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Deathloop director explains how the time loop works: "It's not a roguelike"

You won't have to start from the very beginning every time you pick up Deathloop.

Deathloop is not a roguelike.
Published: Wednesday, 19th May 2021 at 5:45 pm

From the Dishonored developers at Bethesda's Arkane Studios, Deathloop is a hot new game launching on PS5 and PC later this year. The game is all about being trapped in a time loop, but Deathloop's director is keen to stress that this game is not a roguelike.


Harking back to the 1980 game Rogue, the term 'roguelike' has become gaming industry slang for any game that forces you to start from the very beginning every time that you die. The recent PS5 exclusive Returnal was a particularly gruelling example of a roguelike, not even allowing players to save the game - if you're midway through a run in Returnal, and you decide to switch off the console, your character will be right back at the start of the game next time you boot it up.

Although Deathloop does have a time loop and your character will die repeatedly during the game, found out at a recent press event that the team behind Deathloop does not see the game as a roguelike. When your character (a gun-toting assassin called Colt) dies, you won't be sent back to the very first scene of the game. Instead, you'll get a choice of which area of the island you want to wake up in, and at which time of day.

"There is four areas and there is four time periods," Deathloop director Dinga Bakaba explained. He added: "So the first thing is, at the beginning of each loop, you can go to one of the four areas. So you don't have to start in the same area.

"And even more importantly, you don't have to go through the morning. Actually, you can just skip to noon or the afternoon or night - we don't force you to go through the beginning of the game or anything like that. It is not a game about starting the game over from the start and trying to do it entirely. So that's one of the reasons why I've been saying consistently that it's not a roguelike."

Rival assassin Julianna will try to take you down in Deathloop.
Rival assassin Julianna will try to take you down in Deathloop. Arkane

Bakaba explained that his team took inspiration from time loop movies, "where they only show you the cool path, like the moment where the character faces his nemesis or gets to try a new approach with the girl, et cetera. So at a high level, that's what we wanted to reproduce.

"So that's why we are not forcing you to go through the beginning of the day in an entire loop. So let's say that you have something you want to do in the afternoon, and you get killed on the way. Well, in the next loop you can just skip to the afternoon and pick up almost right there. Right where you were.

"That's definitely how we want the players to approach it. Of course, nothing prevents you from going through each and every time period, should you want to, but I personally at least don't play my Skyrim without fast travel. That's not how I play the game."

Not everyone likes to lose all their progress in a game and go hurtling back to the start whenever they make a mistake, so it'll be a relief to some gamers to learn that Deathloop isn't a roguelike. It's interesting that Babaka mentioned Skyrim fast travel as a comparison point there, though - so if you want to do things the longer way, you can trudge through each part of the day in every loop if you want to. Just like you could technically walk everywhere in Skyrim, if that's your thing.

During this press event, also got an early look at the opening gameplay segment of Deathloop, which sees Colt waking up and learning about the time loop. There are eight assassination targets that he needs to take down, and it might take players quite a few loops before they work out the perfect chain of events that will allow Colt to take down his enemies, work out what's going on and break the loop without being killed along the way.

The graphics look cool (with a visual style that looks like a trendy graphic novel, or even a Bond movie opening credits sequence), the soundtrack seems funky (even including some original songs), and there's a fun gameplay mechanic that allows other players to infiltrate your game - playing as a mysterious character called Julianna - and trying to kill your Colt.

All in all, Deathloop looks like a fun mixture of ideas, and we're looking forward to jumping in when the game launches on PS5 and PC on 14th September 2021. We'll be sure to bring you more coverage as that date nears!

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