Deathloop – a flawed narrative? (pic: Bethesda)
A reader offers a spoiler free critique of Deathloop’s story and characters and voices his disappointment at the wasted potential.
I have read with great interest the discussions surrounding Deathloop over the last few weeks, and GC’s relatively negative review compared to a number of 10/10 scores. I did have the game pencilled in, as I’m a fan of Dishonored, but I have to admit that the controversy over the game intrigued me enough that I still wanted to play it and find out for myself what I thought about it.
While I don’t agree entirely with any one review I’d say straight away that the 10/10 scores seem nonsensical to me, as it’s clearly a flawed game that could easily be done better even just on a technical level. It’s overly easy, it’s too easy to become overpowered, and while the backtracking isn’t that much of a problem the lack of thought and planning needed, since everything is spelled out for you, I found very disappointing.
But what I’d really like to talk about today is the story, or rather the empty hole where the story should be. There won’t be any spoilers here, but that’s partly because there is nothing to spoil. Once you’ve learnt about the initial set-up essentially nothing happens, except for a revelation about Colt and Julianna about halfway through that has barely any effect on what is going on.
I’m not exaggerating here or purposefully leaving things out to make my point – essentially nothing else happens. I think what Arkane intended is that you would get to learn more about the visionaries as you progress and that would count as the storytelling, but you don’t really. You learn their backstories, if you listen to the right audio log, but they’re all so comically evil they don’t feel like real people and there’s no attempt to really humanise them.
They’re also not very well written anyway. For example, Harriet Morse is implied to be this weirdo cult leader, but you can easily kill her without ever hearing her say anything or getting any clue as to what she does or believes. None of the posters and graffiti around town mentions it and that section of the island is filled with weird funfair style exhibits that also don’t seem to have anything to do with her.
If you do sit and listen to her rant it’s all very unimaginative and brief, almost as if the developers couldn’t be bothered to follow through on the trope they’re using. The same is true of the others with mad scientist Egor, who everyone else hates for no obvious reason, just coming across as boring and sort-of leader Aleksis as kind of pathetic and wimpish.
Julianna is great, there’s no doubting that, but more because of her voice actress than the script. Which brings me to my biggest complaint: the ending. And don’t worry, I’m still not going to spoil anything because there isn’t really an ending to spoil.
Technically, that’s not true as there are two separate ones but the brief dialogue sequence at the end not only explains nothing about what’s going but leaves Colt and Julianna’s relationship completely unresolved and no different at the end than halfway through the game. It’s like someone worked out all these complex ideas for the game and then forgot to make an actual story involving them.
A setting is not a story, exposition about someone’s backstory is not storytelling, and a character needs to be more than just some good voice acting. The one thing that didn’t rely on next gen tech, and which could’ve made the game a satisfying experience even with all its other flaws, basically doesn’t exist. There is no story in Deathloop and once I’d beaten the game I couldn’t believe it was over, because it felt like it had never really begun.
By reader Olliephant
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