With the track record of Arkane Studios creating absolute bangers for the past decade, it’s no question why the gaming community has been looking forward to Redfall. Bringing the Arkane magic into an open world filled with vampires is a win-win, right? After beating the main story and clocking in around 20 hours of playtime, I can safely say that Redfall lives up to the studio’s potential — but only if you can look past the technical issues and some missing features.
Narrative and Story
Arkane’s latest game occurs in the island town of Redfall, Massachusetts. Vampires have taken control of this island, cut off all citizens from the outside world, and blocked out the sun entirely. This is where you come in to take back control and eliminate the deadly vampires that have taken away the land. As you explore the two open-world areas, you will begin to uncover the mystery behind the vampire gods and how this apocalyptic invasion came to be.
The story of Redfall is told through still frames instead of actual motion-captured cutscenes. While this isn’t the worst way to go about storytelling, it feels lazy compared to Arkane’s previous game Deathloop which offered immersive cutscenes to make the player feel like they were in the main character’s shoes. Still, Redfall makes up for this through what the game calls “Psychic Views.” When you interact with these Psychic Views, they display holograms of the past that aim to push the lore further and what happened on the island.
The story isn’t groundbreaking in Redfall and it is not Arkane’s best work. That said, it’s not entirely boring. It’s interesting to see how the vampires came to be and uncover disturbing backstories of the civilization, but the game doesn’t go far enough to make the player want to pay attention. Instead, I sometimes wanted to skip a cutscene and get back to the combat as the still-frames style videos can feel like a drag without providing much substance.
Gameplay and Co-Op
As you begin your journey through Redfall, you can choose between four heroes, each with their own abilities and specialties. Once you select a hero, you can’t go back to switch unless you start a new game entirely, but this is okay considering it adds so much replayability and gives the player reason to play through the main story again as a new hero.
Each character plays very differently from one another, which can change the gameplay experience entirely. For example, look at Layla, who can summon telekinesis powers to create a shield and deflect attacks off her umbrella. At the same time, Jacob can go invisible and track all enemies in proximity. All four of these heroes’ unique abilities demand a different approach to vampires and human enemies, creating the opportunity to play Redfall in full four times and helping to prevent the game from growing stale.
Redfall is a semi-looter shooter where you can find higher-tiered weapons worldwide through exploration and swapping them out. This is the only way to improve guns by finding rarer forms, and there is no way to upgrade your already favorite gun to a higher level. I would have liked to have the ability to upgrade my gun at a bench before taking on a boss, and Redfall would have benefited tremendously from this. Still, the gunplay is incredibly satisfying — from launching a stake into a vampire’s heart to freezing them with a UV beam — and it does an outstanding job of making the player feel like a total badass.
Redfall allows up to four-player co-op where everyone in the match can take on main missions and sidequests. Redfall shines in the co-op space mainly because everyone in the game can play as different characters. Using abilities to elevate teamwork is the focus here, and it can be a lot of fun when you pull it off correctly. For example, use Bribon to run into a group of enemies for distraction while Layla lifts Jacob to the top of the building to snipe them all out. This thinking on your feet and communication put teamwork at the forefront for Redfall.
The downfall of co-op mode is that the host’s game is the only one that will progress through the missions. So, you can go through half the story with a friend to repeat the whole process considering nothing was saved on your end. Multiplayer progression is limited to the host “because some missions are optional or non-sequential,” according to the in-game description. This doesn’t make much sense — the game should let the players decide whether they want advancement or not.
Progression and Exploration
Progression in Redfall works similarly to Arkane’s previous games like Dishonored. Each character has a skill tree that focuses on increasing the effectiveness of their abilities such as carrying more ammo for guns, speeding up health recovery, and even unlocking the ability to have more lockpicks. Speaking of lockpicks, these are essential in opening up hard-to-reach places that can lead to discovering critical items that can increase your max health and additional bonuses pushing your hero’s potential even further.
I felt very accomplished exploring the open world and stumbling upon a higher-tier weapon or Vampire Blood to increase my maximum health. Redfall does a great job at rewarding players who take the time to immerse themselves deep into the world and explore every nook and cranny — although many buildings are not accessible and are just for decoration. Finding buildings that were just for show instead of somewhere you could go into was a bit disappointing, and even though this is typical in an open-world game, Redfall feels a bit excessive in that regard.
Redfall features two main hubs along with safe houses that are found scattered throughout the world. Main hubs will be your go-to spot for starting any main missions or sidequests the game offers, while safehouses offer two tasks necessary to challenge the area’s Vampire God. The main missions offer a unique variety, but the safehouses can become repetitive.
While the lack of sidequests in the game is alarming, Redfall makes up for it by offering other activities in the world. For example, there are Vampire nests the player must raid, houses that provide rare rewards if you can locate all the keys, and civilians to rescue. Doing all these tasks offers a nice bump in experience points, and the game makes it clear that they are worth taking on as you’ll find yourself under-leveled for a boss if you skip them (looking at myself here).
Redfall is great, but there’s no denying it has technical issues. There were times when the game crashed on me, but other times it ran perfectly fine. There were almost zero issues with framerate drops or pop-ins in the first half of the game, but as I got further into the second area and took on the more challenging Vampire Gods, the game struggled to keep up with what was happening on screen .
Stuttering, crashing, and lower-quality graphics all became an apparent issue when in specific locations — and while these issues can be fixed with patches, it’s still incredibly frustrating. For those who can look past the occasional cases, the game is still completely playable and the problems don’t warrant skipping Redfall altogether.
In no way is Redfall groundbreaking — but sometimes all a game needs to be is fun to play, and Arkane has created an experience that is a hell of a good time. Is it Arkane’s best game? Probably not. But there is so much to love here as the gameplay is addicting, intense, and will pull you back for another session. While the game could have benefited from the ability to upgrade weapons, more sidequests, and quality in-depth cutscenes for storytelling, what the game does right, it does with flying colors.
This game was reviewed using a copy of the game provided by the game’s publisher, public relations company, developer or other for the express purpose of a review.