Remnant: From the Ashes (Xbox One Review)
Every so often a game comes along that looks like a diamond in the rough. We hold out hope its positives will outweigh the negatives, that the days of subpar framerates and poor optimisation are behind us. So, where does that leave Remnant: From the Ashes? Remnant boasts a bountiful basket of do’s and don’ts, pros and cons, that constantly wage war for your attention. Remnant’s duality of technical failures and gripping gameplay is either its undoing or its saving grace.
Remnant: From the Ashes is a tale of desperation and hope. Earth has been ravaged by an alien disease known only as “The Root”, leaving what’s left of humanity to hide and cower before the monsters its unleashed. You play as one survivor whose hope still hasn’t dwindled. Rumours have it that answers to curing this plague lie in the Atoll, a tower surrounded by the sea and guarded by storms, and it’s your job to get there. Remnant’s story, for the better part of, remains broken and disjointed as scraps of paper and forlorn notes fill in the blanks for wanting adventurers. A group of survivors find a mysterious object, linked to the Root, that can transport people to different locations upon touch. Trying to get a solid grip on Remnant’s overall theme is tough thanks to constantly rotating aesthetics at whim; from the mundane to the extraordinary. As such, keeping up with the lingo and vocabulary in diaries from some of Remnants more distant locales is rather exhausting. Clear correlations between text and what they represent is never fully explained. At one point in the story some important plot details are divulged using a slew of hackneyed terms and cliché dialogue, which was near impenetrable.
Trying to uncover the truth behind The Root and its intentions won’t be handed to you so easily. You’ll have to duck, dive, dodge and shoot your ways to answers in methodical gunplay that’s incredibly satisfying. Remnant is a third person shooter in the same style of Immortal: Unchained, except Remnant actually plays well and trumps it in every regard. There’s also a dash of RPG and rougelite elements added for good measure. The world of Remnant is broken up into sections that piece together to from individual “instances”. Every player will have a different instance than that of their friends and other players. However, the templates for each world are limited, so there’s some recurrence between all playthroughs. Its true purpose is to encourage at least a second or third story run; finding new items and encounters as you go. Other mechanics you’d expect from roguelite games are missing, like a large roster of weapons, armour, items and enemies. But, as it stands, weaponry and armour is static and doesn’t evolve or have altering stats the more you play.
Similar to the limited environments you find yourself in, your character is rather limited in how they function. Remnant does not have a class system, instead it relies on armour and weapon loadouts to function as a pseudo class mechanic. Different armour sets make you privy to set bonuses and weapon mods grant varying degrees of offensive and defensive abilities. While on the outside this unrestrictive building of a character can seem beneficial, however it means that there’s no need to create multiple characters. Due to Remnant’s linearity, each new game you start will be quickly followed by a predictable array of gear that will always remain the same. By not restricting the player to a set role, they are more than eager to follow the meta and create optimal builds – going against what Remnant is so desperately trying to avoid.
This wouldn’t be so bad if the only restrictions to crafting an alternate character was your own willingness stick to a single build– roleplay if you will — but Remnant’s Character Traits and gun mods are locked behind progression. Gun mods function as skills with a cooldown that are replenished by dealing damage. They allow you to unload a hellish barrage of incendiary rounds, radioactive bullets or a swarm of souls, on top of some more generic skills. Likewise, Traits are your characters stats for health, stamina and a sleuth of other unique benefits to help them fit a role you more desire. The thing is, you don’t have access to all these to begin with so crafting a new “Class” from scratch isn’t possible, further pushing players into a more linear form of progression. Ultimately their an addendum to Remnant’s core, nice little bonuses that help tweak the experience to suit you but not drastically reshaping the experience.
Even if Remnant did have vastly different play styles available, one thing that both you and your neighbour would agree on is Remnant’s gunplay. It’s tight and substantially better than most other third person shooters out there. Aiming is smooth and thankfully so as your enemies are an agile bunch. Dodging can be cumbersome depending on how you play; heavy armours grant less roll distance and some attack animations can be awkward to dodge. Reloading is fluid and appropriate for weapon sizes; bigger weapons take longer to reload. Firing your weapon has very little recoil and this helps line up shots much better on smaller monsters. Hip firing is a no go, instead when you attack without aiming you will promptly do a melee attack that can feel a bit heavy handed at first but doesn’t take you long to get the swing of it – pun intended. Remnant’s overall fluidity in frantic firefights is what keeps your heart racing at an uncontrollable pace. Narrowly dodging those near death hits or spontaneous ambushes keeps you invigorated and compelling that time old saying to resurface, “just one more room”, or “just one more hour” as time seemingly passes you by, as you’ve lost yourself to Remnant’s lure.
The atmosphere and varied enemy design really pull you in when it comes to Remnant. The Root infested streets of Earth with their twisted inhabitants, the arid deserts of Rhom with their belligerent tribesmen and Giger-esque rulers or even Corsus with its muck filled mire’s and smoggy polluted air. Remnant never has a dull moment, but it does have its niggles. Boss battles are a main highlight of any action RPG, and are expected to offer grandiose set pieces with larger than life creatures to tumble. Remnant takes an uninteresting approach to this by having the majority of their boss battles be re-treads of enemies you’ve already fought, just suped up to hit harder and last longer. To add insult to injury they are accompanied by an infinitely spawning amount of additional enemies, quickly highlighting Gunfire Games’ lack of creativity. Adding ceaseless waves of enemies to punctuate a boss fight denotes how uninspiring and unexciting boss battles actually are. The result is most bosses are cluttered with annoyances that artificially inflate difficulty, much to the chagrin of the player.
It should be duly noted that my playthrough of Remnant was largely from the singleplayer perspective. Playing on an Xbox One X had its fair share of problems, like not letting me connect to other players and vice versa. I wish the technical problems stopped there. Frame rates would tear my Xbox asunder with dropped frames for every time I’d fire a weapon and on rare occasions it would crash the game altogether. Even when I managed to get matched with someone online, it would often stick on a loading screen either joining a game or transitioning to a new area. The real problem I had though was Gunfire Games’ choice on making Remnant a very Co-op centric game with little in the way to scale parts of the game back a notch for single player. Bosses and enemies seem too plentiful to handle at any given time resulting in what feels like cheap deaths and unavoidable encounters.
Remnant: From the Ashes paces back and forth through my mind, I love the environmental and monster design and the gunplay is top notch. It’s a shame that it’s hindered by so many technical failings and a mob mentality to boss fights and the uninspired bosses themselves feel like wasted potential and a cheap shortcut. If you do decide to pick up Remnant: From the Ashes make sure you have a couple of friends to play it with or be prepared for a very rough ride.