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2021 in review: How Deathloop emboldened this boring player to take risks

3am Eternalist.

Hello! Over the next few days we're going to be going back over some of our favourite games and moments and themes and whatnot from this very strange year. We hope you enjoy looking back with us!

I know what happens next. I know because this is Deathloop, and what happens once here will happen a thousand times, each enemy dancing to a predestined script they have no idea exists. As I watch on, they do exactly as they did the last time I was here. One Eternalist turns left. The other heads right. The third settles down onto the steps in front of her. I raise my gun until her head fills the small red circle in my reticle, but my attention shifts briefly to the Eternalist just ahead of her.

Is he far enough away, do you think? I have a silencer, sure, but if I fire now, will he hear the rush of displaced air as the bullet rushes towards her skull? And if he does hear it, he'll call out to the others, won't he? And the Eternalists around him - I know there's at least three up there ahead of him - will come running. I hesitate, giving him an extra second to step further away and...

Cover image for YouTube videoLet's Play Deathloop - THE FIRST 4 HOURS OF DEATHLOOP PS5 GAMEPLAY!

Argh, I effed it. In that three-second-long spell of hesitancy, the female Eternalist has stepped out of my sight - literally. She's moved, and the Eternalist who'd calmly wandered off to the left is calmly wandering back down again. Once again, it looks like the real antagonist here is my own insufferable inaction.

I'm such a safe (read: boring) player, my friends. I spend so much - too much! - time studying enemy patrol routes and trying to line up the perfect shot that I inevitably miss and mess it up, and what should've been a careful, stealthy, and - if you'll permit me to reference another Arkane classic, Dishonored - Low Chaos run becomes a balls-to-the-wall murderathon. It's not that I don't try; It's just that I'm so scared of messing it up, it becomes something of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

That's why Deathloop's 24-hour reset is so intensely satisfying to a boring player who agonises over every little thing she does. Its alchemy lies in the fact that it doesn't matter if I cock it up; in just 24 hours, this too shall pass. What happened today will be erased, what happens tomorrow is (mostly) pre-ordained, and I'll be free to try again. And this time - smugly pre-informed of the movements of those Eternalists - I can be a little braver. A little quicker, perhaps. A little more confident.

Dishonored told me that I could play it My Way, but given My Way was stealth-stealth-stealth-oh-shit-he-saw-me-help-HELP-SHOOTYSHOOTSHOOTSHOOTY, I felt like My Way was the Wrong Way, not least because My Way resulted in fewer trophies and a considerably less favourable ending.

Deathloop's infinite resets, however, give me complete freedom to indulge myself. No longer do I have to play the "safe" way and watch the "exciting" one on YouTube. No longer does my own morality system dictate what I should and shouldn't try. Curious about what happens if Harriet's taken out before she finishes her speech? Ooh, let's stop by and find out, shall we? Wondering what happens to the evening's firework display if you stop by the Ramblin' Rock Club first? That sounds like a plan, too, doesn't it? Do it. Do it all. Do it again, or do it differently. It doesn't matter, does it? That's the magic of Deathloop.