Redemption Reapers Review
There are a lot of ways that a game can grab hold of players. Most stand-out games feature mind-blowing visuals, on-point storytelling, or a thrilling combat system. However, Adglobe’s Redemption Reapers stands out for its relentless pessimism, having enough for a dozen games. This gloomy atmosphere permeates throughout all aspects of the game, with a harrowing soundtrack that keeps players on edge and a battle system that revolves entirely around being one step behind the enemy. The game embraces this survivalist sensation with minimal resources and enough blood animation that would make the grittiest grindhouse flick blush. Sadly, there’s almost no depth beyond that.
Redemption Reapers follows the Ashen Hawk Brigade, a mercenary troop with questionable pasts that band together to try and do some good in a world teetering on the brink of disaster. With their reputation, pride, and psyches in tatters due to an incident from two years ago, they have nothing left to lose. Players follow Sarah, who joined the troop just before the incident and is reeling heavily when the Mort appear. The Mort are an inhuman invasion force bent on wiping out nation after nation, slaughtering everyone in its wake. Hope feels fleeting as the Ashen Hawk Brigade try to redeem themselves by stemming the tide of darkness. Unfortunately, all players can do is stem this darkness as much of the game is doom and gloom. Add to this a party that spends most of its time brooding on their past and not really making any progress towards a better future and there’s a lot to feel depressed about. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a story this dispiriting, but it does take a while to get used to everything falling apart.
Party members get little embellishment beyond story scenes that take place before a story mission begins and after it ends. The Mort get little explanation, never mind character, to their faceless onslaught and exist solely to be the boogeyman that humanity can’t survive. Some relics found on the map add flavour text on how sad existence is in this world for some of its people, providing a weapon upgrade resource and a mini-story that can be read from the hub menu between chapters. Each story mission completed starts a new chapter, creating an unfortunately brisk pace in which everything unfolds, giving little time for world-building.
The Ashen Hawks never get a moment to rest, with minimal resources dolled out and weapons having durability, there’s always something that prevents players from feeling truly safe. During some parts of the story, players are able revisit older mission maps to skirmish for additional resources. This earns a bit of experience and involves players using their weapons strategically to prevent from spending more than they make. Gold is the scarcest resource in the game and is needed for buying stat enhancements, upgrade weapons, or repair used ones. The game provides just enough to do some things but never enough to feel ahead of the curve.
One way Redemption Reapers offsets this unforgiving nature is with party health. When a member of the Ashen Hawks loses their health, they just retreat for the rest of that map. Even the experience they miss out on can be balanced out by using the pooled amount gained as a reward by finishing story missions quickly or by losing a minimum amount of party members. Each map has a few treasure chests and relics that will often split party members up, which complicates things as players must take extra time to collect everything since some maps are not returnable. As treasure chests are a good source of stronger equipment, accessories that boost character stats, or precious gold, there’s plenty of incentive to go out of the way to grab them.
Levelling up gives some stat increases, as well as two skill points that can be used on that character’s list of four passive abilities or on any learned ability to max out their usefulness. Some abilities are learned at specific levels including each character’s powerful finishing ability. Every ally who participates in combat and deals damage gains experience, with the largest share going to the character that initiated the attack. This can be helpful for the archer Karren, who is unable to do a lot of damage towards heavy armoured enemies, but when positioned with Urs the axe-wielder and Lugh the spearman in range of the enemy, their strength is added to give her the bulk of the experience. This level of strategy is a lot of fun as positioning party members is very deliberate, as well as deciding who attacks first to minimize damage taken. The party is very balanced with each member having key strengths and weaknesses that makes losing one throw everything out of sync and the difficulty to increase.
Redemption Reapers plays on a fine line between punishing and unforgiving with its combat. Along with resource management and positioning, players have to juggle action point (AP) usage. At the start of the round characters gain six AP per turn to a default max of ten, which can grow to up to thirteen AP by defeating enemies, with default attacks costing six and stronger abilities or healing spells costing more. All of the party members save the slower Urs have a skill worth four AP that provides utility, whether it’s additional weak strikes from the agile party members or a defensive skill such as Glenn the swordsman’s which causes fifty percent of hits against him to do no damage. Finishers cost the full thirteen AP, but should be used sparingly due to them resetting the count to ten AP again.
The Mort are relentless. While there are some missions that are simple enough, even these can lull players into a false sense of security. Having a squishier unit get surrounded by weak enemies or isolating a defender too far from the team will all end poorly. Luckily, many enemies only move closer when breaching a certain point on the map or if the player leaves a character in harm’s way. This leads to a measured approach being the easiest as players can bait out enemies and take them out one-by-one. There isn’t only one way to victory, but the game finds ways to punish those that move without careful thought.
Every playable party member is able to equip five unique weapons they can cycle between as well as two accessories that can boost stats. Default weapons have just as much value as the strongest weapons in the game, because weaker weapons have more uses and are cheaper to repair. Using weaker weapons can take longer to defeat enemies though, and to mitigate taking that damage are healing draughts. Characters have one use to start, with a second unlocked midway through the game for use on any map, and during story chapters, players can access healing veins that fully heal a character and restores their draughts to full.
One aspect Redemption Reapers nails is the foreboding atmosphere. At times it is comparable to surviving in the horror genre as every option to deal with the menacing Mort results in missing out on something. Some mission objectives include reaching a surrounded ally or escorting panicked civilians to safe zones. There’s a sense of urgency found in each fight that feels exhilarating to overcome. Sometimes the Ashen Hawks have to backpedal to gain a tactical advantage or else be taken out by waves of Mort.
Redemption Reapers is full of fantastic sound bytes that help sell the despair and fear that comes with fighting the Mort. There are beautiful tracks using violins, and even some vocal tracks that add to the emotionally forlorn presence felt throughout the game. The voice actors do a great job of matching and selling their characters to the player as well. However, what doesn’t match is the mouth movements during story scenes. The animation in these scenes have a stiff robotic quality to them, particularly in facial animations, that lead to some heartfelt moments being distracting instead. During combat the animation is smoother with fluid but basic movements to designate attacks, and grizzly gore to signify each strike and death make for a grim and gritty picture. The designs of each variety of Mort look dangerous and feel both supernatural and classic low-fantasy fare in appearance.
Redemption Reapers took the relentless pessimism as its core tenet and pushed it as far it would go. Many stories would have heroes rise from the ashes like a Phoenix, in here The Ashen Hawks have a saying “Burn away your fear…and survive among the ashes” which easily alludes to they’re what remains after hope has left. This murky defeatist outlook at survival provides consistent entertainment with its harrowing combat and great soundtrack, but ultimately leaves players with a grave taste in their mouths due to the bleak subject matter. Taking something this dark and not taking it far enough to have truly invested characters or plot is a shame. It is fun to see the lengths a dark theme like this will go, but there’s little light to be found beyond the thrills of surviving to fight another day.
Disclosure: This review is based on a free copy of the game provided by the publisher.
Combat is tough but fair
Having resource management and teamwork play into success is inspired
Great soundtrack that fits each situation
Stiff and robotic visuals, particularly during story scenes
Minimal world-building prevents much attachment to the proceedings