Remnant From the Ashes shook up the gaming landscape considerably in 2019 with its unique blend of soulslikes, roguelikes and looter shooters. It had some rough edges, but enough good stuff to be an interesting challenge. These types of games are the ultimate foundation for an outstanding sequel, and the renamed Remnant II is the perfect example.
Souls with a twist
Dark Souls meets Destiny, that’s how I described Gunfire Games’ new title to interested parties. You alternate striking with firearms, all of which feel delicious, and take on a world where your journey can quickly come to an end. Simple enemies take entire bites out of your health bar when you don’t dodge in time and control the groups. The Souls comparison goes all the way when you look at the wonderfully impressive bosses with which the game is peppered. Go through the fog-gate, find an immense form and try to learn its patterns in order to be the last one standing. The bosses in Remnant from the Ashes felt somewhat identity-less, and the random elements meant that any boss could come along at any time. Remnant II structures this more and mechanically makes the bosses that much more interesting. Really, how I enjoyed the design of these monsters and the stages their combat goes through. Each boss has something cool, its own mechanic, its own challenges to learn and they all feel unique. They also fit perfectly in their area and theme; a ghostly creature in a horror setting, an amorphous blob in a sewer and a digital sphere with VR creatures in a futuristic world.
The worlds you traverse as a walking killing machine are dynamically constructed from fixed building blocks. As a result, each play session feels very different. Especially since it has multiple worlds to work with, and the order in which you are presented with them can be different for everyone. For example, I began my journey in drab, futuristic N’Erud where robots and zombies rule the roost and I struggled through miserable deserts and underground bases. It was quite a contrast when I then moved into the brilliantly forested Yaesha. Beautiful temples, combined with green nature and a low sun provided a wonderful backdrop for my battle against the generic evil in the form of the Root.
The Root was fought and defeated in the original game on Earth, but a few decades later this corrupting evil is still present in various places. To be fair, the story proved muddled and difficult to follow, especially considering this is absolutely put on the back burner to make room for the action. It does take the effort to put down decent voice-acting, but it is such an overloaded bucket of information that it barely manages to grab. Something the worlds do, for example, each biome contains its own variations of enemies. In dark Losomn, I found cockney elves in the highly atmospheric and deadly streets. The Labyrinth, which connects the worlds, appeared to send challengers made entirely of stone and magic at me. This place, as well as home base Ward 13 on Earth, are fixtures between the random elements – something I can very much appreciate. In the process, there are multiple stories to tell in each world, encouraging new playthroughs of the game.
Weapons of Mass Destruction
Ward 13 is an important place to return to regularly anyway, considering that’s where you buy new weapons, craft mods and test out new toys. Did I mention Destiny earlier, it’s because of the wonderfully tactile weapons that actually make a huge difference. For example, I loved my bonesaw machine gun, which puts a lot of bullets against a long reload animation. You have to dose the shots so as not to overheat the weapon. Other weapons take very different directions, from simple things like pistols and shotguns to crazy alien-inspired murder weapons. I enjoyed seeing how you can create the craziest weapons based on rare items. For example, I easily controlled large groups with the Enigma – a weapon that shoots lightning bolts and connects everyone in range for extra damage. Or how about the Nightfall long gun that has tentacles and takes over lifesteal abilities from the final boss you defeated before it. There is also plenty of variety in the melee world with hammers, swords and axes that all have a delightful impact.
You’re going to need all these skills, considering I switched through all my weapons (my long gun, hand gun and melee weapon) between dodge rolls during an average encounter. Everything in there is further customizable with mods and mutators, as well as your dragon’s heart which heals yourself. A little more melee or ranged damage, being able to be revived faster or a stamina boost? There is plenty to play with and create your ideal class.
This starts early, as you immediately choose an archetype to play in Remnant II; from the armored Challenger to a Medic, from a Hunter working with animals to a gunslinger straight out of the Wild West. Even after you choose, multiple classes are unlockable, and the variety (and associated perks) is wide ranging. Things get even more interesting when you discover that it is possible to multiclass, where you can choose a second archetype and combine those powers. That this is not an automatic process. You are not taken by the hand or presented with choices; no, you have to discover this, gather the supplies and do the work for it. It’s another part that adds to Remnant II’s journey of discovery.
You don’t have to do this alone. I’m not talking about guides, but the fact that all of the game can be played with a team of three players. Depending on your settings players drop in and out and I myself easily jumped into the game of others. Unfortunately, progression only takes place in the host’s game and despite the trophy for defeating the last boss, I still don’t have the last two on my own save game. Waiting until you getjoined is never fun, especially in the later worlds where help was really appreciated. On the other hand, I found that some encounters were easier with more players. Especially when the team is at full strength and additional attacks appear or your puzzle elements become more challenging. Still, the value of being revived and the fun of going through Remnant II’s cool worlds with a good friend is a definite plus for this game.
A little too difficult at times
So is everything fantastic about Remnant II? Sadly, no: sometimes the game goes a little too far in its toughness. The first few hours can be punishing, but once you get used to the world and what it expects of you, you save yourself pretty quickly. It wasn’t until much later in the game that I regularly encountered bosses performing unstoppable insta-kills. Nothing is more disheartening than fighting an interesting boss for a sixth time, with two others in a cool setting, and being dead in the blink of an eye. With several bosses I encountered this and where some can be dodged with proper technique, for others I see no way to escape them. As a result, some of my victories turned out to be based more on luck and team perseverance.
In doing so, this feels like a game where equipment could have meant more. You get access to the outfits of the other classes and can combine stats with them – in reality, you’re just looking for the highest possible values in balance with weight so as not to make your dodge roll too slow. The rings have many buffs, trade-offs and choices, but more could have been done with this. Still, for me, this couldn’t dampen the fun enough to give Remnant II anything other than a warm recommendation.
Dark Souls with firearms in procedurally generated worlds is as cool as it sounds. It has wonderful feeling and sounding fire and battle weapons, challenging gameplay that forces you to get better and the most interesting final bosses I saw in ages. By offering beautiful worlds and what happens in them in random order and the ability to create multiple archetypes and combinations of them, Remnant II feels insanely replayable. Some of the insta-kills may be patched out, but at the bottom line, Remnant II is a worthy successor and absolutely worth it.