What happens after death? Every human being wonders about it. Sometimes he looks for answers in books, other times in movies and very often in video games, while many rely on religion. Arkane Lyonwhich in Deathloop she didn’t pay attention to what’s right or wrong, she didn’t give a damn about game over, reaching far beyond the rabbit hole and embracing a style never adopted before, pursuing the goal of going far beyond the video game and the very concept of death. Before continuing, a caveat: watch out for spoilers!
The epic explains that the only way to reach the gates of Hades is through the Acheron River, descending into a pyramidal limbo crammed with suffering and pain. If I had to connect Deathloop with a literary work, I would probably mention “The Last Journey” by Czech writer Stanislav Grof, an internationally renowned psychiatrist who has studied the nuances of death for forty years, interfacing with the terminally ill and people now lost forever, suspended and devoid of the enthusiasm that only life can offer. She dies even without closing her eyes forever, and it’s way grimmer of all.
in Blackreef there is no room for complaints, there is only to break the loop and save your neck before it’s too late
In Deathloop, however, as we told you about review, second chances multiply and quintuple unexpectedly, because those who cling to life, instead of wanting to stop an ordeal that is consumed day after day, wants to be part of it to stop a constant, unbearable and brutal loop, destined to continue for centuries and eras. The watch on her wrist indicates the same day, but what changes are the hours and seconds which now run without waiting. This is not madness, but the naked reality: it’s the loop, a glass envelope soaked in the blood of countless victims, pierced by the bullets of those who survived the clashes, deluded but happy to be truly free.
The loop makes no concessions and has no mercy: anyone can change the course of advents, but no one is able to control time and death. If surviving life is tough, imagine how hard it is to make it through the day with your sanity still intact. The worst that can happen is to find the shell casings of your machine gun in your trouser pockets, but Blackreef there is no room for complaints. There is only to break the loop and save the neck before it’s too late. Dante’s condemnation to reach the goal? Repeating the same day over and over again for eternity, dying, dying and dying and then being reborn the same way you were born. And repeat, again, the umpteenth routine. There are those who wake up every day to go to work, and those who try to break a loop. Things that happen every day, like washing your face and drinking water after a hangover. Everything is OK.
THE MAN WHO SURVIVED A FALL
And what a fall, too. Let’s face it, she would kill anyone instantly. And indeed Colt, the protagonist of Deathloop, died suddenly while he was looking into the eyes of someone he knows very well: himself. Instead of reaching for whatever is beyond the end, he was reborn from nothing – even if he never died. And it didn’t take three days like in the New Testament, but a second to reopen his eyes and realize that he survived a person he knows nothing about but who wants him dead. As he stood up, he sipped a beer, brushing off the sand. He watched the horizon, fascinated by the dawn and looking for an answer to why he survived. That place recognizes him, yet he doesn’t know why he’s there: he’s on Blackreef, an inhospitable and infamous island, a disputed land governed by shady business and characters of dubious taste, dedicated to the continuous squandering of money, murder and unbridled fun.
Colt, the protagonist of Deathloop, dies suddenly while looking into the eyes of someone he knows very well: himself
Welcome inside Deathloop, in short, it is a prelude to rebirth not by choice, but by compulsion. It opens with the death of the main protagonist killed by a curly-haired young woman at the head of the Eternalists, a sect that has nothing to envy to Scientology. Her name is Julianna, who in addition to knowing very well any mouth of fire and various very original ways to kill others, is the creator of the complex loop system that has now taken the place of reality. By absorbing it and making it her own, the girl has managed to deceive everyone, even those who have sworn allegiance to her. Colt is just another name on the list of people he wishes dead and has deep contempt for. And right now, the veteran – as he’s called by the Eternalists – is in the top spot of people to take out before he breaks the loop and brings everything back to how it was.
Even if the relationship between Colt and Julianna is not immediately explored, what lies beyond this contempt is better understood only when the protagonist understands that he is in front of his daughter. If initially he did not remember her, her past and the love she once felt, it is the cause of the alternation of the loop, capable of erasing the saddest and happiest memories, completely unraveling a reality that Colt remembers with difficulty and for which he feels only remorse. In the same way, however, Julianna remembers her father and her past together with her, the latter’s shortcomings and the many, too many absences that have caused her deep wounds. It could be a risky canvas to support a story, and yet Deathloop mostra what it’s like to neglect someone so much that they’ve forgotten in spite of an artificial loop created to propagate incidental happiness and joy. Between the shootouts, saves, duels and offensive jokes, there’s also some spark of love in the air. Or something that comes close to the coolest feeling of all, even if it doesn’t seem that way at first. What are you willing to do to get back to who you were before, despite everything? It is the question that, in the end, Colt himself asks himself, while he holds a gun pointed at his daughter’s temple, undecided of his fate.
THE ARCHITECTURE OF DEATHLOOP
The loop is a closed and continuous cycle that changes the perception of reality, influencing and changing it to one’s liking. In the case of Arkane Lyon’s game, Julianna herself spins the threads of fate for Blackreef, who has her hands everywhere and controls what happens safely in a spherical base overlooking the entire island. While she changed the fabric of reality, she meanwhile she brainwashed her subjects, accustoming them to follow the usual vicious circle that leads to momentary happiness, supported by the awareness that the future is already written and is the same as the present, without news, risks or inevitable events.
Deathloop exploits the teaching of the eternal return of the same, also called “Eternal Return”, a philosophical theory by Frederich Nietzsche
In the loop, in fact, everything is possible and anyone can choose to be whoever they want and what to do on a given day. If there is someone who deserves to die, you can decide to kill him, there will be no consequences and the next day he will be alive again. The structure of Deathloop, which proposes the loop in a completely exceptional formula, follows a very precise playful vision, amalgamated with the context and the story in a superfine way. Now, it is fair to reiterate that it exploits the teaching of the eternal return of the same, also called “Eternal return”, a philosophical theory of Frederich Nietzsche which reveals how cyclical time evolves and lasts in a universe that dies and is reborn without any brake. Regarded by Fink as a dark prophecy, Nietzsche’s thought explains Arkane Lyon’s approach to highlighting Colt’s deaths and rebirthslike any other character in Blackreef.
When one day ends, everyone dies and no one will be able to tell what they really experienced. As the minute and second hands sweep across the clock, everything remains impassive and unchanged, as if the universe has chosen to stop and take the day off. Building the loop in a video game, especially in a production like Deathloop, is by no means an easy task. Arkane Lyon, however, was able to follow what she had set out in the past, explaining the loop in a completely new and different way compared to other developer houses. Time is at the center of the loop, and each event evolves as you progress through it, becoming part of Blackreef’s architecture. If the Greeks thought that digging up bad memories was a way like any other to chase away problems, on the other Nietzsche believed that the loop fueled time in an all too unpredictable way. Part of the architecture of the game comes not only from the realization of the context, but from the characters and from Colt himself, the real connection between the player, reality and the loop. Arkane Lyon, in this sense, has studied for a long time the suitable method for feeding the loop in all its formulas, precisely to arrive at the occasion in dazzling form and to show each of its particularities with precision.
Part of Deathloop’s architecture comes not only from the creation of the context, but from the characters and from Colt himself, the real connection between the player, reality and the loop
In short, the goal within Deathloop is to kill people inextricably linked to Julianna, who in classic videogame productions would represent the final boss of the title. Considering that the work is anything but a video game like many others, the co-protagonist takes on an extremely important role. While Colt plans, kills and searches for different weapons to get to her goal, the young girl invades the loop in search of her to prevent him from making progress. Each clue found corresponds, in fact, to a piece of the mosaic that is linked to the realization of his mission. The days, however, are made up of twenty-four hours and Colt could find himself making the same gestures, unless he changes his goal and decides to pursue another one. Deathloop’s play structure wouldn’t be unique in its kind if it didn’t put the dynamics of the loop at the center precisely to exploit them, leaving the player free to approach.
“Do I kill Fia or do I kill someone else? Do I follow a lead that could lead me to a new weapon, or do I choose to do nothing?” Often, and I don’t mind admitting it, I didn’t know exactly what to do. I wrote on a sheet of paper what was a priority at that moment, preparing myself properly to face the hordes of Eternalists. Well before telling the loop through its inspirations, Deathloop puts the player and his decisions at the center. Learning to take life, well before dying, is essential to survive around the dreaded streets of Blackreef. Furthermore, to make everything even more fascinating is the construction of the game world, which is linked to Dishonored, the iconic production that led Arkane Studio to the Olympus of the videogame panorama. Deathloop is set a few centuries later in the future compared to the video game dedicated to the adventures of Corvo Attano and Emily Kaldwin, of which unfortunately nothing else is known.
DEATH IN THE LOOP
Death is never the last resort, it is not only the point of arrival and does not represent the end. In reality, inside the loop represents the beginning of as many challenges. Deathloop is about death in a poetic, touching and overwhelming way, proposing a casual writing of the events present in very few productions. If the architecture of the loop is strengthened every single day, dying becomes a liberation, the only real source of personal fulfillment that allows one to temporarily conclude one’s existence. Even if it doesn’t change anyone’s fate, let alone the fate that the loop has in store for the inhabitants of Blackreef, succumbing allows you not to bend to Julianna’s will and her mania for control.
If the architecture of the loop gets stronger every single day, dying becomes a liberation, the only real source of personal fulfillment
Creating a world where everything is as she wishes, playing with time and making fun of fate, she has searched for the joy she has never found in Colt, who in turn finds himself in a bedlam unknowingly erected by himself. Colt’s goal is to kill eight people, break the loop, and put the fabric of reality back together. Furthermore, in the various documents present in the game setting, there are details on how it came to the point of tampering with it for one’s own personal satisfaction. Erroneously someone would think that Julianna is a spoiled girl, raised without love and brooding an inhuman revenge. Her intentions, however, were completely noble: she intended to cancel death and time to spend moments of joy and light-heartedness, loved in the same way by a sect that didn’t ask questions but followed orders.
What is told in Deathloop, therefore, is a consequence of the choices made by the young woman. Colt kills without mercy and hesitation, confident that he can actually go back to who he was before the loop and live out his existence. The hope of returning to a free life is impossible: the loop changes perceptions of reality and of those around us. By dint of killing the same people every day and living inside a casing that is impossible to pierce, it is madness that leads to death, not old age or a well-placed bullet to the temple. Deathloop not only makes fun of death, time or Colt, but puts the player in the position of having to choose whether to return to reality, or whether to continue reaping the same victims in the loop, or whether to kill Julianna, returning to being free. Death is decisive, but life and its nuances are even more so. Living is this. It is the non-living that is scary.
I’M STILL LOST IN THE LOOP
Deathloop is a video game that I find poetic, sad and ironic because it makes fun of everyone, respecting the player’s time in the same way. And it is precisely the time that is relevant within the production: mutates, transforms, is never linear and does not follow a defined path. I’m still lost in a loop that I don’t want to get out of because, just like Colt, I remain anchored to something that makes me feel exaggeratedly alive and completely addicted to the latest video game from Arkane Studio.
Deathloop is poetic, sad and ironic because it makes fun of everyone, respecting the player’s time equally
Although not without flaws, Deathloop is still today the most ambitious and crazy project of the French team since Dishonored, not as high and defined as Prey, but in any case fascinating and significant as it lays bare the dynamics of the loop, showing the consequences it entails. There is madness, which is inevitable. There is death, which comes for everyone. There is happiness, which is momentary. There is also personal satisfaction, which drives us to improve. There is a day that never ends, because the fabric of time can no longer mend. And there is a man who seeks freedom, unaware that it is precisely those who intend to kill who can set him free. Shipwreck is sweet to me in this loop.
“Life is a direct offensive against the repetitive mechanism of the universe” – Alfred North Whitehead.