Redfall has Arkane Studios sinking its teeth into the supernatural – Hands-on impressions

Where’s Blade when you need him?

Image via Bethesda

Arkane Studios has had an outstanding track record over the past decade, developing critically successful titles that are saturated with exciting stories set in unique worlds. After working on Dishonored and Prey, Arkane’s development team in Austin shifted gears a little, while its Lyon studio focused on the time-bending shooter Deathloop. Redfall is what Arkane Austin has been cooking up, and although it does have some familiar characteristics to those previous titles, it is also very different from what has come before it.

At a recent preview event, I was given a couple of hours of hands-on time with Redfall to play through a mission about a third of the way into the main story. The backdrop for the game is the fictional town of Redfall, where vampires are running rampant on an island after someone has pulled a Mr. Burns by blocking out the sun. After selecting one of four available characters, I was tasked with investigating the Addison Manor, a point of interest located in another district on the southern side of the map.

Related: Bethesda drops new story trailer for Redfall, showcasing the game’s biggest, baddest vampires

Before venturing off, I pumped a few skills points into the ability tree for my character, Devinder. This allowed me to spec into unique areas of Dev’s available tools and modify how they worked. His javelin could be launched at nearby foes and cause them to be electrocuted. Dev’s movement-based ability let him throw out a disc-shaped gadget that meant he could teleport to its location. Lastly, the ultimate ability had him jam a UV Blacklight into the ground that, froze vampires where they stood. Each playable character in Redfall has a variety of powers that make them all handle a little differently, but Dev is who I went with for this particular session.

The world itself is riddled with vampires and cultists who will attempt to hinder your progress while you explore. As a first-person shooter, Redfall features a tiered gear system with various equipment slots that allows you the freedom to deck out your player character how you see fit. You can find some of this gear by searching abandoned buildings clustered throughout the town. Whether it’s walking the halls of a trashed movie theater, scavenging through a sports equipment store, or rummaging in the rooms of someone’s house, there are plenty of locations to scour while making your way between missions.

Image via Bethesda

I’ll keep story spoilers to a minimum, but in true Arkane fashion, the Addison Manor had a selection of ways to tackle the task. I tried to keep things a bit quiet as I crept around, slowly staking vampires in the back and turning them to dust. After clearing out the manor and learning more about what was going on in Redfall, a meter that had been filling up along the journey reached the end, causing the Vampire Gods to dispatch a super-vampire called Rook. This juiced-up Vamp had clearly been on something other than human blood and had decided to take his roid rage out on me as his punching bag.

But this fight was just showcasing more of what had become my biggest concern with Redfall – I was finding the combat fairly easy. Despite Rook looking big and menacing, he seemed to have the brains of everything else I’d already come up against. Attacks were telegraphed quite early, and running around in circles or simply moving left to right appeared to be doing the trick of outwitting everything I had to clash against. Toward the end of my play session, I freely ran around the town, blasting dozens of enemies at a time without feeling like I was in any serious danger. Potentially I was too overpowered with my currently equipped gear for the areas I was in, but also, I hadn’t really changed anything from what I was handed from the onset and where I was being sent to explore.

Related: Redfall developers looking to address always-online restriction but aren’t making any promises

Despite my reservations with the difficulty and enemy AI that I came up against, Redfall is absolutely oozing with that Arkane style they are known for. This can be seen in the Dishonored series, Prey, and Deathloop, all brilliant video games that I’ve had an immense amount of fun playing in the past, and they are titles that not nearly enough people have played — so go check them out if you haven’t. I’m hopeful that Arkane Studios can continue to deliver top-notch experiences like those previous games, and I’m definitely going to be there to jump into Redfall with a stake in my hand on day one.