Skip to main content

What's better: time loops, or resuming interrupted reloads?

Vote now!

Riebeck from Outer Wilds playing his banjo by the fire
Image credit: Annapurna Interactive

Last time, you decided that ground pound attacks are better than reloads dumping unspent ammo. 60% against 40%, that one, which is a satisfying outcome. Chunky disagreement but a clear outcome. This week, I ask you to think carefully about two quite different cycles, one repeating and one resuming. What's better: time loops, or resuming interrupted reloads?

Time loops

Part of what I like so much about roguelikelikes is building my knowledge across runs. As I uncover secrets, solve mysteries, learn ways to bend odds in my favour, and come to understand what really happened in that strange room, I start each new run in a stronger position. This time, I know what to do. With a time loop, this can work in giant new ways in whole other types of games, and I can build an understanding of lives and stories and the very workings of the universe (particularly in the sublime Outer Wilds). What a joy!

Time loops encourage us to play with every option and see them through. Uncover the workings of the world, pluck at the strings of people's lives, interfere with routines and rituals, wind stuff up and watch it go. In many games with choices and options, I quicksave and quickload to check out alternatives before resuming my 'correct' timeline. In a timeloop, ah stuff it, I'll take this whole loop to see the full extent of what happens and how far I can push it. It's not like anyone will remember. It's a much better feeling, and encourages games to have more dramatic consequences to choices, confident that more players will see them all—and be delighted to hunt them all down. While playing The Forgotten City, I even broke my longstanding commitment to treating NPCs kindly and was an utter git to people who really didn't deserve it.

I like that time loop games often address the time loop as a mystery in itself, central to both play and plot. Here's a cool toy you can use to muck about and solve mysteries but whoa, hang on, what the hell is this cool toy, where did you get this, oh no this doesn't seem right, buddy you better use this cool toy to learn why you have this cool toy and see what you can do about this cool toy.

Oh, I do want to mention how much I appreciate The Forgotten City offering a way to skip big parts while looping. After you've solved many of its puzzles and conundrums once, on future loops you can add them to a list of chores for someone else to perform. Top chap Galerius stands near the spawn point and, despite not having met you (as far as he remembers), this trusting fella will happily run around town doling out antidotes and orders and scoldings and everything else you need so you can get stuck into the bits you haven't solved yet. It's welcome assistance and, cleverly, also part of the solution to one sprawling puzzle.

Hear Matthew Castle explain how Outer Wilds is a cracking big bucket of mysteries in a time loopWatch on YouTube

Resuming interrupted reloads

Gun's empty, time to reload. You duck into a sheltered corner, hit the reload key and watch as your warman pops the old mag out, slams a fresh one in, and OH NO someone is charging your cosy corner. You've still got a bit of faff before the reload animation completes but you'll be dead before that fidgeting finishes. So quickly swap to your sidearm, put them down, take a breath, and swap back to finish reloading your main gun before the rest of their team arrive. And, glory be! You discover you're playing one of those rare shooters with staged reloads. Rather than play the whole reload animation again, it has remembered the stage you were at in the process. Your warman simply slaps the bolt and you're good to go.

I am always grateful to discover this. It just feels right—or, it doesn't feel wrong. No wasted time. No empty magazines magically reinserting themselves. No frustration when I unthinkingly switch guns or sprint for a split-second and need to start over.

Non-staged reload animations can bring interesting decisions and consequences, I will admit. Times you must make quick decisions on whether you reload or switch, then live with the consequences. Times you catch another player off-guard and out-of-ammo after choosing poorly. But I would trade all of those for never again needing to restart a long machinegun reload from scratch just because I sprinted 20 centimetres.

But which is better?

Time loops are magical rarities, and probably best as rarities, deployed in specific circumstances. Staged reloads are rare too but I would welcome them almost everywhere. I want to say time loops but I'm just not sure. Hmm. Reader dear, you'll need to settle this.

Pick your winner, vote in the poll below, and make your case in the comments to convince others. We'll reconvene next week to see which thing stands triumphant—and continue the great contest.

Read this next