Remnant: From the Ashes Review
Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Microsoft Xbox One and PC
I’d like to preface this review with a long-winded yet important disclaimer: you’re going to read a few references to Dark Souls in this review of Remnant: From the Ashes. It’s not because I subscribe to the idea that Dark Souls is a genre in itself. Even using Dark Souls as some sort of genericized trademark in the same way Kleenex is used for tissues doesn’t quite sit well with me either. Dark Souls is an action RPG that’s designed to be challenging through a combination of intuitive mechanics and, for the most part, cleverly designed enemies. It’s the former that I mostly may lay reference to as Remnant: From the Ashes draws heavy inspiration from them, as to other games that have attempted their own spin on the formula crafted by From Software. As for the latter, the cleverly designed enemies, let’s just say there’s a lot left to be desired in that area. As this disclaimer-now-turned-introduction comes to close I want to make it clear that Remnant isn’t a bad game. More on the contrary, it’s an engaging and entertaining experience overall that could have tried a bit less to be like the Souls series and trusted itself to stand on its own two feet.
The aforementioned mechanics inspired greatly by the Dark Souls series will surprise nobody. There’s a stamina bar and it functions in almost the exact same way with one major difference. In Remnant, melee attacks don’t deplete it. This delegates stamina to being a, primarily, defensive resource as running and dodging are both tied to it and their cost depends on the weight of your equipped armor. It works surprisingly well as the methodical approach to combat is still intact while at the same time allowing for more offensive freedom. This change alone would have been enough to make Remnant: From the Ashes’s combat radically different to that found in the Soulsborne series. However, this game hasn’t been poignantly dubbed “Shooter Souls” without a reason.
Remnant’s main claim to fame lies in its inclusion of gun-type weapons, like pistols, rifles, and machineguns, which also carry their own Souls-inspired mechanics. At first blush, one could quickly assume that ranged weapons could potentially trivialize combat making it less challenging. One wouldn’t be wrong until the ammo runs out; and run out it will if it isn’t used sparingly. Ammunition can either occasionally drop from enemies or alternatively be acquired through a consumable which also doesn’t come frequently. The main idea is to rely more on your melee weapons whilst saving your hard-hitting bullets for tougher and less maneuverable enemies. It’s an intuitively crafted system that feels reminiscent of survival horror games where the key idea is to ration out your strongest arsenal for the right situations, such as the game’s frustratingly designed bosses.
I will be the first to lay testament that all Soulsborne and Soulsborne-inspired games have their fair share of frustrating bosses that make heavy use of cheap mechanics and overwhelming size to make up for less clever design. They can’t all be the Next Coming of Boss. Remnant: From the Ashes, however, seems to have a penchant for all the hair-tearing vein-popping profanity-inducing gimmicks that we all OH.SO.VERY.LOOOOVE. Take endless hordes of adds. Imagine the worst boss you’ve fought in a game who made spawn non-stop adds. Now, add to those adds some poison clouds, wide-ranged swiping attacks...and more adds. Welcome to my nightmare and its name is Remnant. Don’t get me wrong. I’m very familiar with overcoming challenges through trial and error, even when it comes to gimmicky brick walls disguised as epic-sized bosses. It’s just that there’s nothing enjoyable about dealing with similarly designed ones on repeat. A bland tank-and-spank with a few meh swipes would have changed things up markedly well. It’s as if the person who designed them thought of the most BS frustrating gimmicks and decided to slap them all on top of each other into a hodge-podge of “make it stop, please”. Sound familiar? Probably because that’s how it was for the entirety of the worst game in the Dark Souls series. Downing one of these salt-inducing behemoths is more likely to have you thanking the universe it’s over rather than make you feel like you’ve overcome a challenge.
Thankfully, Remnant: From the Ashes makes up for the boss design with a fairly straightforward yet exceedingly rewarding progression system. At its most basic, the game offers linear stat increases through new armor pieces and upgrades. Weapons provide a nice variety in playstyle with lots of interesting combinations of melee and ranged weapons to try out. Weapons can be modded to change their appearance as well as special abilities to further enhance your character’s playstyle. The best aspect of the game’s progressions comes from Traits. Each equipped trait offers an additional layer of gameplay customization which is further enhanced through leveling individual Traits that suit your chosen playstyle. Despite how straightforward the system is, it offers a good amount of depth due to the decisions you need to make when building your character.
Packed within Remnant’s take on the Soul formula, its irritating bosses, and simple yet deep progression system is a well-crafted post-apocalyptic story. Mankind has been devastated by events of the past which led to the rise of the Root, the look-oddly-like-trees enemies that lurk around every corner. The main character is tasked with finding the last hero of humanity and along the way they meet some of the last remnants of humanity hidden away in a bunker waiting for the right person to come and help push back the Root. While following the very trendy post-apocalyptic story choice, Remnant: From the Ashes tells a sorrowful tale of loss and conviction that may not win any big awards but will most definitely entertain.
Now the big question: is this a game worthy of the Souls-inspired lot? I think that’s an unfair question to ask as it implies a comparison to the From Software games. Remnant: From the Ashes should be judged on its own merit as it is a game that does enough to warrant such respect, It’s a fun game with engaging combat and a well-crafted progression system. Its generated campaign lends a good amount of replayability. Bosses could use a bit more thought and care but they’re definitely not enough to warrant a low rating. If you enjoy action RPGs, enjoy a challenge, and at the least enjoy the Souls series, then this game is worth a buy.