Redfall isn't a good immersive sim game. Nor is it an intricate looter-shooter. It's a mediocre sandwich of both that leaves a sour taste in your mouth by the time you're done with it.
There are glimpses of Dishonored and Prey's impeccable world-building and sandbox-style gameplay, but Redfall never captures the intricacies of those titles in any way. It's disappointing in every aspect, even more so when you look at the unprecedented potential of its quaint and pretty open world.
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Story & World Building
Redfall takes place on the island of Redfall, Massachusettes, a coastal town full of coffee shops and maple leaves. It's practically the setting of every 90s American horror show brought to life with Arkane's classic pastel-like art style.
The story kicks off with the protagonist (Lyla, Dev, Remi, or Jacob) waking up in a crashed boat off the coast of Redfall with supernatural abilities. Redfall is swarming with blood-sucking vampires who have somehow captured the sun and cut off the water supply for the residents of this once quaint little town.
After reaching the first safe house (the base of operations) and rendezvousing with other survivors, you set out to find the mystery behind the appearance of vampires and take down their supposed leader Hollow Man.
All four protagonists have unique personalities but don't strike out as the heroes in Arkane's previous games like Corvo and Emily. Similarly, none of the side characters you meet are memorable or worth caring for.
Redfall's story isn't impressive, either. While there are some visually delightful moments here, thanks to Arkane's incredible art team, overall, there's not a single thing about this story of vampire gods, doctors, and scientists, that stood out to me. That's okay, however, and it didn't really bother me since linear storytelling isn't Arkane's strongest aspect.
Like Dishonored 1&2, the island of Redfall is full of abandoned houses, cafes, bars, and other similar places of interest for you to explore. Most of these places tell a story if you read the notes left behind and notice the little environmental cues scattered around.
These notes provide anecdotes on how the vampires slowly and steadily encapsulated the people of Redfall. I liked reading these documents and piecing together the story of Redfall's residents and their lives before the apocalypse. Aside from these, however, the world of Redfall is pretty dead (pun intended).
For an open world game, Redfall is surprisingly sparse of things to see and things to do (more on that later.) You can't enter most of the houses, and there are long stretches of nothing and nobody until you find something interesting that you can actually explore, shoot or observe. The more time I spent in Redfall, the more discouraged I became to explore. Halfway through the story, I was just fast traveling from point A to point B unless that wasn't an option.
Let me put this straight: this is not fun to play. Unlike previous Arkane titles, Redfall is a looter-shooter with immersive sim elements. The looter-shooter/slasher genre is known for inducing brain chemistry. On the other hand, games like Dishonored and Prey capture the power fantasy feeling unlike anything else. So, when you combine the two, shouldn't it be something truly magical and explosive? Well, yeah. Except in the case of Redfall, it's a big no.
Redfall is stuck between catering to the fans of the studio's previous works and appealing to a completely different audience. It's not the best of both worlds. If anything, it's the worst of both worlds.
The shooting is decent enough not to complain, but it isn't groundbreaking to stand on its own. Every character has just three abilities and a pseudo-skill line that doesn't really offer ways to make your character powerful.
On their own, these characters are devoid and weak, and Arkane wants you to play Redfall in co-op, preferably with three other players, to have a wholesome experience. However, the truth is, even when you combine the abilities of all four characters, it doesn't carve an experience anywhere close to what Dishonored and Prey have to offer. I never found myself becoming powerful in this game. It also doesn't help that two of the four characters have support abilities that don't do much on their own.
There's just a handful of weapon types in Redfall, which ranges from pistols to revolvers, and Rifles to Shotguns. The more interesting ones are the Stake Rifles and the UV Ray gun. The latter lets you freeze vampires, and the former lets you blast them into dust. Staking vampires with your weapons and hearing them fizz into dust is utterly satisfying and easily my favorite aspect of the game.
Redfall has a Diablo-style loot system, with tier quality increasing from grey, green, blue, purple, and golden. The legendary (golden) weapons have unique perks, but I just didn't see enough variety that could allow me to carve varying builds.
Some legendary weapons have unique skins, but there aren't just enough of these, to begin with. How you get these high-quality loot is also confusing. Sometimes, you will find legendary weapons via random lockers in one of the houses you are exploring. Other times, you will find them lying around near a prominent landmark. The only sure-shot way to get legendary drops is by defeating The Rook, Redfall's one and only world boss.
Surprisingly, there's no way to customize your weapons or upgrade them. You can change their skins and the look of the stake, but that's it. It's easily the most shallow AAA looter-shooter game I have ever played.
Most side missions are fetch quests from the characters you meet in the various safe houses. There are also safe house missions that end with defeating the vampire underboss in that area. Sadly, every safe house has only two missions, and there are not many of these in the first place. "Not enough" is a constant theme in Redfall, whether it's the number of side activities, missions, or loot.
Aside from these gameplay problems, Redfall has a plethora of rudimentary issues. For instance, if you die, you will spawn at the nearest safe house. It makes no sense and makes Redfall more infuriating than it already is. The worst is when you die during a thrilling mini-boss encounter and have to travel all the way from a distant safe house. It's a momentum killer in a game that rarely builds momentum.
Games like Dishonored and Prey provided fun and creative ways to traverse its many environments, whereas, in Redfall, you just walk from one place to another. It's straight-up boring. It doesn't help that the game forces you to travel back and forth all the time because fast travel is so limiting.
Overall, there's not much incentive to play Redfall. Between the lack of activities, meaningful loot, and simplistic level design that doesn't do any hardcore Arkane fan justice, I found myself yearning for a good time.
Fortunately, things are less grim in co-op. Inviting friends to play together is very seamless, and it's vaguely fun when you do sync your abilities and work together. In my case, the fun time was over when my friend(who joined my game) logged out, and I lost all my story, weapon, and XP progress that I had gained during our co-op session.
While you can play pretty much everything in co-op, there are few activities that seem to be designed for co-op play. These include Vampire Nests, Redfall's version of mini-dungeons. Every Vampire Nest has different modifiers, like in Destiny 2, but they aren't game-changing. Arkane describes this as a great source of loot, but so far, I haven't gotten a single legendary drop from these.
It's become quite the norm for AAA games to launch in a broken and unplayable state. Thankfully, Redfall isn't that game. It's not perfect either, but at least in my time with its PC version, I didn't experience anything game-breaking.
I tested Redfall on two systems. A mid-budget gaming laptop with RTX 3060 and 16 GB RAM, and a high-end PC with RTX 4080 and 32 GB RAM. On the laptop, Redfall ran at 50-60 FPS solo at medium settings and 1080p resolution. On the PC side of things, I got over 60 FPS at all times at the highest graphics setting and 4K resolution.
In both cases, there were occasional FPS drops, especially during enemy encounters. Strangely, I also noticed heavy dips every time I went back to the game after checking the menu. Other than these, there were a few environmental glitches where I got stuck in the environment geometry. However, in my 25 hours playthrough, I didn't experience a single crash on any of the systems.
I should also add that Redfall is the best-looking Arkane game of all time and has some of the best art styles and lighting in the studio's history.
In many ways, Redfall feels like a cluttered and unfocused experience that doesn't compare to the studio's previous endeavors. Arkane's feeble attempt at fusing two genres robs Redfall of everything that made its previous games special.
With two new characters all set to release post-launch, I could see Arkane doubling down on adding more replayable activities like the Vampires Nests and improving the loot pool. But until existing characters gets additional skill lines and abilities, not to mention more unique enemy types and challenges, there's no saving Redfall from its bloody fate.
Review code was provided by Bethesda.