Redfall is not a good game. I don’t think you need me to pour salt on that wound if you’ve spent significant time with it. But its failure is a disappointing situation for several reasons. Developer Arkane is one of my favorite studios, so it sucks to see it fumble the ball. My admiration for the team made me genuinely excited for Redfall, which I still think is a cool premise on paper, making it a tough pill to swallow in practice. But the most upsetting element is seeing a studio fall short after trying something new and getting criticized for even attempting it.
There are many valid reasons to drive a stake through Redfall’s heart, but the most worrying sentiment I’ve seen is Arkane should have never made it and given us Dishonored 3 or Prey 2 instead. That’s an understandable wish; I love both series and would welcome sequels with open arms. But I’ve always been more excited to see established studios deliver an experience outside of their usual wheelhouse. After all, if a developer can hit home runs within its comfort zone series or genre, what could it achieve by stretching its wings and challenging itself further? I always ponder this question when thinking of my favorite studios, and it never fails to ignite my imagination.
Internet sentiment would suggest fans generally want the same. Sequels, remakes, remasters, and reboots often get blasted for rehashing old ideas instead of fresh IPs or surprises in general. But the minute a new idea fails, we have an understandable tendency to retreat to those safe zones, especially when it comes from a team beloved for doing a particular thing.
I’m not making fun of the people who react this way. I’m guilty of it, and it’s human nature to desire the familiar, especially when it’s a good kind of familiarity. But it feels hypocritical, considering we often scrutinize major publishers for having a similar mindset, hence why some of them tend to rarely take chances on fresh ideas anymore. And each time we express the same mentality when a new idea bombs, I worry we’re just reinforcing that corporate belief.
Now, I’m not propping up Redfall as some revolutionary concept. It’s an open-world co-op loot shooter. That’s one out of five video games these days. But it was new for Arkane, a studio celebrated for crafting single-player immersive sims. Many fans bemoaned that Arkane was seemingly chasing trends and abandoning its less-mainstream roots (which risked alienating its fanbase despite banking on a proven formula). I hoped the team’s design expertise and creativity would freshen up a well-worn genre. While it struck out big time, I respect and appreciate Arkane for taking the swing nonetheless. Mainly because I wish more developers got the opportunity to take similar left turns, as when they do pay off, it can be a wonderful thing.
Bayonetta Origins: Cereza and the Lost Demon is a risky departure from the stylish action I adore from Bayonetta proper, but it’s one of my favorite games of the year. The same goes for Hi-Fi Rush, a game so delightful I’m happy it’s not The Evil Within 3. Obviously, those games were executed much better than Redfall, but even if they weren’t good, I’d be happy to see them for no other reason than as proof those studios aren’t afraid to mix things up. For that reason, I have a hard time riding the hate train for Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League despite having plenty of reservations about it. That game worries and perplexes me, but I’d be lying if I told you I – if given the option – wouldn’t choose Rocksteady tackling Suicide Squad (or any IP) over making another Batman game. Though I have doubts it will ultimately work out, I’m still fascinated to see how Rocksteady pulls off a third-person shooter, given its pedigree. And if the game falls apart, the last thing I’ll criticize the studio for is trying something it hadn’t before.
When it comes to a game’s tangible qualities, being different is not a synonym for being good. You can have the most inventive idea in the world, but that’s not an excuse if it’s an utter drag to play. But hating on the idea of trying something fresh, whether it’s a new concept or a studio’s first attempt at tackling an established blueprint (even a trendy one), feels less cool and potentially harmful in the long run.