Why Redfall may be one of the biggest games of the year – or, to rephrase this feature’s title a little more bluntly, how can Redfall salvage a dim first impression to levitate itself to one of the biggest titles of the year? Recently revealed gameplay footage whereby a squad of vampire hunters’ bundle through their attempts to slay a marauding vampire mini boss has resulted in an overwhelmingly lukewarm response. Presently, the game’s detractors loosely fall into two camps: there’re those flabbergasted by the lack of player ability in the footage, but, more concerningly, some are unimpressed by Redfall’s static gunplay and character movement, bland suburban setting, and thoroughly undynamic, seemingly indestructible environment. Blood, at this present time, certainly isn’t pumping.
On paper, Redfall packs a lot of punch; it’s a shooter stuffed with vampires, enemy leaders, supernatural entities, and battle robots. There’s a ragtag bunch of character classes to get to grips with, each with a myriad of skills and abilities for squads to blend across the New England town’s dreamy boardwalk battlegrounds. As an example, there’s telekinetic powers wieldable from the fingertips of player-character Layla, with the game developers confirming these abilities can be deployed in useful and logical ways to obtain an edge in combat, such as hoisting sharpshooter Jacob airwards into otherwise inaccessible eagle’s nests. There’s also the pedigree of developer Arkane Studios – famed for much-loved titles Dishonored, Prey, and Deathloop – and their particular penchant for immersive environmental storytelling. And there’s even room for single play alongside the game’s touted co-operative mission structure.
So yes, there’s certainly lots for players to sink their teeth into. With such a melting pot of ideas though, is it even possible Arkane can deliver a balanced and coherent experience? To be one of the biggest games of the year, Arkane needs to tie Redfall’s potentially disparate elements together seamlessly. With single player reportedly a more stately, exploratory experience with co-operative play of three or four players being more action-laden and chaotic, this is one way Arkane are looking to bridge the gap between the two gameplay modes. However, is there a chance Redfall will get stuck between these two sensibilities and fail to pull off a stellar version of either?
Moving away from official gameplay trailers to answer this question because, let’s be honest, they’re not giving as clear a picture of what It’d be like to play Redfall as they should, there are a handful of streamers and content creators who’d been invited to play Redfall and are subsequently sharing their thoughts across their channels. Shout out to one such YouTuber Jackfrags who has highlighted a very interested facet that’s undoubtedly been lost in official gameplay footage and that is of mission objectives not being overtly signposted. Player freedom looks to be a careful consideration in Redfall’s gameplay loop. Even the most opportune way to tackle the infiltration of an enemy stronghold before attempting to locate said objectives isn’t spelled out for players either. Should a squad barnstorm in all guns blazing, risking a chaotic firefight in the process? Or is a stealthier approach whereby working as a team to silently slay patrolling vampires and enemies the best way to mission success?
Open-world structure generally provides opportunity for freedom and player agency and to experience emergent gameplay, but arguably games built this way favour single players. Translating the open world experience to co-operative is surely a principal challenge for Arkane to pull off, but if Jackfrags’ testimony is anything to go by then it looks as though player agency in teams of up to four is indeed a likelihood. With multiple ways to complete a mission, and four complimentary character archetypes, there’s plenty of replayability on offer too.
And of those four character types, well, already mentioned in this feature is Layla Ellison who acts as the group’s mage equipping herself with various telekinetic powers plus the ability to utilise spectral items that function as shields or act as boosts and launchpads for her and her teammates. Jacob Boyer is the team’s soldier, equipped with powerful ranged weaponry plus a spectral raven that he can send forth to scan the battleground for enemy locations. Next is the group’s inventor Devinder Crousley who’ll fight with weapons of his own creation, including electric stakes that’ll shock enemies, UV staff’s that’ll freeze vampires in place, and teleporters that he can launch like a frisbee to reach inaccessible rooftops. Lastly, we have Remi de la Rosa who’s a robotics engineer and a genius, having crafted her own sentient machine which accompanies her into battle serving as distraction for the hordes of mutant vampires.
Each character has skill trees in which to dump skill points into too, which provokes another concern surrounding the looting structure of the game. Looting, scouring for resources, all that jazz has become tiresome and outdated in recent years. By incorporating looting into their gameplay, has Arkane inadvertently made Redfall too cookie-cutter? Is it lacking uniqueness by adopting features so commonplace in other looter shooter titles?
Gracefully, Arkane are applying their sensibilities for creativity into the mix too, which should hopefully do enough to distinguish Redfall. Of course, as expected with games of this ilk, opposing character traits must complement each other perfectly should players work together as a team. In Redfall, it’s easy to see how to get the best out of each character’s traits to benefit the whole squad. For instance, when controlling a crowd, Remi’s robot could lead multiple enemies down a path with Devinder’s electric weaponry lying in wait to shock the hordes en masse. Already mentioned is Layla’s ability to launch sniper rifle equipped Jacob into aerial locations, who’ll then be able to utilise his elite auto-aim sharpshooting to swiftly eliminate multiple targets across a vast area.
Above all else, synergy between characters and the unique, creative situations players find themselves in is going to be integral to Redfall’s success as a co-operative shooter. Worth a mention is the fact the game’s primary enemy, the vampire, cannot be killed by simply unloading bullets. They need a stake through the heart if they’re to be finished off or dispatched more creatively such as via setting on fire or freezing and smashing to pieces.
Coming to PC and Xbox Series X|S on May 2nd, Redfall is of major importance to Microsoft who after a relatively paltry 2022 in terms of first party offerings, Redfall and Bethesda’s own Starfield now represent their charge to pump out games that’ll serve as platform sellers. All the ingredients are there for Redfall to be an enjoyable experience and should Arkane Studios stick the landing then it has every chance to be one of the biggest games of the year.
Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.
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