That freeform approach means an invading player can simply headshot their rival the moment they see them, or stalk them through the map, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. Particularly cruel Julianna players may want to wait right up until the moment that the person playing Colt is about to kill their target, and then attack and ruin their plans at the final moment.All the way on the other end of the spectrum, some players may want to have their Julianna “be friendly” with Colt, essentially acting as a co-op partner – “Because why the f**k not?” said Bakaba. Julianna has been written as an ambiguous character with a connection to Colt, meaning both aggressive and allied playstyles will still make sense in the wider narrative. What’s not clear right now is whether you’ll be able purposely join a friend’s game to help them out as Julianna – it may be that you can help other players, but that whose game you join is out of your hands.
Regardless of your approach, Deathloop will score Julianna players based on their activities within a PvP session. Those points will unlock new tools for Julianna to use; she starts with next to nothing, but will soon earn new weapons, powers, upgrades, and trinkets. “Those rewards are randomised,” Bakaba revealed. “For instance, after playing three hours of Julianna, [you] will have a different character than mine. That’s something that we do to ensure diversity in encounters.”
PvP is also the only way to unlock cosmetic skins for both Julianna and Colt. “We figure that if you care about how you look in a first-person game, that’s probably because you want to play with others, so that’s why we reward you with them,” explained Bakaba.
The concept for Julianna was born out of a wish for there to be an enemy called The Nemesis, which would never be in a predictable place on Deathloop’s Blackreef island. Over time, this idea evolved into a multiplayer component. “It’s something that just came out of a weird brainstorm about this one NPC,” recounted Bakaba. “Someone said ‘What if you could play them?’, and then someone said ‘Like The Crossing?’. We went all in almost immediately.”
The Crossing was an Arkane project from 2009, in which a single-player campaign was infused with multiplayer elements. It was ultimately cancelled, but this idea presented the perfect opportunity to bring back some of the project’s ideas. In fact, those elements almost dictated Deathloop’s identity.
“At some point, [we] discussed calling this game The Crossing,” Bakaba revealed in a separate interview with IGN. “In the end marketing didn’t go for it because Deathloop was so cool [as a title], but we tried The Crossing because you cross [Julianna] a lot. It was not the same Crossing, but it was still a crossing.”
Importantly, where The Crossing was all about the mesh of single and multiplayer, for Deathloop PvP is entirely optional. “Overall we really wanted this mode to be something we don’t force the players to engage in,” said Bakaba. As such, you’ll be able to play Deathloop entirely offline should you choose, with Julianna played by an AI.
“It’s something we really see more as an anecdote generator,” Bakaba said, further detailing its position as optional extra flavour to Deathloop’s main campaign. “That’s why it’s so freeform, and we’re not about competition here. Of course some people will be competitive, but that’s the charm of it. I don’t know what kind of encounter it will be.”
For more from Arkane, check out our Deathloop preview, our discussion with Bakaba about Arkane’s freedom to make games without the pressure of blockbuster sales, our Fan Fest interview with the developers, and why time loops are the new zombies.
Matt Purslow is IGN’s UK News and Entertainment Writer.