Remnant 2 is the sort of sequel you want to experience from your favorite game. It ratchets everything up another notch and improves multiple elements that caused the first game to stumble. And now, the team at Gunfire Games is on the cusp of releasing the sequel’s first paid DLC, The Awakened King.
In the lead up to release, I got to sit down with Principal Designer, Ben “Tragic” Cureton, and Principal Level Designer, Cindy To, to see what’s in store for players when the first DLC drops in November. From the start, the excitement was palpable – Ben and Cindy are as invested in the release of the DLC as the fans, and my brief 30 minute chat (okay, maybe I forced them to talk to me for 45 minutes) left me hungry for what’s to come in The Awakened King.
As I sat and watched Cureton play through a small section of the DLC, Cindy set the scene. Anyone who’s played through Losomn will recall mention of either a king that is slumbering or one that had been killed. This DLC is that king waking up, discovering people have betrayed him, slaying all those who crossed him, and literally shifting his massive castle from the Fae realm into the Dran world. There’s this epic clash of aesthetics with the high-fantasy castle smack bang in the middle of the Dran’s dilapidated buildings.
The setting evokes a Bloodborne or Resident Evil atmosphere, with rain flecking the HUD and pouring off of the roofs as angry inhabitants stalk the streets. After passing by a non-hostile and potentially friendly character, Cureton found himself in the middle of a fight against a new boss that featured an affix called Cloner. This troublesome modifier created a mirror image of Cureton’s character that chased him around, trying to punch his lights out.
The boss put up enough of a fight that Cureton had to focus up to take it down. It’s at this point I asked Cureton about the difficulty compared to the first game. “It’s about the same, but because there are new things you can’t rely on familiarity,” Cureton said as he dodged a new type of tracking pustule attack. “We didn’t make it harder. We didn’t make it easier. We tried to keep it on par for what it was before.”
It’s not just the boss that uses this new attack, a new enemy type that lurks in the sewers of Losomn was also spewing out the spikey green orbs. The team wanted to shake up the combat, giving players new things to contend with like enemies that have area-denial attacks that force players to move around. These enemies aren’t just limited to the DLC, they’ll be spread throughout the other Losomn regions, essentially giving players a fresh experience in well-trodden locations.
“We really want to push the bounds of our storytelling,” Cindy said as Cureton cast his cursor over the environment. “I think one way of doing that is within the levels themselves.” This new region of Losomn has landmarks that not only act as reference points for how far players have moved through the area, but they are also places that you’ll eventually visit.
With the power of a debug kit, Cureton zipped from the grimy streets up to the opulent castle. The both of them chuckled as Cindy explained that these two locations are separated by dungeons to explore, bosses to fight, and yes, plenty of deaths.
Inside the castle, Cureton was greeted by another new elite enemy variant that wields dual spears, is hyper aggressive, and has a weakpoint on its chest. Like other elite enemies, they’re often a means of training the player, preparing them for the boss fight. The short preview was capped off with one such encounter.
Enter Bruin, Blade of the King, a larger version of the elite enemy, albeit with a skull belt protecting its chest. As the Awakened King’s loyal servant, the boss is untrusting of anyone, so halfway through the fight when more enemies came to join the fray, Bruin actually killed them. It’s a neat twist on the usual formula and shows that the designers are constantly thinking up new ways to surprise the player.
In terms of new gear, The Awakened King sounds like its brimming with new goodies for players to discover. As Cureton puts it, in the base version of Remnant 2, each biome has two different stories and so the 40 or so items are split evenly between the two. When designing the DLC, the team did some quick math and figured they needed to create enough loot to match one half of the main game’s stories. “We did that, and then we said ‘Okay, well let’s just keep making more’ and we just kept making more,” Cureton said. “Because it’s larger, there are more things to get.”
Cureton is a seasoned hat at these sorts of interviews, so while he kept his cards close to his chest, he was able to whet the appetite a bit. Some of the new additions will have negative effects for the player, things that will harm or hinder you, but the flipside is that you’ll be doing this for some increase in power elsewhere.
With more gear, comes more balancing. Part of this process is staying connected with the community to see what the players need or what they’re missing – either through direct communication or just paying attention from the sidelines. “We look at what we’ve created and try very hard to not create a variant of something that already exists,” Cureton said. “Instead, we create something that is of a similar power level.” The one thing the developers want to avoid is power creep or the need to nerf something, they’d much rather lift an underperforming piece of gear.
And, of course, it wouldn’t be a Remnant 2 discussion if I didn’t ask about puzzles and secrets. Though I couldn’t pry so much as a hint from Cindy or Ben, they did acknowledge that The Awakened King would have secrets for players to discover. “You might need a couple of playthroughs or so – gotta catch ‘em all,” Cindy offered with a laugh.
Players that purchase The Awakened King will be able to tackle this new story of retribution and punishment without jumping through a lot of hoops and without having to play through content they’ve already experienced. The first time players load in, they’ll be able to roll a version of Losomn in Adventure mode that contains only the new content. “That doesn’t mean you’ll see everything,” Cureton clarified. “It just means that you’ll see all new stuff.”
This user-focused design shows a real care for the player experience that’s echoed when talking with Ben Cureton and Cindy To. It’s evident the team at Gunfire Games is passionate and dedicated to this exciting IP, and it’s incredibly infectious. I left the preview somehow more excited than when I entered. All that’s left to do now is prepare some powerful loadouts, because it seems like the Awakened King got up on the wrong side of the bed.
The Awakened King is launching on PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X/S on November 14, 2023 for $9.99 USD. Players can purchase the DLC Bundle, which includes all three DLCs, for $24.99 USD. This preview is based on a hands-off demo provided by the publisher.
Sam Chandler posted a new article, Remnant 2's The Awakened King DLC takes you back to Losomn to deal with a familiar threat
I’m ready. What about cross platform?