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Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action
Publisher: Gambitious Digital Entertainment
Developer: Sobaka
Release Date: June 25, 2019


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PC Review - 'Redeemer'

by Cody Medellin on Sept. 27, 2017 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Redeemer is a top-down action game where you will punch, hack and blast your way through enemies using fists, hammers, fire arms and even the environment.

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Beat-'em-ups are intended to be simple but enjoyable. Go to a location, kill your enemies with strong melee attacks, and repeat the process until everyone falls at your feet. The once-popular genre has become niche, with the latest titles employing a few gimmicks to pique people's interest. Redeemer, a new game from Russian developer Sokaba Studio, employs this strategy, and it does so with enough flair to be exciting.

The plot is rather basic but works well enough as setup for everything in the game. You play the role of Vasily, a former mercenary who has sought shelter in a monastery to hide and try to repent for his former lifestyle. Things seem to be going well until his former unit tracks him down. Despite his best efforts, he can't stop the kidnapping and killing of his newfound brothers and master. Going back to what he knows best, he takes it upon himself to seek revenge.

The game is presented from a top-down perspective, and the mechanics are varied. There are the expected punches and kicks, which can be strung together to create some basic combos or charged up for a stronger version to deliver more damage. Players can employ a one-hit stealth kill by sneaking up on a foe, and they can pick up melee weapons like hatchets, stun batons and wrenches, and firearms like machine guns, pistols and shotguns. You can have one melee weapon and one gun in your possession at all times, and your gun is with you as long as you have the ammo. Both weapon types have energy meters, so they break eventually, and in the case of guns, they'll immediately be discarded if there's no ammo left. Weapons are plentiful, but if all else fails, you can pick up objects in a stage and chuck them at your enemies.

On the defensive side, you can block most enemy attacks, with the exception of bladed attacks and gunfire. The melee attacks can also be parried to give you the chance to pull off a counterattack and unlike most games, the window for the counter is generous enough that you can parry without too much trouble. You can also disarm enemies — sometimes literally, as you pull off arms from certain foes — but that timing is tight and tricky to pull off without practice.

The final maneuver is the cinematic kill, which has a few variants so long as you weaken your enemy. Normally, pressing the correct button when prompted has you delivering a rapid punch combo, backbreaker, or throwing an enemy against a wall. Do this near certain objects, and you can produce environmental kills like impaling an enemy on a tree branch, slicing them open with a table saw, or putting them through a rotating fan. Each kill results in some health being given back to you, which is important since there's no other way to replenish your health in a stage.

As long as your attacks are melee-related, you can get into a rhythm where you're constantly hitting and parrying and can emerge from combat unscathed. The automatic targeting that occurs when you're blocking or parrying certainly helps, as does the fact that you'll automatically dash to the next opponent if you're close to them, so combat feels fast. Using guns slows down the action a bit, but it can be necessary when trying to take down some of the stronger mutants. It also helps that the game is fairly good about its checkpoint location, and most of the weapons and throwables that remain in a level can still be accessed. It's amusing to go into a room, throw a chair, and retreat to get another chair just because you can.

In a way, Redeemer is a throwback since it eschews some modern game design traits. Players can't upgrade stats, so there's never an increase in strength or overall health. Weapon durability remains the same, and the ammo count never increases. You can't learn new moves, so everything you learned in the beginning is what'll stick with you until the end. It can feel refreshing to those who grew up on classic games, but anyone schooled in newer material will find that the experience can grow dull over time.

To that end, some of the encounters with stronger enemies and almost all of the boss fights lead to some tedium, since you can't use normal combos or guns. Instead, your best tactic devolves into a game of hit-and-run, where you wait in one spot while charging up your punch or kick, deliver it when the enemy is nearby, and then run away to wait for another opportunity. Compared to other spots where normal enemy encounters occur or where you'll face larger-than-normal mobs, the encounters with stronger foes slow down the momentum. There are also a few bugs. For example, some enemies can spot you or shoot at you without a clear line of sight. Also, there are times when a throwable object crumbles as it hits an open doorway.

There's not much to it after you complete the campaign. You can play the game again at higher difficulty levels, and you can collect scrolls for some artwork snapshots. You can play in some wave-based arenas if you want to engage in more combat. Unfortunately, most people won't bother with this due to a lack of on- and offline leaderboards.

Overall, the presentation is good. The use of a top-down camera shows off some of the environments nicely, and although it doesn't flatter the character designs, it means that you can load up a lot of on-screen enemies without a penalty. The designs aren't bad, and the character animations are decent, but don't expect lots of details, even during cinematic close-up kills. The music and sound effects are great, but something about the voice acting doesn't match with the mechanics or aesthetics.

For the most part, Redeemer succeeds in delivering an action-packed beat-'em-up experience. Unless players are facing bosses or enemies who are immune to regular attacks, the combat is fast and visceral. The overall game length is good, and although some of the mechanics can be inconsistent, there's enough here to make the experience worthwhile.

Score: 7.5/10

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