Remnant: From the Ashes is the newest game from Gunfire Games, their last work going towards both Darksiders III and II. Setup as a combination of Left 4 Dead and the Soulsborne franchise, Remnant is an action shooter with some light RPG mechanics. Moving from map to map, you will gun your way through countless enemies, picking up loot as you go along and ending each zone with a boss in a typical archaic manner. Seeing a wealth of fame due to streamers and gamers alike, Remnant was able to crash out of obscurity with its somewhat dated design, but is it as good as people are saying.
Starting with an almost Bioshock introduction, we see our player-made character piloting a small boat towards a tower off in the distance. A narrator lets us know that we are on the search for a lost warrior within the tower, but don’t get too attached to any sort of backstory or explanation of this event as it is forgotten within the next 20 minutes. Crashing in a storm, our protagonist makes his way to Ward 13, a dilapidated hideout for humans within a city infested with monsters.
While some of the trailer work and description of the game says “try to carve a foothold, rebuild, and then retake what was lost” you will be doing no such thing, as your main mission to just gun through enemies on the search for the last commander of Ward 13 to put a stop to the invading Root enemies, a plant-like force of foes with unlimited ammo and swords. Every time you leave an area it is repopulated with enemies, so no footholds are made and the only building you’re going to do is making shiny new weapons out of the corpses of the bosses scattered about the maps.
Moving from the city to a desert, a swamp and a jungle, we will continue fending off bosses as little to no story is given to us, unless you’re a fan of item descriptions akin to the Soulsborne franchise or diaries with 10 or more pages of lore. A lot of the story is either left to the imagination, given via background NPCs after talking to them 5 times or reading the extensive library of computer logs, books and so forth, so non-readers beware.
Your first run of the story will run you around 13 hours or so, with subsequent playthroughs a few hours less due to your proficiency with the game. The whole game can also be played in co-op which speeds up that time quite a bit. There are several optional paths and dungeons you can complete, though with no real waypoints or markers to tell you where to go you may stumble onto these anyways.
Playing like a combination of several games, Remnant is a shooter first and foremost, aiming down the barrel of several guns and trying to hit weak points on your foes. If the enemies get too close you can opt to fight with a melee weapon, some giving unique effects on a hit like life steal. As you progress you will unlock more and more weaponry, though you will only get a certain amount in your first playthrough, requiring well of 5 runs to get them all.
Each area has a set of dungeons, for just loot, making it to the other side or set up as a boss dungeon, alongside 2 main hubs that connect up to all the dungeons. Each area is randomly generated with a set of tiles, which are somewhat obvious at times when you see the same tile twice in 1 map, so each run will be slightly different. One of the main selling points of Remnant was that every playthrough would be different, though this is a bit of an oversell as while it is correct you will see a good 50% or more is the same, especially when it comes to bosses with my 2nd run only containing 2 different bosses.
As you defeat enemies you will gain EXP, which in turn gives you a level up, though instead of just gaining more stats you will be gifted a trait point to spend in up to 32 different traits. Traits affect almost every aspect of your character, from gunfire speed and damage to the effectiveness of healing items and mods. In the early game, you can spec towards certain builds, but after enough time you can be a master of all trades as you can level up to around 640 currently, allowing you to max out each of the 32 traits.
When you get all your gear and traits together you can finally defeat the final boss, at which point you may think you’re finished, and some people may be. With Remnant you can “re-roll” you world at any time, essentially randomising it all again to do a pseudo new game plus. Since the areas scale to your gear level, setting it in stone when you enter for the first time, they will almost always stay a challenge as you press on. With so many different weapons, mods and traits, a completionist can spend dozens of hours making their way through all the game has to offer.
While the beginning of Remnant is very atmospheric, with tones of metallic echoes in the distance alongside the noises of your foes in the city it becomes quite empty as you progress. Most of the time you will be left in silence as the music only plays during special fights in the levels, cinematics and boss fights. Giving off a sense of dread, as the world is dead, it comes off a bit boring in places as you’re just running around gunning down copy-pasted foes at every corner until you get to the good parts.
The difficulty within Remnant is pretty consistent, that of a continuous pain train of bullets and projectiles. There are some enemies that die in 1 hit, though those are mostly thematic and don’t pop up too often. You will need all your ammo and abilities to make it through the levels, even more so when you get to the bosses. One of the major design flaws with Remnant is the overuse of additional enemies in the boss fights. Going through their phases they will spawn a set of mobs, for each player, consistently, meaning you’re going to be fighting the same enemies from the maps previously, again and again, only fighting the boss when they are dealt with for a minute. This does help give you ammo, though you do have cheap ammo boxes that can offset that, making the difficulty of the boss fight come from the endless ads than the boss themselves.
If you’re fine blasting your way through countless enemies until you reach a boss with yet more countless enemies then Remnant could be for you. Plenty of the mechanics are fun, with plenty of customisation on hand to play around with. I was able to do 2 runs before boredom set in with the 3rd and 4th. Turning into the same style of L4D where you turn it on once a week or less as your friends pop online for a level or 2. To get the most out of Remnant, you really need to play with friends.
Overall, Remnant: Rise from the Ashes gets a 7/10. The story throws in plenty of hooks and interesting concepts, but unless you read through over 100 pages of diaries they just drop them all after the introduction. Running and gunning feels great for a good 2 playthroughs or so, but the repetitive nature of the level designs and bosses with endless underlings that really take away from one of the main attractions, awesome boss tactics. Designed with co-op in mind, Remnant plays much better with a friend as one player can deal with underlings while another takes on the boss, but with this split focus, it does lead to some players missing out on another side of the game.