Redfallen on Face
Redfall was recently released and the results… aren’t great.
Developed by Arkane Studios Austin, the same developers behind Dishonored and Prey, Redfall is a $70 game (also on Game Pass) pitched as an open-world, story-driven, action-shooter. The premise is that some vampires showed up in town of Redfall, and you are one of four characters with special powers that can do something about it.
The problem is that the game is terrible. And it is terrible for a lot of fundamental reasons. You may or may not have heard already about the braindead AI or the incredibly lazy art assets. Those are embarrassing corners cut that can be glued back together – update the AI, add some shaders to the chimney, ensure each area has different dead body models.
What cannot be fixed is the overall direction of the game and the utter destruction of any semblance of “immersive sim” the studio is known for.
The “open-world” in Redfall is basically dead. The enemies you face are vampires, a cult of humans working with the vampires, and more humans working with a corporation that attacks everyone on sight. However, the game itself is structured like a looter-shooter: you gain XP to level up and gain skill points to upgrade your powers, and you can loot more powerful guns from drops or in certain containers. So things play out like Borderlands… minus the inventive weapons, the vehicles, the enemy variety, the humor, or simple enemy density.
It is “immersive” that there are no NPCs running around outside, because vampires. It is also “immersive” that there aren’t zombies or a more filler enemy type that you plow through. But the end result is that you spend a lot of time walking around an empty world where 99% of the buildings are boarded up, desperately seeking any gameplay, only to face the same two enemy types over and over.
Amusingly, Phil Spencer (head of Xbox) addressed this vision problem in his recent apology tour:
Spencer also addressed a common question: Why not delay Redfall until it’s ready? (The game was already delayed significantly in 2022.)
“There are quality issues and we’re working on those, but I think there’s a fundamental piece of feedback that we get that the game isn’t realizing the creative vision that it had for its players,” Spencer said. “That doesn’t feel like a Hey, just delay it [situation]. That feels like the game had a goal to do one thing and when players are actually playing they’re not feeling that thing, that creative execution of the team.”Polygon
Phil does say that they are committed to continue working on improving the game, but I have no idea how they imagine that will go. If they are going for a Borderlands vibe, they are going to need more enemies, like vampire dogs, necromancers, or anything else that might fit the “vision.” What they got right now doesn’t work. Like there is supposed to be a spooky vibe, but all the game systems revolve around you farming XP and getting better guns to farm XP faster. And while you can sort of handwave away the human body count, at a certain point the sheer number of vampires you kill as a matter of course gets ridiculous.
When it comes to game vision pivots, Fallout 76 successfully went from no NPCs to a more traditional Fallout NPC experience because the systems were already there. You technically already talked to robots and got quests and the game world supported all of that. It’s hard to imagine Redfall changing in this way. It’s not like Arkane can suddenly start leveraging their Dishonored or Prey experience, and fully committing to the Borderlands direction would make it even more generic than it already is.
Redfall was and is simply a bad idea.
Posted on May 5, 2023, in Commentary and tagged Arkane Studios Austin, Dishonored, Embarrassing, Game Design, Prey, Redfall. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.
Damn, I kinda had my eyes set on it when it was announced because the trailer looked fun. I mean, now months later I’d basically forgotten about it, but still a shame.