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Deathloop's Ending Explained

Critics loved "Deathloop," the first person shooter from Arkane Studios and Bethesda, but not for the reasons many people might expect. Though critics noted that the game was fun and provided smooth, engaging gameplay, they also praised its story, which twists and turns over one recurring day to a satisfying ending. However, "Deathloop" is admittedly difficult to keep up with, and much of the lore that gamers find throughout the title is hidden in documents and on tape recorders, which can be easy to miss. Because "Deathloop" provides a multitude of different ways to play (stealth, run and gun), it's easy to bypass information entirely, making the plot a little difficult to follow.

The game follows Colt Vaughn, a Visionary working with the AEON program in Blackreef. Blackreef is a time-anomaly, and nine Visionaries are tasked with protecting it. As long as the Loop remains stable, everyone in Blackreef will wake up back at the beginning of the Loop after it ends, even if they died sometime during the sequence. It seems that the Loop used to be longer, but by the time "Deathloop" begins, residents are reliving the same day over and over again, their memories wiped once the Loop restarts. The only people who remember what happened Loop to Loop are Colt and Julianna, his mysterious rival and constant threat. In order to break the Loop and free its inhabitants, Colt must kill every Visionary in a single day, destabilizing the time anomaly and ending the Loop for good.

By the time "Deathloop" concludes, don't worry if you're missing some of the pieces. Here's everything you need to know about the ending of "Deathloop."

3 Endings, One Path

There are technically three endings to "Deathloop," but they all involve the same basic sequence of events, with some variations in the final leg of the day. Most importantly, all three endings play with various themes set up throughout the story of "Deathloop."

Wired's Gabriel Solis commented in his review of "Deathloop" that the game is a "profound meditation on time." It's true that time is the biggest piece in Blackreef's puzzle, but "Deathloop" is also about the joy of repetition, or at least the lessons we can learn from repeating the same mundane tasks over and over again. Colt begins "Deathloop" with no knowledge of who he is or why he's there, but he — along with the player — gradually discovers his purpose through documents around the island, as well as conversations with Julianna. Colt discovers that he's done all of this before, not only the day but his attempt to break free from the Loop. It's up to players to develop their own theories about what makes this attempt at escape different for Colt, and how it all turns out in the end.

"Deathloop" has three endings, all of which reflect on the themes of time and repetition, but no matter what ending players aim for, the path is the same. Colt must pull off the perfect day, a string of assassinations that lead him to Julianna in her isolated hideout. As players progress through "Deathloop," the game constructs the plan, making it almost impossible to misinterpret what the final run through the Loop will look like. Of course, players are free to take as much time as they need and replay the Loop as much as they like, but the final day leading up to the game's ending will always be the same.

What motivates Julianna by the end?

Julianna, and her relationship to Colt, is one of the biggest mysteries of "Deathloop." It's unclear in the beginning of the game who Julianna is, how she knows Colt, or why she's fighting so hard to protect the Loop, but by the end of the narrative players know a good deal more about her.

It turns out that Julianna's relationship to Colt is deep: she's his daughter. Colt doesn't remember any of that, of course, and he even speculates that he and Julianna were romantically involved. The two constantly flirt and bicker like an old married couple, and Colt suspects that they dated at some point. Once Colt finds out that he fell in love with a fellow Horizon operative and had Julianna, he admits that finding out the truth makes him feel "weird." Julianna explains that she wants to make Colt uncomfortable.

In addition to Julianna's desire to torture Colt for his past misdeeds, she also has a vested interest in preserving history. As the resident archivist of Blackreef, Julianna wants to preserve the Loop and continue the grand experiment, where Colt wants to break the Loop and, presumably, find more meaning in his life and stop periodically forgetting things.

Some fans think that it would make more sense to play as Julianna in "Deathloop," because Colt should have more motivation to protect the Loop as the head of security. However, it seems that Julianna's real ambitions focus on her relationship with Colt, not her role in the program. Each ending focuses on how Julianna and Colt resolve or destroy their relationship as father and daughter.

Do it over again

Each ending begins with a choice players make as Colt confronts Julianna in her office. She provides Colt with a dueling pistol and takes her own, suggesting that they duel to determine the fate of the loop. The most uninteresting ending involves Colt shooting Julianna with the pistol, but failing to kill himself and break the Loop. Colt will remain in the Loop as normal, waking up on a beach in Blackreef with nothing changed.

By continuing the Loop, Colt gives in to the seduction of the repeated day. Even though Colt will presumably continue to fight Julianna, and Julianna will continue to hunt Colt, the Loop is safe. There's safety in repetition, the sureness that things will never change. When Colt wakes up on the beach the next day, still in the Loop, Julianna doesn't even acknowledge the events of the past day, even though she surely remembers it.

Some players have argued that the ending of "Deathloop," and perhaps especially this ending, isn't satisfying to players because it doesn't answer all of the questions the game promises to tie up by the end of the narrative. The ending where Colt kills Julianna but maintains the Loop answers the fewest questions, although players could write off that run as a failed attempt or, for completionists, a chance to get an achievement.

Make up and take over

Perhaps the most heartwarming ending is still considered bad in the wider world of "Deathloop." Colt can choose to remain in the Loop, but spare Julianna, providing them a chance to mend their relationship. Players that go down this path don't break the Loop, but they do get a chance to rekindle Colt's relationship with his daughter.

If Colt decides to spare both Julianna and himself, the two end up going out for a night of drinks, turning their game-long witty banter into something less antagonistic and more familial. Julianna jokingly tells Colt that if he survives Aleksis' party she'll "bring the beers."

Even though making up with Julianna technically means the player failed the game and kept the Loop intact, it serves to rehabilitate Colt as a character. Colt doesn't know Julianna is his daughter for most of the game, but by making a commitment to stay in the Loop with her, to get to know her, he's trying his best to be a better dad the only way he can. One Redditor claimed that the entire game was about Colt's relationship with Julianna, working towards the two uncovering the past. "It's a whole redemption arc, but for a man who can't be redeemed," they wrote. "Eventually it was easier to forget than to remember the tangled prison of torture he made for himself while trying to be a better person." In other words, Julianna and Colt are stuck in a cycle of remembering and forgetting. It's likely that the ending where Julianna and Colt make up could be the predecessor to another cycle of memory loss and rediscovery, but at the very least they get to be happy for a little while.

Break the loop

Breaking the loop turns out to be less satisfying than anticipated, as ending the cycle dooms Julianna and Colt's relationship. Oh, and it also might end the world. After killing Julianna and himself, Colt wakes up on the beach yet again, but this time, things are different. Instead of standing on the cliffs, Julianna stands a few feet away, aiming her gun directly at the camera. After giving a tearful sigh, she turns and walks away.

It's possible that Julianna's frustration has more to do with her own machinations than Colt's success. By breaking the Loop, Julianna's own plan is stopped, and whatever she was trying to achieve by protecting the Loop is lost. Some gamers speculated that Julianna has her own agenda that involves restoring the Loop and making it so everyone can remember the past. By correcting the Loop, the experiment can continue and humanity can (hopefully) become more enlightened. Seeing her plan ruined, Julianna understandably feels emotional, even more so considering her father is the one who betrayed her.

Of course, it's possible that all of this has happened before and Colt's success in breaking the Loop is a personal betrayal to Julianna. After all, who wants to be murdered by their dad over and over?

What happens when the loop breaks?

Gamers don't get a good answer to what lies outside the Loop at the end of "Deathloop," and the real truth is that it might not matter much. According to Bethesda's description of "Deathloop," each Visionary has a different reason for entering into the Loop in the first place, with more than one wanting to seek eternity in a never ending cycle. However, "the human mind isn't made to withstand eternity." As a result, the Visionaries started forgetting the days, except for Colt and Julianna, who managed to maintain their sanity. All of that forgetting seems to have ill effects on the Visionaries, and most of them are depraved. Aleksis Dorsey eats people every night, dining on human flesh with a group of his followers, while Harriet Morse ritualistically sacrifices an Eternalist each sunny morning. The Visionaries are not okay, and even if there is a world beyond the Loop, they're not fit for it.

"Deathloop" also suggests that there may not be much of a world outside the Loop. Some Redditors noted that when Colt breaks the Loop the sky turns a strange, swirled orange color. It's possible that the world has continued existing outside the Loop, deteriorating rapidly as the Visionaries tried to concoct some version of paradise from inside. If that's the case, there's nothing for Colt and Julianna to return to, making Colt's efforts pointless.

Hunting across timelines

"Deathloop” offers players the special opportunity to continue unlocking parts of Blackreef's history by playing as Julianna. Even though she's an antagonist for the main campaign, players can become Julianna to infiltrate other people's games, taking down their version of Colt with malicious accuracy. In "Protect the Loop" mode, a short tutorial clues players into the fact that every time Julianna hunts Colt down in his timeline, it's actually a version of Julianna from a different Loop timeline. One Redditor explained that there's always one Julianna in the Loop, watching Colt and tracking his movements, while other "visitor" Juliannas attempt to hunt Colt down.

Multiple versions of Julianna, combined with her Masquerade slab, has interesting implications for the story of "Deathloop." One Reddit post speculated that Julianna could have used her slab in the main campaign, transforming herself into Colt in order to disseminate information to the player's version of Colt. If Julianna lied to Colt as himself, there's plenty of material for Arkane to expand the world of Blackreef and jump into multiple timelines' worth of stories. It's really a mind trip, but it could be the twisty narrative a DLC for "Deathloop" needs.

At the very least, offering players a chance to see the narrative from the other side makes for a fun, fast-paced multiplayer experience that adds a lot of depth to the world of "Deathloop," informing her actions as they lead up to the ending of the game.

Fan theories about Deathloop

Fans have their own theories about the ending of "Deathloop." One of the most popular connections players made is between the world of "Dishonored" and that of "Deathloop." It makes sense, especially considering that both titles were developed by Arkane Studios, but how do the games relate to each other, really?

One Redditor commented that the games are "all but confirmed" to be connected, and supposed that Slabs in "Deathloop" and powers in "Dishonored" aren't so different. The writer also speculated about other connections between the titles, like the asylum Colt stayed in before returning to the Loop. Another Redditor created an intricate timeline that ties together "Deathloop" and "Dishonored," speculating that the time loop was created when Billie Lurk expelled the Outsider from the Void. One Reddit commenter speculated that the Tyvian army was responsible for Project Horizon, the military-led mission into the Loop that Colt participated in. 

Further strengthening the bond between the two Arkane games is Corvo's pistols, which seem to appear in both "Dishonored" and "Deathloop." Although they could just be an Easter egg for fans of "Dishonored" to find, the pistols that Julianna hands Colt at the end of the game bear a striking resemblance to those used in the pseudo-Victorian setting of Arkane's previous games.

Even more significant, some gamers think the "good" ending of "Deathloop," where Colt breaks the Loop, has a connection with "Prey," another Arkane title. In "Prey," players get a view of Earth that shows the planet engulfed in red coral-like tendrils. Once the Loop is broken, the sky that silhouettes Julianna seems awfully familiar to "Prey" players. In fact, it looks exactly like Earth. It's possible that as the events of "Prey" unfold on the Talos, the Loop continues on Earth.