Developer: Gunfire Games
Publisher: Perfect World Entertainment
Rating: M for Mature
Remnant: From the Ashes hovered just above my radar when I first heard about it prior to E3. Then at E3 2019, I finally learned about the game in detail and was immediately sold on the idea. Take the addictive loop of co-op looter-shooters and throw in a bunch of procedural generated elements and you’ve got yourself a winning formula. The game breaks up the monotony and repetitiveness of other shooters in the genre by making sure that the layout, item placement, and even epic loot and bosses are different for each player’s individual campaign.
Remnant is a grotesque game. Not in the sense that its bad but the designs of the enemies and many bosses are downright horrifying at times and border on Lovecraftian. There is literally a giant hulking tree boss that looks a bit like Chthulu. Blood is prevalent, though there is not a lot of gore as characters either kneel when defeated or just fall over dead. Foul language is there but is nothing we haven’t seen from games of this type. I don’t recall any characters dropping a stream of F-Bombs or anything like that as honestly, once you’re in the thick of exploring the worlds and fighting the terrifying monsters that inhabit them, there isn’t really much dialogue for language to be an issue. Interestingly enough this game is not listed on the ESRB website but has an M rating for Violence, Language, and Blood though most of the content would feel more at home in a game rated T for Teen.
Remnant: From the Ashes is exactly what the looter-shooter genre needed. Destiny and games of its ilk are just fine until you reach the endgame and have to constantly play the same content over and over again ad nauseum. This is less so the case with Remnant. One of the main ways that Remnant deviates from this formula is through the ever-changing environments. When players first boot up the game and play through the intro sequence their world is then “rolled,” and layouts, enemy appearances, and even some loot and boss fights are pre-determined. However, by joining another player’s session, one will notice that the layout of each of the four realms is completely different in their friend’s campaign than that of their own. Enemy placements, loot drops, and boss appearances may also be completely different. This is perhaps Remnant’s biggest strength, as it breaks up the end game monotony and repetition that sets in with so many other games of this type. Players can even choose to re-roll their campaign, keeping everything except story progress (which remains static for every player) if they don’t like how their campaign was initially set up.
Though there is loot to be found and the gameplay is like a cross between Destiny and Dark Souls, Remnant refines these elements. Players don’t need to hunt down a special item to summon friends to their world for co-op they only need to send an invite from their console dashboard or through their PC platform. Instead of millions of combinations of stats and random names for weapons, armor, etc., there are clear ways to earn weapons and gear in Remnant that I felt had more meaning and impact besides just grinding repeatedly for a 1/1000th chance of a drop.
Here bosses will yield one of two weapons upon defeat depending on how the battle plays out. For example, one of the main bosses of desert realm Rhom, Claviger (who looks like what you’d get if you combined Groot with Slender Man) spawns adds (standard enemies) constantly while hammering players with a barrage of energy blasts. Taking out these adds before the boss can “spin” the arena and absorb them to heal himself makes the battle much shorter and yields a sweet energy rifle upon completion. However, failing to kill all the adds before Claviger can absorb them only yields an energy hammer melee weapon. The fun of the boss fights is figuring out these requirements to get certain pieces of gear. And since some bosses wont even appear in every player’s campaign it encourages players to join others to see and earn everything.
Another boss fight much later in the game features something straight out of a Destiny raid. One of the boss’ attacks teleports players to a dark realm with low visibility and adds that constantly spawn in. To get back to their teammates players must continue to defeat enemies and run through the portal at the other end of the arena. However, killing enemies buffs the damage that the teleported players do to the boss and is the only way to effectively deal massive amounts of damage. Each boss in the game has some kind of strategy or interesting mechanic like this which makes it feel unique.
In total, there are over 30 bosses for players to encounter with only about half of these appearing in any one playthrough. Some are story related and will appear to all players regardless but others—like world bosses—can vary. For example, in all the promotional videos for the game, the devs faced off against a dragon on Earth. In my entire 12 hour playthrough I never once encountered this dragon, but a friend that I was playing with did and earned a sweet SMG that effectively turned into a flamethrower with its included mod. Moments like that, seeing a friend with a weapon that was unobtainable in my current playthrough, gave me inspiration to keep playing my campaign so I could re-roll with the hope of facing off against this dragon and getting my own flame-throwing SMG.
Melee combat is one of the weaknesses of Remnant as it feels as though its only viable as crowd control and for pushing adds back if you get swarmed—and you will get swarmed A LOT, especially during the already punishing boss fights. Despite almost never using the melee weapons, they are aesthetically pleasing and what is most interesting about a lot of the base weapons in the game is that attaching certain mods will change the appearance of the weapon that its equipped to. For example, throwing on a root-based mod will cause your gun to to appear as though its made of tree bark with a glowing red center. Other mods might turn your standard hunting rifle into a literal lighting gun complete with electricity flowing throughout the weapon.
In Remnant, mods are essentially your character’s special abilities. Each mod has a cool-down that must be recharged after use and is only restored by shooting and killing enemies. These range from a healing circle which teammates can step into to heal without having to waste one of their Dragonhearts (Remnant’s version of Estus Flasks), to a root that shoots up out of the ground to aggro enemies and draw them to a certain location allowing the player some breathing room when swarmed. My favorite mod was the one that allowed me to summon flaming skulls which stuck around for at least 60 seconds and would fire on enemies, keeping them at bay so my teammates and I could focus on the boss.
While I like that mods can be mixed and matched regardless of class, the three available classes players choose from at the start of the game are essentially pointless. Sure each one has a specific gear set they start with but all of the starting mods, and weapons, can be obtained by any class through normal gameplay. However, obtaining new armor is somewhat unique in Remnant and also plays into the procedurally generated aspect of much of the game’s content.
In each realm there are certain puzzles that players can find that once solved will typically allow them to acquire a brand new armor set, many of which have really cool designs. However, the means to solving these puzzles is never explicitly stated and is left completely up to players to figure out. I like this as it encourages exploration and experimentation when adventuring through these dangerous worlds. In the few moments of quiet outside of combat, it is great to be rewarded for thinking outside of the box and figuring out how to solve these puzzles. See something out of the ordinary or meet an NPC that your friend never saw in their entire playthrough? Check it out as it could lead to some awesome weapons, mods, traits or gear that otherwise would not be attainable.
Traits are essentially a skill tree and allow you to upgrade things like health, stamina (for dodging rolling around boss attacks, sprinting, etc.), and ranged or melee damage. These are just the basic traits that are available, though. Defeating elite enemies, sub-bosses, mini-bosses, and world bosses will all yield new traits that allow players to further build their character to their liking. There are even some well-hidden traits that offer perks like decreasing the time it takes to revive a downed ally. I won’t spoil how to get this trait, but it is something that most players will likely only gain when playing with a group of friends.
The story of Remnant revolves around a group of humanity’s last survivors holed up in a place called Ward 13, a bunker that protects the last of Earth’s remnants from the horrors of the outside world. Once players revive the crystal inside they can use it to venture out into one of four realms that have been discovered in an effort to find the source for the Root of all evil that has been plaguing the realms. The first of these realms is Earth, which most ironically resembles the run-down, post-apocalyptic cities of the Darksiders franchise. This isn’t too surprising as the game’s developer, Gunfire Games, is made up of ex-Vigil Games employees who worked on the original Darksiders series.
As players progress and discover more of these crystals, which function like the bonfires in Dark Souls, they will unlock more checkpoints and stones that can be used to travel back and forth to specific areas. While stones resurrect base enemies and restore ammo and health to the player, they do not resurrect defeated bosses. If players want another go at a boss to see what additional loot they will drop, then they’ll have to re-roll their campaign or join up in a friend’s game to do so.
Gunfire Games has pulled off something really amazing here. They’ve captured everything that people love about looter-shooters and Souls-likes, combining the best elements of those genres into something that is truly unique as a stand-alone title. Remnant: From the Ashes completely eschews all the annoying and repetitive elements of other games in its genre to create something that feels different each time you play which kept me engaged every time I fired up the game. Fans of Darksiders, Dark Souls, and recent looter-shooters will find a lot to love in Remnant.
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