Deathloop exists in a category of its own when it comes to genre, gameplay, and story. It’s a detective/time loop game built on what feels like the foundation laid out by Dishonored. But Deathloop’s charm comes from its wide cast of characters and their relationships, particularly Colt and Julianna’s. At the game’s conclusion, players face a complicated set of decisions, with each choice meaning something different for the end of the game. What do Deathloop’s endings mean, and how does each decision affect the overall story? Warning: Massive spoilers ahead!
Before we can dissect how Deathloop ends, we must first understand how the story begins. Colt Vahn’s journey began long before the start of the game. In the 1930s, Colt, a fighter pilot, arrives on Blackreef as part of Operation Horizon. A strange Anomaly has intrigued the top scientific minds, and the best plan they can come up with is to fly straight into it. Researchers mention hearing voices and even seeing different versions of themselves stemming from the Anomaly. Could this be a doorway to another dimension?
Before he embarks on his maiden voyage, Colt falls in love with a woman named Lila. She begs him not to go, but what choice does Colt have? It’s not like he can say no to Operation Horizon, although he’ll wish he had.
The flight’s timeline moves up before the proper safety measure are put in place. Still, Colt straps himself in and blasts off toward the Anomaly, disappearing through the other side. Without a trace of him, Operation Horizon assumes he’s dead. Lila is left alone, sad, and pregnant. They abandon Blackreef with Colt trapped inside.
Colt spends 17 years in a time loop, reliving the events of his maiden voyage until he discovers how to break the loop — kill himself. The years spent in the loop drove him mad, and Colt is confined to a mental institution before he ever makes it back to civilization. During that time, Lila gives birth to Julianna before succumbing to and dying from a rare disease.
Enter the AEON project, a group of mid-20s misfits looking to harness the power of the Anomaly to live in eternal Eden. Every day is a party for most of them, known as Eternalists, but it’s their leaders, the seven visionaries, who keep the party going. Egor and Wengie act as AEON’s resident Anomaly experts, but Egor feels they need someone with more insider knowledge. Re-enter Colt Vahn. Egor breaks him out of the institution after five years and brings him back to the very place that has haunted Colt’s subconscious ever since he left.
Now begin the early events of Deathloop, which we can safely pin as sometime in the 1960s or late 1950s. Colt happily returns to Blackreef, planning to use the power of the Anomaly to get back to his one true love, Lila. Of course, he has no idea who Julianna is. In Colt’s mind, if the Anomaly has the power to repeat time, then it may have the power to reverse time.
The AEON program hires one final visionary, an archivist named Julianna Blake. Colt eventually realizes who Julianna is — after all, she’s got her mother’s eyes. His primary objective changes. Now, he’s determined to get Julianna out of the loop. His past experience with Blackreef’s loop allows Colt to retain his memories between cycles. He attributes this to death, believing that if you die in the loop, you’ll remember the events of the previous loops. So, in an ironic turn of events, Colt decides the only way to save his long-lost daughter is to kill her again, and again, and again.
This works. Julianna remembers each loop and inevitably realizes who Colt is. However, she remains gung-ho about the benefits of the loop and commits herself to keeping it safe at all costs. She tells everyone on Blackreef that Colt is looking to end their eternal party, instructing them to shoot on sight. As this cat and mouse game goes round and round for years, Colt’s memories begin to fade. He loses sight of who he is, who Julianna is, and what his purpose on Blackreef was from the very beginning. Here is where players are first introduced to Colt as he wakes on the beach for what won’t be the final time.
Now Colt is tasked with killing all eight Visionaries in the same day to break the loop and rescue his daughter. Players will go through the motions as they uncover clues about each visionary and eventually learn all of the information laid out above.
Upon killing every Visionary in Deathloop, Colt will blast off in his rocket as he did all those years before to confront Julianna in the loop control station. He is met with one final choice that dictates the end of the game.
The “true” ending
Julianna presents Colt with a pair of old-school dueling pistols. They point them at each other, giving players one of two options: Kill Julianna or spare Julianna. If they kill Julianna, they’ll have to jump to their death and break the loop once and for all. Doing so will see Colt waking up on the same beach as before. Only this time, everything looks different. The world has gone to rapture. The sky is a bright hue of orange and yellow, and the ocean has completely dried up. Julianna appears, pointing a gun in Colt’s face before ultimately deciding to spare him and blink away with the power of her Shift Slab (which raises more questions we’ll address later).
Some players call this the “bad ending,” while others consider it the “good ending.” We’re calling it the “true ending” as it accomplishes the game’s main point — to break the loop. However, breaking the loop shatters any chance of a relationship with his daughter. Colt is left weighing his options and questioning if he did the right thing. Not only is he left without Lila, but his daughter is likely never to speak to him again. Knowing what he knows now, perhaps Colt wishes he stayed in the loop after all. The dystopian landscape around him suggests that they’ve been looping for far longer than we thought, perhaps upward of 100 years.
The “happy” ending
If Colt spares Julianna, the two will remain on the platform and allow the loop to reset. Colt wakes up on the same beach as always, and Julianna will be waiting with a smile on her face. The two joke about grinding Aleksis in the meat grinder before enjoying a drink at tonight’s party. We’re calling this the “happy” ending, as Colt and Julianna get what they want. In a twisted, murderous sort of way, Colt gets a daughter, and Julianna gets the father she always wanted. She even goes as far as to call him dad for the first time.
We assume the two will live for as long as they desire on Blackreef, enjoying each other’s company, drinking until they can’t stand, and hunting each other for sport.
The “selfish” ending
There are nine Visionaries on Blackreef. We know the base seven, and Julianna makes eight. Now there’s only one left — Colt. If Colt kills Julianna and does nothing (or sits back down in the chair), the loop resets as it usually would. While this ending isn’t really an “ending,” it still leaves Colt with a sour taste in his mouth. After everything he’s been through, after killing his daughter (the real version, not just another blip that invades his world), he can’t do the one thing he did 20-something years ago — kill himself. We’re calling this the “selfish” ending because now Colt must live with the guilt of killing his daughter when she was in a vulnerable state of trust.
Setting up a sequel?
So let’s talk about a Deathloop sequel and why the “true” ending sets one up. The Slabs that Colt and each Visionary carry bind to the power of the Anomaly. Julianna’s ability to shift outside of the loop indicates the power of the Anomaly has grown to exist outside the loop. Where does she shift to? What is the world like now? Will a Deathloop sequel involve a time loop mechanic, or will we get the same cast of characters and powers in a linear story on the mainland?
If we stayed in the loop and on Blackreef, a Deathloop sequel would branch off the “happy” ending, which involves Colt and Julianna hunting each other down out of love rather than vengeance. Will the two now work together to protect their paradise from an outside threat?