Written by - Livid
Updated: June 20, 2023
Posted: May 2, 2023
The small island town of Redfall, Massachusetts is under attack by a legion of blood hungry vampires. They’ve blocked out the sun, cut off all communications, and have pretty much bled the town dry. That my friend is where you come in. Today we’re giving you our brutally honest review of Redfall to find out if it’s truly worth your time.
When it comes to reviews on the channel, we really don’t like to bury the lead, and as much as it pains us to say this, we genuinely can’t recommend Redfall, at least, not as a solo player and not at full price. Considering this is from Arkane Austin, makers of the esteemed games Prey and Dishonored, it’s a bit of a shock.
The biggest talking point that I’m sure every major review channel is going to hammer on about is likely the whole 60fps issue, or lack thereof, so let’s get that out of the way. We get it, that shouldn’t be a factor in 2023, but when games are still being designed for last-gen, current-gen, and cutting edge PC systems, there are inevitably going to be performance issues and bugs in the game. Some might not experience a single one, others might experience all of them. That’s just sadly where we’re at. So if lower fps values and minor performance hiccups are an immediate dealbreaker, Redfall won’t be the game for you. Simple as that.
What we are going to focus on in this review, as we do with all our reviews, are the actual features and systems that make Redfall what it is. Performance generally gets better over a game’s shelf life. Core systems however, typically remain the same. So let’s start with the all-important 30-thousand foot view.
Honestly, even up until the moment our team got to sink our fangs into the game, we genuinely didn’t fully know. At face value, it’s an open-world, co-op, fps title where you try to take back Redfall from an unrelenting horde of vampires.
It features four playable characters at launch, and while you can play all 4, you’ll need to fully get through the game on each to fully unlock their kits and really open up the full experience each has to offer.
Layla is a telekinetic individual who functions as a pseudo tank/support hybrid. She can summon a psychic umbrella to block projectiles or send out a psychic blast; summon a psychic lift that acts like a jump pad for your team or offensively against enemies; and can call in her vampire ex-boyfriend to attack everything in sight.
Devinder, on the other hand, is focused on controlling enemies and keeping you and your team mobile. He can toss out a translocation beacon, allowing you and your team an essential portal to wherever it lands. He also has access to arc javelins, that can create electrical hazards for enemies, and finally a blacklight, which can petrify groups of vampires or stagger human enemies.
Remi de la Rosa
Remi is a combat engineer, but she really shines as a healer, accompanied by a pet robot (Bribon) that can function as a tank. Create a rallying point to heal allies in a large AOE, toss a remotely triggered C4 charge for instances of high burst damage, or command Bribon to alert enemies and take on aggro from the team.
Jacob Boyer, an ex-military sniper who, well, does what sniper/assassin’s do best. He’s equipped with a raven that can be tossed out to mark and even damage enemies, a cloaking skill to render you invisible to enemies, and his heartstopper rifle, a ghostly rifle that can be summoned for a limited number of shots that tracks targets and does incredible damage.
While the game does feature a genuinely cool cast of playable characters it largely ends up playing like something in the realm of far cry. Whether that’s a good thing or not is really up to you, but as we start breaking down the system, that comparison should act as a good foundation.
You’ll have access to a main campaign that branches off into different objective trees, taking you to various parts of the town. As you head to different sections of the map, each district will have its own safehouse that needs to be cleared, which typically involves eliminating a small number of enemies and starting up the nearby generator. Inside the safehouse will be a single side mission that then unlocks the ability to locate and fight a vampire underboss. This is the supposed “big bad” of an area that holds the respect of all the other vampires under them.
These fights, on the highest difficulty we had access to, were honestly one of the biggest let downs we’ve experienced in gaming. The AI isn’t great, allowing you to inadvertently cheese almost every fight in some way, shape, or form. Even if you didn’t cheese, they died insanely fast. There were even times where I’d forget I had the underboss mission and ended up killing it like a normal vampire while exploring. Inadvertent boss kills should definitely not be a thing.
Throughout the campaign you’ll spend ample time exploring the town of Redfall. It genuinely feels like most of the time spent developing this game was put into creating a town where nearly every building is explorable. They are beautifully crafted spaces, and are generally a high point within the game, but the Redfall itself has little to nothing in the way of things to chase. It’s a big, beautiful sandbox, with nothing meaningful to track down.
The most egregious part of exploration is lockpicking and hacking. While exploring Redfall you’ll run through elaborate houses only to realize they’re devoid of anything meaningful except for a single currency, disguised as various items in the world. You’ll frequently run across locks that need picking and keypads that need hacking. Simply hold the interact button and, as long as you have the necessary lockpick or rewire, you’re in; talk about a letdown. This entire system was a lazy design, and is made worse by the fact that rewards for breaking into these places are often just as uninspiring. Sometimes it’s simple currency, food for health, a replacement for the lockpick or rewire you just used, or on the off chance maybe a randomly rolled weapon.
It’s a big, beautiful sandbox, with nothing meaningful to track down.
What this all rolls up into is a boring gameplay loop where you search houses for currency that you then use to buy more lockpicks and re-wires to go get more currency. And all this leads up to accumulating enough currency to shop vendor’s inventories in hopes you’ll get a well rolled weapon. It’s not great.
At face value it’s vanilla, but perhaps it can be redeemed by the really over-the-top and interesting weapons with cool, unique secondary effects, right? Nope. The weapons in Redfall just miss the mark completely. Let’s be clear, they don’t inherently feel bad in and of themselves. They’re guns and they function like guns, but in terms of things that could help them stand apart, the developers did not bring anything meaningful to the table.
We’ve said time and time again that passive stat boosts are boring and uninspired systems within games. With Redfall the team leans so hard into these simple stat bumps, it’s impossible not to call it out. There are 7 different types of guns in the game:
Sadly no matter how cool a weapon looks, the inner workings are just boring. Are you starting to see the theme here? We’re also talking about an overall lack of customization options on the weapons besides changing its skin and adding a different looking stake to the front. You’ll notice perks like, “this weapon does 20% more damage” or “this weapon carries 2 more rounds in a magazine”. This is common across all weapons and it lacks anything that would really make you believe you’re wielding something special, despite the weapon’s rarity.It’s genuinely sad when the most interesting perk we found was, “this weapon’s bullets can kill vampires”. In all fairness that’s actually a really cool perk because traditional bullets will only bring a vampire to the brink of death in the game, and if left alone they’ll fully regenerate, but that’s besides the point.
Redfall’s combat can easily be described as arcadey. It’s fast and franetic, which is partially why we drew the comparison to far cry, because it comes off in much the same way. You don’t have access to a dodge, but you do have all the characters abilities, which are fun to use and seemingly well designed.
You can enhance all your abilities in interesting ways in each character’s skill tree. For example, Jacob’s raven became an absolute monster when fully leveled, capable of flying through walls, hitting one enemy then chaining to all enemies nearby while creating more ravens on each hit. The skill genuinely got new functionality and changed the way the character is played. Have to give the team credit there, because that’s the sort of design we like to see, even if it’s simple.
The pace at which you level up and earn skill points is painfully slow. By the end of the 25 hour campaign, we were barely level 20 out of 40, allowing us to max out effectively one character’s ability. In addition to skill points, progression overall is just lacking in almost every sense. You’re looking for 3 weapons to wield, a blood perk to equip, and levels to enhance your skills or basic stats like ammo reserves and health. It leaves much to be desired and little to no reason to chase anything meaningful.
The challenge instead becomes the cadence of combat, which is almost identical from encounter to encounter. Fights against vampires boil down to shooting them until they get too close, running away to avoid their attacks. Rinse and repeat. Without a dodge mechanic you’re left with limited options which almost pigeonholes the combat to this menial set of moves.
Luckily, enemy variety does add some nice depth to the combat, and while we’ve seen many of the tropes before, it helps establish the overarching world as truly dangerous.
It’s a decent lineup of enemies, but the problem is, after just a few hours, you stop worrying about what’s lurking around every corner. When you’re stuck with just a few basic weapons things are a lot more intense, but after a few upgrades, all those well-designed enemies just lose their edge. As you can tell, a lot are just one trick ponies and it’s not until the game starts layering groups of enemies together that combat becomes even remotely interesting which isn’t something that happens until well into the playthrough.
Vampire nests are the diamond in the rough here. These are randomly generated dungeon-like areas. Enter and slay anything in your way until you reach and sever the heart at the center. After that you’ll have a short amount of time to find a door, picking up any loot along the way. They break up the open world monotony and offer more loot based rewards. As time goes on these nests will pop up in each zone and, if left unchecked, their boundary will grow and supercharge all vampires in an area. They’re somewhat enjoyable and can be quite challenging, which was a breath of fresh air. At first this was a really great system to interact with. But without variation this does become yet another chore and even tends to get in the way of story progression.
Redfall ultimately falls victim to something a lot of games struggle with; a patchwork of ideas that never really amounts to anything memorable. The team fails to commit to anything other than delivering a story, and while that’s fine, there’s not enough to back that up and without meaningful depth to any of the game’s major systems everything just feels a little ‘meh’ and it’s just such a disappointment coming from such a studio that have put out such great games before.
Sadly Redfall never really gets off the ground and while the world is interesting, there’s very little to support the sandbox that the team has created. The final nail in the coffin was when we beat the game. The final boss is defeated and the credits roll, followed by a complete game wipe. Everything we worked for was completely gone, and while we had the option to restart with our character progress and weapons carrying over it was a straight up curveball that really sealed the deal for us. In order to fully level all 4 characters, the game would require a full playthrough roughly 8 times. No thank you.
There’s no way we can, in good faith, recommend you spend your money on this which is why we say Redfall is not worth your time.