Remnant: From The Ashes Review: From Out Of Nowhere, A Masterpiece

Remnant: From The Ashes is a 3-player co-op 3rd person shooter with semi-procedurally generated levels and souls-like progression. Remnant was developed by Gunfire Games, makers of the Darksiders series and published by Perfect World Entertainment, best known for MMORPGs Neverwinter and Champions Online. I'm not going to bury the lead: my time with Remnant is the most fun I've had playing a game in the last 6 months. While Remnant stumbles across the finish line, the journey getting there with a couple friends is so incredibly refreshing you'll want to play it again as soon as it's over.

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Remnant takes place on an earth that has been overrun with an alien entity known as The Root. It has been so long since society collapsed that little of the world before remains. You and you're companions will travel to different world looking for the man who has the key to defeating The Root once and for all.

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The worlds of Remnant are made up of hand-crafted section randomly stitched together and connected by dungeons. No two playthroughs of Remnant will ever be the same and each run will reward you with different weapons, armor, items, and mods. As you shoot your way through each zone you'll collect currency (scrap) and crafting materials (iron) which can be used to level up your equipment. You will also collect trait points you can spend on leveling up a collection of traits or passive bonuses by finding them in the world and gaining experience. Think of it as Gears meets Dark Souls with a touch of Diablo for replayability.

Let's Get Souls-y

Despite being semi-procedurally generated, there's a method to the madness that Dark Souls fans should be familiar with. As you progress through the world, you'll encounter campfires that serve as check points if you die and teleporters back to town. They will refill your teams health and ammo, but they will also respawn all of the enemies you've killed. You'll also encounter many one way doors that, once unlocked, serve as shortcuts back to previous areas. Further, every boss encounter is preceded by a fog gate that can be entered but not exited until the boss is defeated.

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All of these mechanics invoke the language of Dark Souls but fit so naturally into Remnant that the game really forges its own identity. While other games copy Dark Souls with a different paint job, Remnant iterates on these familiar mechanics enough to feel refreshing and novel. Once you realize the pattern of progression in Remnant, you'll be constantly compelled to fight the next boss and earn your next upgrade. The game is far less punishing than any other Souls-like, which is a term that has become interchangeable with "really really hard." Remnant is tough, but fair, and like Dark Souls, rewards you handsomely for overcoming challenges and improving your mastery of the game.

Customize Your Head Off

Remnant is an action game for RPG lovers. If you're a theory-crafter that likes building archetypes, fiddling with stats, and experimenting with loadouts, this game's already got your number. Beyond the 3 weapon slots, 3 armor slots, and 3 accessory slots, there are a few dozen traits that can each be leveled individually to create your perfect build. There are an infinite number of ways to customize your character, and experimentation is welcome. I never felt locked-in one way or another and once you complete your first run and gain the ability to re-spec, the doors blow wide open for fine-tuning and creating your perfect build. Every gun, armor piece, and accessory is balanced to fit a different archetype. There is no strongest chest piece or most powerful gun, you're free to level up whichever tools you prefer and really make your character the way you want.

Beyond the guns, armor, accessories, and traits, there are also mods the collect from bosses that offer a wide variety of abilities. Each weapon can equip one mod, which must be charged before it can be activated by dealing damage with it's assigned weapon. Mods abilities range from temporary stat boosts, support abilities like healing rifts, or special attacks like grenade launchers and flamethrowers. These mods don't have a ton of overlap with the crunchy stat configuring of your traits and are typically very situational. Changing your mods is the best way to react to different encounters and it feels incredibly satisfying when your mod choice gives you the edge to win a fight.

There's Always A Downside

Of the 20 hours it took my group to finish our first run, 5 of those hours was spent fighting the final boss.  I won't spoil anything about the fight here, but I will say that after hours of trial and error, my group found that only ONE weapon loadout would work to defeat this boss. This is counter to the entire rest of the game, which we were able to progress through using which ever weapons we saw fit for the situation. This was not the case for the final boss, which meant that 2 of us, who had not focused on leveling this particular weapon set, were forced to grind old areas of the game for currency in order to level up our guns, which is another thing we had never had to do before in the entire game.

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The boss was a cake walk once we had the right guns, but completely impossible with any other load out. I believe this is related to the way the boss mitigates damage. If you do not have the correct load out for this fight, you simply can not beat it. Nothing else in the game works like this, and the encounter left a really sour after-taste to an otherwise delicious experience.

Some Stray Thoughts

I had a blast playing through Remnant with my friends, and after finishing the game we immediately jumped back in to reload the world and find all the secrets we didn't find on the first run. There are 3 difficulty settings and an infinite combination of world layouts with different secrets in each so in terms of replayability, Remnant is knocking it out of the park. This game got its hooks into my group in a way few games manage to do. Before I get back to searching for the next secret room where my potentially new favorite gun is hiding, here's a few more thoughts that didn't fit in anywhere else:

  • Playing with randos is really weird because there is no chat box or in-game voice, but it's worth doing because you'll get a ton of items in their game that you can't find in yours.
  • Please give me infinite stamina in the hub area. This goes for every game ever. I just want to run around fast, upgrade my stuff, and get back to the game.
  • The boss fights are definitely the best part of the game, and require really good coordination with your team. You'll even encounter different bosses in each playthrough, and each one drops a unique item that can be used to make a mod or boss weapon.
  • Yes, there's a fair amount of bugs right now. This is the kind of game where the bugs won't stop you from having a great time though.
  • Some bosses have a condition that gives you a different reward if met, so even if you roll the same boss, you may get a different reward for killing it, and I think that's just F-ing awesome

4.5 Out Of 5 Stars

A review copy of Remant: From The Ashes was provided to TheGamer for this review. Remnant is available now Xbox One, PS4, and Steam.

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