Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a media event for Arkane Lyon's upcoming first person shooter Deathloop, where I was given a look at a bunch of new gameplay, whilst also getting an opportunity to chat with Dinga Bakaba (game director) and Sébastien Mitton (art director) about the anticipated title.
In the media event, we got to see a bunch of new gameplay, including the first few moments of the story and what it was like for the protagonist Colt to appear on Blackreef's shores for the first time. We are also shown a first look at how (to a minor extent) he is connected to rival assassin Julianna, who is hellbent on stopping Colt from eliminating his targets and breaking the time loop that encapsulates the island.
The generic story for Deathloop is that Colt must find a way, by repeatedly failing and dying, to eliminate eight targets (Visionaries) who are responsible for the time loop on the island. But, as this task is seemingly insurmountable at first glance, it will be up to Colt to investigate his targets and discover the best possible ways to eliminate them in one swift action, as you have one day to complete the goal before the loop resets and you begin from the start.
It was my initial impression that the time looping system was rather intrusive and almost dictated how to enjoy the game, but after seeing further gameplay (including a look at eliminating one of the eight targets), it seems like the time loop is more of a tool that Colt can use to his advantage. Yes, when it resets, so does the world, but Colt can carry over weapons, abilities, and more importantly information from previous runs. So, despite the fact that you failed and your targets are back and healthy, you might be more knowledgeable and equipped to deal with them than initially.
Deathloop isn't a roguelike in this regard, despite what its resetting system might suggest. Bakaba spoke about this saying, "Going through the end of the day is not finishing a 'run'. The game is a story, it's a campaign game like Dishonored, but instead of going through a different map each time, you choose where to go, we don't dictate that." There is some light random generation, such as which weapon an NPC might use for that day, but it's a narrative single-player experience that is more about investigating and crafting an intricate plan to complete your task at hand at its core. And, with something like this, progression is absolutely vital.
Colt can acquire a whole range of weapons and supernatural abilities that will remain with him as the day resets. Weapons can come in various tiers and feature perks and Trinkets that you can upgrade to add unique features. As for the abilities, they show the influence that Dishonored has had on this title, and allow you to teleport, throw enemies around, even mentally connect them so that when you kill one, all those joined will follow. For the really hardcore players out there, the progression can even be optionally, meaning you can face the challenge as the most basic version of Colt there is.
The combat seems to have the signature Arkane Lyon flow to it that makes the game look fluid and seamless at every turn. Bakaba described how they see Deathloop in a brief sentence that really emphasises what we can look forward to, saying, "It's Dishonored with guns." And you can really see that, from the base movement mechanics, to the stealth features, and the supernatural abilities.
Even with having all of these tools and abilities at your disposal, Deathloop is no walk in the park. You are meant to die, meant to be challenged, and Bakaba briefly touched on the topic, saying, "It's not a casual game, to be fair. But, it's a mainstream game." With the way Deathloop is seemingly designed and from what Bakaba and Mitton explained to me, the title is meant to be hard at the beginning, as Colt is more of a regular person. But, as you progress and become more equipped, the difficulty is traded out in favour of the puzzle of investigating and lining up the targets. The reason for this is, as Colt acquires new skills, he becomes a more formidable character and the regular foes pose less of a threat to him - but it doesn't mean that you should go in guns blazing to take out your targets in the later game, even though you absolutely can should you wish.
The world is designed and split into four regions that can each be visited at four times of day (morning, afternoon, evening, and night). Every location will have unique places to explore and different things to do, depending on when you visit or what prior knowledge you have. For example, you might need a code to get through a door to explore a new place. A few resets later you might find that code elsewhere on the island, meaning you can return in another loop to uncover the secrets it protected. Similarly the world does have small side-quest type activities that when completed might reward Colt with a new weapon to add to his collection for example, taking the focus off directly following the main narrative.
As we've all seen from various trailers, one of the biggest parts of Deathloop is Julianna, the rival assassin. Her goal, as I mentioned earlier, is to eliminate Colt at all costs and she does so by appearing in places when Colt is near a Visionary, armed to the teeth with firearms and special abilities, such as the ability to disguise herself as a regular NPC, all in order to protect the Visionaries. Julianna can be played by another player or by an AI, and while important to the game, she does not have her own narrative that isn't explored through Colt. The idea of the invasion mechanic is to add another level of depth to this single-player title, depth that doesn't always revolve around Julianna gunning down Colt the second she sets her eyes on him, for there is no direct win condition for those who look to dive into her shoes. Playing Julianna is equally about messing with Colt and slowing him down as it is killing him, because at the end of the day, both her and Colt will be alive and kicking when the morning comes, with a little more knowledge to boot.
With Deathloop being a PS5 console exclusive, we can look forward to a showcase of the hardware's abilities. The game is expected to have very fast loading times, and a ton of DualSense integration, including the use of haptic feedback, adaptive triggers when firing a gun, and even using the controller's in-device speaker as another form of pushing the narrative. Arkane are also looking for the title to play at 60FPS at 4K on the PS5, meaning it should look and feel pretty great to play.
With all this being said, Deathloop is a game that remains as one of my most anticipated titles of the year. From all the new footage I have seen, its visuals look impressive, combat engaging, and its storyline is packed with the sorts of mystery and intrigue that makes me hunger for answers. Even if its concept may seem a little unorthodox or confusing at first glance, we know that Arkane Lyon make incredible games, and as of right now, Deathloop is looking to continue that trend.