‘Remnant: From the Ashes’ review: a stellar shooter with a bright future

September 13, 2019

Prior to release, lots of people were calling “Remnant: From the Ashes,” “Dark Souls with guns.” The game features a lot of things that one would consider trademarks of the “Souls” games: a stamina system, rolling mechanics, bonfire-like checkpoints and difficult gameplay. But the similarities stop there. The “Remnant” experience is less like “Dark Souls” and more like a more difficult version of “Warframe” or “Destiny.” The game is a fantastic co-op (solo is an option) third-person looter shooter that only costs $40 (and there are no micro-transactions).

Set in a post-apocalyptic Earth, you travel to three other worlds in a quest to rid your planet of the Root, a plant-like hivemind. While Earth’s landscape can be a little bland and boring, the other worlds are completely different, harboring a variety of unique enemies and geography. There’s a desert world with a juxtaposition between ruins of advanced technology and tribes of vicious mask-wearing locals. There’s a swamp world populated by blue-skinned natives and ominous bug-like monstrosities. There’s a forest world perpetually in night time with goat-men flinging deadly shurikens and summoning lightning. Seeing these different worlds and exploring each of them is a big selling-point of “Remnant.”

The game’s map is randomized for each playthrough so that you can encounter different NPC’s, dungeons and bosses (according to “Remnant’s” wiki, there are currently 29 bosses with more being added in the future as free DLC). This boosts replayability by quite a bit, though it can be annoying if you miss the dungeon or boss you want multiple times. Luckily, adventure mode is being added into the game which lets you reroll a specific map for a specific world. It will probably be out by the time this article is published.

Now, many of you are probably wondering exactly how difficult this game is. Fear not—it’s not all that hard up until the higher difficulties, which most beginners won’t choose anyway. This is what the “Gun Souls” description fails to capture. The game is certainly challenging, but doesn’t feel as demanding as a “Souls” game. Regular enemies have only one or two basic attacks, making them predictable and easy to dodge, though they come in numbers. 

Bosses have a few more moves, but they’re all very telegraphed so that they’re easy to learn and avoid. The one thing that complicates the boss fights are the regular enemies that spawn continuously throughout. Simple enemies with simple attacks can quickly spell trouble if they group up, overwhelming you. How to avoid being swarmed or ambushed by hordes of enemies while also dealing with the boss is the most difficult part of “Remnant.” But then again, the bosses themselves aren’t that complex. The simple key to success is having good awareness of your surroundings so you don’t get crowded.  

You get a completely different experience on harder difficulties, however. On “hard” and “nightmare” difficulty, even smaller enemies are considerably harder to kill. On “nightmare,” they can often kill you in a hit or two, making the game extremely tedious and frustrating at times because you just die constantly and are unable to make progress for a few hours. Not to mention that enemies come in packs, so it’s easy to make mistakes or be surrounded. This artificial difficulty scaling is my main complaint with the game. But that’s more of an endgame problem, and the majority of the experience is perfectly fine, so make of that what you will.

Contrary to some games where you’ll have to decide between two identical weapons with different stats, “Remnant” features 39 weapons, with more being added in the future that are mostly unique. By “mostly,” I mean that starting melee weapons are straight up worse than others, but I would hardly consider that an issue. Each weapon looks distinctly different from another and each handles and fires differently. There’s a beam rifle that shoots laser beams, there’s a pocket shotgun that shoots bouncing bullets, and there’s a tommy gun that just sprays everywhere. Some weapons may be more useful than others in certain occasions, which is great because that encourages players to experiment with different weapons, but in general they’re all on the same power level. It’s always exciting to get a new weapon because you know that it will be unique and viable.

To complement weapons, there are weapon mods, which you can equip onto weapons to create more variety in combat. These essentially function as active skills that provide you with different utilities like placing turrets to help you fight enemies, giving you a second life and summoning a “rattle weed” that attracts enemy attention. Not only are these mods extremely useful and fun to play with, they also change the appearance of the weapons you installed the mods on. I really appreciate this particular attention to detail.

There are also RPG elements in “Remnant.”  These elements are like a trait system that gives you passive benefits as you level them up, armor set bonuses, rings and amulets that allow for a lot of choices in creating a build. You can make a critical hit build, a health regeneration build, a mod-focused caster build or even a pure melee build. And experimenting with different weapons and loadouts and finding the best gear to perfect your build is perhaps the best part about “Remnant.”

The game does have some flaws, like the artificial difficulty I mentioned. There are some technical issues like dropping frame rates and frequent crashes, but I have good faith that the developers will iron these out very soon since they have been keenly responding to feedback. The main hub area seems underused, with many NPCs serving no purpose at all. The story feels unexplained and rushed, though the story is not necessarily important in a game like this. 

Essentially, what you get from “Remnant” is a challenging and (for the most part) fun looter-shooter that provides solid variety, whether it’s in the campaign, in the weapons, or in the character builds. It will probably take you up to 70 hours before you find everything and experience every boss encounter. That’s pretty good value for 40 bucks. But that’s not all. More free content updates and paid expansions are coming to make the game even better than it is now. I highly recommend it!

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