The joy of Deathloop comes from discovery. Discovery of your targets and a way to manipulate them into appearing at the right place at the right time. Discovery of a back entrance, a hidden grate, an open window to sneak into a place of tactical advantage. Discovery of a code or piece of information that you know will come in handy during your next loop. I feel the game does too much hand holding in the beginning with its prolonged prologue, and at the end when it just tells you the perfect loop rather than letting you piece it together yourself, but for a few glorious hours in the middle, Deathloop is a most intriguing and rewarding experience.
After I’d completed the perfect loop, killing all Visionaries in a single day, I looked to the trophy list. Gaining Deathloop’s platinum is a fun experience – a variety of challenges that never become frustratingly difficult. Unlocking each trophy in a game usually means doing everything it has to offer, the developers pointing you towards every secret so their work doesn’t go to waste. But that isn’t the case for Deathloop. As I collected my final trophies, I realised some mysteries still remained, which then led to even more secrets as I began to unravel them. The game was still rewarding my exploration of its four maps across four time periods even after I gained its shiny platinum trophy.
When first entering a map, Deathloop conditions you with its repetitive assassinations to travel to your target as quickly as possible, usually using Shift to clamber over rooftops. I had explored Updaam so many times, or at least I thought I had, but after the platinum, not wanting to move on to another game, I thought I’d take one last walkabout. What did I find? A giant gate blocking my path! I’d climbed across the buildings next to it so many times I forgot it was there, offering a handy new path between separated areas, if I could get it open. This is where I confess: I looked up how to open it on the Internet. I’m sure some note or hidden in-game prompt exists but I hacked the nearby phones, caused a power surge, and the gate swung open. I was ready to put away the game, thinking it was 100% complete, yet I hadn’t even uncovered the secret behind one of the earliest obstacles the game throws at you.
Unlocking all the trophies revealed new things about the game that I couldn’t wait to experiment with. One trophy is to die in every possible way, one of which is decompression. That’s a thing? Turns out it is and you can use said decompression to kill yourself or multiple Wenjies in The Complex. In perfecting the perfect loop, I got so obsessed with the endgame assassinations, where Wenjie is at the party, that going back and playing the original assassinations, where targets are in their starting positions, reveals so much. You only have to play these once before moving on but there’s so much potential and multiple pathways for different takedowns, whether stealthy or loud, that it’s worth going back and replaying them. After the decompression epiphany, I thought I’d kill Frank in person again. I was so used to just tampering with his fireworks and killing him offscreen that there was so much I’d missed, whether collectables or new locations, in his place in Fristad Rock.
There are three locks in a room in Updaam. I found them early on in my playthrough and thought I’d leave them be for the time being. I’ll probably uncover the mystery behind them along the way, I thought. One platinum trophy later, the mystery remained. Scouring the room, how to reveal the codes became apparent: tamper with a machine, kill three different people in three different loops, and gain all three codes. It’s a fun little mystery but it ended up leading to something shockingly important. Doing this task unlocks a new building in Karl’s Bay, an area I thought I’d explored pretty well. In this building there’s a hole in the ceiling, easily missed, which leads to another floor. Hidden away is Lila’s apartment, Colt’s girlfriend from years before – a missable location inside a missable side mission, if it can even be called that. Inside is some scribbled poetry and an important voice note from the oft-mentioned but rarely-heard-from character. There’s even a voice log featuring Colt and Julianna from a happier time, which adds rich character detail, and I’m so glad I found it.
There’s a room with a nullifier in Karl’s Bay that can be reached by opening a lock, flooding an area, and freezing the water. What’s inside after so much effort? Just a randomly-generated trinket. The same is true for a man in Updaam who in the morning throws himself off a cliff. In the afternoon he’s back, ready to fire himself out of a cannon. If you listen to his conversation, it’s revealed he survives because of a trinket he has, and you can sabotage the canon using a half-charged battery to fire him onto a roof in Karl’s Bay. Head to the bay that night and you can find the trinket where his body landed. I went searching for these kinds of details after completing the game when I had no use for an extra trinket that I probably already owned, if not had equipped. The reward is figuring out the temporal puzzle. The feeling of discovery and accomplishment of thinking with portals time loops. That sounds like the gaming equivalent of the hokey “the real treasure was the friends we made along the way”, but it’s true.
If I’m honest, I found this post-story, little-mystery-clean-up-period to be more satisfying than any three of the actual endings of the game where the narrative falls short of the fantastic ideas it’s playing with. Although I’m still giddy about the guns from Dishonored showing up because I’m convinced there’s an Arkane shared universe.
The idea of the loop is to refine your playstyle. You get more confident and quicker each time. That’s great but it also curbs exploration at a point. You run from one target to another, forgetting to check an open door on the other side of the map or listen to what an NPC is saying. After you’ve completed the game and think every mystery has been uncovered, I implore you have one last reconnoitre of each map. You’ll be surprised what you find. Deathloop always has one more mystery.
What are your thoughts on Deathloop? Let me know in the comments and be sure to geek out with me about TV, movies and video-games on Twitter @kylebrrtt.