Outside the possible accessibility issues and the steep entry barrier, it's been fun trying to chase the various threads in the game and the back and forth banter you can uncover as well as seeing different outcomes from some of your activities as you try different tactics in accomplishing specific objectives.
Score6 out of 10
- Subtitle customization
- Full caption support for dialogue
- Keyboard remapping
- Good tracking system
- No controller remapping, singular scheme
- Steep difficulty curve
- No difficulty adjustments
- Confusing captions
Being stuck in a time loop certainly doesn’t sound like a fun time, although throughout the video game community, Deathloop has been praised for its timeline shenanigans. Developed by Arkane (of Prey fame), this FPS title has players either stuck in the loop and trying to break it as Colt, or trying to protect it as Juliana.
But with each level boasting numerous ways to progress, NPCs roaming the grounds, and with games being infiltrated by real players —Controlling Juliana— how does Deathloop do for accessibility? Firstly, be sure to check out our menu deep dive to see what’s available in the options menus.
A quick run through the accessibility options for the game and there’s some customization available, but some have pretty glaring limits. For example, there is no controller remapping available at the time of writing, and while keyboard bindings can be changed, there are no multi-bindings allowed for the same key. There are also captions with minimal customization, but with no in-game preview, it leaves the player to guess what sizing works for their display.
Configuration aside, Deathloop does have several other issues with current implementations for accessible features. One example that I personally ran into is that when playing with full captions, generic enemies are all labeled generally the same, leading to confusion as to who is talking at any given time.
There’s also no clear directional indication as to where the conversation is coming from. So when I’m creeping over rooftops this can lead to me sometimes accidentally wandering into a group. That said, there are visual indicators if you’re in sight or otherwise detected by the enemy which can help guide your navigation process.
Audio itself also feels strange with there being a confusing sense of direction and distance. Often chattering NPCs below will sound like they’re right next to you, making it confusing to understand the world. And in addition, captions have odd proximity. When dialogue can be heard, the captions won’t kick in until you’re physically within a certain radius to the source.
There is also an online component to it. As touched on earlier, other players can invade your game as Juliana. Juliana’s presence locks the exit for Colt, and she’ll begin hunting him down until Colt either escapes after hacking a computer, or by eliminating Juliana. Thankfully this online mode can be turned off before starting a level and Juliana will instead be replaced by an NPC. However, you will need to remember to do this every time you start the game.
I will cover some other problematic issues I’ve run into in the game, but here on out there may be some mild spoilers to some in game mechanics, so if you don’t want to be spoiled then you can leave here with the above information and basic coverage.
The basic core game loop breaks down into 4 time sections per day loop; morning, noon, afternoon, and evening. After which, the loop resets back to morning. Arkane has made the same decision that Housemarque did with Returnal where there is no game save between loops. However, in Deathloop this is slightly different. There are saves between each segment, but if you need to stop in the middle of a playthrough then you’re out of luck and need to start from the beginning of the segment.
There’s sort of a linear progression to the game very early on that leads you through the loop mechanic and some early on mechanics you need for the rest of the game. Once you make it past the Infusion mechanic— the mechanic in which you can “infuse” items or skills so they persist between loops— the game opens up and lets you decide how you want to navigate the clues to figure out how to end the loop.
Unfortunately, I found the difficulty curve right after this point quite difficult. You see, to gain any of the powers that help you navigate other situations (invisibility, telekinesis, etc.) you need to kill one of the 8 visionaries and hopefully have enough resources to Infuse the skill later in the loadout screen area between segments. Initially, gathering these resources is quite difficult to do, leading to a very hard skill curve which is compounded by the fact you have to do it all over again if you fail leading to a very frustrating experience.
The game does help make it easier to track various leads in the game, either to specific weapons or skills or to specific targets by allowing you to track them individually and indicate where you need to go along with which time of the day is needed to complete the task. This should help with various cognitive load issues on keeping track of the various clues you discover.
Outside the possible accessibility issues and the steep entry barrier, it’s been fun trying to chase the various threads in the game and the back and forth banter you can uncover as well as seeing different outcomes from some of your activities as you try different tactics in accomplishing specific objectives. I have yet to break out of the loop, but I feel myself nearer each time I try. Lets just hope I don’t walk into a random NPC group on my final run.
A review copy of Deathloop was provided by the developer / publisher.