Don’t Worry, Redfall Puts An Unmistakably Arkane Spin On The Looter Shooter
Arkane Studios is known for a very specific kind of game: immersive sims. The team made its mark on the industry with intricate sandboxes that feature systems and mechanics interacting with each other in fascinating ways. Games like Dishonored and Dishonored 2 are standout examples of why the developer is heralded as a master of the genre.
But, in recent years, the studio has started to reassess what it means to be an Arkane game. Prey, while still a science-fiction take on the immersive sim genre, served as the foundation for Mooncrash, a DLC that reconfigured the game into a roguelike. Deathloop leaned harder into that genre by embracing the run-based format to break down what makes an immersive sim so compelling and asking the player to examine the pieces and put them back together.
Redfall continues this process of reflection and reinvention, and it’s perhaps the biggest departure from what we expect an Arkane game to be. But after getting some hands-on time with the game, it quickly became apparent that underneath the open-world, first-person shooting, and loot, there are systems, mechanics, and gameplay opportunities that are unmistakably Arkane.
Like Prey: Mooncrash and Deathloop, Redfall is aiming to take the fundamentals of Arkane’s tried-and-true formula and build anew on top of them. This, according to creative director Ricardo Bare, was how it ended up with an open-world, cooperative shooter that has multiple characters with unique playstyles.
“If you look at our catalog of games, we always try to do something a little bit different,” said Bare. “Dishonored is very stealth-oriented and it’s got a mission structure that’s more classic: You do a mission, you travel there, you go back, you do a mission, travel–they’re not connected together like an open world. But then if you look at Prey, [it] has stealth and it’s one big level–a big-ass space station. You can go anywhere, so the mission structure’s far more open. That’s a baby open world.
“I think you can look at those two games and go, ‘Arkane made both of those,’ but they’re very different from each other. They have a common creative core; for Mooncrash you can see there’s lots of procedurally generated content in there and you can play four different characters. So every time, we stretch ourselves a little bit and we add some different elements into the mix. We wanted to go open world for a long time, and so we’ve been stretching towards that, and we wanted to do something with multiple characters. But then some of us just personally love playing co-op games together–we play D&D together, we play Borderlands together, we play Diablo together–and we were like, ‘Can we do one of our kind of games but with co-op?’ So that was some of the drive behind Redfall.”
Bare’s cited influences are readily apparent in Redfall. Although I was only able to play the game solo–which, for the record, seems completely viable even though you don’t have AI teammates–the building blocks for a fun co-op multiplayer experience are there. Not just that, but it looks to be set up in a way that will still encourage the kind of creativity and expression that people want out of Arkane’s games. Key to this are four characters, each of whom has their own distinct personality–kind of like Borderlands.
Jacob Boyer is your classic ex-soldier, Remi De Larosa is the engineer of the group, Layla Ellison specializes in biomedicine, and Devinder is a cryptozoologist and inventor. However, these archetypes are given some extra flair both narratively and mechanically. Jacob, for example, has a vampiric eye and a spectral raven, the former of which allows him to summon a powerful sniper rifle and deliver devastatingly accurate headshots to take out groups of cultists in an instant. The latter, meanwhile, is extremely vital for scouting and marking enemies without giving away your position. Jacob can also cloak himself to sneak through enemy territory or get into a more advantageous spot before unleashing chaos.
Remi, meanwhile, has a great degree of combat experience and has a robotic pal named Bribon that she can use to pull agro and distract enemies–think Claptrap, but not annoying. She can also lob sticky explosives and do area-of-effect healing. Mysterious circumstances have bestowed Layla with telekinetic powers, which she can use to place a shield ahead of her and then use a shockwave emitted by the ability to push her away, or to summon a spectral elevator that launches her and her companions into the air. Most interestingly, however, she can also call upon a friendly vampire–her ex-boyfriend–who will go around and take out enemies for a short duration. Finally, Devinder has clearly spent way too much time online and has theories about what’s going on, but more importantly, he’s got a device that shocks cultists and immobilizes them for a short time, another that sends out a wave of ultraviolet light that instantly turns vampires into stone, making them breakable, and can throw a teleporter to get to hard-to-reach places.
On their own, each of these characters introduces a variety of strategic considerations and creates opportunities to get imaginative with how to approach a roving group of cultists, or a vampire that may be patrolling an area. And as you work your way through the skill tree, these abilities develop to unlock more potential. However, what will be interesting to see is how these characters synergize with each other in multiplayer. Since I didn’t get any co-op experience, much of that has been left to the imagination for now, but as I played, I definitely had moments where I thought the ability of one of the other characters would have come in handy, so it’s clear that Arkane has crafted scenarios where some characters excel over others to encourage comradery and coordination.
Special abilities aside, I was surprised by how solid the first-person shooting felt. Although Arkane’s previous games are built around first-person shooter dynamics, in terms of pace and intensity, these games have always been atypical, especially in comparison to the likes of Call of Duty or Destiny. But Redfall’s shooting feels like it’s in a good place, with weapons that provide satisfying feedback and have a heft to them. Pistols range from quick and snappy for when I was trying to stay on the move, to punchy when I needed to clear out a room; sniper rifles were precise and took a decent chunk off health bars when aiming for the head; and assault rifles felt suited to crowd control and getting into the thick of the battle. Coupled with the various abilities characters have, there was a good back-and-forth dynamic between guns and powers that kept me engaged.
Underneath the open-world, first-person shooting, and loot there are systems, mechanics, and gameplay opportunities that are unmistakably Arkane
I was worried that the looter shooter design trope of whittling away at health bars endlessly would become tiresome, but enemies didn’t feel like bullet sponges, and there was also an execution mechanic where, after a certain amount of damage, I could get in close and stab vampires through the heart to deliver a finishing blow using the stakes attached to weapons. Doing this is key, as otherwise vampires will heal and get back into the fight. Along with the other two pillars of combat, I found myself staying engaged throughout my time. Naturally, that time was very limited, so it remains to be seen if this can be sustained through multiple hours, but thus far I am encouraged by it.
For me, though, one of my favorite parts of Arkane’s games is the stories they tell, whether that’s the overarching plot or the smaller tales within it. Redfall’s take on vampire fiction is intriguing, as it infuses classic gothic creatures of the night mythos with a healthy amount of science gone wrong and a corporation that’s up to no good.
“We think vampires are just cool right up from the get-go. But if you look at them historically, they never really go away–they’re perennially popular. It’s just that each generation or each group of creatives reinterpret them and put their own spin on them. The reason they work is because they serve as a metaphor for something, whatever’s on people’s minds at the time.
“The thing that I think that makes them interesting is, in our case, it’s not a disease. It’s not an accident that happened in a lab. It was deliberate. It’s not like, ‘Oh no, I got bit by a vampire, I’m going to turn, let’s find the cure.’ There is no cure, just like there’s no cure for a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. They wanted to become the butterfly. You can’t reverse that because it’s not like a cold; it’s a metamorphosis. They became on the outside what they already were on the inside, and that’s why the cultists worship them. They’re like, ‘Please make me a vampire too,’ but it has to happen deliberately because the vampire has to want to turn you. It’s not like, ‘I got some vampire spit on me and now it’s inevitable.'”
The setup for my play session involved the Hollow Man, a vampire god who is worshipped by cultists. Before his transformation, he was a blood researcher, but the circumstances of his ascension are unclear, and the details are essential to bringing him down. So, off we went to his very well-guarded mansion to figure it all out.
Despite my objective being clear, I was immediately distracted by side quests and other activities. The group of survivors I was running with had made a fire station their base and, unfortunately, a popcorn machine in the building was busted, so I decided that fixing it could help boost morale. This tangent took me to the Overton, a classic theater with a spacious atrium, balconies overlooking the seating, and plenty of side corridors and rooms to explore. Once that was done, I was alerted to the fact that there were safehouses nearby that could be secured by completing a series of smaller quests and then taking out the underboss that held dominion over the area. Along the way, I rifled through dilapidated buildings to find resources and read notes to find out more about how the vampires took over and how the people were affected.
The challenge with Redfall, however, is balancing this kind of storytelling within a multiplayer experience where the focus is on the people you’re playing with. Bare indicated that the focus for storytelling is on the town and your efforts to liberate it, as opposed to you as a character. As a result, the team has put effort into ensuring that the fictional town of Redfall and its vampires are memorable.
“Typically we make a game with just one protagonist and so the story’s about them, it’s the story about Morgan, it’s about Corvo,” he explained. “And so we couldn’t really do that this time, at least not without multiplying our team’s size by four. Because we have four heroes, the story can’t be just about [one] hero. So I think our approach this time is the story is about Redfall and the experience of fighting the vampires.”
Redfall, Massachusetts is a virtual playground much larger than anything in Dishonored, Prey or Deathloop; the closest thing to a bona fide open world that Arkane has made. The town has been besieged by vampires that have blotted out the sun and severed connections to the outside world. That leaves it up to the player to clear up the infestation, as well as liberate the town and its people.
When it comes to finding examples of that Arkane magic in this game, based on what I saw thus far, the world itself is a pretty good indicator. Like Dunwall, Karnaca, Talos I, and Blackreef before it, Redfall has a distinct sense of place that merges the mundane with the monstrous to create a setting that feels grounded but also fantastical. At first blush, there’s a beauty to Redfall that is inviting. It has a rustic autumnal vibe that is almost picturesque, but then you look a little closer and notice how it has been corrupted; perpetual darkness that is only alleviated by the faint light emanating from a oppressed sun; people who have thrown away their humanity in hopes that they’ll be selected to ascend to vampiredom; powerful vampires menacingly gliding around and occasional unexpectedly teleporting.
As with all open worlds, one of the challenges is making the spaces in between the key landmarks and destinations interesting, or at the very least giving players a way to engage with the world that keeps them invested. For Breath of the Wild, the ability to climb anything meant everything felt like an opportunity; Elden Ring streamlined traversal by giving players Torrent, a spectral steed; and Assassin’s Creed relies on its parkour (most of the time) to ensure the player stays involved in moving around. Redfall doesn’t have any of these, at least in the time I played, and instead looks to be relying on giving players as many combat opportunities as possible. These situations are made more interesting by inviting players to make the most of the combat’s depth, and also use the openness of the environment. Cultists serve as fodder to quickly pick off, while the vampires present more of a challenge. There’s also a threat level that slowly rises as you clean the area up, and if you attract the attention of a district’s vampire ruler, it sends in a character called The Rook.
This character functions a lot like the Nightmare from Prey. It appears in a dramatic lightning storm and is a hulking, bullet sponge of a vampire that feels impossible to kill and, worse still, attracts other vampires to your location. This dynamic means that you need to be careful about how you approach certain areas and manage how much heat you’re drawing. In my playtime, I found myself being judicious about which fights I took on, occasionally choosing to use Devinder’s teleportation ability to get onto rooftops to skirt around gangs of cultists, or stealthing my way through vampire infested territory. Again, it remains to be seen whether this push-and-pull power struggle is enough to keep tedium at bay. The area I played was quite large, but was only the tutorial area–akin to Breath of the Wild’s Great Plateau–so some visual variety is likely as more of the map opens up.
“Once you beat the Hollow Man, you move to a second district,” Bare said. “That’s even bigger than this one, and it’s got three Vampire Gods that are fighting over the territory. We care about environmental storytelling deeply and so for us it was [about] picking and choosing our battles. It’s finding spots [to] just pour the density in and then leaving breathing room around it. So the big open cornfield outside the farm, that doesn’t need to have environmental storytelling details every 10 feet because it’s a big cornfield that you’re creeping through at night. It’s moody ambience. But then when you get to the farm, the farm is just chock-full of stuff for you to soak up.”
My main concern going into Redfall was that it’d be another looter shooter in the mold of what everyone thinks is popular, and in the process, lose what makes Arkane’s games special. My time with the game brought some much needed clarity to what Redfall actually is, and it is a looter shooter in the mold of popular titles like Borderlands. But, most importantly, at its core are design ideas that have enabled memorable exploration and narrative, as well as satisfying gameplay, in Arkane’s previous games. But just because it’s there doesn’t mean it’ll work, and moving into the open-world looter shooter genre is a big pivot for the studio. As a fan of Arkane’s work, I am more intrigued by it now and, regardless of how it comes together, it’ll be an interesting and distinct take on the genre at the very least.
The products discussed here were independently chosen by our editors.
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Apple prepares for game-changing WWDC 2023: Mixed reality headset and new features in the spotlight – HT Tech
It is anticipated that the next Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) would be one of Apple’s greatest events yet. Apple may eventually unveil its mixed reality headset after years of rumours and leaks, launching the company into a new product category and giving people a first glimpse at its effort to convince investors that virtual reality is worth investing in.
There will also undoubtedly be a lot more: operating system updates, new features and apps, and perhaps even new hardware. Details on how and when to watch the main WWDC keynote as well as some of the announcements we anticipate from Apple are gathered here.
As per The Verge, Apple has confirmed that this year’s main WWDC keynote is slated for Monday, June 5, at 1PM ET / 10AM PT. It will take place as a digital and in-person event at Apple Park in Cupertino, California, with Apple CEO Tim Cook expected to kick things off. You can view the full WWDC lineup here.
Apple will stream the WWDC keynote live from its website and YouTube channel. If you can’t watch the keynote live, you can always tune in to the prerecorded version Apple will post on YouTube after it airs.
With that said, let’s get into some of the biggest announcements that we expect Apple to make during WWDC.
Undoubtedly, Apple’s mixed reality headset is one of the most interesting new offerings in recent memory. Apple has yet to even confirm its existence, but rumours indicate that it will be able to deliver both augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) experiences.
Seemingly called the “Reality Pro,” the developer-focused headset is expected to take on a “ski goggle” look that comes with a physical dial that lets you tune in and out of virtual reality, according to The Verge
The headset will probably be a stand-alone unit with a battery pack that is connected to it by a special wire. It is said to have an M2 chip with 16GB of RAM as far as technical specifications go. According to supply chain analyst Ross Young, the gadget may include two 1.41-inch Micro OLED panels with 4,000 (ppi) each.
Young adds that the displays are capable of delivering over 5,000 nits of brightness and that users should be able to see 4K resolution in each eye, as per The Verge.
Apple has reportedly been working hard on creating VR versions of some of its native apps, including Safari, FaceTime, Apple TV, Apple Books, Freeform, and more, according to reports. Additionally, it can have a feature that let the headset work as an external display for your Mac. Apple’s headset is projected to cost roughly $3,000, so it won’t be cheap. We probably won’t see cheaper variants of the device at this year’s presentation, despite the fact that Apple is allegedly also working on them.
There have already been signs that Apple might be planning to reveal its “Reality Pro” headset at WWDC, as the company has sent out an invite to an editor at the VR-focused outlet UploadVR. Apple has also posted an AR teaser on its site, which shows a thin, film-like Apple logo with the date of WWDC wherever you point your iPhone or iPad’s camera.
According to The Verge, WWDC is an event for developers, which means we’re bound to see some updates to iOS, iPadOS, macOS, and more.
Premium products like an Apple whole new operating system, a new MacBook Air, and a mixed reality (MR) headset will be unveiled during the five-day developers’ event.
The keynote address by Apple CEO Tim Cook is the event’s high point for developers.
The event will begin on June 5 (Monday) at 10:30 p.m. (IST) for the Indian audience. June 9 marks the conclusion of the developer event. (ANI)
Apple expected to unveil mixed-reality headset – DW (English)
Apple Inc. is widely expected to announce on Monday a new mixed-reality headgear at its annual Worldwide Developers Conference in California.
It would mark the tech giant’s most significant product launch since the 2015 Apple Watch release.
The iPhone maker has so far limited augmented-reality efforts to technology that works on its existing devices. But it seems set to tap into the new generation of technology where real and digital worlds converge.
The highly anticipated headset will put Apple in competition with Facebook’s parent Meta, which has been working for years to push its parallel digital universe, or the “metaverse.”
What we know about Apple’s ‘Reality Pro’ headset
According to media reports citing analysts, Apple is expected to spotlight a “Reality Pro” headset, with a price tag of around $3,000 and custom-made software for the gear that could resemble a pair of ski goggles.
The goggles are expected to have a slick Apple-family design, paired with the capability of toggling between virtual or augmented reality, which is referred to as mixed reality or external reality (XR).
While hopes are high for Apple to boast surprising technology, the goggle’s high price could leave many eager fans disappointed.
Wedbush Securities analyst Dan Ives estimated that Apple could sell just 150,000 units during the headset’s first year on the market — a low figure for a company that sells annually more than 200 million of its marquee product, the iPhone.
fb/sri (AFP, AP, Reuters)
‘Diablo 4’ Patch Notes Bring Fast Barbarian, Druid, Rogue Nerfs, Necro Buffs
It has been only a few days since the launch of Diablo 4, and while I knew that Blizzard was doing fast, reactive patches for the game, this is…a whole lot of balance changes to the game like 72 hours after launch. So much so that yeah, I’m thinking maybe they slow down a bit? It’s a lot.
My guess is some of this was sparked by the “world’s first” races to get to max level in the game, especially the hardcore race, and Blizzard believed some outlier skills were too strong. They also advertise some buffs in here, but it is overwhelmingly a good amount of nerfs. Here’s the list of changes to all classes:
BARBARIAN – Some pretty huge hits to Whirlwind Barbs, especially Gohr’s, which was creating a zillion explosions with activation and de-activation
- Challenging Shout (Skill) – Damage Reduction gained from Skill Ranks reduced from 4% to 2%
- Bold Chieftain’s Aspect – Cooldown reduction per Nearby enemy reduced from 2.7-5.4 seconds to 1.0-1.9 seconds. Maximum Cooldown reduction from 12 to 6 seconds.
- Aspect of the Dire Whirlwind – Increased Critical Strike Chance per second reduced from 5-10% to 3-8%. Maximum Critical Strike Chance bonus reduced from 20-40% to 9-24%.
- Gohr’s Devastating Grips (Unique Legendary) – Explosion damage gained from Whirlwind reduced from 50-70% to 16-26%. Damage against wreckable objects no longer increases explosion damage. Explosion damage is only increased by the first 100 hits of Whirlwind.
DRUID – This one is a mix of nerfs and buffs. Lightning-based builds in particular got a little bit of a buff, but there are definitely a lot of nerfs in here as well, which I’ve already seen some Druid players complaining about.
- Pulverize (Skill) – Lucky Hit Chance reduced from 33% to 25%.
- Lightning Storm (Skill) – Damage increased from 32% to 40%.
- Grizzly Rage (Skill) – Damage bonus increased from 5/10/15% to 6/12/18%.
- Obsidian Slam (Specialization) – Kills required for bonus increased from 10 to 20.
- Calm Before the Storm (Specialization) – Lucky Hit Chance reduced from 15% to 10%.
- Electric Shock (Passive) – Damage bonus increased from 5/10/15% to 6/12/18%.
- Shockwave Aspect – Damage reduced from 90-130% to 60-100%.
- Crashstone Aspect – Critical Strike Damage reduced from 40-50% to 30-40%.
- Lightning Dancer’s Aspect – Flat damage increased from .5-.6 to .7-.8.
NECROMANCER – Out of all the classes, Necro actually got the most buffs by far. Most of these are focused on minion buffs including damage buffs to both skeletons and Golems, including a huge swing on an Iron Golem skill. I guess they were underperforming compared to the other classes a bit.
- Blood Lance (Skill) – Damage increased from 67.5% to 80%.
- Army of the Dead (Skill) – Damage increased from 30% to 45%. Cooldown reduced from 90 to 70 seconds.
- Blood Wave (Skill) – Damage increased from 90% to 120%.
- Shadowblight (Passive) – Damage increased from 20% to 22%.
- Grim Harvest (Passive) – Essence gained reduced from 3/6/9 to 2/4/6.
- Serration (Passive) – Critical Strike Chance reduced from .5/1/1.5% to .3/.6/.9%.
- Death’s Defense (Passive) – Maximum Minion Life lost in a single damage instance reduced from 75/60/45% to 60/45/30%.
- Raise Skeleton (Specialization) – Skeleton Warrior attack damage increased by 10%.
- Golem (Specialization) – Golem attack damage increased by 10%.
- Blood Golem (Specialization) – Blood Golem Life drain damage increased from 40% to 90%. Blood Golem Life drain healing from enemies hit increased from 4% to 5%.
- Iron Golem (Specialization) – Iron Golem slam damage increased from 25% to 175%. Iron Golem shockwave damage increased from 30% to 40%.
- Hulking Monstrosity (Paragon Board) – Golem Life and damage bonus increased from 30% to 40% Life.
- Cult Leader (Paragon Board) – Golem Life and damage bonus increased from 30% to 40% Life.
ROGUE – A couple buffs here, but the main thing is the decimation of the extremely popular Twisting Blades build, which was already emerging as a strong favorite. Too strong for Blizzard’s taste, and it’s getting hammered pretty hard here.
- Twisting Blades (Skill) – Advanced Twisting Blades Cooldown reduction per enemy hit reduced from .25 to .1 seconds. Advanced Twisting Blades maximum Cooldown reduction reduced from 3 to 2 seconds.
- Rapid Fire (Skill) – Damage increased from 24% to 30%.
- Dark Shroud (Skill) – Damage Reduction per shadow gained from Skill Ranks reduced from .8% to .4%.
- Dash (Skill) – Enhanced Dash Critical Strike Damage bonus from 20% to 15%.
- Caltrops (Skill) – Damage increased from 30% to 40%.
- Concussive (Passive) – Critical Strike Chance reduced from 5/10/15% to 4/8/12%.
- Repeating (Affix) – Maximum Minion Life lost in a single damage instance reduced from 75/60/45% to 60/45/30%.
SORCERER – Sorcerer was barely touched. Either they think it’s pretty balanced or they haven’t had much time to dig into its potential issues yet. But no destroyed builds via nerfs here.
- Arc Lash (Skill) – Lucky Hit Chance reduced from 30% to 14%. Glinting Arc Lash Cooldown reduction reduced from .25 to .15 seconds.
- Teleport (Skill) – Shimmering Teleport’s Damage Reduction duration reduced from 5 to 3 seconds.
- Aspect of Control – Bonus damage reduced from 30-40% to 25-35%.
PARAGON BOARDS – There are some huge, overall changes to Paragon Boards, where Blizzard thought that Glyphs were way, way too strong so they are getting somewhat slaughtered:
- Rare Nodes – Player Attack Speed nodes reduced by 50%.
- All Glyph Bonus scaling has been reduced by ~34%, except for the following:
- Critical Strike Damage Glyphs’ Bonus reduced by ~66%.
- Vulnerable Glyphs’ Bonus reduced by ~66%.
- Glyphs’ Bonus to Rare nodes reduced by ~50%.
- Glyphs’ Bonus to Magic nodes reduced by ~40%.
- Glyphs’ Bonus to Cold/Fire/Lightning/Non-Physical/Physical nodes reduced by ~62.5%.
Most players are probably not even touching the Glyph system yet, so this is super hardcore speed levelers and their super builds, but I know many are not happy.
So, too many nerfs too soon? I guess we’ll find out.
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