SPOILER ALERT: This feature will discuss the endings – old and new – of Deathloop.
Deathloop has had an odd cultural journey. It launched to rave reviews, but since then the zeitgeist has grown increasingly divided. With the Golden Loop update featuring several tweaks trying to quietly address criticisms, is it finally the game diehard immersive sim fans were hoping for?
Now, I don’t mean to be blasé, but fixing the issues at Deathloop’s core couldn’t be solved by slapping on two new enemy types and a few additional side quests. One aspect that could’ve salvaged the narrative side of things, at least, would’ve been an extension to the game’s “true” ending. Where the original release made the “good” ending a fraction of the length of the “bad” ending, this new release could’ve answered the questions left dangling:
What is Juliana’s deal? Does she even have an endgame? She’s the main antagonist of the game but the closest we ever get to explanations for her motives are that she enjoys killing, likes having infinite time to read, and has daddy issues with her father, Colt, the main protagonist.
What is the Loop? Why is it here? Is it the Void? Why does it keep reappearing? Why are the rules around it so inconsistent?
How does Deathloop factor into Dishonored’s story? It’s pretty darn clear at this point with those “museum piece pistols” from Dunwall that this is the sequel series to Dishonored. So a little clarity of how this all connects would be great.
Plus, the endings leave you with a very mixed message. Given how brief the “break the loop” ending was, it was natural to wonder if maintaining the loop was what Arkane wanted players to do. There’s even a lighthearted post-credits joke about whether she’ll call Colt “Dad” now or not.
So does the newly extended “good” ending clear any of this up?
Well, yes and no.
This extended ending looks like something someone put together in Source Filmmaker over a weekend. After the original ending, we get a three-minute montage with no new audio. A song covers up any potential voices or sound effects. The camera perspective, for the first time in the entire game, breaks to a cinematic third-person camera perspective and pre-rendered cutscenes. It’s oddly desaturated as well, looking washed out and fuzzy. The animations are hasty and overly slapstick, lacking the natural fluidity of the main campaign.
Unfortunately it’s far more complicated than just a matter of quality. It’s unclear, but it seems to imply that everyone suddenly regains their memories from the last century-and-a-half of temporal imprisonment. Certain characters suddenly swap their past allegiances, and some even join up with Colt to ride off into a haze sunset. There’s still no sign of Juliana, or indication of what’s happened to the outside world beyond it having weirdly abstract skylines, possibly due to the Loop itself. So the unanswered questions are left hanging while a whole new line of questions arise without a clear answer.
What’s more, now there’s an even stronger sequel tease, with specific subtitles indicating that the static we hear at the end of this cutscene is “mysterious.” So, this isn’t the end of the story. Going by the Dishonored pistols cameo and the Mark of the Outsider on the box containing said pistols, Deathloop is seemingly set in Dishonored’s future. With a sequel tease, that further suggests that this is where any further developments of the setting will come from in the foreseeable future. Given how sloppily the story and its themes were handled, that worries me more than anything.
Is “The Anomaly” that generates time loops a new Void rift? Were the Visionaries basically mini versions of The Outsider? Would that mean their actions influenced the world outside the loop? What’s the deal with Project Horizon? Did everyone else retain their powers like Juliana, even if the loop is broken? What about the multiple Colt and Juliana variants that could appear simultaneous to their primary selves? Don’t expect any answer to any of these gnawing holes in the lore that aren’t simply fun mysteries for fans to ponder, but foundational explanations necessary for the story to make sense.
There was potential for so many fantastic twists that could’ve made players think. They could’ve revealed, for example, that the loop was designed as a fallout shelter for the best and brightest by AEON, or perhaps the timeline Colt frees everyone to isn’t even the one they started in. Juliana could’ve been right all along that there’s some greater secret to the loop that, once you stop fighting, she and Colt could explore together. There’s even a subplot in the game about someone else aware of the loops that Colt helps escape early. So, what if the loop could be entered and exited at will all along?
The sheer number of plot resolutions that could’ve satisfied while still leaving plenty of room for a sequel is as boundless as what’s left unanswered by the actual ending. I don’t know if the team at Arkane were just wary of giving away too much of some grander scheme, or if they simply chose to not go for any of these alternatives.
What I can say with certainty is that three minutes of pre-rendered cinematics that resolve little and raise more questions wasn’t what Deathloop needed.
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