Remnant: From the Ashes, the brand new title from Darksiders devs Gunfire Games is an interesting blend of genres influenced primarily by Dark Souls – while combining elements from co-op shooters. At its most basic, Remnant is a third-person shooter/action RPG where you slay monsters, level up your character, upgrade your gear and make your way through increasingly challenging worlds, either solo or with two other players. It all sounds familiar, but Remnant does it with confidence and is the closest you’ll get to a “Dark Souls with guns”.
Earth has been consumed by evil tree-like entities known as The Root and humanity is close to becoming extinct and it is your job to find a solution. The setting is quite reminiscent of Darksiders, especially since a lot of assets seem to have been taken straight from Darksiders 3. You create a character from a basic but decent set of options and after a brief tutorial you’ll make it to the game’s central hub area, an old industrial bunker called Ward 13. You’ll meet various NPCs and vendors, pick a character archetype and off you go exploring the first of the four main areas of the game.
Despite sticking fairly close to the Souls formula, Remnant is a relatively simple game to pick up. There are tutorials and hints everywhere, a handy map to refer to and a relatively straightforward story. Also unlike Souls, there isn’t a harsh penalty upon death and checkpoints are plentiful (glowing red crystals which act like bonfires). Dying simply sends you back to the nearest checkpoint while respawning all enemies in the area but keeping all your XP, items and scrap – the game’s main currency, intact. Souls purists may scoff at this but it is a welcome change for anyone who feels intimidated by the punishing aspects of those games. That said, Remnant still offers plenty of challenges with it’s frenetic combat encounters and chaotic boss fights.
Despite sticking fairly close to the Souls formula, Remnant is a relatively simple game to pick up
Where Remnant truly shines is its meaty and precise combat. Simply put, this is some of the most fun I’ve had with a shooter. There’s a variety of enemies to fight from basic grunts who go down in 1-2 shots to elites with special abilities. In spite of being a shooter, success lies heavily on effective stamina management. Dodging, your primary means of avoiding damage consumes stamina and results in a very different style of play compared to most shooters. It helps that dodges have generous invincibility frames depending on how heavy your armor is, much like Souls. Enemies are often highly aggressive and it takes effort to avoid damage while lining up a shot from a gun that usually has significant recoil.
Gunplay feels solid thanks to the punchy weapons and snappy mechanics. A lot of the early weapons are single-shot rifles, pistols and shotguns and they look and sound ridiculously good. Eventually you’ll get your hands on more exotic weapons such as an SMG that doubles as a flamethrower to a rifle that shoots a continuous beam of energy and so on but pretty much all weapons are perfectly viable as long as you keep upgrading them. The upgrade system works exactly like the Souls games. There are no random gear drops of different rarities here, instead you make incremental upgrades to your gear by using increasingly rare materials. I’ve always liked the progression system from the Souls games and I found that it works quite well here. Your character can also equip a melee weapon but don’t expect melee combat to be as fleshed out as the shooting. It’s fairly basic and mostly meant to be used as a last resort. That said, there are definitely builds you can put together that are melee-focused.
And speaking of builds, while it isn’t readily apparent at the start, there is in fact a good amount of variety in which you can customize your play style. Armor sets have specific bonuses and you’ll unlock and level up a number of Traits as you play. Traits come in the form of basic ones (health, endurance) to more focused ones as you progress. This is a great system, especially as you earn new traits upon meeting certain conditions such as defeating bosses or consistently hitting weak points. While the game doesn’t feature magic spells, your character can apply mods which allow you to use special abilities, many of which are vital to your success.
On one hand, defeating a boss always felt exhilarating but on the other it took many attempts and failure was mostly due to constantly spawning adds during every fight
Perhaps the most challenging and potentially controversial aspect of this game is it’s boss fights. I honestly had a love/hate relationship with the bosses throughout the game. On one hand, defeating a boss always felt exhilarating but on the other it took many attempts and failure was mostly due to constantly spawning adds during every fight. Pretty much all of Remnant’s boss fights involve a giant creature accompanied by waves of normal enemies. I understand this encourages teamwork and gives players a way to regain ammo or recharge abilities but some of Remnant’s boss encounters feel needlessly frustrating. Some enemies have a tendency to rush straight at the player. While the fights are perfectly doable even solo, I can see impatient players becoming frustrated as the adds can easily overwhelm you if left unchecked. That said, the bosses themselves are great and have some rather creative designs. I just wish the difficulty for these fights was tuned better.
Remnant is fairly linear game. You progress through each of its four areas in order which in turn have plenty of opportunities for exploration and optional dungeons to complete. The game takes a novel approach to generating it’s worlds. It’s not exactly procedurally generated, instead the areas are put together from a set of hand-crafted levels. The process also randomizes some of the boss encounters as well as loot. It’s quite possible that single campaign run may never feature a particular boss or piece of gear. This does lend a good amount of replayability as you’ll likely never see everything in a single run. The campaign itself takes about 15 to 20 hours to finish depending on how much side content you do and is fairly robust.
While it isn’t the best looking game out there, Remnant has some impressive stylized visuals tied together by a strong aesthetic. Each of the four zones feels different and has fantastic atmosphere that’s enhanced by solid sound design. Enemies have distinct audio cues which always comes in handy during busy fights and the voice acting is decent for the most part.
I must say I had a great time with Remnant: From the Ashes and I’m looking forward to playing more of it. I expected a co-op heavy experience but instead got a refreshingly fun take on the Souls formula. There are minor issues here and there but I’m confident that these can be ironed out with updates.
Remnant: From the Ashes is a fun, challenging, yet often frustrating game that is elevated by satisfyingly visceral combat, rewarding progression systems and a cool post-apocalyptic setting. Parts of the game could be balanced better but as it stands now it’s a solid action RPG that is as enjoyable solo as it is with friends.