Not So Massively: It’s okay that Redfall is just okay


I rarely let myself get too hyped for unreleased games, but I was keeping one eye on the vampire-hunting online FPS Redfall. When it launched to disastrous user reviews and universal condemnation, I considered giving up on it, but I also remembered that many of my favourite games have been considered terrible by the wider community. When the game went on sale for a deep discount, I decided to give it a shot, as much to see if it was really as bad as people claim as for any other reason.

And you know what? It was fine. I found Redfall to be a perfectly competent game that is, at the absolute worst, a little uninspired, but still plenty entertaining.

I won’t claim that Redfall is a must-play masterpiece. It’s not. It’s a pretty by the numbers open world shooter that doesn’t bring anything particularly new to the table. But that very banality makes the hate even more confusing.

The two biggest criticisms I heard of Redfall were that it was extremely buggy and that the enemy AI was utterly broken. Neither panned out in my experience.

The only significant bug I encountered is one where enemies appeared to fall through the game world and get stuck underground. They could still hit me, but I couldn’t hit them. Annoying, but this only happened twice in my 34-hour playthrough, and in both cases it was during random exploration, so I could just walk away without consequence. If I were listing the buggiest games I’ve played, Redfall wouldn’t be a contender.

As far as the AI goes, I won’t say it was particularly smart (and apparently Arkane Studios claimed it would be pre-launch, so that it is a bit of a blunder), but it was perfectly functional. At times its pathfinding was a little odd, but if I hadn’t been actively looking for flaws in the AI, I never would have noticed.

Of course we’ve all seen the videos showcasing Redfall at its most broken, and I don’t doubt their veracity, but I do question whether they were representative of the average experience or just cherry-picked to farm rage clicks.

Maybe the patches it’s had since launch made a big difference, but immediately before I bought the game, I looked over a Reddit thread asking if the patches had improved things, and the overwhelming consensus was that the patches had done very little and the game was still unplayable.

Maybe I just got super lucky and avoided the problems others are seeing, but if the game truly is as broken as people claim, that shouldn’t be possible. Admittedly I never tried playing multiplayer, which does supposedly bring problems of its own, but I am left to wonder if those are equally exaggerated.

I did find that the game had a lot of smaller rough edges. The character models look a bit odd. Ambient NPC dialogue in your home base repeats way too much. There are some tedious chore-like tasks, like clearing vampire nests — though such things are pretty par for the course for open world games.

The story has a similar level of jank to the gameplay. The tone is very all over the map. The player characters are very quirky and quippy, and the cartoony art-style lends one to expect a lighter sort of game, but the main story can actually go to some pretty dark and tragic places.

My biggest complaint, as mentioned above, is that the gameplay isĀ  a bit generic. The vampire-slaying mechanics, wherein they need to be staked through the heart or otherwise subjected to more than simple gunfire, are a nice touch, but they don’t add that much to the experience in practice. It pretty much feels like playing any other open world shooter from the past 10 years or so.

Still, there’s worse sins a game can commit than just being a bit unambitious. Overall my impression of Redfall was that of a game with many rough edges, none of which were serious enough to significantly hamper my enjoyment.

It does have its strong moments, too. Despite the tone issues mentioned above, I did find the main story fairly compelling. In exploring the origins of the vampire threat, you’ll uncover a cautionary tale about the evils of unfettered capitalism and the fragile egos behind it. Not the most subtle messaging, but it works.

Also, can say how grateful I am to have a story where the vampires are just unambiguously monstrous? I’m so tired of vampires being portrayed as sympathetic or alluring or sexy. They’re supposed to undead, inhuman horrors. Redfall understands this.

Probably the greatest strength of the game, though, is its world design. The game world is incredible detailed, demonstrating an extremely high calibre of verisimilitude and environmental story-telling, alongside a healthy dose of Easter eggs and secret content.

Redfall isn’t a great game. But it is a decent game. If you were very hyped pre-launch and bought it at full price, I can understand some degree of disappointment. But as someone who bought it on sale with minimal expectations, I feel I more than got my money’s worth.

The trouble is the gaming community seems to have lost the ability to understand that games can be (and statistically usually are) just OK. Not life-changing masterpieces, nor unplayable disasters. There’s nothing wrong with some games merely being good but not great.

Maybe I just got super lucky and dodged all Redfall‘s issues. Maybe the post-launch patches actually made a big difference. But from where I’m sitting, Redfall‘s commercial failure seems like less a commentary on the game itself and more a cautionary tale of the excesses of gaming culture hyperbole and the folly of listening to clickbait YouTubers. If this is what qualifies as a “disaster” these days, the gaming industry is in a great place.

The world of online gaming is changing. As the gray area between single-player and MMO becomes ever wider, Massively OP’s Tyler Edwards delves into this new and expanding frontier biweekly in Not So Massively, our column on battle royales, OARPGs, looter-shooters, and other multiplayer online titles that aren’t quite MMORPGs.
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