Why Deathloop is interesting (in theory)

A mix of Dishonored and Hitman, or perhaps a perfect counter to both?

Stealth games are a ticking time bomb for the impatient and the clumsy. As someone equally impatient and clumsy, I rarely finish a level with a high score. It’s a shame as games like Hitman and Dishonored are some of my absolute favourites, but they’re flaws I have to manage with some self-restraint, and many, many quick saves. However, it’s also one of the many reasons I’m excited for Deathloop.

Considering many are describing Arkane’s upcoming time-looping shooter as a mix of Hitman and Dishonored this may sound silly, but I believe Deathloop is directly countering these games in many ways, not copying them. So, please join me for a round of absolutely baseless speculation about a game I haven’t played.

Credit: Eurogamer

In Dishonored 2, every level ends with a graph (above): lethal to non-lethal, and stealth to assault (also referred to as Chaos). One of the most impressive elements of Dishonored – and especially Dishonored 2 – is the vast series of approaches and techniques available to players, so you can choose whether you’re possessing a fish through the sewers and teleporting to the rafters, or magically connecting all the guard’s heads and exploding them. If you’re a lover of chaos, you might expect to die more, but you’re bound to have a good time. But if you want to live in the shadows, you might feel more satisfied getting the job done cleanly without a trace.

But, what about when things go wrong? When a guard clocks you hanging from a railing, or you accidentally shoot someone and discover bullets are very, very loud? All the guards flood to your location, and unless you’ve cleverly disabled the alarms, the whole city learns of your presence. This gives you the opportunity to try the equally fun chaotic assault options, but I often feel a pang of failure and a need to try again. Much like messing up royally in Hitman, quick saves become the comfort vice we rely on. But what if you had a better way to replay, while also solving the binary method of playstyle?

This is what Deathloop could be. You replay the same day over and over again, each section of day (morning, afternoon and evening) allowing for infinite time to explore and try new things. While many players might just play clumsily and move on in Dishonored and Hitman, more engaged players go back and replay levels, trying for stealth, chaos, more creative kills. Deathloop could force all players to try things differently, exploring environments in a different way every cycle. Quick saves are probably still useful for short-term plans, but if you cock up a sneaky entry it’s not a big deal, as you know how to tackle it better next time.

As for the stealth and chaos, it really is speculation. But in their latest gameplay showcase, you can see shifts from screaming loud gunfights into stealth, and back into gunfights. The ability to focus less on one style of play and more on a well-oiled plan in general can surely make Deathloop shine. Arkane are genuine masters at allowing the player to do whatever they like, and that game design mixed with a blend of chaos and stealth means it’s less about finishing a level with a perfect stealth score, and more about the wider, complex planning of breaking your overall loop.

We don’t know much about Deathloop other than the brief scripted gameplay we got at E3 and some previews to press, and I don’t know how the powers might work, or if the gunplay is any good. But I do know Arkane games, and while it might be hard to figure out what Deathloop’s deal is from the PR, I recommend paying some closer attention. Arkane know what they’re doing, and I think they’re about to drop a very clever game that’s less roguelike and more Groundhog Day. It’s less about gradually getting better at the game, and more about using your day so many times you know exactly what’s around every corner, and just how to exploit it.

If you spend your day running around aimlessly shooting folk and sneaking around a kitchen before getting domed by your sniper rival, you learned a little chunk of the world, and what to try next. Less about graphs and scores, and more about using your head to make a great plan come together. Hopefully.

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