Remnant: From the Ashes blend of world building, tactical combat and tight game design combine to make one of the most refreshing and sublime games I’ve played all year.
Developer – Gunfire Games
Publisher – Perfect World Entertainment
Release Date – August 20th, 2019
Platforms – PC – Reviewed, PS4, Xbox One
Remnant: From the Ashes is like Destiny. It’s like Division. It’s Dark Souls with guns. It’s Warframe and Bloodborne combined. Diablo with guns, Darksiders with guns, and the beat goes on. Much has been said about what Remnant is “inspired” by on it’s lead up to release. Comparisons were fast and frequent, and every time I wanted to learn more about this game, I all I heard was how many other games it was like, rather than what it actually is. So what actually is Remnant:From the Ashes?
Remnant is a third person action adventure RPG set in a world suffering from a presence known as “The Rot”. As soon as you boot up the game, it’s time to create your character and after a brief tutorial you will find yourself in Ward 13. An underground bunker with a handful of folks trying their best to survive. Since they did you a solid and brought you in, you agree to help look for their leader. The premise is very simple, and what comes next is an arduous journey into a world left to decay and wither away as you must battle against the Rot, rival bandits and much more. The plot, simple at first, slowly reveals itself via extensive journals, log entries, and an odd assortment of very unique and downright strange npc’s that reside in this world.
To say anything else would be taking away from some great twist’s Gunfire Games has in store for players. The game’s world, locations and enemy variety may at first seem limited. The first handful of hours really taking time to unravel but just when you think you have an idea of what to expect, all of those assumptions go flying out the window.
That’s true for every aspect of Remnant. Yes, I’d be an absolute fool to pretend it doesn’t have it’s influences. Most of these influences do stem from Dark Souls. Things such as estus flasks, bonfires, a much more brutal difficulty curve, I won’t deny any of these facts. I could sit and write a forty page essay on what is considering copying Dark Souls or what is inspired by this new genre that it has created. So many games share in these design aspects. This fall I will be reviewing a Stars Wars title for goodness sake that shares many of these concepts.
The reason for this mini rant is simple. While Remnant does share in some of these influences, it’s decidedly NOT Dark Souls. It’s clear and concise with it’s storytelling. It has a much larger focus on ranged weapons long distance combat. Where other games in this new genre are slow and deliberate, Remnant is quick, responsive and it requires making quick decisions to survive in open combat. The co-op is simple and extremely easy to hop into, but playing the game solo is just as viable an experience.
It’s also not a looter shooter by any means. Every weapon, accessory and weapon is hand placed in the world. You won’t be sifting through an inventory of twenty blue shotguns to grab that purple one that fires off your dopamine receptors. Instead of a large, branching skill tree. Remnant features a very unique trait system. The thing that makes this so different is how you go about acquiring said traits. You have some traits depending on your starting class archetype. Some you may get just from exploring. You may die a lot and get revived and acquire a trait that way. You may even be the one doing the reviving and get a trait that way. As soon as you play co-op, another trait focused on teamwork appears. As you gain XP, you get one trait point to apply to the myriad of skills and buffs you will gather through the games fifteen to twenty hour run time.
Another major aspect that set’s Remnant apart is how they create their campaigns. Each time you begin a campaign on a new difficulty, you must begin the game over again. The world gets reset, but all of your gear, power and skills stay with you. This is because each time you perform this action the game randomly generates the entire campaign. Level layouts, enemy placement, even bosses and encounters are constructed anew. Now normally, randomly generated game design can have it’s own assortment of issues. Generic environments, a lack of story and poor encounter design can sometimes be the result of this style of game design.
This is probably Remnants best feature. Even on a full campaign run, it will be impossible for you to experience the entire game. However, despite that level of RNG they were smart in their process. Every campaign has guaranteed set pieces. Certain npc’s, weapons, armor and major story moments will always occur in every game. This allows for a unique take on the standard new game plus formula, while also providing a real incentive to play co-op and visit other players campaigns.
I’ve played the opening hours three different times, and each time, I have encountered new weapons, armor sets, and every single first boss fight has been against a completely unique enemy and location. Now it’s by no means an infinite number of possibilities, but it does provide a great incentive to explore, play with others, and reboot the world in order to see what’s out there.
All of these elements comprise Remnants stand out trait, and that trait is the game design itself. Every single design element feels good to interact with and each decision Gunfire Games has made clearly builds on one before it. Remnant’s overall game direction is the trick, its the rare thing to see. That’s what this game represents to me. Not Dark Souls, or Destiny, or any other game. It represents a sharp, precise and very tightly designed gameplay experience that bleeds into every aspect of the game. The lore building, co-op, gun play and RPG aspects all make sense and fit together perfectly.
Remnant: From the Ashes is a fantastic experience. The unique world that Gunfire created really spoke to me, and the gameplay was such a refreshing change of pace from the usual assortment of bid budget triple-A games. So whatever you do, just give Remnant a shot and try it for yourself. What you will find is a fantastic, tactical action RPG with a story and a world as fun to experience with as it’s combat and game design is to play with.