Deathloop’s lack of a morality system is actually its best feature

Lloyd Coombes

Deathloop takes what I loved about Dishonored, and breaks off its most limiting aspect – the binary morality system.

In case you hadn’t heard, there’s a new game of the year contender in town. Deathloop, Arkane’s latest first-person adventure, is out now on PS5 and PC, and it’s quite good.

In fact, in our review we awarded it a 9/10, saying “Deathloop expertly blends genres for a truly unique experience that delivers on its brilliant premise”, but if you’re like me then you may be wondering how it stacks up compared to the criminally underrated Dishonored franchise. The good news? It’s like Dishonored with the gloves off, thanks to its removal of the one thing that always made me feel shackled when creeping around Dunwall or Karnaca – its morality system.

Dishonored screenshot
This explosion looks great, but Dishonored promotes cleaning up after yourself

It’s good to be bad

The concept of consequence in video games is a funny thing. For one, games are built on a series of systems, and such consequence has to fall within the grooves of those. If you foul an opponent in FIFA, you expect a booking or a sending-off, not the kind of playground scrap you see in the Premier League every other week. If you crash a car in a racing game, you expect to work your way back to the track or to be retired – not send your driver through the windshield.

In Dishonored, you could be good, or bad, or inhabit that grey area where you kill some, leave others, and leave it all up to chance. You could kill without prejudice, leaving the streets of its sprawling cities awash with blood, or you could sneak through. Whichever you picked, the games would react.

Dishonored 2 Bloodflies image
Dishonored 2’s Bloodflies are one consequence of killing too many enemies

In Dishonored 1 it was rats, and in Dishonored 2 you’d have bloodflies, but you always felt like the game was doing its best to extol the virtues of sneaking past to avoid creating an infestation (and stronger guard presence). That’s fine in something like Metal Gear Solid, or even Hitman, but in Dishonored it was like fitting Superman with kryptonite gloves to keep him as Clark Kent.

In a franchise all about giving players the toys to wreak havoc, it felt a little odd having some of them rendered useless if you didn’t want to get the “bad” ending. After all, if you put in abilities like teleportation, slowing down time, or the ability to turn into a terrifying shadow monster, players are going to want to use them.

Colt Classic

Deathloop screenshot showing gunplay
Deathloop can be played as a shooter if you’d like, but it’s more fun to mix it up

Enter Deathloop, then, a game that in the first minute and a half had me sneaking up on an enemy and giving myself Corvo Attano imposter syndrome. I got real close, buried a machete in him, and… he vanished. No body to hide or to leave for the rats, he just disappeared.

Even Colt can’t believe it, but it feels right. I entered the game’s first region playing stealthily, hopping through windows and using the architecture’s verticality just like I would have in Dishonored.

But, when I was spotted by an errant guard, I didn’t quit out and attempt to quick load, fearing the long-term ramifications of shooting them in the head. Instead, I leaned into it, taking them down, and their friends, before switching back to my own stealth mode.

It’s freeing, and while I’m early in Deathloop, it’s clear that it’s more fun when things don’t go to plan. There’s no cleanup, no scrambling to find an exit, and it allows Arkane to truly showcase its level design chops in a way that feels less ornate than the infamous Clockwork Mansion, but no less liberating.

Now, time to do it again… and again.

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