PC Games

Published on July 7th, 2023 | by Stephen Heller

Redfall – An Unfinished Review for an Unfinished Game

Why am I writing a review for Redfall months after its launch? Hope. Hope is why I waited this long to write this review (thanks to our Editor-in-chief Andrew for allowing this madness).  I had hope that the developers would make subtle changes in the back end to make Redfall feel better. I had hope that Arkane Austin would push out some minor updates that fixed the multitude of connection issues, jittery framerates, and plain old busted spawn errors. I had hope that the vitriol from fans would pass, allowing us to look at Redfall through the critical lens that it truly deserved.

Unfortunately, my hopes were not met with action. And now over 60 days after the dismal launch of the co-op shooter, Redfall is as lifeless as the vampire enemies that it portrays.

My friends and I have trudged through the mostly barren streets of suburban Boston for almost fifteen hours, shaking our heads in dismay at the lost potential that Arkane Austin has created. A world that is filled with near misses, unrealized potential, and paradoxes in design that congeal into a game that is thoroughly mediocre, slightly broken, and 100% not good enough to warrant your money.

But I couldn’t stop playing it.

Redfall is a 4-player, co-op, open world shooter where a cast of diverse and sassy characters find themselves caught up in a on Redfall Island. Some very nasty vampire lords have blocked the sun, stopped the flow of the ocean, and trapped the inhabitants on the quiet Massachusetts island. Not only have the vampires taken over, they have convinced an unhealthy amount of townsfolk to do their bidding, forming a number of cultists groups who are hellbent on killing any survivors who don’t want to fall into line. It’s your job to go from safehouse to safehouse, killing the enemies that stand in your way, all while fighting towards the vampire lords to take them out, and return freedom to the town.

At least, I think that is the story. After this amount of time you think I would be super clued into what is going on here, but the narrative is so forgettable that I literally just had to look up the Steam page to remind myself of the synopsis. The truly sad thing is that narratively speaking, Redfall has so many moments that could have been great, but they simply fail to miss the mark.

Sometimes when creeping into a house for an objective you come across a piece of environmental storytelling that rivals the best games out there, and you can see what Redfall could have been. Those moments make me infinitely sad, because the core conceits here should have worked so well. Powerful Vampire lord that not only blocks out the sun, but manages to take over all communications and broadcasting on the island, and convince a tonne of people to be cultist servants? That is a damn cool concept. A science lab, failed psychic experiments, and a group of genuinely diverse and cool characters to try and stop the big bads? That is super neat! But much like most things in Redfall, these potentials are squandered with writing that feels unfinished, rushed, and sometimes, just done with no care at all.

The gameplay itself feels similarly disjointed, lacking, and incredibly dated. Arkane are known for their immersive sim gameplay, and let’s just clear this up right now – Redfall is not an immersive sim. It is more akin to Borderlands than Prey. But Redfall fails to hit the mark when it comes to creating a compelling world for you and your friends to run around in.

NPCs barely feel alive, delivering the same lines ad-nauseam and without any real emotion. Anything that has weight is delivered in lightly animated cutscenes, but for the most part you are being drip fed story through notes and other trinkets. Some of those notes are really great, which only makes the wound fester as you get a glimpse of what this word could have been.

The weapons are pretty standard fare. You get some pistols, some shotguns, some snipers, and assault rifles. There are only a handful of each weapon type in the game, and then they start cycling through colored tiers which honestly makes the weapons feel quite meaningless. Oh I will swap out my Level 6 green-tier Sniper  for the Level 7 gold-tier Sniper. The more interesting weapons such as the stake launcher that can easily defeat Vampires, or the UV ray which can whittle down the armored foes are cool on paper, but they feel slow and lack the punch that more often than not, I was defaulting to my highest-tier assault rifle and just blasting through the game.

Or I guess, as much as was possible because Redfall had a regular habit of not allowing us to get a lobby up and running smoothly. This has been a problem since the launch, with story progression capped on the host machine, it also meant that we couldn’t go on from another computer. We had one player lose 2 levels of progress, even though they had not played the game since our previous outing together. Then, once we arrived at the second map, (yes, there is a second map to explore) the game simply did not let us progress without multiple restarts. Multiple crashes. And honestly, a gigantic sigh of relief. Relief because I no longer had the compulsion to play the game that everyone was hating.

This review is unfinished, mostly because Refall is unfinished. I could spend four paragraphs telling you about how the game feels completely unbalanced for co-op play, and actually fits solo play much better. I could also tell you how none of the player character powers feel all that impactful, and that Redfall feels like they had one very compelling and diverse skill tree that they split into four linear paths as a way to shoehorn in four playable characters, and as a result each of them feel completely underpowered and useless. I could also go on and on about the promise of the randomized dungeon rifts that have some cool concepts, but that loot in Redfall is completely inconsequential, so what is the point of even running them in the first place?

But I won’t tell you that. Because you shouldn’t play Redfall. It is a middling game at best, but at worst it will take precious time away from other games, hobbies, or conversations you could be having that will hold so much more meaning than this release. 

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