Most folks who care wrote Redfall off as a disaster weeks ago, and they’re not wrong. There’s a mess in every corner, dirt under every rug, and the sink is clogged. What might surprise those same people is that Redfall isn’t all bad. There are a few redeeming qualities there, but it’s hard to blame anyone who didn’t want to stick around to find them.
Falling for the first time
Following my first play session with Redfall I doubted I could finish a full review due to the game-breaking bugs my buddies and I encountered. Right out of the gate, one of us didn’t get the opening cinematic, and all of us missed whatever was being conveyed while we tried to troubleshoot. When the three of us did load into the map, one teammate wasn’t able to see dead bodies or weapons. He could loot ammo, but there were no guns for him to load that ammo into.
Following a few restarts, we all managed to get into a session that appeared to be working, until we reached our future base of operations; a fire station. The game’s tutorial wanted us to break into the station, giving us a few options to demonstrate how we could play our way. Preferring stealth, we climbed onto the roof as suggested and tried to sneak in, only the roof was bugged, and we couldn’t get in. After 10 minutes of trying to figure out what was wrong, we simply walked through the front door to find a fire house full of NPCs who were also bugged. Our mission was to break these NPCs out of a room they were locked in, only they weren’t locked in the room at all. We couldn’t interact with them or progress forward in any way, so a couple more restarts were in order.
Finally, the NPCs were trapped in the room they were meant to be in, and we figured things were getting sorted out. With that settled, we were off to the basement to kill a vampire, only the vampire wasn’t there. We tried everything we could think of to get that vampire to spawn, but no luck. More restarts got the vampire to show up, and we dispatched him. Our first session took about 90 minutes, and we spent most of that time trying to get Redfall to work. We managed to complete about 20 minutes of gameplay in that initial 90-minute session.
Our second, third, and fourth play sessions were smoother. There were no crashes or game-breaking bugs, and we were able to knock out some quests and explore the map. We played on PC, so we had decent frame rates and thoroughly enjoyed exploring Redfall. The map is full of interesting buildings with notes and collectibles to expand on the lore. Redfall has that Arkane feeling at times, and we fell into a decent gameplay loop of looting to earn cash and find new weapons, gaining XP along the way so we could build out our skills.
Perhaps the strongest quality of Redfall is its art style, whether we’re talking about the environment or characters, it’s a delight. That same Arkane style that you remember from Dishonored and Deathloop is on full display here. Characters have pronounced features, and there are loads of outfits you can unlock to create a unique look for yourself. Visually and in terms of level design, I was always pleased with Redfall, which made its shortcomings even more disappointing.
I spoke too soon
While some play sessions were better than others, I could write a list of bugs that would extend this review to 3,000 words. I won’t go that far, but some common ones are teammates in the t-pose every time you’re at a safe house, crashes and disconnects almost every session, and players loading into the map who can move around but can’t see.
What’s sad is that the most fun my team and I ever had in Redfall was when one of them had a black screen, and I stood behind him and streamed my gameplay through Discord so he could walk to the safehouse to finish the mission. Why didn’t he just leave? Any time someone leaves your party in Redfall, everyone is booted to the lobby, even if it’s not the host who leaves. And if you want to open a door to complete a mission objective, all players must be near the door. So, we either all took the boot and did the mission over, or we walked my buddy across the map by having him track his character in my Discord stream.
It's also worth noting for anyone even considering playing Redfall that campaign progress is only given to the host of a session. My entire team played through the whole game together, yet I’m the only one who ever had campaign progress above zero percent. If they wanted to log on without me, they’d be starting all the way back at that buggy tutorial and fire station mission.
We rolled credits on Redfall after nearly 20 hours of gameplay. Even after uninstalling, I have no idea what happened or why there were vampires, who the heroes were or their backstory, or anything else. Best I can tell a bunch of people did some science and somehow a little girl who talks to you was forced to make these nerds into vampires who blocked out the sun. Truthfully, I don’t care to know if I’m wrong. At no point did Redfall pull me in and make me want to keep going to unravel the mystery.
Rounding out the larger complaints I have with Redfall is how normal difficulty is mind-numbingly easy. My team and I never failed a boss fight, and by the end I could one-shot just about every vampire we encountered with my stake launcher. The enemy AI, as is well documented, was awful. Enemies would run past you and not realize you were there and at no point presented even a mild challenge. Sure, there are harder difficulties, but my faith that it would be anything more than a bunch of enemies with more health is non-existent.
How did we get here?
I wanted desperately to find a good game underneath all the bugs in Redfall, and every now and then a tiny ray of light would shine through and give me hope. I took my time to give it a fair opportunity where others wrote it off only a few hours in. Unfortunately, they were right, and this will go down as one of the more disappointing games that I’ve played in recent years. All we can hope for now is that Redfall’s disastrous journey serves as a warning to Microsoft and its stable of development studios. Not because the world’s second-largest company can’t take the hits, but because players deserve better.
This review is based on a Steam digital code provided by the publisher. Redfall is available now on PC and Xbox Series XlS
- Cool locations to explore
- Great character art and design
- Lots of lore
- Game-breaking bugs present
- So many bugs it gets another entry
- I still don't really know what's happening
- Story progression only for the co-op host
- Co-op is poorly executed on all levels