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.
Redfall is a four-player co-op loot-shooter that pits players against vampires and the cultists who follow them. The story premise is classic Arkane stuff, but in practice, it plays like a tug-of-war that its usually inventive team could not win. Most aspects of what the team is known for–unrivaled world design, intricate immersive sim elements, improvisational combat–are rarely found here. In their place are run-and-gun fights with unresponsive AI enemies amid a host of bugs that are so prevalent, it genuinely feels dejecting to see the game launch in this state. Wherever things have gone wrong in Redfall, and there are several places, it feels like the result of a team with a foot in disjointed worlds: what it’s known for and what it’s tasked with doing.
The game’s two maps are bigger than anything Arkane has done before, from either its team in Texas or France, but the team struggles to fill that space with the same intricacies that made games like Dishonored and Deathloop both Game of the Year winners and Prey a cult classic. Too often, you and up to three others playing in co-op will move across barren beaches or through wooded areas with little more than some sheds or campsites to rummage through. The game’s second map, which you’ll unlock halfway through the campaign, is noticeably better because it comes closer to the team’s past efforts, with more interesting landmarks and more verticality built into its neighborhoods, but it still doesn’t quite get there.
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