Remnant: From The Ashes Review - More Than The Sum Of Its Parts
Remnant: From The Ashes has been a delightful surprise. When I first saw the game, I was intrigued, but intrigue often leads to disappointment. Thankfully this is not the case with Remnant: From The Ashes at all. While the 60 person team, and what we can assume was not a Triple A budget, means that there are some areas of polish that could benefit the game, it is clear the devs focused on what they felt were more important aspects. Did this pay off? Absolutely.
Good Things With A Spin
People get mad about this type of comparison, but there is obvious inspiration from the Soulsborne games on display in Remnant: From The Ashes. There is the Dragon Heart which acts like an Estus Flask, fog walls to mark boss fights, crystalline checkpoints you can use to teleport around the world and reset not just your health and ammo, but also the enemies in an area. Truthfully, these are some of the better things about Soulsborne games, so bringing them into Remnant: From The Ashes does feel derivative. Mainly because the comparisons pretty much stop there.
The combat is a mixture of range and melee, the boss encounters generally have their own twists, the procedural world generation gives exploration its own spin, and the actual world itself is a most modernly relevant take on a post-apocalypse that the Soulsborne series has ever ventured towards.
Games like this live or die by their combat, and combat in Remnant is excellent. Games like this must never feel unfair, and I think Remnant walks that line very well. Shooting and melee combat both feel crisp, and the fact that the game lacks hip-fire feels inspired. The constant requirement to think about how what you want your next action to be means combat feels frantic but manageable.
If I use my Hunter’s Pistol to drop one enemy, melee the next one down, then roll and reload, shoot and melee again, my reward is the space to recharge some stamina and make the next group of decisions. Fights are often something you survive on your ability to think quickly and plan for the short term, which feels very rewarding indeed. There is a nice skill ceiling here, and enough punishment to keep you on your toes without feeling cruel.
Even dying is less punishing than you might expect. You won’t lose things that you have already found, like crafting resources or Scrap, the game's currency, you get reset to your last checkpoint. When playing with friends, you can use your Dragon Heart to revive each other, only being sent back when everyone has run out of charges.
While the opening portion of gameplay won’t inspire, as you hack your way through enemies for a while, getting deeper into the game brings all sorts of new challenges to face. Enemy types get mixed up, and a variety of attacks will be coming your way. Combat is also sharp, taking the time to reload a weapon, knowing that the game is polished enough to let you dodge that incoming spear at the very last possible moment leads to an empowered style of play. Risks can be taken, and the game won’t trip you up with some laggy magic.
These Varied Graves We Dig
While the opening areas don’t exactly feel inspired, breaking out of it leads to whole new worlds to explore. Sun-blasted deserts, deadly swamps, dank passages of alien looking mazes, there is plenty of variety here to kill any possible boredom.
The variety of weapons is fun too. Bosses and giant monsters can drop crafting pieces, which can then be turned into weapons. The weapons will all have different effects that inspire different styles of play. The Sporebloom is a vicious shotgun that can also cause explosions of toxic gas, shutting down entire areas of a fight. Something like the Repulsors fires a large spread of damage, focusing into a tight beam of death if the trigger is held down.
Mods bring a welcome sense of variety to your loadouts, even if you are set on only using specific weapons that suit you. They can be applied to either of your guns, and will be charged by dealing out some good old fashioned death and destruction. When fully charged, they can be used for various effects from healing, to vision buffs, to damaging enemies. Armor can be collected, and will all provide multiple set benefits, and trinkets can be used to top off your build as you see fit.
Traits are earned throughout the game, basically allowing you to level up different buffs. You can opt for more health or stamina, or perhaps you wish to take less damage from ranged opponents. Some Traits can only be gotten from specific encounters, and what really makes this fun is that there are no guarantees in this game.
Your game world is randomly generated at the start of each game, so while the overworld will be a constant, the dungeons, encounters, and placement of items within will vary. This stops your second time through the game feeling samey and brings welcome mystery when talking to friends who also play as you argue over who got the best loot so far.
Weight of Words
The writing is surprisingly solid and in some places very impacting. While NPC dialogue isn’t always the strongest, the flavor text is hidden throughout the world, and attached to items, is often very impactful. This world might be dead, but it once had a beating heart, and the acts involved to cease that beat still resonate.
The game ran excellently for me, for the most part. There were one or two areas where I would lose a few frames, but never enough to actually really notice if I wasn’t running a framerate counter at the time. I did however have a couple of crashes over about 25 hours of playtime so far. One of them was particularly nasty, while the second was the game deciding that 6G of VRAM in my GPU wasn’t quite enough to handle whatever was required at the time. Generally speaking however, I would have to say that everything ran nice and smooth. I cannot speak to how the game will run on PS4 or Xbox One, however.
Remnant: From The Ashes is an entertaining game, either co-op or solo, that provides you with demanding but fair gameplay, and an exciting and fun world to explore. While some inspirations are apparent, Gunfire Games have risen above them to provide us with a game that I have no problem saying is better than it should be. I mean that in the best way, Remnant: From The Ashes has been a joy to play.
I had such a fun time with it that I am hoping that this is the start of a series, and success will bring the budget that will allow a talented group of developers to truly shine, with no compromises made when it comes to executing their vision. If you have been interested in Remnant, but loath to jump in, I say go for it. Round up some friends and venture out into the world and see what you find, you will be surprised by how fun it all feels.