If you’ve ever wondered what Dark Souls would be like with guns, Remnant: From the Ashes is here to give you the answer.
Developed by Gunfire Games, Remnant: From the Ashes finds the developer going even further down the Souls-like rabbit hole, after already dipping its toes in with Darksiders III late last year. But thanks to its gunplay, mods and randomised quests, it’s unique enough to prevent it from feeling derivative of FromSoftware’s hugely popular formula.
After creating a character, you might be surprised at how focused Remnant: From the Ashes is on building its world. Despite being pushed as an online co-op game, for the first half an hour or so you’re forced to go solo, talking to various survivors holed up in the mysterious Ward 13 and helping them so you can go about your mission proper: to reach a giant tower, far away in the distance.
After activating a giant red World Stone that allows you to warp out of Ward 13, Remnant: From the Ashes truly begins. And while you can indeed play with others, you might be tempted to go it alone. Without any assistance, the experience really is akin to Dark Souls with guns; a tense adventure, with danger lurking around every corner and battles that require strategy and skill to emerge victorious. Get one or two more people along for the journey and things can still be tricky at times, but a lot of the atmosphere is lost.
With Remnant: From the Ashes, Gunfire Games has created an incredible world that you’ll want to discover more about. Back in Ward 13, you can explore and interact with computers to read their logs that impart lore. You can also grill any survivors for information that they’re willing to divulge. Outside of Ward 13, notes can occasionally be found that pad out the narrative, and item descriptions also sometimes add in more strands to follow.
Unfortunately, Remnant: From the Ashes’ gameplay isn’t always as compelling. Exploring the first area is fun for a while, for instance, but it can become overly repetitive because of the stitched-together nature of its maps. Somewhat randomised to enhance repeated playthroughs, you too often get a feeling of déjà vu when turning a corner. Thankfully, later areas are much more interesting. All areas suffer from their outdoor maps being sparse and empty at times, though, and wherever you find yourself, you mostly only have scrap and materials to look forward to finding. Coming across a consumable is nice when it happens, while finding a piece of equipment is a treat that’s all too rare.
Developing your character is one of the highlights of Remnant: From the Ashes. Weapons and armour can be bought, crafted and found, you can upgrade them to make them stronger, and when equipped they change the appearance of your character. There are accessories to find, too, that provide useful bonuses when worn. Then, when it comes to defining your play style, a variety of weapon mods are available that provide useful skills, while traits can be discovered and levelled to provide further effects and bonuses. You can effectively make your character stand out from others after many hours of play.
It’s just a shame that despite such an emphasis on upgrading your gear and developing your character, there’s not much of a feeling of progression. Moving from one zone to the next, enemies are suitably levelled up to provide a good challenge. That’s understandable. Reroll your current game world to start again from scratch, however – which is something you might consider doing if you get really stuck – and enemies will be scaled according to your equipment. As a result, you won’t really feel any more powerful when using your shotgun+10, but switch to a sniper rifle that you haven’t upgraded and you’ll do noticeably less damage.
It’s Remnant: From the Ashes‘ boss encounters that will possibly deter the most players from seeing the game though to its end, though – especially if they’re intent on playing it alone. They each have their set attack patterns like bosses usually do, and also huge pools of health, meaning you have to wail on them for quite some time before they go down. But in the pursuit of making them truly challenging, every boss also comes with waves of enemies that either spawn constantly or on timers.
When playing alone, such spawns frequently feel like a kick in the teeth. As you can’t shoot from the hip, you spend much of your time aiming down your sights, which limits your field of view. That means you’re effectively a sitting duck for enemies moving in from behind you or to the side. It also takes too long to heal yourself using the Estus Flask-esque Dragon Heart when you do find yourself in danger; enemies all too often move in while you’re slowed by the healing animation. Bosses are a hell of a lot easier to tackle in co-op, as you can assign one person to deal with spawns while others work on the boss. They just don’t feel well-balanced for solo play.
Remnant: From the Ashes also has some other issues, too. I’ve played the game on PC and Xbox One and have experienced crashes on both. I’ve also had elite monsters spawn behind or to the side of me, putting me in a very bad situation. Additionally, matchmaking seems to be broken on Xbox One at the moment. Most of these issues are likely to be resolved by patches, but it’s a shame that they made their way into the launch version of the game.
There’s a lot to like about Remnant: From the Ashes. Its character and world design is mostly excellent, and it’s really atmospheric when played alone. Its core mechanics work well, too. But additional polish and tweaks are needed to really make it great. And maybe more items. As a base to be built on, Remnant: From the Ashes has a lot of promise. In a year from now, I can imagine it being truly excellent. Hopefully Gunfire Games can make that happen.