Redfall is a gumboot-wearing, fish-catching, sea-faring island off the coast of Massachusetts—the sort of place where people probably walk around with bright yellow raincoats. As of now, though, there’s not a lot of yellow raincoat action, as Redfall is frozen in time.
Your first moments stepping ‘off the boat’ and onto its shores greet you not with a warm bowl of fish stew but a giant mound of salt-heavy coastal H2O time-locked into menacing tsunami-like towers.
A supernatural anomaly that does its best to spit in the face of all known laws and understandings of physics. But before you can adjust to the looming threat of someone with a hypothetical remote control
clicking on ‘Pause,’ and trying to flee once the tsunamis come crashing down, there’s another wrinkle to deal with.
A perpetual eclipse and the presence of vampires born from scientific experimentation mixed with the sorts of ancient forces that should always remain buried. Do not dig here. And so this once sleepy locale has been turned into a gothic hellscape, where citizens are hiding, and cultists are working with their vampire overlords to appease the more powerful vampire gods.
It’s a shame, then, that even with its sound premise, an interesting setting, and co-op sandbox framework, Redfall is just so disappointing.
Redfall is doing its best to be removed from that “Best Clam Chowder Hot Spots in the U.S.A.” list you’ve got bookmarked somewhere.
As an open-world setting for a new first-person action, stealth, exploration jam from Arkane - the studio behind critically acclaimed titles like Dishonored
, and, more recently, Deathloop
- Redfall the town presents an evocative and strikingly quaint locale to videogame in. That said, this is also a departure for both the studio and Bethesda, so Redfall the videogame offers a story-driven and loot-heavy campaign that can be played solo or co-op with up to four players.
It’s a shame, then, that even with its sound premise, an interesting setting, and co-op sandbox framework, Redfall is just so disappointing. So many of its elements feel off, from small things like the lack of a weapon wheel to switch between weapons to slightly more critical gripes like being three screens away from changing a pistol to a UV Beam.
These criticisms sit low on a list that includes bigger things like its confusing and meandering narrative, lack of meaningful exploration and discovery, and the complete lack of surprise. For a game with “loot” to find, that last bit is what you’d call a nail in the wooden box.
Redfall becomes predictably bland in a matter of hours. As soon as you understand how the various elements, mechanics, quests, and other open-world things click together, you’ll realise that it’s a bunch of seemingly connected ingredients in search of a cohesive recipe. The biggest issue might be its aspirations to deliver a Far Cry-like sandbox falling flat.
Using stealth, supernatural abilities, and multiple ways to tackle any situation, synergising skills and weaponry as a squad. That’s the idea, and some of these elements are here, but Redfall’s action and setpieces are of the copy-paste variety, with little in the way of dynamic or multithreaded setups. Enemy AI is 16-bit in the complexity department. The handful of human and vampire enemy archetypes are reused so often, especially with the repetitive Safe House missions, that your eyes begin to glaze over and forget that the main characters are spouting the same colour commentary lines over and over.
Redfall becomes predictably bland in a matter of hours. As soon as you understand how the various elements, mechanics, quests, and other open-world things click together, you’ll realise that it’s a bunch of seemingly connected ingredients in search of a cohesive recipe.
Redfall is a technical mess, too, with spotty performance on Xbox Series X, glitches, bugs, broken questlines, texture pop-ins, enemy pop-ins, crashes, and co-op oddities like not having drop-in and drop-out co-op. You have to create a lobby every time, and as soon as everyone in your party leaves, the game decides it’s “session over.”
It’s unfinished in a way we rarely see, to the point where the difficulty selection didn’t affect the actual action for a big chunk of our review playthrough. Playing on the game’s hardest difficulty (before the fourth that unlocks when you finish the campaign) with three players, every enemy dropped dead after a single shot or melee shove - including vampires. Switching to easy, and it was the same thing.
And then, suddenly, the combat became challenging when entering an instanced Vampire Lair - a single corridor with funky art direction that has no real bearing on the world outside of offering something else to do to gain a tiny sliver of experience. And then it was super easy again.
Redfall fails as an action-RPG-style looter shooter because it doesn’t justify why you need to upgrade a Level 10 Shotgun with basic stats to a Level 12 Shotgun beyond the fact that it does a bit more damage. Reducing the structure of Diablo, Destiny, or Borderlands to being nothing more than a quest for gear with increasing numbers is okay because these games can justify this style of experience, and Redfall doesn’t.
Redfall’s weapons are all essentially the same, with minor differences in stats and bonuses and only a few options for each type. The rare moments that Redfall transcends its mediocrity come when you get glimpses of a co-op vampire-slaying shooter that doesn’t feel like a copy or clone of this game or that - or even past triumphs from Arkane itself. There are moments and locations around Redfall that deliver when it comes to immersion and even tension. The visually striking Wellness Retreat, the creepy mansion.
Redfall fails as an action-RPG-style looter shooter because it doesn’t justify why you need to upgrade a Level 10 Shotgun with basic stats to a Level 12 Shotgun beyond the fact that it does a bit more damage.
And there are times when triggering a handful of abilities specific to one of the four playable heroes is fun, as is having one player using a UV Beam to freeze vamps while you’re busting out a shotgun to deal with all of the cultists that pour in. With traversal and defensive skills also doing their thing, it briefly forms a cohesive picture before blurring into a mess moments later. Like the first time you tried one of those Magic Eye books
as a kid.
The leveling-up process in Redfall is the videogame equivalent of a piece of mozzarella stretched out into nonexistence. After completing all main and side missions, you’ll only hit Level 20 out of 40.
This means you won’t have enough points to create a playstyle that will deliver the enjoyment you’re looking for. You’ll only be able to fully develop one of three abilities, which is strange, to say the least. Like only being able to equip three weapons and having these red mist obstacles everywhere that require one of these slots to be taken up by the UV Beam, it’s a limitation for the sake of a limitation.
Being less stingy in the experience and skill point department would improve Redfall’s action, combat, and co-op sensibilities. Would it make it a good or great game? No. Its issues and problems are so numerous that it was hard not to simply have this review devolve into a dot-point list that might one day see the bulk of its content end up in patch notes. Redfall isn’t a terrible game; as much as this review has focused on a few key areas, there are little details that point to a design that is measured, thought out, and interesting.
Its issues and problems are so numerous that it was hard not to simply have this review devolve into a dot-point list that might one day see the bulk of its content end up in patch notes.
All the non-equipable loot you find, from rolls of toilet paper to laundry goods and luxury items, are used as Supplies currency for the survivors barricaded in safe houses, which can then be used to replenish ammo or get new gear via simple trading that makes contextual sense. Even the stylised animated graphic novel cinematics all update to reflect the current outfits and clothing you and your party is wearing. There are several more, but this isn’t a long list of everything the game gets right and what it doesn’t. You’ll find some of that below.
In the end, Redfall is disappointing. A moderately enjoyable co-op game set in a stylish and inviting game world marred by repetitive and bland design and a long list of technical shortcomings.