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August 2021

Remnant: From the Ashes

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Perfect World
Developer: Gunfire Games
Release Date: Aug. 20, 2019


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PC Review - 'Remnant: From the Ashes'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Aug. 20, 2019 @ 12:00 a.m. PDT

Remnant: From the Ashes is a survival-action shooter featuring dynamic worlds, intense tactical combat and strategic 4 player co-op.

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Remnant: From the Ashes follows a character who must save the world from a horrifying monster called The Root. The plot is fun, but it feels too familiar. Decaying societies overrun by horrible monsters are such a familiar sight in video games that it's difficult for any title to make an impact. Remnant does the job well enough and has some cool lore, so players remain engaged by picking apart the various audio logs and hidden diaries in the world.

Remnant is clearly inspired by Dark Souls. You rest by crystals (instead of bonfires), boss doors are surrounded by fog, you have a renewable resource (dragon hearts) that you can use to heal, but you can only carry a limited amount that respawn when you rest. It's all super familiar, and if you've played Dark Souls or similar games, you'll know exactly to expect here.

The first and biggest change from Souls is that you have guns. This is no Bloodborne, so you're going to fight in a shooter style throughout the game. You generally have three kinds of weapons: handgun, melee and long gun. Handguns have plentiful ammo reserves but are weaker. Melee hits hard and has no ammo costs but involves being up in an enemy's face. Long guns are rifles and shotguns, which pack a significant punch but have limited ammo, so it requires you to save them for the appropriate moment.

Ammo conservation is important. Your ammo is refilled to full every time you rest at the crystals. From there, you're entirely dependent on random enemy drops to refill ammo. As you might expect, handgun ammo is relatively plentiful, while long gun ammo tends to be rare. You'll never completely run out of ammo, but you'll need to consider when it's worth pulling out your big gun versus punching a weak enemy.

This is further complicated by mods, which are special powers that you can equip to your guns. Using the gun fills up the mod's meter, and when it's full, you can hit a button to use it. Mods can unleash special attacks, boost a weapon's attack, heal party members, and so on. Mods can be incredibly powerful but are slow to charge, so it's important to balance fueling a mod versus using up ammo. As a result, some mods are best used on handguns, so you can use them regularly, while others should be saved for long guns, so you can get the biggest bang for your buck. Fortunately, you can easily swap mods to generate quite a bit of flexibility in the builds.

With that said, you still want to specialize. As you play Remnant, you'll receive trait points to power up your character, and while they are relatively plentiful, you need to consider how you want to function. For example, if you plan to mostly play alone, you might want to focus on health or stamina. With teammates, it might be better to improve mod regeneration or the teamwork skill, which grants a buff as long as you're within a certain distance of one another.

Speaking of teamwork, another major difference from the Souls games is that Remnant is built around the idea of teamwork. Three players can venture into the different worlds together, and while enemies get more challenging with a friend, the loot gets better, too. Three guns are better than one, and loot is shared between players.

However, multiple players can have downsides. Friendly fire is on (though not at full damage), which means that being careless can hurt your team. Friends are immune to melee, though. If a character dies, they are downed and will bleed out unless you revive them. Reviving an ally uses up one of your dragon hearts, which means it can be very easy for one bad player to drain the health of the other characters and leave the entire party suffering. Downed allies can be revived at any crystal, so sometimes it may be wiser to push on and save your own health rather than risking it for others.

This is likely the defining feature of the game. Souls titles have multiplayer, but it tends to be more limited or niche, whereas Remnant feels designed around the idea of multiplayer. There's a lot of enemy design that can feel oppressive or frustrating in the single-player mode, but it works a lot better in multiplayer, where people can team up to overcome the challenges.

Challenge is a big part of the game. One thing Remnant absolutely borrows from the Souls franchise is lethality. Enemies hit hard, swarm you in huge numbers, and are generally very dangerous, but they also have attack patterns that are exploitable, making it far more sensible to approach fights as you would in a Souls game rather than a traditional shooter. You'll probably die often, but Remnant's punishment for death is almost nonexistent. You're pushed back to your last checkpoint, and any consumables you used are gone for good, but that's about it.

The downside is that Remnant is a lot more stat-based than Souls games, or that's how it feels to me. Without upgrading regularly, I ended up feeling like my weapons and armor were too weak, and there were several encounters where I felt more like I won because I went back to grind up my gear rather than overcoming it with skill. It isn't quite as bad as some games like this, but it is worth mentioning. Don't expect to do any sword-only runs in this game unless you have a huge tolerance for tedium.

Another deviation from Dark Souls is that Remnant is semi-random. While all of the content is hand-built, it appears in different ways in different games, with a fair bit of variety to it. This adds to the replay value, as you can play the game on normal and still see new content, or pump it up to a higher difficulty mode for greater challenge without feeling like you're recycling everything. There are a number of hidden secrets and areas. Early on, you might find graffiti on the wall that mentions that "only a penitent man may pass." In true Indiana Jones style, this means there's a hidden secret that you have to discover the answer to, and doing so rewards you with loot. There are plenty of hidden passages or secret doors that allow you to find extra loot or bits of the game's lore, and this prevents the "sameness" that can come from true procedural generation.

The downside is that it lacks the deliberate feeling that is iconic to the Souls series. It feels more akin to something like Diablo most of the time, though slightly less of a loot piƱata. This isn't a bad thing if you're looking at it for the gameplay, but if you're frustrated when an elevator went up to go down, you might not get as much enjoyment out of the game world as you do in its inspirations.

Remnant's aesthetic can best be described as "Fallout meets Dark Souls." The game begins in a distinctly postapocalyptic setting with familiar green CRT computers, and as the game progresses, you see increasingly unsettling things. I rather like the decaying urban aesthetic mixed with fantasy undertones, which give the game a distinctive feel. The enemy design is strong, but the mooks seemed very familiar. The voice acting is passable, but I dislike having my protagonist voiced, since the pool of voice lines feels shallow, so you hear similar things slightly too often.

All in all, Remnant: From the Ashes is a solid attempt at changing up the Soulsborne formula. It doesn't quite hit the same marks that make From Software's franchise so delightful, but it has its own strengths. Co-op is a lot of fun, and having a game genuinely built around it is a welcome change from phantoms and the ilk. Remnant is at its strongest when you're playing with other people and working together to take on huge Root monsters or figure out the answer to a riddle. If you're looking for a co-op based Souls game, then Remnant is worth a look.

Score: 8.0/10

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