Remnant: From the Ashes – My Game of the Year

Darksouls with Guns?

It’s very rare for me to want to jump on a new game, especially at a $40 price point given my current level of income, but Gunfire Games convinced me with Remnant:  From the Ashes. What’s often hailed as “Darksouls, but with guns”, I was skeptical that I would enjoy this game given my relationship with both Darksouls and Bloodborne. They are frustrating games that I just don’t really enjoy that much, so what exactly makes Remnant click for me? Let’s dive in and find out why this is my game of the year.

Who Are Gunfire Games?

Image result for gunfire gamesThis is a studio I actually had never heard of, but that’s probably because they occupy the so-called “AA” space in gaming. For those of you outside the know, that basically means a mid-tier developer. Not quite an indie studio, but not a multi-million dollar corporation either, someplace in the middle. Where you might recognize them is for their latest entry in the Darksiders franchise, Darksiders 3.

Once I had learned this, I was even more intrigued by Remnant because I like the later installments in the Darksiders franchise (meaning 2 and 3, which were both done by them). They make good action-type games with interesting ideas, so my expectations for this new IP were pretty high.

Remnant:  From the Ashes – An Overview

To the surprise of many, Remnant is actually a sort of spin-off to an obscure VR game called Chronos. There are some references to that game sprinkled in here for fans, but you don’t need to know anything about it before jumping into this title.

In Remnant’s world, a supernatural apocalypse has struck Earth circa the ~1960’s. A horrible hivemind entity, known as “The Root”, are slowly killing off the last of humanity. They are basically sentient tree monsters and mutated human-like things. They look pretty cool.

The game takes place “modern day”, but with stunted technological growth. However, the game has some sci-fi elements along with some more fantastical ones. Oh, and that’s only while you are on Earth. There are actually 4 worlds in total, but more on that later.

Your role in all this is that you want to slay the supposed dragon in the tower. However, you end up shipwrecked nowhere close. Providing aid to a group of survivors, you will uncover the mystery of The Root and eventually make your way to the tower itself. From there, you jump in alone, or with up to 2 friends, and start your dynamically generated adventure!

Remnant:  From the Ashes – The Good Stuff

Which leads me to talking about all the best parts of the game. It plays so freaking well. Every single weapon in the game feels viable, has weight to it, and allows for players to play exactly as they want. For example, I rolled a cowboy with strong support capabilities through healing and distraction based “mods”, which are basically spells that charge over time.

Meanwhile, my buddy rocked a more melee-focused build which eventually became this bonkers immortal lifeleach thing thanks to a special weapon we got part way through playing and a mix of various other traits and equipment. Neither of us felt weaker than the other, but you can bet we were both having a blast!

I mention these “traits” in the last paragraph, that’s basically your character level. Unlike most games, your character level doesn’t effect how the enemy units scale. Instead, your equipment does as you level that up. What that means, is that even if you find something too difficult now, after a level or two, you will probably be doing just fine.

You level up fairly quickly, especially if you find the trait that boosts XP gain substantially early in your game (hint, it’s in a secret area in Ward 13, the hub area). However, there are 30 traits, all of which will help you make an interesting build that is unique to you. There is a rub though, you won’t unlock all 30 traits in one play as the world is dynamically generated.

This may seem like a bad thing (and there is a mark against it, which we’ll cover in a future section), but it actually isn’t. Remnant is tough, and having to work with your limited resources is a big part of the game. That said, you have some basic ones you’ll always see, and some of those are really going to carry you a long way. Think max HP, some damage reduction traits, and others like that.

Image result for remnant from the ashes
One of the bosses in Remnant

If you recall, this game is often called “Darksouls but with guns”, but I think that is slightly incorrect. While the game has a solid difficulty curve that always keeps the game feeling (mostly) fair, it’s actually a far more pleasant experience than Darksouls is without sacrificing what makes those games good. Now I know this is a fairly controversial statement, but let me explain.

In Darksouls, death is a pretty big punishment. You lose your “souls”, which is how you level up, but that’s also your currency. Additionally, on death (especially in the earlier games), you spawn pretty far from your objective unless you really know the game. Finally, the world scales at a fixed rate, which means you are going to hit a wall at some point where your favorite gear won’t really work anymore, the enemies are too strong, and the resulting experience is a frustrating one.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some great things about the Darksouls franchise, and I don’t hate the games or anything, but I do find playing those games more frustrating than fun. That’s where Remnant fits in, because it reaches a happy compromise that allows just about anybody to enjoy it.

I’ve already mentioned how enemy scaling works in Remnant, but let’s look at the rest. When you beat a boss, you get a new trait and some piece of gear to help you on your journey. The game is about being flexible to some degree, so sometimes you might swap things around to counter certain bosses, but you can largely roll the same gear from start to finish if you want (I ran all starter gear for the most part).

Additionally, death is the biggest tweak. Some players won’t like this, but you aren’t really punished for dying. You do respawn back at the last checkpoint you passed, but that’s it. You don’t lose anything except any consumables you may have used prior to death. Instead, the enemy positions and types are mixed up.

In this way, you still are slightly punished, because you can’t just memorize the map, but in a way that encourages you to learn how the enemies work. This in turn, helps with the bosses as they usually rely on some similar mechanics or spawn helpers that are the basic enemies you fight along the way.

When it comes to a boss, the checkpoint is right outside the fog gate leading to them, so you can really jump right back into the action with ease. Alternatively, you can warp right to the hub from these locations to level gear or buy items. Taking these all together, it helps make the game feel fair. When you die, it feels like you messed up, not like the game was punishing you. Then, you just jump back in and keep going.

For me, this kept the game fun. It only ever felt frustrating twice during my entire time playing it. Once during the first boss when you are pretty dang weak, and again when I fought the bridge boss with my friend. In the first case, it was just that I didn’t have a good idea of how to fight the boss. It also didn’t help that you are pretty weak at the start. For the second instance, the boss just kept knocking us off the bridge, which was annoying when we were so close to winning several times.

That said, both of those times I overcame the challenge after only a few additional tries after a short break. I’m on my second play on a higher difficulty, and I’ve bested that same first boss with ease. My friend went back for round 2 against the bridge guy, and we beat him just as easily on our first try. You know what though? It felt really good, because we could tell that we were getting better at the game, not just stronger from gear and stuff.

Image result for remnant from the ashes

I want to take a second to just say that I really appreciate the no-nonsense approach this game has. No mircortransactions, no “live service” junk, you just pay your $40 and get a great game. Didn’t really know where to put this, but wanted to get it stated before I got to wrapping this section up. Plus, the devs are constantly improving the game for free.

Finally, I should talk about the dynamic generation a bit more and the other worlds. Every game you play, you can have random quests and events that will effect what items you get. It also can change how the story develops on a micro scale for you. It’s pretty awesome.

When it comes to the other worlds, those add a sense of wonder and excitement as you explore them. Each has similar kinds of enemies from the last, but they all feel just different enough that it doesn’t get boring. The last stage is gorgeous, but all the worlds (except maybe most of Earth), are visually interesting and have some intrigue to them.

Remnant:  From the Ashes – Solo Vs. Multiplayer

I wanted to take a second to talk about playing solo vs. playing with friends. The game is designed for multiplayer, but it is perfectly viable with alone. Initially I played about 3/4ths of the game by myself, but part way through I joined my buddy on his save where he was only just over 1/2 of the way through. Effectively, I beat the game twice, once mostly alone, and then again with a friend.

The only real difference is when it comes to the bosses. Nearly all the bosses spawn helpers, or adds, which are meant to make the fight harder while providing you ammo if you run out. Alone, the adds can be far more difficult than the actual boss itself, but after a couple goes, you should be able to manage it no problem.

With a friend or two, everything receives a buff to its health and power, but not much else really changes. For some fights, more adds might show up, but generally they feel about the same. That said, sometimes the bosses were WAY harder with a buddy than by yourself. Of course, the inverse was just as true.

My main point is, no matter what, some bosses are going to be fairly challenging, while others you are going to easily blow through. Whether you play alone or with friends, it shouldn’t make too big of a difference.

All that said, I do have to mention the downside of playing by yourself. If you are like me, you’ll want to unlock everything. Unfortunately, you can’t do that solo. You must play with others to unlock all the traits, which feels a little crummy to me. Most of them aren’t that amazing, and most of them really only help you in multiplayer, but the fact that they are locked behind a wall just doesn’t feel great. Everything else is perfectly obtainable, just not a few select traits.

Remnant:  From the Ashes – Criticisms

Despite all my love for the game, it isn’t without its faults. While the dynamic generation is cool, it can be a bit annoying when you are looking to hunt down that one item you are missing. If you are playing on PC there are tools for that, but unfortunately if you are on console you’re out of luck.

To counteract this, they added a new Adventure Mode, which lets you reroll the worlds without having to go through the entire game. This, and more quality of life stuff, is getting added to Remnant with fairly decent regularity. So keep that in mind as I go through the few issues with the game.

Corsus, the only optional world in Remnant, is easily the worst of the four worlds you can currently go to. It just doesn’t have that much content to the point where you can’t even reroll it in Adventure Mode, which is an issue since it has 1 random boss…4

Image result for remnant from the ashes

To make up for this, it is a super dense area with, what feels like, endless waves of enemies. Sometimes you’ll have multiple elites gang up on you with some that summon. It’s not that hard to deal with, but it feels like a major slog-fest to navigate here.

Speaking of poor worlds, let’s talk about Earth. This is where you start the game, and while it is true that there is some interesting story here, it is not exactly putting its best foot forward. I personally still enjoyed my time on Earth, but compared to literally anywhere else (sans Corsus, I hated that place), it feels really same-y.

Compounding this issue is the fact that you just don’t get many new weapons until you leave Earth. There really aren’t a lot in the game, for a game that is kind of all about the gear, so this is going to bother some folks. Not a big deal for me since I love my cowboy build, which was totally complete after the first boss.

Next we should talk about boss design. Some are really cool, unique, and very memorable. However, there are a lot of fairly uninteresting ones, again, namely on Earth. The bosses tend there tend to be bigger versions of elite enemies, or just really obnoxious. It’s a great way to ensure the player has mastery over what the game needs you to be proficient in, but it does mean wading through several hours worth of less than exciting encounters.

Once you do leave Earth, this problem is minimal, but the other problem is still persistent. In multiplayer, adds aren’t a big deal, but solo, they can be devastating. Some bosses have them coming in endless droves, which can be really difficult to deal with. The common joke is, the boss is usually a distraction, the real boss are his adds.

That said, I’ve actually found that most of the time, the adds really aren’t that bad. Bosses tend to send them out in predictable waves, at predictable quantities. With some planning and practice, every single boss has been perfectly beatable for me withing 1-6 tries. Still, this is most certainly going to bother some folks.

Finally, the last boss of the game is dreadful. I don’t want to spoil anything, but this needs ANOTHER total overhaul. He has way too much health and it isn’t even a difficult boss, it is just super time consuming. Imagine, at some point he had 2x HP! That’s insane…

I did manage to beat him with a friend (though to his admission, I basically did the fight solo), but let me tell you, I’m never fighting that guy again in his current state. Our first (failed) attempt saw us take 5% of the bosses health out over the course of an hour, and before you ask, yes, we did know exactly how to beat the boss.

Making matters worse, you do need to know how to beat the boss ahead of time. You should 100% absolutely spoil it for yourself because NOTHING in-game indicates what you are supposed to do to beat this loser. It’s easily the worst thing in the game that almost ruined the whole experience for both my friend, and myself.

Remnant:  From the Ashes – The Future

Like I said though, the devs are really supporting this game, and right now, everything has been totally free. They’ve heard our concerns about Corsus, the boss, and the call for more content. As I write this, new stuff is already in the pipeline.

If you are skeptical on the value of Remnant at $40, I don’t exactly blame you. The continual updates, support, and fun factor of the game make this a worthwhile investment though. Once some more content gets added to the game (free or paid), I am confident that it will only become better than it already is, and I’m calling this one my game of the year already.

Remnant:  From the Ashes – Final Thoughts

Still not enough? I’m at over 80 hours in, beaten the game TWICE, and am going back for round 3 on a harder difficulty. Not only that, but I haven’t even seen everything the game has to offer. I’ve been surprised multiple times, and even missed some things along the way. I love the sense of discovery, and it really is amazing I haven’t gotten bored of it. Best $40 purchase I’ve made all year when it comes to a video game, full stop.

You can get the game for PS4, Xbox, or PC on Steam for $40. If you are even on the fence about it, trust me, you’ll enjoy it!

What are your thoughts on Remnant? Even if you didn’t enjoy the game, I’d love to hear why. Be sure to make your voice heard in the comments below. Like what I do here? Click the Ko-fi button below to support my work. Finally, thank you so much for reading and I hope to see you again soon!

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