Remnant: From the Ashes (PC) Review

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Just like how the game Rogue started a genre that consists of generated dungeons and perma-death, Dark Souls has started a genre that consists of challenging bosses, bonfires that respawn enemies, and a whole lot of rolling. While the term souls-like has been overused by some to mean a game that can be seen as challenging, there are some games deserving of this title for sticking close to the source material. Then there are games that straddle the line between multiple genres, which is where this game comes in. This is Remnant: From the Ashes, and it’s time to rise from the ashes like a phoenix, only to die again.

The world has been overrun with monsters known as The Root, and it is up to you to stop it. The beginning of your journey takes you to Ward 13, a facility originally used to study the World Stones but is now a refuge for survivors. What is the World Stones? Why, it’s a giant glowing rock that you use to travel to other realms, which is exactly what you do in search of a way to save Earth.

If you couldn’t tell by my description of the plot, Remnant isn’t a story game. While I do think other souls-likes don’t have as strong as a story either and instead focus on gameplay, I think the story here is especially disappointing because of its potential. This game has a cool setting and some neat world-building, but it never quite goes all the way with it. Instead, it takes a back seat to the gameplay, which left me looking at a cool cover while not being able to read its contents.

While there are a few dialogue options here-and-there, none of them felt meaningfully different from one another.

While there are a few dialogue options here-and-there, none of them felt meaningfully different from one another.

Remnant is a gameplay game, but what this game is isn’t so simple to answer. The best way I can describe this game is a third-person souls-like with guns thrown into levels similar to Diablo 3. Other influences, like Monster Hunter, can be seen in this game as well. Remnant’s inspirations are all blended into this one experience, which leaves the question of how well they all blend together. Fortunately, I can say that things turned out quite well.

Before I get into my gameplay experience, one thing worth noting is that I played the whole game solo. This game does have a heavy emphasis on co-op, but I still had a good time playing alone. I do think co-op is more enticing in this game compared to others because of the ability to enter a friend’s world who may have a different boss than you, but I don’t have the experience to really talk about it.

When I first started playing this game, the one question that came to mind was “does Souls with guns work?” Overall, I would say that this game finds a way to make it work. Guns find a perfect balance between being over-powered and being useless. Rolling is a necessity in this game, and one thing that is cool with the rolling in Remnant is the ability to reload while rolling. The combat in this game is tight yet heavy, and you can only shoot while aiming down sights. Aiming down sights slows you down, so mix that with enemies that are either fast on their feet, use ranged combat, or have a lot of health, and it is quite easy to get overwhelmed. Not only are the common enemies pretty smart, there is also a large variety of them, and having multiple types of enemies attacking at once means having to deal with multiple strategies. There are a few small issues around the edges with combat, like enemies with wide melee arcs hitting you through doorways or multiple enemies attacking in rapid succession, making dodging all attacks impossible, but combat still felt fair and challenging. In the end, I was doing just as much rolling as in any Souls game.

Remnant  doesn’t lock you into a certain class, which is nice considering different bosses are better to fight at different ranges.

Remnant doesn’t lock you into a certain class, which is nice considering different bosses are better to fight at different ranges.

The comparisons to Souls doesn’t stop there. This game also has a heavy emphasis on tough yet rewarding bosses. While the bosses in this game are fun to play and defeat, too many of them rely on throwing in a bunch of common enemies to add to the difficulty. It is a way to drop ammo for the player, but I think they are a crutch the bosses lean too heavily on. One boss especially worth noting is the final boss, as for the steps required to take it down are dumb, but once learned is really easy. Remember the World Stones? That is just a fancy name for bonfire, as for resting at these will respawn enemies, refill your ammo, and refill your Dragon Hearts (Estus Flask). The option to teleport either back to the Ward or to other major World Stones is also an option. One thing this game is missing in terms of Souls mechanic is some sort of souls drop, which I think would add an extra layer of challenge and risk to the game. While I wouldn’t say this game is as one-to-one with Souls compared to other souls-likes, the comparisons between the two are apparent.

The other game I mentioned as an influence to this game is Diablo 3, even though it isn’t as strong. Dark Souls has a very specific level design, offering an open world that all flows together and includes a lot of tight corridors. This game doesn’t, instead taking influence from Diablo. Each realm has two overworlds, and each overworld has around four dungeons. At the end of each dungeon is a boss fight, or in a few cases a survival arena. Everything I just described, as well as enemy placement, is procedurally generated. While that term does mean seeing the same map blocks but in a different order, Remnant feels like a different kind of procedural generation because it takes much longer to go through each level. When I think about procedurally-generated games, I think of games like Void Bastards, where I was playing a new generated level every five minutes. In Remnant, I have a whole 10-15 hour campaign to play through before I generate new areas. On top of that, there were bosses and human encounters I had on my second run that I didn’t have on my first, and I have the feeling I still haven’t encountered everything just yet. The one complaint I have about the levels isn’t even from the procedural generation, but from Ward 13, which feels like an empty hub area that should have more to it. Remnant offers generated levels actually worth playing again just so then you can see everything.

The Root Nexus was a situation I didn’t encounter in my first run, but encountered in my second run.

The Root Nexus was a situation I didn’t encounter in my first run, but encountered in my second run.

Defeating all of the bosses isn’t the only reason to go back. While each campaign starts fresh, you keep your character, which means you keep all trait upgrades and gear. While seeing everything is an incentive for me, the one thing really bringing me back to the game is trying to unlock and upgrade everything. What am I trying to upgrade and unlock? Weapons, weapon mods that give weapons various abilities, skill traits that offer stat boosts, armor, rings, and trinkets. This is where I sense a little Monster Hunter vibe to this game, as for killing bosses will get you a component to craft new weapons that both look and operate differently from normal weapons. Weapon mods give weapons some neat abilities like putting down temporary turrets or a healing aura, armor sets can offer stat increases and have weight which affects rolling speed, and trinkets and rings offer stat boosts and sometimes some small abilities. On top of that, weapons, armor, and traits can be upgraded up to twenty times, and me being a completionist, like to see stuff like this. The one issue I have around the upgrades are lumenite crystals, which are used for some weapon upgrades. They only sometimes drop off certain enemies, and it slows down the upgrading process considerably. Still, the ability to keep and upgrade everything between runs is the thing that brings me back to this game.

In conclusion, Remnant: From the Ashes is a solid game that wears its inspirations on its sleeves while also being unique. It takes elements from multiple games and mashes them together into a surprisingly fun package worth going back to again and again. The game strikes out on the story side of things, and boss fights could be better, but what is here is a good deal of fun and something I can get a lot of hours out of.

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