Post by KostaAndreadis @ 01:00am 23/03/23 | Comments
From the creators of Dishonored and Prey, Redfall is a co-op action game set in a sleepy coastal town overrun by vampires. And we recently had the chance to go fangs-on.
Arkane is one of those developers with a track record that reads like a list of non-stop critical hits, from Dishonored to Prey to the recent time-bending Deathloop. Or the oft-forgotten Dark Messiah of Might and Magic. Games with deep mechanics and systems built around player choice and the idea of a first-person “immersive sim.” Plus, art direction and character designs that have always been distinctly on point.
Even with its illustrious history of creating games, Arkane hasn’t quite hit the same recognition and mainstream success as other Bethesda studios like id Software or the Starfield-weavers over at Bethesda Game Studios. But, if you know, you know. And if you know, then Arkane’s single-play and co-op-focused Vampire-slaying Redfall sits firmly on your 2023 calendar of “games to keep an eye on.”
With the game’s release slated for May 2 on PC and Xbox, Redfall is something of a departure while still feeling like a game from the studio behind Dishonored. And that’s a departure in that the setting of coastal Redfall, Massachusetts, presents an open-world environment full of exploration and NPC-driven “side quests.”
Redfall is something of a departure while still feeling like a game from the studio behind Dishonored.
Class-based skills, leveling, and a string of weapons of varying rarity and stats give the action an action-RPG feel. But this isn’t a “looter shooter” per se, in that rewards and weapons are not the be-all end-all of progression - as Redfall is firmly focused on delivering an engaging cinematic action and ability-based experience with story front and center, alongside that quintessential Arkane style.
Recently we had the chance to go hands-on with a preview build of Redfall running on PC hardware, playing through a chunk of the single-player campaign with the option to explore some of the sights of Redfall, Massachusetts, freely. This is a spoiler, but coming across the coast and seeing giant tsunami-sized waves frozen in time was the one little visual detail that told us all we needed to know about the world.
Redfall is sinister, supernaturally affected, and dark. Even though there’s a night and day system in place, with the sun being blocked out by arkane means, there’s enough horror to sell the dangerous vampiric threat. A threat born from a mix of scientific experiments gone wrong and supernatural goings-on - seen in the recent and impressive story trailer. The goal is to liberate the sleepy fishing town of Redfall.
In the demo, the makeshift home base at the Redfall fire station had already been set up. Throughout the town, various other safehouses could be liberated - each providing its own set of missions - alongside following the golden main mission path. Little pockets of infested locations were peppered throughout, and with the eyes of the vampire gods always watching, the more you do, the more dangerous the threat becomes to the point where sizeable big boss vampire spawns to try and put an end to your journey.
Redfall is sinister, supernaturally affected, and dark. Even though there’s a night and day system in place, with the sun being blocked out by arkane means, there’s enough horror to sell the dangerous vampiric threat.
And if you succeed, reward you with new vampire hunting gear.
Our Redfall hero of choice was Layla Ellison. Her abilities include summoning a spectral elevator jump-pad called Lift, an umbrella that can absorb and reflect damage with a big blast, and an ultimate ability that calls in her vampire ex-boyfriend, which was always fun to trigger. The variety on offer before equipping something like an assault rifle with a stake attachment is commendable, and like Arkane’s Prey, the game nails the feel of a powerful shotgun.
Each class and playable character offers this level of diversity, with skill trees augmenting and powering up abilities with new variations and combat tricks. Combat is of the first-person shooter variety seen in Arkane’s Prey, where chaining abilities, firearms, and kinetic movement are the order of the day. Lift lets you quickly access the rooftops of many of Redfall’s residential and smaller buildings, and it’s an excellent tool for vertical shooting and performing a perfectly timed stake through the heart.
Even though it’s all wonderful in the context of a single-player game, it’s clear that the mix of defensive, crowd-control, and offensive abilities for the playable characters will add a significant layer of depth to the co-op mode. Something we didn’t get the chance to check out. The decision to put in floating damage numbers by default will also make more sense in co-op.
The vampires in Redfall are susceptible to bullet damage, but it’s simply a means to an end, with that end being of the literal wooden and pointy variety. Most weapons are equipped with stakes, and taking out a vampire in Redfall means getting up close for a finishing move reminiscent of DOOM Eternal-style glory kills. But with more fire and ash than blood and gore.
Pacing-wise, it’s a lot slower than the arena-style of DOOM Eternal. However, that was expected - but this also translates to movement and jumping, where it’s less about reaction times and fast traversal than having a moment to choose your next move carefully.
The vampires in Redfall are susceptible to bullet damage, but it’s simply a means to an end, with that end being of the literal wooden and pointy variety. Most weapons are equipped with stakes, and taking out a vampire in Redfall means getting up close for a finishing move reminiscent of DOOM Eternal-style glory kills.
There are human cultists too, and these enemies are often packing heat, run in packs, and need to be approached in a more measured fashion. That said, the AI in the preview build was disappointing because these human enemies rarely did anything more than run towards you or simply stand there and fire - offering an easy stationary target to take out. Using Layla’s umbrella shield in front of an enemy, they merely stood there, shooting directly into the shield.
Odds are, this is one aspect of the game that is still fine-tuned, alongside damage numbers and weapon stats. Multiple difficulty levels exist, but the lack of dynamic AI meant the larger group encounters were more heated, offering adrenaline-fuelled action. Or the main mission that had us stealthily and carefully moving through an abandoned and creepy mansion. Exploring interiors in Redfall is quietly intense, relying on a bright flashlight to see where you are. The tunnel vision effect is brilliant in heightening your senses and keeping you on your toes.
In these quieter - yet still tense - moments, the world of Redfall felt alive and threatening, a tone that is unlike anything we’ve seen from Arkane before, outside of a few bespoke moments and missions in Dishonored. The mixture of open-world event-style encounters with the more measured narrative stuff works well for the most part, but it’s hard to say how it will all come together until we get our hands on the full game.
We’re keen to play more and experience the co-op side of Redfall. The idea that the nuance and variety will become apparent once the whole picture is known is classic Arkane. And exciting. It’s why games like Prey and Deathloop are seen as these slow-burn experiences that grow on you the more you understand their complexities and systems. Redfall is very different thanks to its action-RPG elements and open-world co-op approach.
The mixture of open-world event-style encounters with the more measured narrative stuff works well for the most part, but it’s hard to say how it will all come together until we get our hands on the full game.
In the end, after a few short hours, it’s clear that the setting of Redfall has a real sense of character, history, and identity. When so many other “open-world” examples fall short in this regard, we can’t wait to revisit Redfall, Massachusetts, and stake our claim. Both figuratively and in the cold, black, vampiric hearts of the creatures that call it home.
Redfall is out May 2, 2023 for PC and Xbox Series X|S.