Arkane Austin has a lot of experience open-ended gameplay design, but when it came to designing Redfall’s open world, the famous studio behind Prey had a unique problem — Redfall’s open world was actually a bit too open.
In a new interview with IGN, Redfall designer Harvey Smith talked about designing the Massachusetts town in which Arkane’s new supernatural shooter is set, describing it as “very open.” Redfall is an on-foot game he says, and the team has worked to make sure that the setting’s design fits within that dynamic.
But at first, Redfall was “too open,” Smith says.
“It was like there was not enough blocking you or channeling you, but it’s very, very open rooftops and alleys and streets of this small town, Redfall, Massachusetts, which is like a fishing community, a tourist community — quaint, historic, New England stuff with this stealthy takeover by vampires. But the one thing that we do in terms of that gating pretty heavily is we divided the world into two districts. District One is the first half of the missions, and it’s the downtown part of Redfall, while District Two is more rural. It’s farms, lighthouses, churches, things like that.”
Arkane has worked to refine the town’s design, with the end result being an open world co-op game in which multiple players work together to take back Redfall’s neighborhoods from the vamps. In so doing, they are free to venture off on their own, but at the cost of potentially making things more difficult for themselves; as they say in Dungeon & Dragons, you should never split the party. It’s very much in keeping with Arkane’s earlier games, where players are encouraged to explore, experiment, and develop unique solutions to their problems.
“What would the Arkane DNA look like in the open world?” Smith asks. “The way we do resources, scrounging for ammo and medical stuff and lock picks, and the way we approach buildings — there’s multiple entries and problem to gameplay encounters, there’s multiple ways you can approach it. What would it be like to work together? ”
He continues, “Because if you play solo, it’s a lot spookier, it’s a lot more atmospheric, it’s more slow-paced. As soon as you add another person, you’re not really afraid anymore because you have a friend there, but there’s got to be something to make up for that. So the social aspect, the narrative changing in terms of the banter between the characters, just the fun of playing with another person… Layla drops the elevator and everybody can get on the roof or get up to a higher vantage or whatever.
Redfall takes aim at a 2023 release date
In the rest of the interview, Smith talks about how the various characters work together, and how Redfall has some “very dynamic systems” driving the narrative design as characters get to know each other over time. That said, Smith says Arkane is deemphasizing branching missions this time around, meaning Redfall won’t have multiple endings in the traditional sense.
Redfall was first announced as an Xbox exclusive during its E3 2021 showcase, after which it dropped out of sight. It reappeared with a new gameplay trailer at Sunday’s Xbox + Bethesda Showcase, in the process confirming that Redfall will be a classic Arkane single-player game even when playing co-op.
Redfall was slated to release in 2022, but was pushed to 2023 along with Starfield, joining a long list of games that have been delayed. Still, there’s plenty to look forward to in the world of games, so keep an eye on all the rest of our coverages as the Summer of Gaming continues.
Kat Bailey is a Senior News Editor at IGN as well as co-host of Nintendo Voice Chat. Have a tip? Send her a DM at @the_katbot.