"You know, we are living in a world where a tiny percentage of people are preying on everybody else."
From a sunless sky to a waterless ocean, the world of Redfall is packed with vampires ready to cause havoc for you and your friends. And with an intense gameplay trailer released during the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase, it's a world we're already ready to sink our teeth into.
It's produced by Arkane Austin, and we had the chance to sit down with studio director Harvey Smith and co-creative director Ricardo Bare to chat about all things Redfall.
First thing on the agenda? Vampires. And no, they're not the type of vampires you might be used to.
"We have a series of slides we run new employees through," said Bare. "They're not romantic vampires -- and we have a picture of Edward from Twilight -- they're not the classic sort of religious vampire where they're susceptible to crosses or garlic. They're not like Bram Stoker-style. But we tried to do a modern take."
The vampires in Redfall are a whole new generation of science-based vampires, created from a catastrophe at a biotech startup. After conducting experiments they shouldn't have, the scientists gathered power for themselves… to the detriment of the entire town.
"Vampires are interesting, I think, because they look like us, but they're better than us in some way," said Smith. "But they're worse than us in all the ways that matter. They lack empathy. They can't build community, really."
"We did find that as we were working, we kept inadvertently seeing parallels [to vampire lore]," said Bare. "On the island, we not only had the character called The Black Sun -- she blacks out the sun -- but we also had the vampire gods push back the water from the harbors. So there's this enormous wall of water around the edge of Redfall.
"At some point, we were like, 'Wow, there was a myth where vampires couldn't cross running water,' and that was just, like, intuitive or accidental."
For Smith, it's just as important to recognize the real-world parallels as it is to recognize nods to vampire lore -- especially when the game focuses so much on community and rebuilding.
"Vampires are monsters, and monsters are metaphors," he said. "You know, we are living in a world where a tiny percentage of people are preying on everybody else -- a tiny percentage of very powerful people are having their way with us."
He used Texas, where Arkane is located, as an example: "10 days straight of 100 degree weather and they're already posting these notices that the power grid might fail. And also today is the first day of water restrictions.
"And it's like we're not even doing anything about it because its shareholders have to be satiated," he said. "They have to have their blood. And so there's a little bit of an allegory going on, perhaps, with the game."
The multiplayer options of Redfall were well and truly on display in the trailer, with epic collaborative moments between playable characters showcasing some of the more unexpected talents and abilities.
For solo players, however, the experience will hark back to more of the traditional Arkane style -- using elements of stealth in combination with combat.
"If you play alone, you pick a character and you begin the campaign -- you follow the story, you do the missions, you level up your character -- and you complete the game that way," he said. "There are no bots, there's no AI party with you, you're alone."
If you choose to play as one of the game's characters -- Layla, for instance -- you can go through the whole game without encountering any of the other playable characters. Each character's campaign is full and whole in and of itself, enabling solo players to still experience a properly fleshed out game.
But that's not to say there aren't still options. If you get halfway through the game and realize you want to share the experience with a friend, you can opt to have them join you as their character in a multiplayer format. This way, Layla and Devinder may team up, and you get a variety of insights that are personal to those characters.
"It's the same campaign," said Smith. "But your character has different observations, and the more characters you add, the more they talk to each other."
Viewers will also note the range of environments exhibited in the footage. From urban decay through to more natural landscapes, there's a lot to contend with. In truth, the scope is more than I expected.
"It is a true open-world game," said Bare. "There's a brief intro mission, you know, just to kind of acclimate you to the game, but very, very early on, we just turn you loose. … It's not gated in any way."
Redfall is launching exclusively on Xbox Series X|S and PC in 2023.