Game Review: Remnant: From the Ashes

[Please note: there is one very minor story fact — not even a spoiler — but it is something I was not aware of going in. This review includes the ‘Swamps of Corsus‘ DLC package released in April 2020.]

Release date: 2019
Version played: PlayStation 4 in 2019/2020

Developed by Gunfire Games (Darksiders III) and published by Perfect World Entertainment (Torchlight II), Remnant: From the Ashes is a third-person, Souls-like shooter. Arriving on a mysterious island on a 1970s Earth that has been taken over by tree-like monsters known as The Root, players meet a rag-tag bunch of survivors who harness the power of a magic crystal to access different versions of alternate worlds. In an attempt to find and stop the source of the invasion, players harness numerous different weapons, armour sets and weapons modifications, which can be mixed and matched allowing for the perfect combination for any situation.

I first played this on release in August of 2019, and thought it was clunky, and average looking, but had that ‘uniqueness’ that many recent games lack and stopped playing in late 2019. After scrolling through my backlog and starting this up again, it is clear that since that time, there have been numerous patches, updates and additions, all of which have been improvements.

+ fantastic array of weapons suitable for whatever is thrown at you (sometimes literally). A scoped sniper rifle, semi-automatic hunting rifle and more alien weaponry are great for long ranged encounters, while magnums and shotguns are better suited for the tight, maze-like sewer systems under the destroyed cities, and a handful of fully automatic, but less-damage-per-shot weapons are available for mob based attacks. Players can equip one main weapon and one sidearm, essentially acting as a ‘heavy weapon’ and ‘light weapon’, as well as one melee weapon for last resort use or environmental destruction
+ much like Darksiders III, I am still a sucker for the post-apocalyptic setting of Earth, with roots (and Roots, as it is) taking over skyscrapers, with the base shell of offices, hotels and stores still visible underneath the decay. The more fantasy-esque worlds, including the Corsus swamps from the DLC, change things up in a way that takes a bit of getting used to, exactly as your character would have to in the story
+ generally speaking, the game never feels as frustrating as Dark Souls, with each death feeling like the mistake was yours and that you’ll learn from it next time, particularly as non-boss enemies may randomise in number, location or even type after each death. Off the top of my head I don’t think there was a single non-boss one hit kill of my character. This game has a unique enemy mechanic over other Souls-like games, in that after defeating a certain number of weaker enemies, one ‘Elite’ enemy will spawn somewhere in your current zone, accompanied by a distinct, screeching tone – and it will hunt you down. These range from juggernaut-type tree monsters to teleporting samurai zombies or minigun-wielding abominations
+ outside of the story mode, interactions in the main hub area can begin separate ‘Adventure’ and ‘Survival’ modes. Adventure mode is used to either farm particular materials to upgrade your gear, or hunt down certain bosses for PlayStation Trophies, while Survival, added with the DLC, is a post-game challenge where players start with nothing but a pistol and must survive against increasingly difficult enemies, scavenging what they can. I am not finished with every combination of bosses and boss kill conditions, unique world events, and trinkets to find by a very long shot, and have no issues with trying to find them

– the game has the ability to crouch and dodge-roll, but no specific ‘take cover’ system. This is hardly a huge problem, as staying still is a recipe for disaster, but it sometimes felt like enemies had unnatural aim over or through whatever flimsy barricade you were hiding behind
– in my first online foray (in August 2019), I was matched (with me as host) with someone so high-levelled, with an assault rifle (a weapon I didn’t know was possible to have at that point) which was so ungodly powerful that they blitzed through a mid-game boss in literally seconds, where I had been trying for a solid hour, only ever coming “close” to winning. I instantly went back to single player, and found that I had much more enjoyment there (as of July 2020, there are several updates to multiplayer to make it more palatable, but I still played 90% of the game in single player)
– due to the randomised nature of Adventure mode, it can be incredibly frustrating when searching for one boss or area in particular, as numerous bosses are the ‘one of these two will spawn’ variety, and even more so, many bosses have different kill conditions for items used to craft boss weaponry; defeating a boss without letting it complete a clear, obvious power move yields a different treasure to if you are hit by that attack at least once, for example. Perhaps some sort of ‘pay in game materials to get a particular area’ would to have gone astray

> Apparently this is a sequel to a Oculus Rift VR game Gunfire Games made called Chronos. That never weighs heavy on the story, but one moment near the very end of the game fell flat for me because I did not know this going in, and therefore didn’t know the character/event being mentioned
> There were a few location assets in the Earth portions of the world that appear to have been taken almost as-is from Darksiders III

Should you play this game: If you had asked me on release if this was worth playing, I’d have said ‘I guess, if there’s nothing better to play’. Now, however, this is not just one of the best ‘Like Dark Souls, but…’ games, but a great single player challenge, multiplayer (with friends only!) exploration, or zone-out-with-Netflix-on-another-screen games I’ve played in a very long time. I loved this.

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