If you are anything like us here at OnlySP, you were probably intrigued by the Soulslike comparisons made in the lead-up to Remnant: From the Ashes and then promptly forgot about it. After all, Gunfire Games’s latest is a co-operative online game—surely the game would be balanced for multiplayer, not single player, and that would not change even with an offline mode (which the game actually has).
I have spent many hours third-person shooting from humanity’s last refuge to a ruined city, through the dungeons of sewers and subway tunnels underneath, and beyond. With attractive, if not particularly well detailed graphics, excellent action controls, and an interesting enough world to discover, I can confidently say that Remnant is just worth a look—but it might not be what you think.
First thing first: Remnant: From the Ashes feels like what Gunfire has been working towards ever since the Vigil days with Darksiders 1 and 2. Although it takes place in the Chronos universe, its tale of last-ditch survival in a ruined 20th century Earth could fit right into the Darksiders canon. Indeed, the first area is an overgrown city; browner and more otherworldly, but not too far removed from the Haven location in Darksiders 3.
The ruined city of Remnant carries an air of reused design effort that gives one pause after reviewing Darksiders 3 in its entirety. Even the subway tunnels and sewers resemble a desaturated version of Darksiders 3‘s underworld, and these similarities apply to the Root enemies (seeming very ‘demon-esque’) as well. I have no beef with this parallel—Gunfire is not a large studio, and the ‘destroyed city’ aesthetic is interesting enough. Thankfully, the quality of writing on display in Remnant, though not strictly any more precise than Darksiders 3, is free from that game’s “mature” He-Man posturings and actually creates an interesting, mysterious story to invest in throughout the game.
Through the ruined city and various worlds later on, including deserts and forests, players “Dark Souls” their way to monstrous minibosses and tougher bespoke main bosses, with more of an emphasis on the third-person shooting than melee, although melee is still a necessary option. Players have a three-use health item that replenishes at
bonfires checkpoints, and suffer various RPG-like status effects that must be mitigated, such as poison and bleeding. In a very FromSoftware touch, optional NPC side-stories and hidden treasures off the beaten path are woven through the game.
The major difference between Remnant and From’s output is that the entire game world uses Diablo-esque procedural generation, where chunks of level design are stitched together for a different experience in each playthrough. Although one dies many, many, many times, Remnant is not a roguelike; these worlds remain the same for the player unless they decide to “re-roll” the campaign.
Such extra touches are meant to, again in a kind of Diablo way, provide a level of replay value for multiplayer teams playing multiple runs (and also sets up the idea that Gunfire will add additional content in the future). Unfortunately, all of this means that, for single players, the game is about as frustrating as the base game version of Dark Souls 2.
Enemies leap out of the shadows at every turn, with super-powerful mid bosses and tiny impish flunkies combining into a lethal, frustrating cocktail. The set dungeon design (as long as you do not re-roll) gives players some capacity for trial-and-error, but enemy AI is also set at a relatively high level for a Souls-like, meaning that even the most careful player will have to adapt during each run. Despite interesting dungeons and a cool, retro-apocalypse universe, I found myself slogging through the first couple of dungeons of Remnant.
I want to keep going. I want to find a way to fight back that does not result in a “you have died” screen every 20 minutes, but Remnant is so obviously balanced for more than one player (in which other players could revive their downed friends) and does not have a lower difficulty option.
Regardless, just as Monster Hunter has found a contingent of fans, some single players may love this pattern of die, grind, level up, repeat. The game certainly plays slickly, with a generous dodge roll and many weapons to choose and use, before being killed again. The slow-paced dungeons and enemy placement (combined with the aforementioned shooter-style AI that gives enemies a lot of tactical variety) even concoct an air of Resident Evil 4 at points; a welcoming vibe that is dulled by the need to grind.
Therein lies the rub. If a third-person-shooter combined with the punishing difficulty of a Souls game sounds interesting enough, Remnant is well worth putting down the (budget) price of entry, even for single players. However, despite Remnant’s higher level of polish, Darksiders 3 is the more fair single-player experience from Gunfire Games.