Game Reviews

Remnant: From the Ashes Review

If Dark Souls was a shooter...kinda

by William Schwartz

Over the last few years there have been plenty of “Soulsborne” type games.  Some have taken things whole cloth, while others have introduced various mechanics from the popular action role-playing series.  With Gunfire Games’ Remnant: From the Ashes, the developers have put their spin on the genre with a third person shooter that feels like an amalgamation of numerous popular modern games and gameplay ideas.  While the comparisons are immediately drawn to the Souls games because of the difficulty in Remnant, it’s not quite as punitive of a game.  There are number of other comparisons that fans of those games will draw.  The world crystal are the bonfires that you rest at.  The enemies are overwhelming and seemingly tucked into areas of the map that’ll surprise you and catch you off guard.  The bosses are massive and brutal.  There’s an Estus Flask equivalent… etc.  But despite all of the similarities,  Remnant: From the Ashes definitely comes out feeling like its own thing.

Remnant has similarities to Dark Souls, but there are a lot of differences as well

The story of Remnant is set in a post-apocalyptic era that’s been overrun by the Root.  Your character encounters the Root at the early moments of the game and you’re helped by the survivors of Ward 13.  I’ve played through the game start to finish and I still don’t know exactly what transpired. Remnant: From the Ashes is a bunch of big moments with little exposition, and I was somewhat OK with that.  Most of the story content and lore that you’re going to get from Remnant is done by digging into the conversation trees or finding items in the ever-changing world.

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I’ve played so many bad games over the years that I almost expect most games that aren’t the latest new release from the major publishers to be of a different tier.  Being on that second tier is sometimes a good thing.  Since the games don’t have the incredibly inflated budgets at these massive publishers they aren’t chocked full of the bullshit that those games have — Premium currencies, surprise mechanics, etc.  While it is a relief that Remnant: From the Ashes has none of that, you still expect the quality to be a little lower, but it’s not.  Remnant impresses on the visual front, playing this game on PC on ultra settings I had a smooth and stable experience online and off.  From frame rates to stability — everything just worked which is an incredible rarity these days.  Still, our time with the game had no problems in the pre-launch environment.

The world can be re-rolled at any time

While the technical stuff like frame rates staying stable in a third person shooter are important, Remnant has a great art style as well.  The game has a wide and varied number of locations to visit, massive bosses to fight, and and even wider variety of standard enemies to mow through.  I juggled with different ideas when I was playing this game, almost as if I had stereotyped the game into being bad.  Are these visuals actually AAA quality or is it generic Unreal Engine.  There were times where I thought to myself that this game has the generic homogenized look of the fictional game that you see playing on the background of a television show.  I think most of the thoughts about the game being generic aren’t helped by the game’s patchwork systems, which stitches together levels for a completely random playthrough each time you play.  Don’t like the current roll of the world, you can re-roll at anytime.

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Now you’re probably thinking, OK that doesn’t sound like anything we’ve seen from a Souls game,  and you’re right.    The random nature doesn’t only do good for keeping successive playthroughs fresh, but there’s plenty you won’t see on your first go-round.  More importantly, if you want to utilize the online cooperative aspects of the game, you can have an entirely new experience with a group.  As for how much different it is, we couldn’t test every possible scenario, but what we saw was a pretty big difference.  You’ll encounter different bosses on different playthroughs.  The maps will be laid out differently, the enemies different.  While the overarching plot remains the same, the moment to moment gameplay is changed as there’s no memorization that you find in the souls series.  Enjoyable as co-op experience or as a solo RPG, Remnant was equally fun.  While I didn’t play the game to its entirety with a co-op partner we played enough it to get a really good feel for this part of the game.  It was enjoyable and we had no issues in getting connected.

The combat of Remnant is third person shooter, and it’s feels good.  One of the things I was worried about when I heard “it’s like Dark Souls with guns” is that the combat would get old after a while.  Thankfully the shooting is solid and snappy, with rewarding bonuses for accuracy that make combat tense and fun to play.  There are plenty of weapons to find in Remnant, as well as archetypes to build out that can lean towards close quarters or ranged combat.  While most of my playthrough was done with a ranged character that utilized a rifle, there were plenty of things to try in terms of boss weapons, weapons hidden in the world, or weapons that could be crafted.

remnant-combat

Combat is a mixture of low-level easy targets that take one or two shots to kill and a smattering of stronger enemies which take a little bit more firepower to take down.  While the bigger, stronger enemies are limited to only  a handful of enemy models, there is a nice variety of lower-level enemy types that you’ll encounter as you progress through the five different areas you can explore in the game.

Pushing through these areas you’ll have to contend with these low level enemies and the goal is to make it to a checkpoint.  These checkpoints allow you to replenish your health and ammunition, and they’re usually placed just ahead of a boss fight.  Boss fights in Remnant are a mixed bag.  I had a ton of fun pushing through the many boss fights in the game, but a lot of them really leaned on managing a boss and their minions instead of a traditional boss fight.  This structure does feel very much like a souls game in its implementation, but there’s no real penalty in losing progression in Remnant.  Instead, you are rewarded when you reach checkpoints with the ability to warp back to your base of operations to upgrade weapons, purchase items, and more.

The Ward 13 base hub is central to the story of the game as its got a group of survivors there that have got your back.  You can upgrade your healing abilities here, purchase items to take with you, upgrade weapons, as well as craft items.  The crafting and upgrade system in Remnant isn’t too convoluted.  You simply need to find different iron types and scrap to perform upgrades.  As you progress you’ll uncover these iron types naturally.  There never really felt like a moment where the upgrades felt like a grind, in fact the game goes out of its way to make upgrading your character easier with the ability to warp back to Ward 13 at any time to do so.

There’s a lot to love about the simplicity and straight-forward nature of Remnant: From the Ashes, but there are times where you wish there was a little bit more meat on the bone.  You’ll meet some truly interesting characters throughout the course of the game, but you never really feel like you get to know them at all.  This trickles down to even the UI level, where if you miss an NPC character’s name, you might not ever see it again.  There’s also no quest log or equivalent to keep you on track or let you see where you’ve been, who you’ve talked to, and what you should be doing next.  There’s a universe here that’s probably more mysterious after you finish playing the game than it is when you start. For solo players this might be a point of contention, but for groups it really doesn’t matter all that much because the actual gameplay will take your mind away from that stuff.

Remnant does a lot right here.  The game is incredibly streamlined, which makes it somewhat of a breeze to get through.  There’s just the right amount of obscurity and mystery in the world to keep you guessing, but this mysteriousness can be a little frustrating at times as well.  At times, Remnant: From the Ashes feels incredibly honed, and at others, rough around the edges.

The Verdict

If you like loot shooters and some of the core systems from the Souls games, Remnant: From the Ashes shouldn’t disappoint.

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liked

Remnant: From the Ashes

  • Available On: PS4, Xbox One, PC
  • Published By: Perfect World
  • Developed By: Gunfire Games
  • Genre: Third Person Shooter
  • US Release Date: August 20th, 2019
  • Reviewed On: PC
  • Quote: "If you like loot shooters and some of the core systems from the Souls games, Remnant: From the Ashes shouldn't disappoint."
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