The small New England town of Redfall has been taken over by vampires. With the town cut off from the outside world, it is left to those trapped inside to find a way to end the siege before there is no one left. By choosing one of four unique characters, players take on the role of the town’s would-be savior in the first-person shooter Redfall, published by Bethesda Game Studios and Developed by Arkane Austin.
These days we are so bombarded by media that it is hard to get to everything we want to. With nonstop television, games, movies, and more constantly becoming available, the bar for what warrants our time grows higher and higher. While I can remember the days when I had the time and money to engage with a game whose premise and world may look interesting, its story and gameplay are just fine, but those days are long gone. And sadly for Redfall, that is precisely what it delivers.
The first thing I want to talk about here is the setting. As a lifelong Mainer, I get a special thrill when a New England setting shows up in the media. As one of the less visual areas of the country, we don’t regularly see sights and sounds that look like home in video games. And while there are any number of shortcomings in this game Arkane nailed the coastal town energy of its setting perfectly. one of the less thrilling areas of the country, we don’t regularly see sights and sounds that look like home in video games. And while there are any number of shortcomings in this game, Arkane nailed the coastal town energy of its setting perfectly.
This charming coastal town motif is utilized perfectly to create the landscape of the game. The cozy roads, docks, and playgrounds are now shrouded in fog and stalked by cultists and their unholy masters. Horror is often at its best when it takes something that should be friendly and turns it into a nightmare. This aspect of the genre is executed wonderfully.
While the larger world delivers a generally creepy vibe to it, Redfall truly brings the horror energy to play when the player is forced to search darkened houses that drape them in shadows. With only your flashlight providing a hard cone of light in the center of the screen, there were many times I thought I saw things and heard things that gave me a start. Vampires are sometimes left floating in a space where I didn’t quickly see them, causing me to wander where I shouldn’t. This forced me to stay honest about my surroundings lest I stumble into a trap.
Sadly, however, the world is the best that Redfall ultimately delivers. The gunplay is adequate to hit shots, and the weapon set delivers a couple of fairly unusual options but largely doesn’t stray from the tried and true choices shooter fans will be used to. This largely mediocre approach to the gameplay and combat options lays the groundwork for a forget able experience that the enemy AI only worsens. Enemies do not act intelligently, often making baffling decisions like not closing distance when firing a shotgun or just starting into a corner when the player is on a platform above them rather than moving to where they could actually see them.
Another thing that keeps the player from exploring more of the world than the story requires is a relative lack of enemy types. Humans with a couple of different weapon options are the player’s most frequent encounters. Vampires become more prevalent, particularly at night, as the game moves on, but they take only a couple of forms as well. If the AI was brighter, forcing the player to be more engaged with the moment-to-moment action of combat, this would probably be fine. Instead, the combat feels like it boils down to either being shot at blindly by humans or being gang rushed by a pack of wild vampires.
One element that does come together fairly well is the character progression. Progressing through the game unlocks skills for the character that can be upgraded in several ways. These levels felt meaningful, and I was always excited to improve my character when a new skill point became available.
This level system builds on the player’s choice of character well. With four different options at the start of the game, the player’s choice of how to approach the game is greatly impacted by which character they select. I went with Remi, an emergency worker who has an AI companion that can taunt enemies. She also has shape chargers she can throw, and her ultimate ability allows her to deploy a healing field. Other characters focused on stealth or other themes.
The other core area the game falters on is its story. While Redfall feels right for compelling characters and possibly an intriguing villain or two, these never appear. The player has a minimum amount of interaction with the locals, and the villains are mostly nameless baddies there to be disposed of. There are a couple of moments that flesh out the big baddies, but these are delivered amidst frustrating searching sequences and don’t deliver enough bang to make them land.
Lastly, I did run into several bugs during my time with Redfall. Vampires teleporting into walls and getting stuck, my companion robot disappearing for a time and not showing back up, along with a number of smaller instances, further hampered the experience.
Redfall never manages to be anything more than fine. My time playing through its single-player campaign rarely wowed me once the skillful crafting of the world itself wore off.
Redfall is available now on Xbox Series S/X and PC and is available through Xbox Game Pass
Redfall never manages to be anything more than fine. My time playing through its single-player campaign it rarely wowed me once the skillful crafting of the world itself wore off.