2023 has unquestionably been stacked with great games. At times, the amount of high quality titles available has been overwhelming. That said, even in years where a lot of good comes out, there must be some stinkers in the mix. To me, Redfall is unquestionably the biggest disappointment of the year, and usually, I would be all for giving the game time to be made better through updates. However, in this particular situation, I’m ready to put a stake through the heart of Redfall and never look back.
Failure from the first step
When Redfall was revealed, I admit I was caught up in the excitement. For starters, I love games like Left 4 Dead, and it looked like a vampire-flavored take on the cooperative shooter formula, but stood out with some Dishonored-esque powers. Pair those gameplay hooks with Arkane’s great track record for making games with masterfully crafted levels that offer a variety of ways to approach them and all the dominoes seemed to be lined up for the game of my dreams. Unfortunately, the result was a total mess.
By no means is Redfall one of the worst games ever made, but it came out in a state that ruined its prospects of restoring its public image. It was riddled with bugs, and the loot system was yet another tacked-on attempt to chase the trend set by Destiny, only to fail at that prospect like so many before it. As important as co-op play seemed to be, the game never had matchmaking, and even if you played with friends, only the host would keep their mission progress. These are shortcomings that bring down a game that was middling at best.
We are only four months removed from the release, and almost everyone seems to have forgotten that Redfall exists. Steam player numbers average about 20 players throughout any given day, and while we can’t see the amount of people playing on Xbox, no one is looking for players on the game’s club. Even Arkane itself has gone radio silent on the future of Redfall, not mentioning anything about it for months. All we have heard from the team is a job listing and it celebrating Deathloop’s second anniversary. Everyone moved on quickly for a AAA title which was intended to enjoy a much longer tail of updates and support.
No second chances for a first impression
In recent weeks, Pete Hines told GamesIndustry.biz that Bethesda hasn’t given up on Redfall yet and will continue to update the game to meet the team’s/public’s expectations. In his justification, he compared its launch to other games from the company that had poor starts but eventually were improved, citing Fallout 76 and Elder Scrolls Online. While I appreciate the mission plan, Redfall is a completely different beast. Fallout and Elder Scrolls had the luxury of being entries in massively successful franchises before their missteps, and those games were very focused on an MMO/live service experience. In contrast, Redfall is the start for this IP, and it is hard to see a bright future here. Everyone knew that Bethesda was going to invest in the Elder Scrolls and Fallout series for a long time into the future still. While there are live service mechanics in Redfall, it’s more of a half-step that you can tell the designers were never fully committed to when making it. The team had a history of making a particular game, and you can feel the waning support at play here.
Maybe it is because my expectations were too high for Redfall coming into the year, but I’m ready to move on and forget this game exists. Technically, the game could be made into something players like years later, but we have seen many examples of how these kinds of games either develop or lose a crowd from how good their start is. As a positive example, Destiny and The Division built and maintained a player base for years. On the opposite, Anthem and The Avengers had a grim look at their future essentially immediately due to a poor player experience that made players not want to come back. Redfall is more similar to these latter examples, where people came, they saw, and they ran away because there wasn’t enough to justify putting more time into it. Sure, there are special cases like No Man’s Sky and Final Fantasy XIV that put in the effort and turned their early poor outlook around, but those are more exceptions to the rule rather than the right blueprint.
This breaks into a line of questioning we don’t see too often in gaming: Is it better for Arkane to put a ton of resources, time, and effort into making Redfall a game that a fraction of Bethesda gamers want to play? It could make good on its promises and maybe earn a little goodwill back, but what if that rework doesn’t pan out? Now the devs have wasted a lot of unnoticed effort on a losing battle anyway. Both Bethesda and gamers who wanted Redfall to be something good need to cut their losses and accept this just didn’t work out in anyone’s favor. It’s okay to feel burned for supporting a game that didn’t turn out well, but what would it take for you to jump back into Redfall? Reworking the entire game for a community that doesn’t really exist doesn’t make sense.
Redfall was an unfortunate doozy, but I still wholeheartedly believe in what Arkane can make. Even with a big portion of workers that developed Prey leaving because they didn’t believe in Redfall, I think the studio as a whole can turn things around. A Deathloop sequel seems all but guaranteed to be on the way, and I would be overjoyed to see Dishonored 3 announced (which was recently leaked, albeit not confirmed to still be in the plans). If Arkane wanted to try something completely different and new, I would also be all in on that. It is good for game makers to still take chances and try new things. It’s okay to accept that Redfall sucks and was a failure and move on to the next thing. I’d rather see the next great thing than Arkane try to keep polishing a turd that at the end of the day will still be a turd.