice cameos, such as Austin Powers in Goldmember actor Josh Zuckerman as Egor Sterling, one of the Visionaries.
Replay with rewards
Despite the popular concept of ‘repeat days’, Deathloop is unique in its structure as a game made up of several other game mechanics. The world and action feel a lot like the Dishonored and BioShock games (also by Arkane Studios. and The risk-reward system of a Roguelike in that once the day ends, you lose everything you have not nailed down. So you also have to harvest a time energy called residuum that helps you hold on to powers and weapons you collect. There is a catch, of course: it is not infinite so most of the time and fun you will have is in spending residuum to gain power.
Each Visionary has a unique power, and yours is that you have three ‘lives’ but if you die, you have to trudge back to where you died (just like in Dark Souls) to claim your residuum which you can harvest from Visionaries along with their powers known as slabs. This in mind, you can hurl enemies off cliffs or teleport short distances and more. Discovering these powers is half the fun and it is up to you to use them creatively leveraging Arkane Studios’ signature stealth or all-out action play-styles that give you freedom to experiment.
The Dishonored games and Prey proved that Arkane Studios are masters at building worldsakin to the 60s era of spy movies. Plus, the level designs hide many variations for different times of the day; for example, during the afternoon, a snowstorm freezes the waters and at the night, the island is one big party. The puzzles around this mechanic let you find clues to opening a safe strewn across multiple times or see certain Visionaries meeting up at certain times.
With so many gameplay systems to grasp, Deathloop suffers from a slow start due to the considerable data dump. While the interface looks cool, even finding out your objectives is not simple — and you will be making mistakes even on your 100th run, jumping into the wrong area at the wrong time.
However, this is a very small issue, in the greater masterpiece of the game.
Deathloop is the game you did not know you have been craving this year, offering an adrenaline rush with some excellent writing and voice-acting that elevate this Groundhog Day to a definite game-of-the-year contender alongside Psychonauts 2.
The writer is a tech and gaming enthusiast who hopes to one day finish his sci-fi novel