Redfall Review – Blood Suckingly Painful
Developer: Arkane Austin
Release Date: May 2, 2023
Reviewed On: Xbox Series X
Genre: FPS RPG
From its reveal, Arkane Austin’s Redfall has had me a bit confused. Although I love the idea of traversing a vampiric-ridden world with the freedom this developer typically provides, I couldn’t help but question if this is the game we really needed right now. After a few delays before its release, it’s evident this game underwent some changes as it balances its multiplayer elements and loot-collecting systems, but the experience largely lacks direction.
Redfall has you choose one of four characters, Devinder, Layle, Remi, and Jacob. They are each trapped in Redfall after a series of events lead to a vampire invasion. The way the town is trapped from the outside world is actually really cool, with waves of surrounding water creating inescapable walls. Anyway, for reasons not expanded on past the opening chapter, the character you choose has access to special abilities.
This was a pretty significant barrier to overcome since, on a signal player campaign, each character is more or less a one-man army. Further, every character has the same opening mission, and the story attempts to place them all there, but it’s so flimsy.
Your first mission is to save civilians from a firehouse which becomes your new base. However, it’s currently overrun with cultists. So you clear it out, and everyone inside returns to business as usual. I never cared or interacted with these characters after. Interacting with them provides no real insight into who they are and why I’m helping them.
The opening cutscene has them leave their safe room, and then we get a montage of the people setting up the firehouse to be a base, but this would have been a lot better having it been a mission where we could set it up together. I mean, even after their base was just overrun, it seems these people are already vampire-hunting experts. I was in a state of disbelief because the relationships between the main characters and these civilians were never expanded on.
Another issue I had was how these civilians let the firehouse get taken in the first place and how they were so sure it wouldn’t happen again. The back gate is even unlocked, and there are little to no defenses surrounding the place. I mean, it doesn’t seem like the enemy lacks firepower, so why not just plan another attack? I can usually look past these things because it’s a video game, but man, they left a lot of inconsistencies on the table.
To add fuel to the fire that no civilian carries any importance to this title after you defeat the boss, you’ll progress to a new area. The game warns you can’t return once you go, but why? There are still side missions and even a few story missions that can be taken on, but you lose access to them after progressing. This also hurts the general multiplayer element where I brought my friend to my game. We did a final mission of an area and then moved on, which caused them to skip multiple story missions on their campaign. This is typically mitigated by only being able to play the player’s campaign that has progressed the least. Still, it further emphasizes that the core story is left as an afterthought. EDIT: When the other player returned to the game, they lost the progress they made in my game, but the point was that they shouldn’t have been able to skip so much of the game.
Regardless, the notes and books you’re able to read scattered throughout the world provide the most significant worldbuilding and insight into the citizens of Redfall. In addition, there are some pretty good drops of lore and an explanation of events that require you to do a bit of reading. Still, I’ll be honest and say that I never once cared about the main characters or the civilians because there’s a significant disconnect between every facet of this story.
The main characters never interact with each, and strategy during multiplayer is mainly found during boss battles as one player can act as the decoy while the others deal damage, but the overall design has little to no diversity. Outside their specials, each character plays the same and shares similar skills. However, with some characters being a healer class, it’s tough to consider playing as them through single-player.
So gameplay continues this trend of strange systems. I played on Normal difficulty for review purposes, but there are multiple options and even an unlockable higher difficulty. The game flow has you choose a mission and then set off in that direction. Nothing is blocked off from the player, and you can go anywhere. That said, there’s very little reason to.
I spent most of the missions just running from one place to another without encountering any enemies. When I got to the objective, enemies were around, but their AI is limited. In fact, I would run through an area, alerting enemies in the process, head to the mission objective marker, and then turn invisible using Jacob’s power, and all the enemies would just go on their way. Once you complete the mission, you can fast-travel back to the base, even when enemies are around, and progress the game.
Now, I believe the idea here is to have players approach missions and enemy strongholds in multiple ways, which I usually find after completing the mission. However, I did take advantage of this, and I’m sure others will too.
Experience is gained after completing missions, making discoveries, or fighting. Aside from some stat increases, I never cared about the skill points earned because the skill tree itself is so insanely boring that it’s possible to get through most of the game without paying attention. There are options to buff your character’s special ability or hold onto more ammo, but then there are multiplayer exclusive skills that don’t matter if you’re trying to just play through the single-player campaign.
Trust me, the entire time I’m playing Redfall, I’m begging to have fun, but the experience is just messy and dull. This also creeps up during moments when you have to fight, which is when the game becomes a bit more frustrating. You see, you lose HP fast, and enemies have a pretty accurate shot, but enemies are grouped up, which adds to the challenge. I died a lot. There’s just no way around it.
Luckily, there’s no real consequence outside of some lost funds, and you’ll spawn to the closest safe house or landmark, which you’ll have to discover before heading into the mission. So, even though you died, all the enemies you took down and the damage dealt are still present, giving you a chance to just inch your way through every mission. Unfortunately, it makes the entire experience a pain, given that some vampire abilities can one-shot you.
Vampires will be the most formidable foes in the game. While most can be taken down quickly alone, groups of Vampires are tougher to handle. Throughout the game, Vampire nests will appear across the map. As they expand, players will encounter stronger enemy types unless they close the door, which is randomly placed and needs to be found within the radius, an ongoing trend that we’ll get into later.
Here, you’ll run through a linear alternate reality, fight vampires, probably die a few times, and then defeat the core. You’re then given time to collect epic loot, and you’ll close the door. After a few of these, you should have some of the strongest equipment in the game, so it’s good to do some of them. But, on the other hand, if you’re quick at completing missions, you can just not do them, defeat the boss, and move on to the next area. Oh, and before I move on, the vampires need to be staked after their health is depleted, which sounds fantastic on paper, but if you don’t do it fast enough, they revive, which is extremely annoying when there’s a large group of them.
Key items and mission objectives are never straightforward. The issues begin with the map that presents a simple small-town map design. However, you don’t have maps of general areas, such as dungeons or small parts of the map. You can barely even zoom in, which makes navigation difficult because you can’t tell if something is underground or on a mountain. Even if you have an objective, it shows as a giant diamond on the map. You can then set a marker, but you only have one marker to place. So, if you want to mark a place to revisit it, you can’t because your marker is taking you to the mission. Further, multiplayer markers are the same color as yours, which is a significant oversight.
When it comes to objective-based items like keys, these take so long to find that sometimes I wanted to give up entirely as I searched through every section of a building multiple times, looking for a key, and couldn’t find it. It’s almost like padding on the actual mission. However, some items do get a marker, so it’s highly inconsistent in that regard. Watching someone play this game will look like they’re lost 75% of the time, and more often than not, they are.
Visually, I like some of the environmental designs of Redfall. All the environments share a unique sense of charm, giving the feeling that you are progressing. While some assets are reused every now and then, I felt the different areas were distinct enough to encourage exploration. However, as I mentioned, you’ll be running through with little to nothing to do for most of them. Animations are minimal. The movesets of enemies and interactions with NPC are dumbed to the point that it hurts to witness.
I encountered several bugs I half expected while playing, but it was still sad to see. Sometimes, enemies would just become unresponsive, or I’ll be standing in front of them, and they wouldn’t react. One time my gun kept firing, and no, it wasn’t my controller. Other strange occurrences happened, but I do hope they get patched out.
Redfall is an anomaly because a game with this good of a team behind it can’t possibly be this bad, and yet, it is. There are these drips of looter shooter, RPG, and multiplayer elements sprinkled throughout, but none of them work together, delivering a messy and almost incomprehensible experience. Still, gunplay and exploration stay consistently fun, thanks to the satisfaction of taking down enemies and the level design. That being said, the single-player campaign is dull, but the multiplayer campaign could provide bouts of fun comprised of laughing at the strange AI behavior or the fact that no one can find keys to a door.
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