by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
What I love about Remnant: From the Ashes is that it feels difficult without being punishing. Failure will come early and often, but, unlike Dark Souls or various other games in the genre, dying is more of a learning opportunity than a cause for reprimand. Instead of losing resources and respawning further behind than when you died, you’ll come back at the last save point with everything intact (including XP!). It helped keep my motivation up, even after losing to the same bosses five, ten, or many more times in a row. I’m not saying I never got frustrated, but that frustration rarely knocked on the door of enmity. There are still consequences for defeat. Save points are few and far between, and I was constantly debating in my head when it was right to press on if my equipment was running low, and when it was best to head back, rest to replenish, and respawn all of the basic enemies. Where the line between entertaining challenge and frustrating punishment lies is different for everyone, but it was absolutely perfect for me.
Speaking of navigating the game world, Remnant is a bit of a mixed bag in the exploration department. Environments are procedurally generated (and are able to be re-rolled) from pre-made chunks. On one hand, I did find the different game worlds that you’ll enter to be satisfyingly different from each other and enjoyable to work through, but, within each, there isn’t a ton of variation in what you’re going to see. The actual layout of each map chunk is good, with a nice mix of tight and open areas, and is big enough to provide some exploration opportunities. What’s actually in those paths, though, starts to look the same after a while. Overall the setting isn’t going to knock your socks off, but there’s enough detail and functionality that I consider them, at absolute worst, a neutral element in the game.
Slow and Steady
Remnant may put focus on progression, crafting, and equipment upgrades, but the way it goes about it is far simpler and more straightforward than I expected. As much as I enjoy deep-diving into character customization with winding, complex skill trees and interactions, I found the progression to be satisfyingly simple. Loot is actually pretty rare. You’ll find crafting materials and basic consumables frequently, but you’re not going to be running around with 15 weapons that differ by no more than a stat point here or there. Progress is slow, and it sells the “survival” vibe of the setting. What you will find, though, is fun, and some of the abilities and weapon modifications are straight-up weird (in a good way!) It also fought my “fear of missing out.” I’m guessing I’m not alone, but every time I play a game with upgradable gear I end up beating the game with half of my upgrade materials still sitting in my bag. I’m afraid of spending them when something better might be (and probably is) right around the corner! It’s not an issue I had here. I spent as I acquired, and I never regretted it. Of course, whether this is a pro or con is going to depend on your preferences. There’s a case to be made that things might be too streamlined, or that the lack of new gear every hour might kill some of the drive to progress, but, to me, it made beating a boss and collecting a new upgrade, or finding a weapon in a secret area, all the more exciting.
Of course, none of the above matters one iota if the combat isn’t up to par. Thankfully this is where Remnant absolutely shines. I love the combat. Every motion has weight, but nothing ever feels sloggy. Dives, used to avoid damage in lieu of any block or parry mechanics, are easy enough and consistent in their animation and timing. Shooting and melee combat are incredibly satisfying and tight, and each flows into the other smoothly... most of the time. My only two pieces of beef are that it can sometimes be hard to tell when you’ll hit a wall when trying to peek and shoot around a corner, and sometimes, my gun wouldn’t pull up after melee, forcing me to click again to get my sights up (there is no hip-firing in the game). These issues were rare, though, and didn’t sully my enjoyment of taking my enemies down. It’s a good thing the combat is so enjoyable, because narratively, there isn’t a ton going on. Yes, you’ll have some basic reasons to be where you are, but few of the objectives are deeper than “check this place out and kill some baddies until it’s time to teleport off somewhere else.” Luckily, the combat is more than capable of shouldering the burden of convincing you to continue playing
Remnant: From the Ashes is more than just a Dark Souls clone or a simple third-person shooter. It’s the lovechild of the many games, mixed with aspects of Gears of War, Fallout, The Division, and its own brand of weird. The number of games I’ve kept playing after my time with it for a review can probably be counted on two hands, and I’m happy that Remnant is going to be joining their ranks. Despite a shallow store, some repetitive environments, and a few occasionally frustrating glitches, this is a game well worth your time.
Fluid combat, fun weapon upgrades, tight controls, detailed worlds
Occasional glitches, some tough difficulty spikes, each world gets a bit repetitive