Remnant: From the Ashes is my Favorite Game of the Last 3 Years

I am not sure when I realized I didn’t ever want to stop playing this game. Remnant: From the Ashes has hooked me like no game since Destiny really hit its stride in 2015, but Remnant hooks you not by being an MMO looter-shooter “live service”. Instead it’s a fantastic game with a Dark Souls-esque structure and procedural generation to keep the experience fresh, adds great gunplay, and enough story to keep you interested in trying to piece together the details of its world. It also sports better drop-in online co-op than many of the bigger-budget titles I’ve played in the last 5 years.

I think the game had fully hooked me when, after playing around in my own instance and having made it past the giant Ent (like the Tolkien race but really pissed off and hurling poison mobs at you the whole battle), I decided to take a break and joined another player’s public instance. I wound up in the crystalline dungeon of another player’s public game, shown in the image at the top of the page. My internet cohort seemed a bit less savvy about avoiding enemies than I, but seemed to be bolstered by my presence, and we made it through several sections of the dungeon and all the way up to another interesting boss fight.We took a few stabs at it before they threw in the towel and I was booted from the instance. I could have easily gone on for several more attempts.

As I said on Twitter (and despite what I said in the first paragraph), this game is not “Dark Souls but X” for any value of X. Now that I’ve mentioned Dark Souls twice, all the people keeping track of such things can collect their bets accordingly. Fans of both games seem very worried or upset when this comparison is made but I really don’t see why. While the game is similar in broad strokes, Remnant stands on its own (and stands out) for how it approaches the gameplay.

The Basics

The game doesn’t really take too long to throw you into things, but you are introduced into a little bit of story breadcrumbs in the introductory cutscenes, before winding up in a tutorial and combat intro which happily didn’t feel too forced. I was a bit worried though, as there seemed to be a big focus (and by big focus I mean only focused) on melee attacks and dodging. Soon enough though you end up in the main hub area of Ward 13 and are finding you way around to acquire a more proper weapon and armor loadout, and those precious guns which make the combat so satisfying.

From here you go into the various world realms, discover and fight interesting bosses. You’ll also find a handful of vendors out in the world, each selling a few unique items which help you with enemies on that level. But most of the time you’ll be taking in the levels, getting little breadcrumbs about the world and factions and bosses you’ll be fighting. I found the environments very intriguing, but it may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

Into the unknown…

Now let’s get into my intention of this article, which is…
Reasons why this game is amazing:

1. You can look things up about the game online, but you don’t have to.

I have gotten used to (and honestly tired of) doing Google searches for various sandboxes and open world games, things like “how to get <gun name> in <game>”. This inevitably leads to some (admittedly decent) YouTubers which I’ve come to enjoy and follow, but it’s annoying for weapons and armor to be so undiscoverable. In Remnant I’ve not nearly felt the same need to do so, and the one time I did (for beating The Ent of course), I honestly didn’t learn anything I didn’t know beforehand, which really boils down to “learn his pattern and dodge at the right times”.

There is one thing which I think every non-hardcore gamer should look up and that is picking up the SMG, because I would never have just stumbled onto the right set of things to do to pick it up. It does really help for certain world bosses and even many dungeon bosses to have it as an option.

2. You can play it online (and it’s great) but you don’t have to.

I currently have two sessions of the game running, one completely solo and one which I play co-op with my son. I have had such a different experience with both: the tense struggle knowing there is no one to revive me when taking on enemies in single player, and the fun coordinating of strategies and trying to grab a revive with my boy when playing co-op. Because the game is procedural, the experience are completely different for the two games I have going.

In our coop run, for example, we got the Dragon boss and were able to get the awesome flaming sword that comes from beating it a certain way. In my solo run I found a completely different set of rings and weapons, resulting in a different strategy when I go into combat.

I also found the drop-in gameplay to be surprisingly quick for a non-AAA title. I think this is the benefit of not having the game architected as an MMO. In many co-op MMOs it can really feel like a chore getting synced into someone else’s instance, but I never felt that here.

3. The gear

I love the armor and weapons you come across

I won’t belabor this item because I haven’t even found all the items this game has to offer. While I’d say while it of course doesn’t come close to what your favorite looter-shooter offers, the items look and act interesting, and fit very well in the world that the game builds for you.

4. It’s not perfect, but I like where it falls down (and there are no deal breakers)

Does this game sometimes feel samey due to the procedural generation? Yes, absolutely. Does it sometimes feel cheap? Yes, kind of. I remember in Jim Sterling’s review where he criticized the bosses for having too many techniques or spawning too many different mobs to fight, and thus he did not enjoying getting past them. I had completely the opposite reaction to most of the bosses, which was “I’m going to kill this boss and learn his patterns, and Im gonna wreck these mobs”, and felt so elated when I did. Yes my S.O. was not happy with the yelling, but it was rewarding to beat these bosses. Many bosses weren’t even too challenging, and some (like the Root Mother defense) were downright fun, especially co-op.

There definitely is some unevenness with the difficulty, where bosses like The Unclean One went down on my second try, but of course The Ent took much longer. For the latter I decided to go back and grind a few times to pick up scrap to upgrade my armor. I didn’t have to do this, it just felt like my gear was primarily what was holding me back.

I will also say the staggering animation feels like it takes forever, and when you’re afflicted by an elemental effect (after the elemental effect bar fills up completely) the way your character stops to gag or cough and is otherwise unresponsive is extremely aggravating in a boss fight. However the items which stop these effects are fairly cheap at vendors. Also, running out of bullets didn’t happen to me nearly as much as in PVE areas of Destiny and its sequel, as the drop rate for ammo on killing enemies is very good, but I wish ammo boxes were slightly cheaper.

Finally (and most irritatingly) the audio configuration is sorely lacking – I really don’t want to hear my gun fire at deafening volume, but hearing the audio cues that tell me an enemy is about to strike in the heat of a multi-enemy assault is really important, and I wish they could be tuned separately. There have been many audio bugs reported for sound channels or missing or repeated sounds, but I didn’t find that so it’s possible they have since been fixed (but I only played the game on Xbox One).

Final thoughts

Honestly I don’ t think this game is for everyone. There are folks who will say it’s too easy (good for them I guess), and some will say it’s not unique enough. I think it offers just the right mix of difficulty, interesting loot and a world that I have become interested in learning more about, first the first time (again) since the first Destiny game.

I still play other games of course (love you Slay the Spire) but Remnant is the game I look forward to sitting down to playing through when my busy life allows. The nicest part is that I can do that either co-op or by myself, and have a fun but challenging experience. And given the game was released at a non-AAA price of $40, doesn’t have Day 1 DLC or microtransactions, I am very pleased with Remnant. I look forward to see what Gunfire Games has to offer in the future, and if a sequel addresses some of the minor annoyances in the original, I will be buying it on day 1.

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