Fromsoft the Ashes
Remnant: From the Ashes is a title that truly snuck up on me. While i did catch glimpses of it just outside of my peripheral, it wasn’t until a week before release that I really gave it any attention. Crafted by the development team behind Darksiders 3, comes a Dark Souls flavored co-op shooter that is wildly satisfying, albeit wholly unoriginal at every turn. Its inspirations are apparent everywhere, but developer Gunfire Games has created a very enjoyable and thrilling co-op shooter that rewards you constantly with a solid progression system and collection of fun and engaging weaponry.
Using the same style of AI direction that kept enemy spawns unpredictable in the Left 4 Dead games, Remnant: From the Ashes is never the same exact experience when you die, or travel to a friend’s world. As you push through your own procedurally generated instance, you may encounter locations that don’t exist in another players game; complete with unique bosses as well as the loot they provide upon their death. For example, I had the ability to track down the large and towering Ent boss, but I couldn’t for the life of me find the Dragon, Singe. By posting on the LFG tools built into the Xbox One, I was invited to join another two players as they tracked down the dragon and I earned a fiery new sword in the process. It’s this way the worlds are randomized that you’ll reach out to other players, or through the ability to re-roll your own campaign that changes up what you’ll look to expect in the world that awaits you.
Washing up on the shore of a new and mysterious island, it’s not long before you’re recruited to assist in the ongoing war against the Root, a powerful race of sentient tree-based creatures, controlled by a single hive-mind. Pushed to the edge of the earth, you’ll assist in making a stand for humanity while you push through with your own personal objectives. As you explore, you’ll encounter numerous other threats that will swarm all around you, slashing or shooting in your direction, forcing a variety of different combat scenarios that will have you rolling out of the way or diving behind cover. Sadly, while a game like Dark Souls has a tremendous amount of fascinating lore to digest, and take in, the backstory and overall narrative to Remnant is its weakest element, offering a story that is largely forgettable, and a world less compelling than its concept. Ward 13, the settlement you’ll first encounter in this new land, is largely lifeless and plain, despite being a location you are essentially fighting to maintain and protect. NPC’s are vastly generic with cookie-cutter personalities and the base and its people never change, no matter all the good you do. In fact, most characters only have a few lines of dialogue before you’re just approaching them to hear the exact same dialogue again and then using them as a shop to purchase new goods or upgrades.
While you have your own destination to reach by the game’s end, much of the focus of the story is built around finding a man named Ford, the founder of Ward 13. In fact, the tracking down of this man is really all there is to the overall story. You’ll travel to a few new locations, and they are all largely connected through Ford, a man who has been missing for quite some time. There are clues to track down and notes to read, but they are severely lacking as a tool for pushing the story forward or enriching the world Gunfire Games has created. There are cutscenes to watch and conversations to have, but again, the story is mostly sidelined in large part to the truly addictive combat and progression systems, that and co-op natured games tend to have very light narratives in order to keep the gameplay front and center and that you and your team are out there killing things, more often.
Upon entering Ward 13, you’ll be prompted to choose from one of three classes; The Scrapper, Ex-Cultist, and the Hunter. Each class has its own benefits and drawbacks to close, mid-range, or distanced combat and a starting trait and weapon mod that benefits their playstyle. I chose the Ex-Cultist due to them starting with a healing mod that places an Aura of healing at their feet that can heal them and nearby allies. It proved very useful in the starting game and kept me alive more times than I can count.
Apart from Earth, the story will take you across several environments such as the deserts of Rhom, The forests of Yaesha, and the swamplands of Corsus. Each of these biomes has various connected paths that again, will vary on your world. Being a procedurally generated environment, there are visual moments where you’ll recognize certain design blocks the areas are made of, so there can be a lot of sameness to the environments regardless of which player world you’ll inhabit. That said, the detail in these areas is really well done and makes for some very fun and engaging locales. The developer has also stated that they plan on releasing new worlds as part of additional content. Whether that content is freely released or part of an expansion pass, it remains to be seen.
Remnant: From the Ashes, falls into a standard gameplay loop of tracking down new gear and weapons, then killing mass waves of enemies to earn materials to upgrade those very things, and then using them to track down new and better replacements. Bosses will drop rarer materials that you’ll use with other more common items to craft, and you’ll discover secret areas that also contain new weapons like the SMG, or the very powerful Assault Rifle. During my travels, I’ve tracked down the Beam Rifle, the Smolder Sword, the incredible Ruin Rifle, as well as a few armor sets that require a little trick or two to discover. There are a fair amount of secrets hidden here and the community has been very kind in helping each other share in those discoveries. Within seconds of posting that I wanted the Assault Rifle, I was sent an invite as two other players were huddled around the checkpoint, looking to help someone get it alongside them. Furthermore, they asked if I could help them with tracking down a certain boss that wasn’t on either of their worlds, one that was coincidentally in mine and one that wasn’t too far off from where I was in the story. Not only did I get a weapon out of the deal, but I also had two new friends assist me in some challenging battles ahead. It’s that ‘scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ mentality that really works well here to the game’s benefit. That said, there are players ghosting others after getting what they wanted, so do keep in mind that humanity is still vastly flawed.
The title’s inspirations do paint Remnant as Dark Souls with guns, but in a more fun and engaging way that Immortal: Unchained just wasn’t able to fulfill. You have checkpoint crystals that operate as campfires, respawning local threats upon use, and even the bosses are behind fog walls, waiting for you to cross over. Now, I’m not going to highlight every single aspect of the game that is borrowed from which and what, but do know that it can play like a greatest hits of several other games. That doesn’t mean that Remnant doesn’t have its own identity or something to at least build from, but it does make it a lot harder to initially discover that when the comparisons and inspirations are front and center. Even Darksiders 3 took a Dark Souls approach to much of its design and it seems that Gunfire Games was eager to keep that specific ball rolling.
Unlike Dark Souls and those of its copy-cats, you don’t lose anything upon your death. Apart from having to start back at the previous checkpoint and having the enemies and their placement now changed to reflect the ‘never the same experience twice’ mantra, you’ll keep everything you’ve picked up and even the experience that went along with it. As for those checkpoints, there are two kinds; smaller ones that allow you to refill your health and ammo, and larger ones that allow for full transport to other larger crystals you’ve encountered. Now, both of these crystals do allow you to travel back to the hub location, Ward 13, and then back to them once you’ve kitted out your arsenal with some new bells and whistles. These are also where you’ll inject another player or two into your game as they sit there watching you play until you’ve reached a checkpoint to summon them in. Remnant is a three-player co-op game that makes it very easy to play with other players and with all the hype around its release, I never once had a single game drop or connection fail. Adding a new player into the game will boost the difficulty up to reflect the added help and it can make the game far more difficult than playing solo, which is usually the opposite. Despite the added help or going it alone, I never once felt the game brutally hard or that any particular encounter was flat out unfair. One aspect to the co-op that seems a bit harsh is that the game’s difficulty is based upon the highest leveled player, so helping a newcomer when you’ve been playing for a while can make for a very unfair experience to that fresh new player.
Taking the fight to various enemy types will vary on the setup you have and the items you have equipped. The camera is your standard third-person, with pressing in the Left Analog Stick to swap shoulder perspectives, but note that pulling out of a zoomed-in trigger-aim will reset the shoulder view to much annoyance. You can roll out of the way of several attacks, and melee your foes when they get too close. Controls for combat are very decent with using the D-Pad to use healing and buff items, and the triggers are for holding to aim or swinging whatever melee weapon you have equipped. My only gripe with the controls is the left trigger would sometimes not register and cause me to swing my melee weapon when I wanted to shoot, or sometimes my gun just wouldn’t fire, like my character froze up in fear. While this didn’t happen all the time, it was a massive annoyance when it did and led to several deaths and cleansing of my health bar.
Combat is boosted with several gameplay systems that look to create some dynamic builds and unique experiences. Each gear item and weapon has its own unique stats, and gear items have set perks that are boosted the more of that set you have equipped. You’ll use a vast assortment of materials to upgrade each equipped item, and as you get further down the story, you’ll start requiring the rarer items to get those weapons to hit a little bit harder and your armor able to withstand a few more hits. While I never felt I had to grind that much to get a set where I wanted it to be, it’s when you hit the endgame of re-rolling your campaign or jumping into other player’s world to finish off a particular set or tracking down each and every gun.
Remnant offers you three categories of weapons: handguns, long guns, and melee weapons. There is a fairly big catalog of weapons here that range from repeater pistols, an insect loaded hand cannon, crossbows, shotguns, hunting rifles, and a variety of wood-looking weapons like the devastating ruin rifle that can flat out own anything that comes your way and resurrects you should you fall in battle. Melee weapons range from swords, mauls, flails, and insect limb’d scythe’s that are super fast and look incredibly amazing as well. There is really not a bad weapon among the bunch with some real standouts from not just a power aspect, but its overall design. With each world being unique to each player, I’ve yet to unlock a few weapons that I just haven’t come across yet.
Weapons, apart from your melee ones anyway, can be equipped with mods. These grant you the ability to toss an aura of healing on your shotgun, or maybe you’d fancy a duo of Root Hollows as your own personal bodyguards. There are a variety of mods to unlock and discover that can make for some interesting combinations as you look to enhance your armor and weapon builds. To use mods, you simply need only to use your weapon. As you damage targets, you’ll earn mod energy that then can be used to power your mod, making it act like an alternative fire with the right bumper button. Thankfully, you can swap mods to any weapons without penalty or cost, letting you swap them on the fly. One thing I would love to see is the ability to create presets that let you swap to a certain gear/weapon combo for fast and quick switching during boss encounters.
You can also equip charms that boost the mod energy you earn while taking damage, heal teammates alongside your own personal heals, and increase the amount of scrap you’ll pick up, making those high-cost purchases a bit easier on the wallet. There are also rings that more or less do the same things like increasing range damage, increasing health regeneration, boosting elemental damage, and more. By using certain mods on weapons and in combination with certain rings and charms, you can create builds that really make you a force to be reckoned with.
Lastly, are traits, and these are some of the best aspects of what Remnant is doing with its progression system. Traits are passive perks like increasing your overall health, boosting experience earnings, raising your armor efficiency, upping your critical hit damage and far more that it’s unreal just how many of these options are available to you. Raising your trait level is as simple as leveling up and earning more trait points or finding trait books that are lying around most locations. As you play through the game and defeat bosses, you’ll unlock more and more traits, with more to be added soon as part of Gunfire Games adding more content down the road.
With perfectly upgraded traits, a solid choice in weaponry and the best mods crafting supplies can buy, you’ll use that variety of customization to tackle a wide range of enemies and larger than life bosses. The more available threats range from small agile rushers that need to be put down immediately, ranged targets equipped with guns or throwing daggers, to larger threats that will make you sweat when they lumber around the corner swinging a weapon bigger than your entire body. The fast-paced nature of the game via the local threats really forces you to pick your targets. It’s very easy to get swarmed and boxed in, forcing you to make some quick choices and even make you rethink the arsenal you have equipped. Each location you visit has its own collection of enemies that have some unique attack patterns and abilities, making you think on your feet and adapt to the new dangers all around you.
Bosses, which are the stars of the show vary from giant dragons or tree monsters to a collection of statuesque foes or monstrous natives that might even have their own flying creature stalking you. Now, there is one downside to the boss battles that several people have had issues with, but frankly, I’m still not sure my overall take on it. This is because nearly every boss encounter is littered with numerous mobs rushing you as you pick away at the bosses massive health bar. While this is a way to keep you always on your toes and deal with a whole lot at once, I tend to treat those mobs as ammo punching bags, letting me refill my gun upon their death, so for myself, I don’t see the format here as a problem. With around a dozen bosses and more to come, several bosses have alternative ways to defeat them, granting a different item upon their death. This increases replayability to a large extent and makes you approach a few encounters differently, such as solving a certain puzzle during a late-game boss for some fancy bladed gauntlets or trying to avoid blasting Singe’s tail in the efforts for that fancy SMG it can drop.
From a visual standpoint, Remnant is more than serviceable for sure. Environments fair much better than their people, which the latter having this sort of Darksiders meets TimeSplitters vibe, at least to me. Character models are poor from a human perspective, whereas the mutated and demonish foes are absolutely stellar and ooze detail and some amazing designs. Being that the game is procedurally generated by placing certain level blocks around, each environment across the spectrum offers a wide range of different looks from forest ruins, to the metal beams and small villages strewn across the scorching desert. There are times where the color tones and feel of the game really comes together, but overall, Remnant ticks all the boxes it needs to without really being that impressive.
Several of the same visual glitches that were present in Darksiders 3 are here and that’s likely due to the game possibly sharing the same engine. If you explore environments too quickly, there can be white flickering present and some weird graphical stitching when I would turn the camera too fast in busy locations. Apart from visual glitches, I’ve had several instances where bosses would get trapped under the floor or frozen in place as they would get fused into the wall or fall under the floor. While the mobs will keep you from just standing there and dishing out pain to those trapped souls, it was still fairly common to see these threats stuck somewhere and just begging to be cheesed.
Despite the few flaws with the title, Remnant: From the Ashes is a game I can’t stop playing. Even with the summer ending and the fall season about to come at us full speed, I can see myself jumping in and devouring new content or re-rolling my campaign to shake up the world I currently call home. The bosses are impressive and while they can at times have that bullet sponge feel, I sort of expect that from giant health bar foes anyway. The armor sets and weapons are stunning, with the traits and mod systems really selling me on how its progression systems play out. There are stories issues sure, and the visuals for the human characters are severely lacking, but when I’m knuckled deep in wonderfully designed tree creatures and swamp infested insects, all that fades away and I’m left with a co-op Dark Souls-lite shooter that I just can’t put down. Remnant has its hooks deep in me and I have no plans to release them anytime soon.
Remnant: From the Ashes was purchased by the reviewer and played on an Xbox One X.
All screenshots were taken on an Xbox One X.