As I leave the safety of my bunker and venture into town, I find myself standing in front of a boarded up home. It looks like it’s long been abandoned, but as I get closer, I hear murmuring from within. Desperate to find out more, I break in, using my teleport abilities to scale the building. When I get inside I’m greeted by a dark attic, decorated with fresh blood. This building isn’t empty; it’s a trap. And if I stay here any longer, I’ll be a vampire’s next meal.
Welcome to Redfall.
I got to experience around 90 minutes of Arkane Studios Austin’s upcoming first-person shooter before the Redfall release date arrives, and while a lot of my time was spent searching for exciting loot, taking down vampires, including the dangerous Rook, and completing some main story missions in true FPS fashion, it’s clear from my time in the preview that Redfall was built with horror in mind.
Playing alone, rather than with friends in Redfall multiplayer, there’s always an element of tension. Despite the bright visuals that Redfall offers, akin to that of Deathloop, there’s something sinister lurking around every corner.
Arkane’s passion for developing immersive worlds comes to a culmination here. Every home in this Massachusetts town offers unique stories if you’re willing to look for them. You see flashes of the life people used to live before everything went to hell. Notes left on tables fill in the gaps of some who either became cultists or who succumbed to the vampires that now make up Redfall’s population. This environmental storytelling allows for more grounded horror, and it’s something Redfall does very well.
While some stories are seen and not heard, the main narrative of Redfall, which will have you investigating the Vampire Gods and their origins, is very much involved. In my playtest, I played a mission, which involved hunting down a vampire who had experimented on his daughter before he turned. By finding echoes across the mansion and accessing the fathers lab, you’ll witness remnants of a heart wrenching story that, as a dad myself, is difficult to parse.
By forcing you to invest both time and emotion into these creatures, Arkane knows it makes the threat of them more realistic and more grounded. Their lives, even prior to becoming monsters, presents them as terrible people. While I was only able to find out some backstory behind one of these Vampire Gods, I imagine there’s a similar pattern with the other bosses, and if that is the case, it will offer a captivating yet haunting background for Redfall’s story.
On my hunt for this Vampire God to make things right, I required vampire skulls which can be acquired by defeating mini-bosses within each region of the Redfall map. In easier difficulty modes or with powerful gear, these are fairly simple encounters. But with the challenge amped up, enraging a horde of cultists or vampires can become a terrifying time. It’s worth noting that vampires can only be killed using stakes, and I found myself quickly swapping to the right weapon in the hopes of staking them before they gained their strength back. This quick-draw action, which required quite a lot of planning in advance, resulted in some of the most intense gameplay I’ve experienced in a while.
Plus, every time you pick a fight, you risk angering the Vampire Gods. Over time, this bar will dissipate if you stop killing enemies, but if you fill it up, the aforementioned Rook will arrive. A flurry of red lightning strikes signals its arrival before it then starts to hunt you down. You can flee, but if you defeat the Rook, you’ll be rewarded handsomely. Winning though, isn’t easy. It’s an intense fight that made me jump a few times. The Rook can teleport, charge at you, and knock you sideways. My time with the game didn’t really give me much information about this supernatural bounty hunter other than what’s out there already, but one thing is clear: it really, really wants to kill me.
I expected that Redfall was going to have the hallmarks of an Arkane game; immersive worlds, captivating narratives, great characters, and new mechanics, but what I didn’t expect was the horror-esque experience I found myself in.
Sure, Redfall is intended to be played with friends, but after my experience taking on the Vampire Gods, I’ve realised there’s only one way to play it and that’s alone with the lights off.