Arkane Studios, the developer that has brought us games like the Dishonored series, Prey, and Deathloop, have been diligently working on their latest title, Redfall. The new IP is an open-world FPS that can be played cooperatively with up to 4 players.
Redfall places you in the middle of an explorable city that has been overrun by vampires. You can select one of 4 characters to play as, each with their own unique abilities and playstyles. As you advance through the game your character unlocks upgrades and enhancements to those abilities, giving you more ways to slay vampires. Throw in a badass finishing move that sees you drive a stake through the vamps' dying corpses and it was all looking not too shabby.
Unfortunately, the last few months that have led up to the impending release of Redfall have been, in a word, detrimental. As more information comes out about the game and more reveals are put on display, the game's image has suffered. This has created much dismay among fans and incited uproar online about solutions or justifications for what the developer is showing and saying.
Let’s start with the first misstep: a few months ago, Arkane announced that Redfall would need online access at all times in order to play the game. Unfortunately, this has become an increasingly common practice with game developers, and it’s very much an unpopular one.
Putting such a strict requirement on a game segregates many people who may not have immediate access to online capabilities. Additionally, it limits those who would like to play the game that may be temporarily disconnected from the internet. This is particularly disappointing given that it can be a fully-fledged single-player experience with co-op being an optional feature. Arkane later backtracked, with the game's director stating they were actively working to remove the onerous requirement.
I can tell you from experience this is no easy feat to accomplish. Given they had originally developed the game to only be available while connected to the internet, it requires a massive amount of work to decouple that from the existing code base. The director stated as much in his interview with Eurogamer, mentioning that work had to be done with the UI and save game encryption to make it happen. I’m skeptical this will be a feature on release, but I guess time will tell.
IGN's Gameplay Footage
Another big “whoops” moment was when IGN posted gameplay footage recently that caused another bout of criticism from fans. Whoever was playing the game in the footage that was released did not play the game well, and in fact, it gave the sense that the person playing was not a gamer at all.
I'm really trying not to talk poorly about the reviewer, but it must be said that the gameplay showcased was not a quality performance. You see sequences of fighting a boss throughout the clip and during so the player shown would often run away to perform another task mid-fight. Between the poor aiming and questionable decision making it ultimately proved to be confusing footage to watch.
I also won’t sugarcoat just how poorly edited the footage was. Odd cuts at seemingly random times, poor transitions, and no flow to the structure of the video made the game look bland and does Arkane no favors. Sure the responsibility mainly lies on IGN as they produced the video, but Arkane’s marketing or PR department should have stepped in at some point. At the very least you would assume some group at Arkane watched the video before it was released made.
Despite the video putting the game in a bad light, I still walked away spotting components of the action that sparked my interest. A roaming boss fight, explorable areas/structures, an interesting gear system, and some fun abilities on display shone through the mess of editing and poor gameplay.
30-FPS Quality Mode Only
This leads us to the news that hit this week, with Arkane announcing that Redfall will only be available running at 30 FPS in ‘quality” mode at launch. 60 FPS will be available in a patch after launch, but Arkane did not provide any timeline on when to expect that. Once more, I'm very skeptical about just how quickly they can produce this missing feature, which requires a cross-collaborative effort across multiple departments to fulfill.
Given this is an Xbox exclusive with Microsoft resources at its disposal, it is disappointing to not only be receiving this news but also getting it so close to launch. This is a period where you want to promote the game in more of a positive light to instill anticipation in players. Considering the last few months have not generated positive PR this feels like another lapse in judgment for the studio.
Personally, I feel these are errors that can be overlooked, but not forgotten. Most of the elements of the game from what I have seen really excite me. I may also be biased as a big Arkane fan, and while I think the criticisms have a fair amount of merit, they shouldn’t be enough to dissuade fans who were eager to try the game.
Arkane and Xbox should view these as learning moments on future titles. Being one of two major Xbox exclusive games coming out this year there needs to be more accountability held and a greater emphasis on PR. Hopefully, with the fast-approaching launch they can relieve some of the doubt, Arkane has a great track record that boosts my confidence they will overcome this.
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