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Deathloop Isn't a Roguelike - or IS It?

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  • Posted on 29th Sep, 2022 01:31 AM

Deathloop seemingly shares a lot of DNA with modern roguelikes such as Spelunky or Returnal. However, the game's Director, Dinga Bakaba, disagrees.

The rougelike genre's identity has largely been carved out within the indie and PC space. However, the ubiquity and popularity of the style has begun to inform AAA development as well. Returnal is a key example of this, and Deathloop may be next. However, while it has the broad strokes of a roguelike, Deathloop's Game Director, Dinga Bakaba, rebuked the idea at the title's recent preview event.

To Bakaba, Deathloop's design philosophy diverges from the genre's tenets in several key respects. However, the game is certainly influenced by the roguelike in part, as well as the team's appreciation for it. Bakaba noted that "I do think there [are] a lot of interesting things to do with roguelikes … like Returnal. It's a really great game, I'm having a blast with it. So yeah, I think it's a genre that a lot of us at Arkane like a lot. You can tell by the one roguelike that that Arkane did, which is Prey: Mooncrash." Influence does not equal adherence, however.


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Instead, success in Deathloop is about mastering the static, intricately designed world that Arkane has created. Keeping in tradition with its past works such as Dishonored, Blackreef is rich with history, story and gameplay moments for the player to uncover. The time loop, if anything, is just a layered element that collaborates with Deathloop's more traditional immersive and RPG design. The surface-level roguelike components are a way into the experience. They're a framework for the narrative and puzzle elements.

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Roguelikes, by contrast, are defined in their totality by their repetition, difficulty, structure and randomization. While Deathloop may have these elements to an extent, they're implemented in ways that are decidedly unique. If anything, the game may have more in common with The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask than Bakaba let on.

He does recognize the space for interpretation though, quipping that "I will not enter some kind of debate about whether it is or is not a roguelike. Because, in general, I've been convinced that it's [the community that really decides] what sub-genre your game falls into." Arkane Studios' intentions cut against the notion that the game is a roguelike. But ultimately, this question can only be truly answered by the player when Deathloop launches on September 14.

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