I had my eye on Remnant: From the Ashes from the moment I caught a trailer heralding its interesting world and although I’ve been burned too many times by budget games (and Triple AAA titles, in-fact) like Agony and ReCore to make a leap of faith and buy it on release, I was stoked when I saw developer Gunfire Games’ (Darksiders III) latest outing had found its away to Xbox Game Pass. Published by Perfect World Entertainment, Remnant: From the Ashes looked like it’d be right in my wheelhouse, borrowing heavily from the Souls franchise while incorporating a new emphasis on gun-play, I desired to find something that’d take influence from and build upon established foundation. If not that, then, I at least hoped Remnant would offer a fun, lightweight riff on the From Software, akin to the Ashen video-game released last year.
Early on, it’s clear that Remnant does make certain decisions to differentiate itself. It deals away with the Souls experience system. Instead of having to carry all your experience in a zip-lock baggy, always terrified you might die and lose it all (‘less you can return to where you were), and spending it at the Bonfire or wherever, Remnant has a more traditional approach. The experience builds and is never lost and you can level-up straight from the pause menu (or, well, not the pause menu, … like Dark Souls, Remnant doesn’t have one of those). Although I enjoy how Souls treats its experience system, I welcomed this one-hundred-and-ten percent and found it a nice change of pace altogether. Some might say it takes away from the challenge, but, for Remnant, I believe it helps trim the fat, so-to-speak.
Remnant: From the Ashes checks off a lot of the standard Souls-tropes, like a Bonfire checkpoint system and traversing fog as you enter into a boss fight, but it carves out its own unique niche through its gun-based combat. My applied a lot of the same strategies as I had done with Dark Souls, Nioh, Bloodborne, Ashen, Lords of the Fallen, or whatever, and found myself attuning them for Remnant as I progressed. With the aforementioned titles, my approach had always been a swift and direct melee approach. The strategy came from picking your spot and appropriately gauging your stamina. Although Remnant does require similar management, I found the biggest challenge of all was not becoming overwhelmed by enemies and creating enough distance to mow down the enemies charging toward you. It’s difficult to distinguish how it instills a similar game-play to a Souls game while fundamentally changing it in a seamless passion, but, for the uninitiated, it’s suffice to say that it makes for a solid third-person shooter.
The graphics and visuals are worthwhile and deserving of recognition, and yet, in the early-going, I’d not have thought that. Remnant begins with a bleak and dreary, downtrodden dystopia, filled with rundown buildings and the, ahem, remnants of what once was. I found them passable no doubt but they appeared simple and even, perhaps, a little bland and dull. This belief was only further highlighted by frame-rate issues and delayed textures. And yet, to my surprise, as Remnant progresses, it truly is a visually appeasing and inspired game, comprised of unique settings such as jungles and maps cut straight-out from a science-fiction film.
Something else that Remnant: From the Ashes does that’s not always seen in the genre is the inclusion of a map, visible either on the corner of your screen or the menus. Some might argue this hurts the exploration and takes away a sense of discovery, but, I welcomed this as well. Although Remnant has optional side bosses and occasional secrets to discover, the way its levels are laid-out, I think they chose the most logical approach. The biggest criticism I have for the map is about its simplicity and impracticality. The map fills out in your progression and marks where the different exits from a level are (Remnant uses a more linear level-system, not open-world). However, the map changes when you upstairs or downstairs, etc., and it doesn’t fill in the details for what you might find while you’re in that part of the map that seen as different. The map doesn’t allow you to see what’s on different undocumented floors. After the Pans Wolf had killed me one too many times, I decided to take a break from him and back-track, trying to fill out the map and eliminate any optional boss-battles I might have missed. When I was ready to return, however, I was unable to find my way back. The large map had many different exit-ways, acting as, almost, the center of that world, and, because that particular way was up some stairs, it wasn’t shown on the map.
Remnant is at its best as a dungeon-crawler, trudging deeper and deeper into the mud, when I’m allowed to approach each individual area as its own stage and progress my way through, wielding both a handgun, a larger weapon, and a melee weapon. I’m having my most fun when it’s allowed to embrace its third-person shooter roots, when it feels akin to a shooter like Gears of War had a child with the Souls series. I prefer when it’s either in the middle or slanted toward the third-shooter aspect, and find myself less interested when it’s not. Something cool Remnant also does is, upon death, the world resets mixes around its enemies, their placement and so on, offering a small newness each go around.
The weapon selection and loot system leave something to be desired. You have a small variety of weapons and every time you loot crates hoping you’ll find a rare weapon or a stylish new armor, you’ll more often than not be disappointed. I had the same weapons and armor from start to finish and every time I tried to diversify myself, I longed for a return to my old gear. This is something I think could have been improved upon, but, at the same time, if I approached it as a third-person shooter, this doesn’t really hurt my enjoyment.
Remnant: From the Ashes isn’t too difficult once you’ve gotten the hang of it. Every boss feels easy enough to conquer once you’ve had a time or two to iron out which approach you want to take with it. The worst part about the boss battles aren’t so much their difficulty, but, instead, how they’re all mostly difficult in the same way. It’s a pet peeve, but – I don’t like it when you have a boss battle you’re spammed with smaller enemies that you’d encountered earlier in the dungeon. I can accept it a few times, but, mostly, I’d prefer it to be you versus the big baddie. If you’re fighting a giant octopus, the challenge shouldn’t be frogs slapping you with their tongues or something like that, it should be the giant octopus. I know, I know, it’s minor and, normally, I would accept it, no big deal. However, almost every single boss in Remnant is like that. Giant wolf? Watch out for the guys throwing spears! Undying King? Watch out for the enemies that spawn from the coffins! The constant spawn ads made it so I met every boss battle with groaning disdain.
Speaking of boss battles, the last boss glitched and I was never able to finish. I’ve looked into it and it’s a problem many people have had. Basically, in the middle of the battle, your character will be brought into a “nightmare world,” where you’re meant to kill off … constantly spawning enemies and, at any time, you can step out of the nightmare world through a poral and continue with the boss battle. However, the more enemies you kill and the longer you last in the nightmare world, the more damage your weapons will inflict on the boss when you step out. It’s a really cool mechanic. Unfortunately, after going through it eleven times, I’ve discovered that I can’t, in-fact, leave the nightmare world once I’ve been brought into it, no matter how many enemies I kill. Incidentally, the last boss is my favorite of the whole game.
I like Remnant: From the Ashes. It may not seem like it after you’ve read everything I’ve said, but I spent 15-something hours on it and had a lot of fun. In-fact, I would even says it’s the most immersed I’ve been as a gamer in months (I’ve been in a major dry spell). It has fun mechanics and a lot of ideas I’d like to see tweaked, adjusted, and improved upon in later games, be it from Gunfire Games with Remnant 2 or something and someone else altogether. The problems I had with it, however, were detrimental and kept it from achieving its potential.
Placement on the List: – The (Lower) Goods