Redeemer: Enhanced Edition (Xbox One Review)
Redeemer, Sobaka Studio’s uninspired violent top-down brawler, ticks all the boxes necessary for it to be considered a game. That is to say that Redeemer is functional in its genericism. Doubling down on the basics of the genre in the hope of capturing players’ attention without risks or innovation. However, even with Redeemer’s rather milquetoast exterior, some of its inner workings keep Redeemer from stagnating despite its lack of identity.
Vasily, an excommunicated soldier, seeks nothing other than a future of peace and solitude within the safe confines of a hidden monastery. After years of serving an extremist cybernetic militia group, Vasily re-examines his moral compass and goes AWOL. That is until his past catches up with him, forcing him to confront and quell his past fears. Redeemer doesn’t have the most original or engaging of stories and the revenge arch that takes place is very one dimensional. The plot never evolves to a point that the player would genuinely be intrigued by unfolding events. The whole point of the opening cutscene is to act as a sort of macguffin just to get the gameplay rolling. The comic book cutscenes are a nice treat, graphically detailing Vasily’s backstory with gruesome visage and giving the player hope for a longer thriving narrative. Unfortunately these intermittent artistic breaks in gameplay only really cover the necessary backstory for Vasily that prologue ignores and largely, that’s ok. It’s clear you aren’t here to get emotionally invested, you’re here to smash some skulls.
Bashing heads is something you’ll be doing a lot of in Redeemer be it with weapons or you own bare knuckles as well as the scenery around you. Vasily is a dangerous man to be around as his lightning fast punches and roundhouse kick can send enemies flying in all directions. Light and heavy attacks are linked intrinsically to Vasiliy’s appendages, punches are always going to be light attacks and kicks are always heavy. Melee weapons, like wrenches, stun sticks and sledgehammers are devastating to use and offer more close ranged damage than standard attacks. Firearms are available to players who prefer to play a bit more at range and has you basic assortment of pistols, shotguns and machine guns. Regardless of your approach to combat both sets of items have a limited durability. Melee weapons will eventually break when they become dulled and firearms will inevitably run out of ammo — with the inability to reload. In turn, this encourages the player to constantly switch up they’re attack style depending on what’s in use within their vicinity. Some enemy types are tougher to deal with than others, so understanding your available loadout is life or death. The only exception to this are the “bosses” which can be dismantled in a matter of seconds without the need for any preparation or forethought — underwhelming and incredibly embarrassing is what first comes to mind. All in all, combat it is as rudimentary as it gets. The formulaic fisticuffs would become stale if not for Redeemer’s take on brutality and gore.
Whenever an enemy is near death Vasily has the ability to end them with a barbaric finishing move. Tearing out their throat, pile driving them into the ground or simply hurtling them across the arena at supersonic speeds. Vasily very much seems to be in a league of his own, a powerhouse unmatched by any and with the option of being able to upgrade Vasily’s abilities he becomes even stronger. For every fist that connects with an opponents face and every bullet that penetrates someone’s skull, Vasily’s strength grows. Vasily’s Skill tree is separated into two distinct parts, Monk and Soldier. The Monk focuses on melee/body centric skills like charged punches and kicks to being invulnerable while rolling. On the flip side, the Soldier hones in on Vasily’s firearm improvements by adding silencers or increasing a weapons magazine size. Again, not to sound like a broken record but it’s all very elementary. Nothing really requires the player to overcome significant adversity or challenge. The simplicity of Redeemer’s combat and mechanics does well at holding the players attention to a point — especially with the added brutality of it all — but you’ll start to see your attention waiver even with Redeemer’s short two hour length.
Judging a game by its overall length is a poor way to estimate its value, but Redeemer may be the exception. Hounded by glitches and poor optimisation, players will often have to fight with begrudgingly low framerates due to the “Enhanced Edition” high resolution textures. As you’d probably expect from the Unreal Engine, textures look glossier than a Vogue lipstick advertisement and surprisingly even the Xbox One X has problems keeping up with its demand. So much so that Redeemer crashed twice on me due to a combination of the above, tons of enemies in a sea of glistening textures brought my console to its knees. To make matters even worse is the Co-op element of Redeemer. If the above issues hindered Redeemer so badly in single player then the effects are double for multiplayer.
Co-op is the most noteworthy addition to Redeemer: Enhanced Edition and the most disconnected. In Cooperative play, a second player takes control of an unnamed monk that accompanies Vasily on his road to revenge. Sadly there is nothing more notable about this Co-op feature. Vasily’s skill tree, upgrades and general bloodlust is shared with his comrade and as a result fails to give this second character an identity. This unknown rogue is nothing more than a placeholder to allow Redeemer to be played with a friend and, while it’s a feature I‘m grateful for, feels lazy and poorly implemented.
Redeemer’s post game content comes in the form of Arenas you unlock by progressing through the main game. Much like how Redeemer’s Co-op feature is poorly implemented, Arenas lack a notable depth to them that make them anything more than time ill-spent. Arenas are a wave base mode that pits Vasily (singleplayer only) against a total of ten waves of enemies. Once the ten waves have been thwarted you get a pat on the back for your accomplishment. There are no leaderboards, scores, total time, or any competitive edge to this mode. Since you cannot play past wave ten of each stage Arena’s feel like a hamfisted attempt to artificially extend the life of Redeemer with little value they have.
Redeemer is a practical game that doesn’t try to compromise itself by going above and beyond its own stature. It knows, to an extent, what it is capable of and sticks to that. It’s unimpressive and uninspiring but that’s ok for a two hour jaunt. Poor optimisation aside, Redeemer is going to be a hit or miss affair for most folks as it’s more redeeming qualities are slightly outmatched by its unflattering ones.