Reviews are scored as Pass, Wait, Play, Must-Play. Pass means skip it, it’s not worth your money or time. Wait means it may not be in good shape right now but it might be in the future. Play means it is worth it and you should play it. Must play is pretty self-explanatory but means drop everything to play it as soon as possible.

Background

Remnant: From the Ashes (hereby forthwith known as “Remnant” because I’m tired of this naming convention) is a third-person action-adventure RPG from Gunfire Games, published by Perfect World.

Okay so, I said a dumb. Moreover, I tweeted a dumb. Shocker, I know; someone said something dumb on Twitter stop the presses! Honestly, it’s not about the act of saying something dumb, but of course the content of what was said. What did I say that has me so irreparably irked?  

I quote…well myself on October 12th, 

“Having a lot of fun with @Remnant_Game. The mashup of guns and procedural levels to the souls formula works pretty well even though it seems like it shouldn’t.” 

https://twitter.com/AnthroMetal/status/1183221214992650240?s=20

I now know, after having put more time than is necessary (the time trackers on Xbox aren’t working or something I’m not sure at the time of writing this article) Remnant is…hard to categorize? I don’t want to call it a souls-like, because I don’t think it is. It shares the basics of Dark Soul’s DNA, such as health and stamina management in a third-person environment. Dodge rolling makes an appearance, as well as some vague storytelling through item descriptions. But that’s pretty much where the comparisons stop. There are cutscenes of exposition outside of the intro. You can converse with NPCs although choices in conversation are somewhat limited.

Accurate

Setting

Remnant takes place across 4 locations and their respective dungeons. Earth: a post-apocalyptic cityscape. Rhom: a ruined desert kingdom interspersed with dead villages and techno-rubble dungeons. Corsus: a swamp world of weird insectoids, lizard monsters, and other dangerous and poisonous denizens. Yaesha: a jungle planet with beast-like creatures.  

There’s also the Labyrinth, but it’s more or less a crossroads, and you don’t spend much time there. There are some lore pages to collect, but otherwise, it’s just an interactive, glorified loading screen since you can warm to and from most locations once you’ve unlocked the area.

On Earth, your main hub is called Ward 13. This is where the main quests are given, and it’s where you’ll do the majority of your upgrading/resupplying (more on that later). Although there are merchants out in the wild, the ones in Ward 13 are the most consistent, since they are persistent in every game. Most of Remnant is procedural, but Ward 13 is the same no matter which playthrough you are on.

Ward 13

Each locale is made up of two semi-open world layouts. These layouts will typically have two dungeons a piece. Dungeons can be either non-boss or mini-boss dungeons, with the latter usually serving as the mode of progress. Each locale has a World Boss at the end (one of which is…just awful, I won’t spoil it but you’ll know it when you fight it).  And nearly everything has a degree of randomness to it.

The spawned dungeons, for example, maybe in different locations, or they may not be present at all in a given playthrough. The same goes for mini-bosses and world bosses. However, there is always the same ending boss for a given playthrough, and certain events and NPCs are always in every playthrough for plot purposes.

Scattered throughout each realm are chests containing crafting and upgrade materials and checkpoints in the form of red crystals. Small red crystals are at dungeon entrances and can only travel back to Ward 13 or outside the dungeon entrance. Large crystals can travel to any of the other large crystals. Each main level typically has 2 large crystals, one at the entrance of the level and one somewhat in the center of each map. Sitting at any checkpoint replenishes your health, health item (called dragon hearts), and enemies in the area.

Unlike IRL, crystals are VERY useful in Remnant

If you ever are unhappy with your current playthrough’s random generation, you have the option to re-roll it at Ward 13’s checkpoint. This will wipe any plot progression and start you over, but it will give you the opportunity to get items you may have missed out on in a different run. You can also acquire the other items through multiplayer, as each person’s world is theoretically different. However, this degree of randomness can lead to frustration if you’re looking for a specific item. To alleviate, the developer Gunfire Games introduced  Adventure Mode, which replaces your campaign with a shorter, individual world experience you can set to one of the 4 main locations. It works to alleviate some of the frustrations of an undesired procedural generation, but it’s ultimately still random.

Honestly, I’m not sure if combat, inventory and leveling breakdowns belong in the Setting subcategory, but whatever, we’re already way off the chain

You have two primary methods of combat: ranged and melee. Ranged combat is achieved through the discovery of a diverse set of guns found in the world, as well as crafting from boss item drops. Melee shares a diverse set of weapons, but movesets are limited; it’s clear the focus is meant to be on the guns.

You have a long gun weapon slot, a handgun weapon slot, and a melee weapon slot. Handguns vary from a standard six-shooter to a gun that shoots exploding larva. Long guns can be anything from your standard assault rifle to a shotgun-crossbow. Melee weapons are either fast, regular, or slow, and can be spears, axes, swords, hammers, etc.

Ammo is dropped for your handgun and long gun by most mobs and is conveniently not tied to the weapon type. I.e. crossbows reload long gun ammo, not specific bolts. The same goes for handguns, so the focus can stay on shooting the nasties you encounter.

Burn baby burn

Each ranged weapon has a mod slot used for what boils down to a magic or ability system. Mods can be activated once enough “Mod Power” has been generated by killing enemies. Mods introduce even more variety into the mix and can be equipped on either your handgun or long gun at any time. Boss weapons, however, have mods slots locked with weapon-specific mods. The Particle Accelerator is one of them. It’s a semi-auto rifle with a locked mod that shoots black hole. The larva pistol’s locked mod launches a corrosive cloud. Boss melee weapons typically have passive abilities, such as a 100% chance of inflicting one of the status ailments upon landing a heavy strike. Boss item drops may also give a mod once crafted instead of a weapon, so you aren’t locked into using a certain loadout or weapon.

Armor is the only place where encumbrance exists. Heavier pieces give more defense in exchange for slower stamina regen and a slower dodge roll. Vice Versa for lighter pieces. Armor consists of 3 parts: Head, Torso, and Legs. Each piece of armor gives a partial set bonus to a passive trait, such as decreased stamina consumption. The beauty here is you don’t need the full set to get at least something out of the armor outside of its inherent resistance and defense. This leads to a lot of mixing and matching of sets to get either the look you want (Remnant: F…Fashion the Ashes?) or the bonuses most suitable to your playstyle.

Herein lies one of my favorite things about Remnant: Variability. Want to use a different gun? Cool, do it. Is armor too heavy? Change it out for something lighter. Everything is viable. Not using the right mod? Swap it to something you like. I personally like the offensive ones better than the defensive ones. My swarm will take out encroaching enemies better than the bubble shield will protect me most of the time.

SHOOT HER (Note: I highly doubt the monsters are gendered. I just wanted to make a Jurassic Park reference).

Speaking of, it’s time to talk about the traits. In lieu of a traditional leveling system of stat improvement, stats in Remnant are presented as a variety of traits to invest in with every level gained. Some are your basic traits range from increases in health and stamina to other buffs like increased critical chance and damage. Certain traits aren’t immediately available to you at the start of a game. Instead you are required to progress the plot or do other certain actions to obtain them. This leads to a sort of experimentation with different weapons or armor types, and with different sets providing an array of options against enemy types or when choosing different dialog options with NPCs.  

Speaking of, it’s time to talk about the traits. In lieu of a traditional leveling system of stat improvement, stats in Remnant are presented as a variety of traits to invest in with every level gained. Some are your basic traits range from increases in health and stamina to other buffs like increased critical chance and damage. Certain traits aren’t immediately available to you at the start of a game. Instead, you are required to progress the plot or do other certain actions to obtain them. This leads to a sort of experimentation with different weapons or armor types, and with different sets providing an array of options against enemy types or when choosing different dialog options with NPCs.  

Last, let’s discuss the 6 status ailments: Bleed, Infected, Burning, Corroded, Irradiated, Overloaded. Each has a specific consumable to counteract their effects, and each piece of armor has resistances to each. Bleed acts like a poison, slowly draining your health and halving your healing effectiveness. Burning, well, you’re on fire so that one is pretty self-explanatory. Roll to put it out. Infected causes you to cough, interrupting your actions. It’s super annoying, don’t get infected. Corroded reduces your armor’s effectiveness. Irradiated halves your stamina. Overloaded will cause you to explode and take further damage.

Kinda cute in a deadly way

Controls

So, controls are fairly standard for this type of game. I played on a controller, but the mapping for kb/m is straightforward, although I did have a little bit of trouble with having to aim down sights before being able to shoot. Since melee is bound to the same button as shoot, if you aren’t aiming, you’re swinging whatever melee weapon is equipped. There was not an option to rebind this action. This leads to a lot of silly situations where instead of shooting from the hip as you would expect, you’re just left swinging wildly at nothing.

The directional pad on controllers is used for consumables and can be slotted with whatever you want from that selection. I typically kept bandages, another healing item, ammo boxes, and then rotated based on whichever ailment I’d be up against in my slots. You can swap between your long gun and handgun at will, and reload with X on an Xbox controller, or Square on a PlayStation controller.

Overall the controls feel tight and responsive. There is no lock-on, but there is a generous aim assist so it doesn’t ever feel like the game is fighting you on where you shoot. My biggest complaint is how melee works. I wish it was part of the weapon swap instead of a dedicated swing-unless-you-aim-then-it’s-the-shoot-button. Gunplay is satisfying. Each one has a weight and recoil to their firing. Melee swings feel good too. You can just feel a hammer swing that goes, “whump!”  

This may be the reason I’ve put so much time into Remnant. Gunfire nailed the loop and everything just feels nice.  

Let’s get to pruning

Plot

Tree monsters have taken over Earth called the root. The last…wait for it…Remnant…of humanity is fighting to survive. The journey takes you all over the place to find an end to the root. It gets predictably wild in some cases. Fairly early on you’ll find an extensive lore dump in Ward 13. Most of which is told through computer terminals ala Fallout 3 or by notes left by people long gone. The plot isn’t wholly necessary, but it provides an interesting concept.

Verdict

I’ve spent a lot of time in Remnant. Mainly for achievement hunting, but the run has been enjoyable and, most importantly, fun. Play Remnant. It’s a solid title and does enough to change up the souls-like formula with gunplay and a semi-procedural world that works, even when it seems like it shouldn-ah dammit. I said it again. I guess it wasn’t so dumb after all.