Remnant: From the Ashes is an original IP from Gunfire Games, the team that brought Darksiders 3 to the world. For a studio of indie developer size, Remnant: From the Ashes is larger than life. It capitalizes on what made the Soulsborne titles so appealing and fuses it with a third-person perspective, guns, dynamically generated levels, and easy-to-use co-op. What we’re left with is a gripping and entirely unique experience that draws you back in for more.
The setup for the events of Remnant: From the Ashes are rather straight forward. Some 60 years ago, scientists found a strange crystal. Instead of leaving it alone, they tampered with it, which opened gateways to other worlds. This inevitably led to a hostile entity taking over Earth. Enter The Root, the antagonist of the game and the main driving force in your journey across the universe.
Your story starts with you washed up on a strange shoreline, fighting against the Root and into one of the last safe havens on Earth, Ward 13. From here, you’re taught the ropes, introduced to some merchants, and told you need to go find someone.
This is probably one of the few faults I had with Remnant: From the Ashes. The story struggles to find a balance between being aloof and bombarding you with proper nouns. It wouldn’t be such a struggle if the game provided an index or more items with descriptions to read. There needs to be some way to review the multitude of names and titles the many characters speak of.
By the end of the game, I’d collected as many names as I had weapons and guns. The Keeper, Atoll, Akari, Guar’ee, Iskal, Nui, Paxultek, Navun, to name just a few. But this is a double-edged sword. While it can be difficult to keep track of, it’s at the very least intriguing.
Enter the dungeon
Where Dark Souls offers replay value with different builds, Remnant: From the Ashes offers randomly-generated worlds. The entire experience is built upon this dynamic generation, whereby each playthrough will be unique.
The foundation is the handful of worlds you can explore. Each one is visually striking and truly breathtaking. Rhom is an arid land full of barbaric creatures and a buried history, Yaesha is lush and dense, while Corsus is brackish and swampy.
With the groundwork set, the physical makeup of each world will be different for you and me, and our subsequent clears. The twists and turns of the paths will be unique, as will the locations of enemies, the loot on offer, even the bosses encountered.
There are, allegedly, over 20 boss encounters in the game. For a single playthrough, I was only able to encounter a handful of them. Even subsequent playthroughs are unlikely to provide me with every single boss fight. What’s more, the bosses have alternative kill options, which grant unique rewards.
One downside to the random nature of the levels is that they lack a curated feeling. There are often vast spaces where it feels like crucial environmental storytelling is missing. Sure, the locations are all breathtaking, but when the shooting and action stops, the levels can feel a bit hollow. This problem is compounded by the distances you need to run to get to the next dungeon or location. You often run out of stamina multiple times between encounters as you simply try to get to the next 30-seconds of fun. It’s some unnecessary slowdown that hampers the intensely enjoyable fighting.
Hero of builds
If there’s one thing that Soulsborne titles master, it’s allowing the player to hone a build that perfectly suits their style. Remnant: From the Ashes delivers on this, and then some.
Your build consists of three weapons: a powerful primary weapon, an equally versatile sidearm, and a melee weapon for when enemies get too close. While it may seem limited, it’s often all you need during combat. And, oh, the combat. It’s so very good. The gunplay is delightfully crispy. Each weapon has a unique violence to its sound design which is further amplified by the enemies’ recoil animations. They all snap and twist as bullets slam into them. Every shot feels as though it has good weight behind it.
Beyond the weapons, you also have traits and mods to contend with. Mods are slotted into your two guns and charge over time as you deal damage. Activate the mod to alter how your gun fires, generate an area-of-effect for your allies, or improve your own prowess. You might turn your gun into a grenade launcher for a few shots, increase nearby allies’ damage by 30%, or make yourself harder to kill.
Traits are the basic stats and characteristics of your build. But they go further than just improving health and stamina. Each point you put into a trait improves it by a tiny percentage. You might slowly increases your reload speed, improve how much XP you earn (important in earning aforementioned points), or even increase your chances of dealing critical damage.
There’s enough variety here that you can spec your build exactly to your preference while aiming to level everything up with enough playtime.
Where the gameplay does falter is in the places between fighting. The dungeons I mentioned above offer a hyper condensed experience that really showcases Remnant’s incredible combat. Unfortunately, dungeons are often at opposite ends of the map. Though there are enemies scattered between them, the spaces often feel a bit empty, almost tedious to cross.
Thankfully, this issue doesn’t plague all of the worlds, and even those that do feel lacking are still breathtaking in their design.
It’s just a shame that Earth is the starting location, as it’s by far the weakest representation of what’s on offer in Remnant’s vibrant worlds.
Bring a friend
Remnant: From the Ashes wouldn’t be the stellar experience it is if it wasn’t for the co-op gameplay. Playing solo is definitely an option, but it’s a richer experience with a friend. In fact, you can bring two friends along for the ride.
Diving in and out of a match of Remnant is incredibly simple. There are no cumbersome lobbies to navigate or odd settings. Your friend must simply join through a friends list or invite.
At this point, the co-op nature of Remnant shines through. There’s a real sense of teamwork as you figure out your composition. Who’s taking the healing ability into a boss fight? Who’s got the best scrap collecting buffs so the whole team benefits? The setup facilities wanting to discuss strategies and improve builds. And it’s all in the name of chasing that sweet, sweet loot.
Thankfully, any loot that drops is shared among the team. It never feels like you’re missing out, and the inability to grind or farm bosses means you’re not left frustrated at poor RNG. However, it does mean that you and your allies will have the exact same weapons and mods, unless you’ve played through different worlds and experienced different bosses at some point.
In terms of how co-op affects difficulty, the challenge is actually scaled based on team size. However, there is also an independent difficulty option, which can be adjusted if you’re finding it too easy. I played through with my partner, who is almost entirely unfamiliar with the Soulsborne genre, and she found the Normal difficulty engaging without being overly frustrating. For Soulsborne veterans, a higher difficulty is recommended.
One glaring issue which needs to be addressed is that merchants only allow one person to talk to them at a time. This creates a virtual queue as you wait for your friend to finish upgrading their gear before you can get in and sort out your own improvements. With two players it’s inconvenient, with three it’s unreasonable.
Remnant: From the Ashes is immediately familiar and infinitely enjoyable. Gunfire Games has created something really special. The randomized experience means that subsequent playthroughs feel fresh while offering continued purpose through leveling, alternate boss kills, and weapon acquisition. Though it does have a few rough edges with pacing and story, Remnant: From the Ashes takes its rightful place at the Soulsborne table.
This review is based on a Steam code provided by the publisher. Remnant: From the Ashes is available on August 20, on Xbox One, Windows 10 PC, and PlayStation 4.
Remnant: From the Ashes
- Lots of bosses
- Crispy shooting and combat
- Randomly-generated levels provides new experiences
- Co-op gameplay is excellent
- A decent challenge
- Gorgeous worlds to explore
- Unqiue and varied loot to collect
- Merchants can't talk to two people at once, let alone three
- A bit slow between the action
- Odd pace to the story and weak in some parts
Sam Chandler posted a new article, Remnant: From the Ashes review - Getting rooted
It's really very good. I'm constantly looking forward to playing it.
It certainly scratches part of the Dark Souls itch. There are plenty of bosses and they're all quite varied.
The combat is the true hero of the game. As I said in the review, it's extremely crisp and satisfying.
If you're a Soulsborne/Sekiro veteran, it's worth playing through on a difficulty higher than Normal.
While the levels are randomly generated, they still have the same foundation. Rhom is still going to be a desert location with set landmarks, but the dungeons will be a different layout and provide different loot.
Tommy and I got it, and we just finished about two hours of it. It's good so far. The bosses ramp up the difficulty quite a bit, but the combat is pretty decent!
Great review, Sam. The wife and I started playing last night (PS4), and are already looking forward to going back for more.
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