Remnant: From the Ashes – Swamps of Corsus Review
An already excellent game is made even better.
If it hadn’t been for Disco Elysium, Remnant: From the Ashes would have been the sleeper hit of 2019. Gunfire Games’ Soulslike third-person shooter was the perfect amount of AA charm right before the autumnal AAA onslaught. Nothing about Remnant: From the Ashes was singularly excellent, but each individual piece was crafted with enough love and care to elevate the final product well above the sum of its parts. It’s since become a bit of a cult classic, and while the player count may be nowhere near what it was at launch, Gunfire Games has been busy these last few months updating their well-loved title.
Swamps of Corsus is the first DLC for Remnant: From the Ashes you have to pay for. Unlike previous updates, like the one that added Adventure Mode, Swamps of Corsus is considered an expansion, seeing as the titular world has been given a wealth of new bosses, dungeons, and secrets to find. Throw in the fully fleshed-out Survival Mode and the $10 asking price doesn’t seem all that bad, yet there is more to Swamps of Corsus than what lies behind the paywall.
Swamps of Corsus offers a little something for everyone
The damp, muggy world of Corsus is the smallest zone in Remnant: From the Ashes, largely due to its optional nature. While the expansion doesn’t make the Campaign version of Corsus any longer than it was previously, some of the new dungeons and bosses have been added to that mode’s procedural generation pool. Even one of the existing World Bosses has a new alt-kill, and the reward earned from triggering it is well worth the effort. At a glance this may not seem like much, but it does mean players can sample a bit of what’s been added without a credit card transaction.
That said, Corsus remaining the same length in the Campaign is a bit of a bummer. I re-rolled my own save to see if it was increased even a smidgen, and I found that it’s mostly the same experience as before – just with a few new dungeons and bosses available in the generation pool. I do believe Gunfire should have added in at least one more additional dungeon to Campaign Corsus’ generation, but I can understand the logic behind their choice: Corsus is still a relatively optional zone.
Gunfire Games didn’t want to alter the pace of the story, so they instead decided to inject the new content into the already established formula. What that means, however, is that players who do not buy Swamps of Corsus will have to tediously re-reroll and grind out their Campaign to collect all the new items on offer (which is a problem Adventure Mode was introduced to correct in the first place). Considering there still isn’t an in-game journal to track what you have and haven’t encountered this process can become quite a slog.
Furthermore, items earned from the new bosses are locked out of use until players pony up the cash for Swamps of Corsus. Gunfire Games explained this was to allow players who didn’t want to buy the expansion upfront a chance to see if they liked the new items or not, and to not force them to reacquire the items once they did buy the expansion. That’s fair and all, but pair that decision with the need to buy the expansion to even grind Corsus efficiently via Adventure Mode and I can see Swamps of Corsus ruffling some feathers. That isn’t to say the locked content isn’t worth the asking price (more on why in a bit), but after months of free updates this’ll inevitably cause some whiplash (though, some of the new cosmetics are free to all, so there is that at least).
What everyone will benefit from are the various balance adjustments that are included in the update that ushers in Swamps of Corsus. If you don’t believe me then take a gander at the patch notes for yourself: damn near everything has been altered in some way. Many underutilized abilities, weapons, and such have been buffed or tweaked to make them more viable, all atop a handful of quality-of-life adjustments made to how Remnant: From the Ashes plays.
My Beam Rifle went from being a boss-only weapon to an equally potent trash destroyer. The “flattening” of armor resistances led me to experiment with sets I had previously ignored. While statistical balances aren’t as sexy as an updated zone and the new toys found therein they do shift how you interact with Remnant: From the Ashes. Refreshing Corsus may be the marquee feature, but these changes to the core experience will be felt by everyone.
I noticed the impact of these adjustments long before I sampled any of the new content on offer in Swamps of Corsus. Remnant: From the Ashes has always been a pleasure to play, but in Swamps of Corsus everything feels better polished and more tightly tuned. Bosses who formerly overwhelmed with adds either spawn fewer now, or spawn them less chaotically. Dodging finally negates certain attacks I always felt it should, which has made certain encounters less frustrating as a whole. Farming for iron and scrap now properly scales with my overall item level and choice of difficulty, making the grind to level additional armor sets and weapons less of a chore.
It didn’t take me long to realize Swamps of Corsus is Gunfire Game’s opportunity to shotgun blast a few months worth of lessons and feedback into a single update. At a surface level this may not seem like much, but all the revisions add up to make Remnant: From the Ashes more sublime to play. Throw in some performance improvements (Corsus no longer murders your computer, and runs as well as the other worlds), and it’s evident there’s plenty on offer for free in Swamps of Corsus for all to enjoy. The exclusion of a lore journal and a way to more accurately track progression still feels like a missed opportunity though.
How about the paid content then? I’ll put it bluntly: Swamps of Corsus is well worth the $10 asking price. The often capricious procedural generation nearly convinced me otherwise, but once it stopped force-feeding me things I’d seen before I found a wealth of new content that made an already excellent game all the better.
Corsus Adventure Mode and the new Survival Mode justify the price.
The bulk of what’s been added to Corsus is found within Adventure Mode, which finally offers the swamp planet as an option if you purchase the expansion (and in effect has made the mode “feature complete”). Popping into Corsus works the same as any other world: select Adventure Mode from the World Crystal, pick Corsus, then off you go into the wild green yonder.
At first it didn’t seem like much had changed. Similar to Earth, Rhom and Yaesha, Corsus’ new second biome closely mimicked the first. You’re still knee-deep in putrid brown water, but eventually the little details started to stand out. Instead of elevated mud huts there were more industrial steam-machines scattered about, as if all the technology on Corsus had been developed by bootleg moonshiners. There were also new enemy types scattered about that were more than capable of tearing my throat out (which happened more than I am willing to admit).
There’s even a new dungeon tile-set that reminded me of the damp limestone caverns found throughout the Ozarks. Stalactites and stalagmites dominated the winding labyrinthine corridors, and everything appeared to be coated in a viscous layer of slime. Considering the host of insectoid Iskal that lurked throughout the dungeon this grimy claustrophobic tone felt appropriate, even as they disemboweled me while I gawked at the disgustingly beautiful egg chambers.
Eventually I encountered my first new boss, a horrible headless poltergeist called the Dream Eater that sporadically shifted towards me and spawned ephemeral clones. Oh, what a terrible joy it was to fight, and once the bastard died I looted a new weapon mod from its corpse. I left the dungeon excited to see what else Gunfire had in store for me, a feeling that lasted until I reshuffled my Corsus Adventure Mode and fought the same handful of bosses again. And again.
Despite implementing bad luck protection in Swamps of Corsus I kept spawning either older encounters, or the Dream Eater. The wind that had once filled my sails vanished without a trace, and my mood quickly soured. “Is this it? This can’t be it,” I began to think. I knew another new boss lurked somewhere out there thanks to the trailer and recent developer streams, but where was it? This “expansion” couldn’t be this meager!
Turns out the procedural generation was fucking with me, because after my fifth reset things shifted dramatically. Since then I’ve had nothing but new events, dungeons, and bosses. There’s a whole new story-line tucked away within Swamps of Corsus, and there are secrets galore! Once I finally overcame the randomized nature of the game I was able to enjoy the new content on offer. Even as I write this review I’m finding things I haven’t seen before.
Turns out there is a healthy helping of new content in Swamps of Corsus, but I had to wrangle with the stubborn procedural generation to even see it. It’s the one bit about Remnant: From the Ashes that I both love and loathe: I think it’s cool the game doesn’t play all its cards at once, and instead asks you to play it a handful of times to uncover everything, but that sense of awe and discovery can be quickly replaced by frustration and anger if RNGesus decides you’re unworthy.
Once you do begin to encounter the new content it’s a joy to play. The bosses are all unique and difficult (as one would expect), but they are also some of the best in the game – no doubt thanks to the months of feedback Gunfire Games has received between launch and now. The weapons and mods that drop feel worthwhile and add interesting wrinkles to existing playstyles, another sign Gunfire has been listening this whole time. The Unstable Quills are amazing for nuking bosses, but the Rift Walker mod earned from the Dream Eater allows you a brief window of invulnerability and a potent enemy distraction that happens to explode in their faces. It’s like the Rattle Weed, but with more oomph.
There’s plenty to dig into within the updated Corsus, but it’d be a damned shame if I didn’t mention the Survival Mode also bundled in this expansion. Holy shit, it’s amazing. Rather than translate the entire Remnant: From the Ashes experience into a simple “don’t die” boss rush, Gunfire Games instead reevaluated all of their underlying systems and altered them to work within a Binding of Issac-esque template.
Survival Mode is completely divorced from the regular Remnant: From the Ashes experience, and even has its own matchmaking. Players can access it at any time from the World Crystal, and they should brace themselves for a something completely different than what they have grown accustomed to these last few months. The way you play is still fundamentally the same as the core game: kill enemies before they kill you, don’t get greedy, scrounge the environment for resources and loot, and take down an indomitable boss. How you engage with that loop, however, couldn’t be more divergent.
Players will start Survival Mode in the Labyrinth with several stones available that offer up weapons, armor, items, mods, and upgrades. Players begin a Survival Mode session stark naked with only the repeater pistol and a thousand scrap to their name, so they need to pick what they want to purchase wisely. What’s within these stores is randomized, and there isn’t much on offer. Players can’t just replicate their regular builds and press on: they have to work with what’s available, and with what they find out in a run.
Runs are simple: a random biome is chosen and attached is a single dungeon with a boss at the end. The biome is streamlined into a more linear affair, because players are racing the clock in Survival Mode. When the clock winds down to zero enemies and bosses increase in level, and the clock resets. Players need to go fast, kill efficiently, and loot with purpose if they are to keep up.
This means the complex leveling system from the core Remnant: From the Ashes experience has been tweaked. Instead of upgrading armor and weapons between runs piece by piece everything now scales their level. As players kill opponents they’ll gain experience and eventually level-up. If players are quick and stay on par or above the enemy’s level they’ll have an easier time, but if they can’t keep up with the timer the enemies start to outscale them and their run becomes that much harder to complete. Traits are also learned via the books tucked away within the environment, in chests, or possibly dropped by elite enemies, and they’ll grant a specific trait when picked up (which can be viewed while aiming at the tome prior to grabbing it).
Make it to the end and beat the boss and you’ll be returned to the Labyrinth with loot, scrap, levels, and traits intact. Die, and you start over from scratch (though with a minor bonus to starting scrap based on the number of bosses killed before you fell). It’s a captivating loop that not only encourages multiple runs, but experimentation with Remnant’s wide arsenal of gear. You have to make due with what you find, and often have to slap a build together with disparate pieces that don’t always jive together. It’s an exhilarating experience, and although it has little bearing on the main game players still walk away with a new currency: Glowing Fragments.
These can be traded to Whispers, a new vendor in Ward 13, who sells cosmetic skins for the various armor sets found within Remnant. These Glowing Fragments are also earned by killing bosses in Hard or higher difficulties in both the Campaign and Adventure Modes, but Survival Mode is the fastest way to farm them. They (and a handful of account-bound items) provide players an incentive to grind out Survival Mode, though it’s an excellent palette cleanser regardless. It may not offer the same wealth of loot as the updated Corsus, but it’s an exhilarating new way to engage with Remnant: From the Ashes, and rounds out the package in a surprisingly deft way. I’d argue it alone is worth the price of admission, so having it and all the added content in Corsus feels like a steal. Throw in the new Apocalypse difficulty that’s been added to sate the more masochistic portion of fanbase and even veterans will find reason to return.
Swamps of Corsus is a fantastic addition to Remnant: From the Ashes, a true expansion that both adds to and enhances the core experience. Even if you don’t pay a dime there’s still plenty to dig into here thanks to an impressive amount of work done behind the scenes to rebalance much of the game. Some of the new content can even be accessed without the expansion, though the choice to lock the loot behind purchasing Swamps of Corsus will certainly aggravate some.
Remnant: From the Ashes – Swamps of Corsus may not seem like much of an expansion at first, especially if the random-number generator governing the procedural generation is feeling especially stubborn. But, once you overcame that barrier you’ll find yourself smothered by a host of new bosses to kill, events to complete, and secrets to uncover. Factor in the outstanding Survival Mode and Swamps of Corsus proves it’s worth every penny. Remnant: From the Ashes was already a complete game at launch, but that hasn’t stopped Gunfire Games from making it a deeper, more rewarding experience.
Swamps of Corsus is a must-buy for fans of Remnant, and a great excuse for curious outsiders to finally check the game out. Remnant: From the Ashes is not the prettiest or most original Soulslike out there, and the lack of an in-game lore depository remains an issue, but it makes up for these quirks by offering the widest variety of modes to engage with. If Remnant: From the Ashes didn’t have enough meat on the bone before, it certainly does now.
- This article was updated on:April 28th, 2020
Remnant: From the Ashes - Swamps of Corsus
- Available On: PC, (Coming soon to Xbox One and PS4)
- Published By: Perfect World
- Developed By: Gunfire Games
- Genre: Third-Person Shooter
- US Release Date: April 28th, 2020 (PC), June 4th, 2020 (Xbox One, PS4)
- Reviewed On: PC
- Quote: "Swamps of Corsus is a must-buy for fans of Remnant, and a great excuse for curious outsiders to finally check the game out. Remnant: From the Ashes is not the prettiest or most original Soulslike out there, and the lack of an in-game lore depository remains an issue, but it makes up for these quirks by offering the widest variety of modes to engage with. If Remnant: From the Ashes didn't have enough meat on the bone before, it certainly does now."