Remnant: From the Ashes is a Souls-like third-person shooting action RPG. Developed By Gunfire Games. It is available on Steam, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. This review was conducted on PC and a standard Xbox One Console by Joseph Pugh.
It has become normal for gamers to mock writers whenever they compare a game to Dark Souls. Well, mock away because Remnant fits the bill to the tee. With wide strokes of challenging methodical gameplay, epic boss fights, and deep lore. Remnant also features more direct nods such as crystals that refill your health and ammo at the cost of re-spawning enemies. Dragon hearts function exactly like Estus flasks that refill when resting at said crystals. You even go through a door of fog to enter boss fights.
It is time to accept that Souls-like is practically a genre at this point and Remnant is a third-person shooting Souls-like to the letter. It does, however, have its own repertoire of tricks. The game is playable in co-op from beginning to end. In fact, it’s easily the best way to experience the game. The layout of each world is procedural, more than that, the loot, mini-bosses, events, and even world bosses can be different on additional play-throughs.
You won’t see everything your first go and the game is highly re-playable. It features difficulty settings for that extra challenge and its loot is more meaningful than in many other RPGs. Remnant is most certainly a Souls-like game and wears its inspiration on its sleeve. Yet it retains an identity unique to itself all the same.
At first glance, you couldn’t be faulted for believing the entire game takes place in a post-apocalyptic landscape, but you would be wrong. Remnant transports you through several worlds, each with a distinct theme, look, and variety of enemies.
You will battle the Root on a wrecked Earth. Traverse the desert world of . The sickly swamp of Corvus and the fantastical jungles of . Each world has its own feel and flavor from the environment, the enemies you face, and even the chests you open. Its presentation is unique to each world. Remnant has an immense variety in just its worlds alone, but each one is a cross of handcrafted set pieces and procedural layouts.
The enemies spawn dynamically, in a similar matter to the AI director d in Left 4 Dead and Vermintide. Events, mini-bosses, and loot may be different in your world compared to your friends and you have may very different weapons, mods, and armor. It keeps the game fresh and adds replay value while seemingly sacrificing nothing in exchange. You wouldn’t know the maps were random without being explicitly told. It is an impressive feat for a game like this.
The combat in Remnant is deliberate and thoughtful. Actions take time and reloading or healing at the wrong moment will get you killed. You play from the thirdperson perspective and do battle with firearms and melee weapons. You also utilize weapon mods, which is a somewhat misleading term, as the mods themselves are more akin to spells than actual mods.
There is no hip fire in Remnant, if you hold the aim button when pulling the trigger, you shoot. If you aren’t aiming, you swing your melee weapon. The melee system isn’t super deep, but you have combos and heavy attacks. The switch between melee and ranged attacks is pretty seamless once you catch on. Be prepared to accidentally swing your weapon a lot at first though.
You have a stamina bar that depletes when sprinting and dodging. Your dodge roll is your bread and butter but it requires proper timing. Simply spamming it will get you killed as you run yourself dry of stamina. However, rolling under a blade or narrowly dodging a blast is satisfying and makes you feel like a bad-ass.
The guns themselves feel weighty and each shot sounds and feels powerful. This is due in part to the enemy’s design but the combat simply feels good in your hands. The game provides ample player feedback, not just in damage numbers, but in the way enemies react.
A Remnant Foe
Enemies react to being shot by flinching, staggering, or being knocked down. Slowing down some creatures in this way is a key strategy but it also makes the entire game stronger as a whole. When enemies react to your attacks, they feel less robotic and more alive. Furthermore, it is the absolute best way to design enemies in a game where it takes more than a couple of shots to kill them. The reactivity keeps the player engaged and interested in longer more drawn out fights as opposed to emptying clip after clip in an emotionless sack of hitpoints.
As I progressed, I was expecting to see reskins of previous enemies, however, that was pretty rare. Most foes in the game are custom-tailored to the world they spawn on. Be they the plantlike Root, the technological Vyr, the tribal’s of Rhom or the insectoid beasts of Corvus. This isn’t the kind of variety I expected of a game that doesn’t even retail at full price. I’ve seen games with much bigger budgets limited to ten or less unique minions. Remnant blows them out of the water.
There are a variety of melee minions, casters, and gunners. Surprisingly, fighting enemies that shoot at you and take cover isn’t awful like it normally is in games not designed around them. My first encounter with a ranged enemy was a merchant I angered who pulled out a shotgun. My immediate instinct was to roll away and crouch behind a desk. It simply worked, that easy. The shots flew overhead or hit the cover and aiming would pop me up just high enough to fire back. It was a seamless transition to a cover shooter despite the game not having a contextual sticky cover system.
Every world has a number of mini-bosses and a world boss. Two playthroughs might lead to encountering different ones. Some equipment can be found in the world randomly, but most of the major stuff comes from bosses and events. Most major bosses have an alterative circumstance you can trigger that gives you alternate loot. This means even fighting the same boss a second time may grant you a new reward if you’re clever.
The mini-bosses can also have a random keyword that affects the fight. A boss with the regenerative keyword slowly regens health over time for example. The world bosses are huge set-piece fights, each one is unique.
The way bosses are designed rewards players who adapt and learn the mechanics of each fight. Good aim and reflexes certainly help, but my partner and I would often get wrecked the first couple of tries at each boss.
Then we would come to understand the bosses patterns and adapt our strategies against them. It might seem like a no brainer, but some games simply let you brute force your way through a boss. Remnants boss fights require a bit more nuisance in addition to an itchy trigger finger and skillful dodging. A few mini-bosses are a more powerful version of a standard foe with some quirks, but many are unique as well.
One had a huge hammer and destroyed the environment around us, crumbling walls as it smashed through them, or threw the hammer at us as if it was Mjolnir. Others chased us in an ever-increasing pool of water that got deeper as the fight went on. Variety is core to Remnant’s identity.
Remnant is an RPG and it has loot. But don’t expect to pick up countless pieces of gear with a slightly higher modifier on it. Loot is rare in Remnant, each piece you get is exciting and meaningful. You can find some loot in events or around the map. Both are random so any single playthrough might not contain that exact piece or event. On Rhom, I got a dungeon that led me to a sweet beam rifle, my partner got one that gave her a flail.
The most reliable source of gear is boss fights, each boss drops a material you can use to craft a weapon or mod. What piece the boss drops can depend on the circumstances that occurred during the fight and again, that boss may be a different boss on another playthrough. Two players can have widely different experiences and setups.
You can acquire scrap and iron while you are adventuring, you use these to upgrade your weapons and armor, the more powerful the piece of gear, the more expensive it is to upgrade. This system also means you can use the starting weapons and armor from beginning to end if you wish. Armor sets provide certain bonuses, such as increasing melee damage. They also have armor ratings and resistances to status effects such as corrosion or rot.
Armor also has weight, the heavier you are, the slower you roll. You can carry a primary weapon and a pistol and add one modification to each one. Mods are more or less spells that charge up as you fight. You can use them to throw down a healing pool, charge your bullets with fire or even summon minions depending on the mod.
Boss weapons have their own unique mod that can not be removed. You really end up looking forward to every piece of gear you acquire in Remnant and each once has a direct impact on your game-play. I treasure the fire pistol I got from a boss. Its bullets burn and it can convert into a flamethrower on the fly. If loot was common, I don’t think I’d appreciate it half as much.
A Whole New World!
The procedural nature means you are never sure what you might find. Events, loot, and bosses are all aspects that can be mixed in addition to the map layout. You won’t see everything on your first or even second playthrough. You can keep your character and gear when playing through again if you wish, and you can play on a higher difficulty.
The people you talk to, and what you say or do can have an impact on your game. One puzzle might require something an NPC has, it is your choice what to do about that. Some puzzles may not always be able to be solved the first time, other items might need to found on another run. Alternate options are usually possible and the solutions to some problems aren’t always obvious. In addition to loot, your experiences may also unlock new traits.
You gain experience as you play. When you level up you may pick a trait to put points in. These can vary wildly, some let you deal more melee damage, others reduce your reload time. What traits you gain access to depends on your actions. One boss might give one trait, where one decision point might give another. Remnant hides numerous secrets within its labyrinthine levels. You are always rewarded for seeking them out.
How much or how little story you get in Remnant is up to you. There are cut-scenes and dialog, but much of the lore is buried in notes, books, and in NPCs that you speak to. Much like Dark Souls, the lore and story are there if you seek it out, and it can be quite rich.
The voice acting is good, the facial animations are not, but it is a rare occurrence to be focused in on a character face. You can play while largely ignoring the story, your main objective is clear enough and you have to travel through literal worlds to chase it.
There are some oddities, such as meeting an important figure who wishes to help you…yet you had to fight through his guards to get to him. In my opinion, Remnant succeeds more on its strength of theme and lore than direct storytelling beats.
I played through the first world on PC, but I spent most of my time with the game on a standard Xbox One console. It ran great on the PC for the time I spent with it. The Xbox, however, suffered from framerate drops, some of them significant. I encountered bugs where the dialog was muted and I crashed a couple of times.
There is a patch coming on or near release day that should alleviate many of these issues, but the performance on the Xbox was bad enough to warrant caution. It didn’t impact my ability to play the game, but it was very noticeable. There doesn’t seem to be built in voice chat and finding a public game on Xbox Rarely worked. I will take a look at the game once the update drops and edit my review accordingly.
The visuals aren’t amazing, but they aren’t bad either. The environments are pretty and the animations are great, especially for the wide variety of enemies and bosses. The sound design, however, is notable, the moans and growls of the monsters and the loud pop of gunfire are both satisfying and creepy respectfully.
Remnant is a game bursting at the seams with content. It is intelligently designed and can stand beside its Soul’s brethren as an equal. It has high replay value, meaningful loot, fantastic combat, and epic boss battles. The variation between play-throughs is interesting and there are numerous secrets to discover. It is playable in three-player co-op from start to end and features additional difficulty settings. The only thing holding it back is its technical flaws.
The bugs and framerate issues on the Xbox tarnish an otherwise great experience. This could be fixed at the very moment this review is published, however. The PC version has the bugs but much better performance depending on your rig.
Remnant is overall a fantastic action RPG and great Souls-like sibling. The enemy variety, stellar combat, and procedural aspect skyrocket its replay value and the meaningful loot is exciting in this gaming climate. It’s challenging even on normal, but far less brutal than Dark Souls. You can kick up the heat on a harder setting. If you enjoy games like Dark Souls or action RPGs this is an instant buy, especially if you have friends to play with.
Just be aware of the performance issues on console and keep an eye on any patch notes that drop. If any significant changes are present in a patch, my review and score will be updated to reflect that change.
EDIT: After an update many bugs are still present but the performance on the Xbox One version has improved.
Review codes for the game were provided to Gideon’s Gaming by Perfect World Entertainment.
Check out my review of Swamps of Corsus, a DLC for Remnant!
- Fantastic weighty combat
- Huge variety of enemies that are well animated and react to your attacks
- Seamless shooting, melee, and cover game-play without contextual prompts
- Unique environments
- Loot that matters and fun weapon mod/spell system
- Epic boss fights
- The procedural generation that works great and makes multiple play-throughs fun
- Difficulty settings present
- Great co-op fun
- Lots of secrets, lore and alternate possibilities
- A lot of different type of bugs affecting the game
Severe performance issues on console (May be fixed by day 1 patch)After a recent update, performance has improved though many bugs still persist.
- Less than obvious story requires digging to fully enjoy