What happens when you take a chunk of Dark Souls, a slap of Gears of War, and a pinch of Dead Cells?
It’s very rare for a niche game such as this to come along and utterly blow players away. At first glance, Remnant: From the Ashes seems like any other third-person shooter, but upon closer inspection, it has so much more going for it. While it also may just seem like another ‘SoulsBorne’ clone, strip it away and you’ve got something truly special. Remnant: From the Ashes is developed by Gunfire Games, and if that name sounds familiar, then you may recognise them as the developers of Darksiders III, a franchise that swapped from being what many considered a Zelda/God of War clone to a SoulsBorne clone. To this day its unclear why the developer seems hell-bent on creating such titles, but something is clearly working, so who am I to question it?
Unfortunately the first aspect of the review is actually the weakest part of the game: its story. At first, it felt like I had started a movie half way through its showing and missed some major story beats, as your custom created character is sent by boat to head towards a tower currently blocked by a massive storm. This is because inside the tower is the heart of the Root, an enemy race that took over Earth almost a century ago. Ever since then humans have lived in hiding, trying to get by in this post-apocalyptic world. After a brief tutorial period, you find yourself in Ward 13, and are tasked in searching for the Founder, who holds they key to defeating the Root once and for all. Throughout your journey you’ll traverse through different worlds and encounter characters who, while you can talk to them and learn more about them, don’t really add much to the overarching narrative itself and simply serve as your pathway to the next area. It’s quite an uninspired and eventually basic plot, and only serves to keep you on the path to your objective. You’ll also find lore items scattered throughout the world, but none of it really grabbed my personal attention.
What you may not realise immediately is that your world is actually randomly generated. When you start the game, the algorithm in your playthrough sets up your predetermined world; what side bosses you’ll fight, the design of the world in between those bosses and what NPC’s you’ll encounter. The worlds feels lifeless and barren, but in a good way; this is the post-apocalypse after all, and I wanted to explore every nook and cranny of my world just to see what items I could find to help me on my journey. Certain aspects of the world will remain exactly the same for everyone however, for example Ward 13 looks the same, and everyone will encounter the main story-beat characters. But this means that there will be some bosses you won’t fight or certain side objectives you’ll never encounter in your first playthrough, which allows for multiple playthroughs. If you’re a completionist such as myself, you may find this a tad confusing though since this isn’t made immediately clear; I must have spent a good thirty minutes trying to find an NPC so I could obtain a certain item I had heard about, only to find he never spawned in my world. In order to encounter certain bosses and NPC’s, you have to do one of a few things: create a new play through, re-roll your campaign, which will reset your entire world and story, but allow you to keep everything you’ve already unlocked, or join somebody else’s world.
Yes, you read that correctly; you can join somebody else’s world. Remnant allows you to play with up to two other players in online multiplayer. This doesn’t at all make the game easy though, as the game takes the total skill level of all the players present and adjusts the difficulty to accommodate this. As you play, if you find some materials or in-game items, not only do you obtain these, but so do your companions. I cannot recommend this enough: if playing in your own world, make sure your world is set to public. Being a solo player in this game is actually often gruelling, as there’s some bosses and enemy encounters which can be incredibly unfair to the point you wish another player would just spawn into your game to help control a certain aspect of a fight (not that being a solo player is impossible, just a bit of a chore). You’ll also be knocked down a lot in this game, so it often helps to have someone watching your back so that they can revive you at a moments notice. Although you don’t lose anything upon death, if you and those with you do die, it’s right back to the last checkpoint with you, where you’ll have to kill everything in your path again. One thing you need to note though: say you’ve not long started the story and you join somebody else’s game and you progress through half of the game in their world. While you’ll keep all items earned when returning to your world, this in no way progresses the story in yours. In fact some of trophies/achievements you can unlock in the game can only be obtained in your own world, so while this game may allow you to play with your friends, don’t go in thinking this is a true co-op experience.
Where Remnant truly shines is its combat. At first the game gives you a melee weapon, so it doesn’t immediately become apparent that this is actually a third-person shooter. Your melee weapon is actually more of a last resort for when enemies get too close or you run out of ammunition, as you’ll also be wielding up to two other weapons. Your side-arm will usually be some sort of pistol weapon, while your main weapon can range from rifles and shotguns to crossbows and lasers. It’s actually quite amazing the variety of weapons there are to choose from; some you may just find out lying in the world, some you’ll be required to craft using rewards earned from bosses, and others you can buy from NPC’s. The gun play feels incredibly fluent and smooth on console, and its made even better with gun mods. These are attachable to both your main and side weapons, and can help either give you that boost in damage or allow you to control the swarms of enemies that come your way. Some of these mods are craftable and can be swapped out freely between your weapons, however boss weapons you create come pre-equipped with their own mods and cannot be swapped out; a fair trade for some incredible weapons in their design and power. While you may find the descriptions and stats of some of these weapons quite daunting, don’t at all be afraid to try something new.
Weapons aren’t your only tools though, as you’ll need some strong armour to help you take the hits. While its fair to say you probably won’t be playing “fashion-souls” with what you can find, each piece of armour has its own stats, elemental resistances as well as set bonuses. You’ll want to also strengthen both your weapons and your armour with materials you find throughout the world. These come in the form of scrap, your main currency for buying and selling items, and different types of iron, both of which can be found in random spots throughout the world, or within chests and breakable pots. As an added bonus for your character, you can find amulets and rings, which can help give you that little extra edge.
In terms of character progression, throughout the game you’ll unlock traits. These traits can be found by defeating bosses or by finding certain items in the world and can help improve almost every aspect of your character that you could think of. You could improve basic traits like your health, stamina and experience gain, or you could go into the nitty-gritty with traits like reload speed, gun spread/recoil reduction, elemental resistance etc. There are over thirty potential traits to level up throughout your play through, all which can be improved to level 20 (as a tip, if you find the Elder Knowledge trait, max this out as it will help you level up quicker and earn more trait points). This is often why players might join another players world, so that they can earn trait points to put into skills that help them in their own world. Don’t expect to find and max out all traits in your first playthrough though, especially as some of your choices can affect what trait you may obtain. For example there’s one character who I could either give them what they wanted or fight them. I chose to fight them, and upon defeating them it gave me a trait I wouldn’t have obtained had I not fought them.
Remnant most certainly borrows elements from the Dark Souls/Bloodborne games. Early on you’ll obtain a Dragon Heart, which acts as your ‘Estus Flask’ and heals your character when you’re low. You’ll also find large crystals or small crystal clusters which act as your checkpoints and fast travel (or ‘bonfires’ if you’re a Souls veteran). There are challenging bosses to be fought too, each with their own unique mechanics. Some are quite smart and require you to use the entire room to your advantage, while others allow you to, for the most part, stand there and shoot. As mentioned earlier, some of the bosses are incredibly unfair; I don’t mean in a “I’m clearly doing something wrong” kind of way that Dark Souls teaches you, I legitimately mean they are unfair. One boss I fought (and died many, many times to) teleported randomly throughout a very cluttered room, and where-ever I stood, a gas cloud exploded which would damage and infect me, and I often wouldn’t have the stamina to dodge them… because I was dodging other exploding clouds. This did not help that I was often swarmed by enemies, something you’ll encounter in a lot of boss fights. This is because you’ll find yourself running out of ammunition, so you’ll need to take these enemies down where they’ll then drop the ammunition you need to effectively take the boss down. I would strongly recommend buying lots of ammo boxes when you can, because your guns will run dry a lot.
Now what needs to be understood is that Gunfire Games is still a relatively small studio, and although the game is outright enjoyable, it’s not without a number of flaws. Some examples include the checkpoints, where I often found when I rested at some of them they were surrounded by enemies, so before I had a chance to perhaps quick travel or get my bearings, I was being attacked. With certain boss fights too, myself and other players I was with would be subjected to horrendous lag which often resorted into us dying because of it; I was even playing on a PS4 Pro, something you’d think would have given the game an extra edge over. The game crashed for me a total of three times throughout my entire playthrough for explicitly no reason and I also encountered odd graphical glitches, such as the floor disappearing or the world having a weird filter on it as it thought I was still in a boss fight the filter came with. One weird design choice however is that multiple players cannot talk to the same character at once, meaning if you want to upgrade your armour, you have to wait until another player is done upgrading theirs. There's also no ability to rebind the controls on console, so as much as you may like to rebind your dodge button (A on Xbox, X on PlayStation), you can't. Above all these problems though, there’s one thing I personally loathed about this game: McCabe. She is responsible for giving you gun mods and boss weapons, but her overall attitude towards you merely talking to her and how she often scoffs as you walk past her… no. I hated her with an undying passion, though perhaps that’s the point. Fortunately, the majority of these problems could be fixed with a few patches, and Gunfire have promised they’re working on a number of updates to help iron out some of the kinks and improve the quality of life in the game.
I didn’t know I needed Remnant in my life until it came out. Seemingly coming out of no where, its a solid experience with some decent challenges, fantastic gun play and many ways to customize your character to fit your own play style. While its not a perfect game and comes with odd design choices and a lacklustre story, you’ll be treated to hours upon hours of content, and with a price tag of approximately £30/$40 at launch, this is a steal of a game that will satisfy any Souls veteran as they wait for other Souls like games as well as Elden Ring.
Remnant: From the Ashes was paid for by GamerGhost and played on the PlayStation 4 Pro.