Remnant: From The Ashes – Complete Edition PC Review
Even though the base content and both DLCs total about 15 hours for a single play through, I have logged over 120 hours in Remnant since its release a year ago. In fact, I got so sucked into it on release that I had to start playing a solo campaign on the side from the main playthrough I was doing with a friend, in order to feed my obsession and then, when another friend got interested, we added a 3-player run in parallel. It didn’t matter who was available, even if it was just myself, I was playing Remnant. Of course it didn’t stay like that forever, I eventually tapered off but I would always come back now and then for a couple more runs and to try uncover some of the items I had yet to find. It was also my No.2 choice for GOTY 2019, just being beaten out by Sekiro. From this I think it’s pretty clear that I really like this game. It’s one that I have recommended a lot and will no doubt continue to as I eagerly await a sequel or something similar, after the sad announcement that there will be no more expansions. But hey, at least the story managed to get closed out because the lore is really cool, even if the characters are a little flat.
A big part of what hooked me is how the gunplay feels, including how the guns themselves have personalities; every weapon, every shot, and every reload action has a completely different weight and sense of presence to it. There’s no annoying cover system that locks players against barricades but crouching behind the environment or popping out from behind a wall to take potshots is totally viable without limiting mobility. That’s not always going to be a winning strategy, however. Some enemies will try to flank and others will try to rush your position, there are snipers and summoners and spell casters, there are huge melee brutes and heavy gunners and even more to keep the players on their toes. One of my favourite things is each time an elite enemy encroaches this wonderfully ominous ‘get ready’ tone plays, like the unsheathing of a sword, to warn the player they are in for some trouble. Actually, the sound design in general is great when it comes to ambient enemy noises and helping the spatial awareness of the player, although it does lack a decent soundtrack.
Combat isn’t just about running around and blasting enemies, though. There’s a reason it’s often described as ‘Souls-like’ (but, seriously, what isn’t these days?). Not only are there walls of fog before entering boss fights, checkpoints that respawn enemies and act as quick travel locations, and ‘Estus flask’ mechanics; which is to say the recouping of consumable healing items when resting, but the often delicate ballet-like combat requiring precision-timing and methodical dodging/attacking cycles certainly provokes a Souls-y sentiment. This is especially true for boss fights, which can be really tricky when playing on the harder difficulties and must absolutely be understood to be defeated. Their movesets, any openings they may present, and any weaknesses they bear will need to be covered and played around to get the better of them. I do have to point out here that the final boss of the main campaign does take this way too far and basically makes no sense for new players. The way it works is unlike anything else in the game and it never even tries to push you in the right direction, which ends up hollowing the eventual victory.
Interestingly, there’s some randomisation to the world generation so it makes a lot of sense to play through the game a couple of times, to at least go after the different bosses, but the repeated story stuff can get quite irritating. To solve that, there’s also an ‘Adventure’ mode, a way to create a random, well, adventure, for just the target location; each with a couple of dungeons, a mini-boss, and a world-boss, allowing for people to jump on for a quick bit of fun (it also happens to be a much easier way to grind missing collectibles). The amount of game content in general isn’t huge, though, so it ends up being spread quite thin, making it very common to see the same areas and bosses over and over within each of the distinct worlds. What manages to keep it interesting, outside of the great-feeling shooting mechanics, is the variety.
The variety of the biomes to trek through and loadouts to play with is something else I particularly enjoy about Remnant; it goes from basic post-apocalyptic Earth to a world that mixes primitive sandy desert hideouts with futuristic alien spires, and throughout it all there are a ton of weapons, armour sets, equippable artifacts, and passive traits to unlock and upgrade. On top of that, there are also secondary-fire mods that can be mixed and matched to even further customise for a preferred playstyle. Where this all really shines is actually Survival mode because you’re thrown into, even smaller than Adventure mode, rounds with a single basic weapon and have to do whatever you can to make it through. This means using any old components you find to fight for your life. Plus, every five minutes all of the enemies get tougher so there’s no time to be overly cautious. One death and it’s all over. By using scrap, the game’s common currency, in between levels rewards the player with at least some ability to find something they can work with more proficiently but the randomness really shakes it all up, making it incredibly replayable. It gets pretty challenging – in fact I’m still trying to get through ten bosses in a row on this mode to unlock some of the last things I need.
But, yes, the game as a whole does eventually get very samey, considerably so after re-rolling a single location tens of times to try find something that might be missing and this is where I have a bit of a gripe with the design. To be expected to play the same scenarios over and over for a small chance at the thing you want to drop is ridiculous, especially after already playing through the campaign several times and beating the perma-death Hardcore more. Well, a big part of Remnant is the community around it – who managed to work together to reveal all of its secrets, such as identifying particular ways to kill certain bosses in order for them to drop special weapons. The community also has a few special tools (for PC only, sorry) that help players track down what items they’re missing by reading which events and items spawn in the randomly generated environment, which I admit to using happily. Whilst it was only in the last two months or so that I discovered it, it has helped pull me back in again once again; as I use it to slowly complete a 100% complete, fully levelled character. It’s something that needed to be handled better in the base game for sure.
Either way, when all is said and done – I kind of love this game. I know it’s not perfect and I know it can be repetitive, but what it comes down to is that I have undeniably enjoyed my time with it and I intend to spend a good deal more, too. The issues it had on release were awful, and the DLCs in a vacuum were a little underwhelming in scope; especially that first one, but the Complete Edition takes care of all of that, making it even greater than before. Remnant was just something I stumbled across and decided to take a chance on with a friend and now, over a year later, I’m still thinking about it; still excited to play some more. It’s true that it has slowly risen in popularity but I think it’s still quite underappreciated – there really isn’t anything else like this out there and I recommend giving it a shot.