Redeemer Review: Violence is Not So Golden

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Redeemer was a game that firmly grabbed my attention when I played it at EGX Rezzed earlier this year.

Placed in control of an angry bearded monk — a very angry bearded monk, in fact — for 15 minutes or so I punched, kicked, slammed and shot almost an entire army of soldiers, and I enjoyed every minute of it. With the finished product in front of me, however, it seems like the 15 minutes of fun I had is pretty much all it has to offer.

Vasily is the monk’s name. It transpires that he used to be a soldier — a very good one — but when the operations of the Cybernetic Weapons Manufacturer he worked for got a little too unethical for his liking, he decided to run away to a secluded monastery and live out a peaceful existence. Unfortunately, his past catches up to him, and with an army of supersoldiers invading the hideout that he’s called home for 20 years and killing his fellow monks, he quickly falls back on what he knows best: killing.

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Obliterating your enemies is pretty much your only objective in Redeemer. There are no puzzles, no dialogue trees; all you need to do to progress is keep moving forward and kill. Viewed from a top-down perspective, you can punch and kick, mixing them up to create combos. Holding the punch or kick button enables you to charge up a highly damaging attack that’s great for taking down sturdier foes. Sneaking up on enemies allows you to insta-kill them with a stealth attack, and many can also be insta-killed by using the environment to your advantage, such as impaling them on a tree. Selected enemies can also be brutally executed once you’ve bloodied them up a little. And to defend yourself you can block, with a counter being performed if you block at just the right time, or perform a dodge roll to create some distance between you and your enemy.

As mentioned earlier, you’re not just restricted to your hands and feet to beat your opponents to a pulp either. Melee weapons are much more effective for dispatching foes but eventually break, while a variety of guns allow you to kill from a distance, but are useless once their small supply of ammo has been depleted. Guns can be skilfully ripped out of enemies’ hands too if you’re close enough, and you can even rip a limb off of some enemies before beating them to death with it. Combat then, at least for the first hour or so, is varied and very enjoyable. The controls are responsive and your hits have a nice sense of impact. As you get further in however, repetition sets in as no new combat features are laid out on the table, and new enemies are introduced that feel like a chore to defeat.

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Big, bloated mutants are the worst. At distance they’ll throw bile at you, and if you get too close they’ll just spew on you, preventing you from taking any action for a few seconds. Unless you’ve got  a gun at hand to deal with them, your only option is to use hit and run tactics, but it slows down the pace of the game and is quite frankly just dull. Unfortunately, you’ll encounter quite a lot of them mid-game. Redeemer in general has quite an uneven difficulty though, with some levels really out to kick your ass in way that just feels unfair. Granted, checkpoints are fairly kind, but being overwhelmed by a horrid consortium of enemies rarely feels rewarding.

The game’s health system doesn’t help much. To restore health, there are no pickups or consumables you can use, you just need to kill enemies. In some ways it helps make the gameplay more tense, forcing you to carefully throw yourself into battle when you’re low on health. But with many enemies capable of causing huge amounts of damage in a flash, you too often feel life you’re teetering on a knife edge. After passing a checkpoint, sometimes you’re better off intentionally dying so you can continue on with a full health bar. After all, there are no repercussions.

If you stick it out until the end, Redeemer‘s story mode is likely to last you around eight hours on normal difficulty, and there’s also a hardcore difficulty mode to tackle. To eke out even more playing time, wave-based arena maps are unlocked as you play too, though unfortunately there are no leaderboards by which to measure your performance on them. Collectible junkies can also try their hand at collecting all the scrolls hidden throughout the game, allowing you to view pieces of concept art as a reward.

One thing that Redeemer really does have going for it is its visuals. Simply put, they are stunning. Environments are insanely detailed, lighting is top notch, and there are a host of special effects that keep your eyes glued to the screen . Performance is great too; my top end i5 processor paired with a GTX 1060 allowed me to run the game on pretty much epic settings at 1080p without any issues.

Initially, I was really taken with Redeemer. The violent action, slick controls and impressive visuals made a great first impression. After three hours of play, however, it became a slog to work through. The combat became tiresome, and many of the enemies too frustrating to defeat. If you’re planning on playing it in short, sharp bursts, Redeemer may be worth your investment, but it’s hardly essential.

Redeemer is available on PC.