Bethesda has now officially released Redfall, the latest game from Arkane Studios (Dishonored, Deathloop, Prey). But as the game is released for public consumption, reviews from critics – who had early access to the game – have accompanied the hype. Unfortunately, the sentiment isn’t particularly glowing.
Redfall is a new kind of foray for the studio, which has in the past excelled in creating dense and complex first-person games, where creative decision-making and freedom of choice is paramount – the studio’s legacy is in the ‘immersive sim’ genre, which encompasses games like Thief and Deus Ex.
Redfall appears to place much of its focus on cooperative shooting action, however, with elements of loot-based RPGs acting as the core for a vampire-infested world.
Recently, Arkane Studios founder Raphaël Colantonio revealed in an interview that Bethesda had asked the studio to pitch projects that would assist the studio in learning how to make games with multiplayer and roguelike elements, which led to projects like Deathloop, and presumably, Redfall.
While Deathloop was largely well received by critics, Redfall does not have appeared to have enjoyed the same fate, with several outlets lamenting the game’s empty world, repetitive nature, and unrealised potential – especially for a studio of Arkane’s calibre.
Here’s a look at what some critics are saying:
GamesHub – 3/5 Stars
The GamesHub review of Redfall observed a game at odds with itself. Writer Leah J. Williams found a lot to like in the worldbuilding of Redfall’s vampire narrative, which seemed to act as a broad metaphor for the contemporary world. But the fact that the game is structured for cooperative play undermined a lot of the potential here, it seems.
‘In leaning towards multiplayer mechanics, Redfall has seemingly lost part of its identity, with its dual focus of enjoyable combat and a compelling story gelling together in a globular fashion; neither quite aiding the other. In fits and starts, the game’s story is wonderfully intriguing, particularly as it devolves to surrealism and metaphor in creative, ingenious ways – but these moments are spreadeagled over a barebones story filled with disparate set pieces.’
There is a sense of more hiding beneath the surface of Redfall; and an urge to find it is what pushes you onward through endless vampire skirmishes. But while pieces of promised treasure are sprinkled throughout, Redfall never shines quite as brightly as it should.’
GameSpot – 4/10
GameSpot guides editor Mark Delaney lamented Redfall’s compromise of Arkane’s signature design philosophies in his review of the game.
‘Arkane doesn’t put ladders in its games. The team says as much with a succinctly stated poster in one of the rooms in its Austin location: “F**k ladders,” it reads. The team has said ladders feel limiting by putting players in a “mode” where they can’t use their weapons or abilities, and they often even fall to their deaths anyway – Arkane hates ladders.’
‘And yet, there are ladders early and often in Redfall. This surprise would become emblematic of my time in the vampire-infested Massachusetts town. Redfall is Arkane making compromises to its own design philosophies to serve a genre it may have been better off avoiding.’
Delany also found several issues with bugs that hampered the experience, and a loot-shooting experience that was subpar.
‘Its litany of bugs hampers the gameplay loop of exploring its world with friends, and that loop itself feels compromised by elements that are poorly executed and ill-suited to the team implementing them. I can’t pretend to know whether Arkane chose to make a loot-shooter or was assigned to make a loot-shooter, but I can tell you what it feels like: one of the best game studios in the world suddenly made toothless.’
XboxEra – 8.5/10
In one of the most positive reviews, Jessie Norris of XboxEra remarked that Redfall was ‘incredibly fun,’ and ‘fantastic in most ways.’
‘It is fun as hell solo, and ridiculously so in co-op,’ he said, while also lamenting that ‘a few baffling design decisions around its co-op implementation and some frustrating technical issues hold it back.’
‘Only the host in co-op gets progression in missions, though you keep any experience or drops gained when playing with friends. The game scales enemies to the highest-level player, which can make it impossible to play together if you’re more than a few levels apart. This system is why I had a co-op and solo set of heroes, and I hope they change it up eventually post-launch.’
Norris also remarked that while there ‘isn’t a ton of mission variety,’ this helped Redfall‘s overall runtime ‘feel right.’
WellPlayed – 4.5/10
In writing for Well-Played, James Wood echoes a lot of the shared sentiment, saying that Redfall is ‘somewhat abandoning what makes Arkane games so special in the first place.’ To Woods, the game feels like ‘a disjointed experiment in melding the house style with modern open-world tendencies and multiplayer,’ and the game is ‘lacking the raw mechanical satisfaction of its contemporaries.’
‘It’s an overstuffed, unsatisfying array of mechanics and storytelling ideas that have been dated for a good while now, and without any of the flavour that makes this studio’s work so appealing, the game finds itself without much of an identity. Redfall feels like someone fed Arkane prompts to an AI and I can’t think of anything sadder.’
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