Death loop is a game with multiple influences: the back catalog of Arkane Studios, of course, but also Dark souls, a hint of Exploded cell, more than a hint of Hitman, aspects of destiny, and maybe even something from the frenetic energy of Ubisoft XIII. So it’s no surprise to find BioShock somewhere in the Death loop to mix together.
There are gameplay similarities. The dual-wielding power / weapon combination was present in Dishonored, but the focus on guns rather than melee suggests a comparison with BioShock 2. Rival assassin Julianna’s invasions could be inspired by Dark souls, but there is something to the rhythm of BioShock 2The Big Sister fights over them – each encounter plays out like a miniature boss fight, inserted to disrupt the main game loop and increase difficulty. Or you can take a break with Death loopThe power of Recovery, which grants you up to two respawns per mission and sends you back to the last safe zone in a movement that recalls BioShockresuscitates Vita-Chambers.
Death loop‘s Blackreef is a mix of Victorian houses, military installations and Modernist architecture. It is not the art deco of BioShock‘s Rapture, but it looks like it could be the 60s swing sequel. BioShock, after all, is set in 1960. And while the polka-dot miniskirts worn by the Eternalists of Blackreef are a far cry from the monochrome vests of the Splicers of Rapture, the ubiquitous masks of the Eternalists are reminiscent of the raucous and ultimately disastrous of Rapture on New Year’s Eve. 1958 masquerade.
The main similarities, however, are found in the narrative premise. In BioShock, Andrew Ryan founded Rapture as objectivist utopia, where “the artist would not fear censorship, where the scientist would not be bound by petty morality”. The city is cut off from external civilization, almost impossible to find or reach, and therefore lives by its own autonomous rise and fall, without outside interference.
Rapture’s focus on individual success and attracting the best minds in the world (later, in BioShock 2, supplanted by Sofia Lamb’s autocratic interpretation of socialism) brings together people of exceptional vision and unusually disturbed: Sander Cohen, Brigid Tenenbaum, Yi Suchong, Frank Fontaine, among others. They often serve as game bosses.
Blackreef in Death loop looks like a light, hedonistic version of Rapture in BioShock. It is an island cut off from the rest of civilization and trapped in a daily time loop. The loop is supported by eight so-called visionaries – a collection of artists, musicians, engineers and scientists who have come to Blackreef to live an endless life of unlimited fun and abundance.
Death loop toys with suggestions that the visionaries might be exceptionally talented people, but in the end, it’s clear that their genius is largely self-proclaimed – some sort of hallmark of Silicon self-glorification and illusion Valley. Charlie Montague, for example, asked another visionary to remove part of his brain to increase the speed of his computer.
Visionaries are what pass for Death loop, occupying different levels and generating different abilities, objects and information. Most of them have explicitly embraced the reckless hedonism that Blackreef offers and protect him as zealously as Ryan protected Rapture. Like Ryan’s colleagues, Visionaries present some of the most important opportunities for gameplay and narrative progression.
The comparison is not perfect, of course. On the one hand, Rapture is drowning under the weight of his ambition; the water that floods the underwater metropolis is crucial to the aesthetics and history of the game. Blackreef, meanwhile, indulges himself in the luxury of never aging more than a day. More importantly, where BioShock is optimistic when trying to say something interesting about politics and philosophy, Death loop never pretends. The hedonism he denounces is a facade – a way of setting up funny jokes and justifying some despicable characters. Indeed, there is a sense in which the game takes advantage of hedonism, encouraging the player to have a good time with its systems primarily for the sake of having a good time, rather than to serve big thematic ambitions.
Nevertheless, there is also a more general feeling that Death loop continue what BioShock begin. BioShock was arguably the first to experiment with the immersive simulation basics established in the 90s, bringing this design philosophy closer to a traditional FPS that his ancestors would have been comfortable with. Or, to see things differently, BioShock pushed the traditional FPS towards immersive sims.
Now, Death loop asks what an immersive simulation might look like when taken beyond FPS, or what other genres like the rogue-lite time loop might look like when brought close to an immersive simulation. (Although it’s interesting to note that this isn’t the first to do so; Void Bastards, for example, tried to marry rogue-lite mechanics with immersive sim sensibilities in 2019.) So maybe it’s appropriate that Death loop should at times feel like a wild, airy and ironic spiritual successor to BioShock and its dark and menacing underwater dystopia.