If you’re looking for a brutal over the top brawler, look no further. Redeemer is the game you’ve been looking for. Redeemer is a nonestop, top down action brawler with the occasional elements of a dual stick shooter. From a small team of veteran developers at Sobaka Studios, Redeemer takes inspiration from classic brawlers and incorporates it all into a modern combat style combat arena with a narrative story of a mercenary turned monk who returns to his vigilante ways.
Vasily, a once brutal soldier, who sought refuge amongst the monks to find peace and clear his mind of his troubled past has been forced to revisit his combat strengths. All because after years of searching, his long lost comrade who betrayed Vasily, including the company they both used to work for, has attacked the monastery. All the rage Vasily has tried to suppress has once again been brought to surface as he seeks redemption for the pain they have caused.
With games like Dark Souls and Super Meat Boy, the market for challenging gameplay of the early days is a hot item it seems. The challenging aspects of Redeemer are very frustrating. I wish I could say it was rewarding but often times it is not simply because it isn’t so much about the skill involved, but the swarm of enemies that leave you no hope of attacking properly using the provided mechanics.
When I say Redeemer is brutal, I truly mean it’s brutal. I don’t just mean brutal in terms of gore, although that is very much true, but I’m mostly talking about the combat. That’s not to say it is a bad game. It just falls short of missing the mark and feel like it could be tweaked and balanced with updates. I wish I could say it was because of a lack of skill, and maybe in some way, it is that on my part. But when you use the available mechanics to do a basic attack and combo, or a stronger kick attack to hit multiple enemies, it is hard to do consistently when you are swarmed from all sides without a chance to strike. I get that you can roll out of an enemy attack. It can be slow, especially when you stand still out of a roll for a second or two. And I get that you can roll and quickly charge back towards enemies to knock them down for an added advantage to combo, but the enemies are relentless limiting your chances or building a charged attack. It is very much rage inducing.
For instance, you can be attacking an enemy, even from a parry and you can get knocked out of that by another enemy. As in, it is very easy for a nearby enemy to cancel your attack. On the flip side, if you are charging an attack, which I forgot about after the tutorial tip, and was happy when I rediscovered it, you can cancel that charge attack and continue to parry. This skillful mechanic is very useful when swarmed with a group of enemies as it allows you to single them out. Running is faster than rolling and adding a parry as the bigger guys catch up is not only useful, but satisfying. Ideally you just have to hope for the best and hope there are options for an environmental kill nearby because that is an instant death. However I noticed less of those types of kills later in the game, or maybe it was because I was starting to get the hang of the combo system.
The checkpoint system is equally as brutal, sending you back to the very beginning of the level in most cases, or at least to checkpoint further back than you had hoped. You will restart ALOT as there are minimal checkpoints. If you rage quit, be prepared to restart the whole level. If you quit at a checkpoint, you must restart the whole level. Which means, checkpoints are only used for in level death respawns which in itself is true to the word.
If you manage to run from enemies long enough, often by doing circles around objects like the cat and mouse chase around a table, you gain a small bit of health; up to 1 quarter of your health bar. You also gain a bit of health by killing an enemy. This is great, however as you kill an enemy, you are often hit by another so you may not notice the increase.
With a controller, the controls tend to be very fluid allowing the combat to feel very smooth. Occasionally you will lock onto one enemy and then the next and the next leading to satisfyingly brutal combos but often times you are swarmed with no real advantage. Unless of course you happen to find a gun and pump a bunch of lead into them. A gun is useful for a very short time but very limited. You will come across a few pistols, assault rifles and shotguns, and if you save them properly for the larger enemies, you will have better success in progressing. You can obtain these either from defeating an enemy or disarming them if you get the chance. Guns are controlled with a dual stick shooter mechanic which is quite OP and satisfying, but very limited as the focus is skillful hand to hand combat. Apart from the hand to hand combat, you will come across a healthy amount of electrified batons, knives, axes, pipes and even mutant arms.
The level designs featured more stealth elements than I thought. I originally ran head into battle and kept getting swarmed with enemies. But once I slowed it down and explored ahead, I noticed that enemies were either facing the opposite direction from me allowing me to silently sneak up behind them for a stealth kill, or that they had a walk path that allowed me to wait for a better chance to single them out. It pays to scout ahead with the (LT+Right Stick) option on controller and carefully assassinate/execute from behind. To take advantage of this, there are icons above the heads of enemies when they are off screen to indicate the direction they are facing.
As you complete certain levels, they become available as new maps for use in the arena mode. This mode is essentially a wave based horde mode it that a certain amount of enemies spawn and swarm you from a direction. Defeat them and more enemies spawn in another direction, each time increasing the amount of enemies, the type of enemies and the strength of them. I tried a few waves but gave up quickly due to my already difficult time in the story mode. I will no doubt return and attempt a proper run when I try to master the controls some day.
Thanks to the Unreal 4 engine, the graphics are stunning. Sometimes I wished I was playing in third person to fully view the detail that went into the environments and to be right into the brutal action. Speaking of third person, occasionally the camera zooms down to a third person view when dealing a brutal final blow which is oh so satisfying to see as Vasily rip the enemy’s throat out, or breaks his back over his knees, or throws him into a wall with a bone crushingly bloody kill. It is very reminiscent of Mortal Kombat’s Fatality Kills. From the peaceful wooden walls of the monastery to a sophisticated prison lab to rustic interior, there is a good variety of level design. Every time I loaded up the game, I was reminded of Shadow Complex which, being a sidescroller, utilized the Unreal Engine as well and featured similar models, texture quality and lighting. Environments, save for the exterior walls or linear path elements, are fully destructible. You can destroy small walls, tables, shelves, throw chairs, etc. You have so many options at your disposal for destruction and enemy kills. The level design, which incorporates destructible environments, also allows for maps that are quite large. Sometimes the gameplay tends to feel claustrophobic with maze like room patterns, but as a whole, they are designed quite big.