Remnant: From the Ashes Review — It’s Dangerous to Go Alone
Despite some early game woes and a premise that doesn't fully pan out, Remnant: From the Ashes is a very unique game.
Gunfire Games and Perfect World Entertainment’s Remnant: From the Ashes somehow manages to feel like several games that I have played while also feeling quite original at the same time. It’s a cooperative third-person shooter like Tom Clancy’s The Division, but it’s also a Soulslike. Its world is post-apocalyptic, but stands out with plant-based foes. As we near the end of this console generation, games are getting more experimental in the genres that they are mixing, and Remnant: From the Ashes is a great example of that.
While it, unfortunately, does not always manage to blend these elements from other games in the best way possible, there is still a neat experience to be had here. Remnant: From the Ashes’ unique world, good gunplay, and plethora of fun situations during multiplayer are great draws for those looking for a fresh cooperative game to add to their lineup with two other friends. Just be aware that if you plan on going through Remnant: From the Ashes’ root-infested world alone, a lot more of its cracks start to show.
Remnant should get credit for its unique world, which is not like anything else I’ve seen. The world is in a post-apocalyptic state, but it has been destroyed by a plant-based race known as The Root. Grotesque, horrific creatures roam the world now, and it isn’t uncommon to get sickly in battle thanks to root rot. While some early areas can be dull, others that have been taken back by nature in a less than desirable way are cool to explore. The player character is trying to save Ward 13, the main base of operations in the game, by finding Ward 13’s Founder, who has gone missing, along with destroying the heart of The Root.
This is a cool angle to a post-apocalyptic world that I have never experienced and helps Remnant: From the Ashes stand out among other cooperative games with more standard or generic worlds. That being said, the early parts of the game are quite exposition-heavy and the first areas players go to are drab gray and brown cities and tunnels, which makes Remnant: From the Ashes come off at first as much more generic than it actually is. Once the areas and enemies start getting more fantastical and colorful though, players will really start to dig into the game’s interesting world.
As a game though, Remnant: From the Ashes does not shy away from the fact that it is inspired by Dark Souls. Still, it is able to differentiate itself from the plethora of other Soulslikes thanks to its cooperative gameplay, procedurally generated environments, and focus on shooting. While you can’t jump into cooperative action right away, it’s pretty fun once you do. The high difficulty makes discussion and planning crucial, and the netcode is extremely solid even with the occasional loading freeze before important events.
Like any multiplayer game, some funny moments are bound to emerge as well, intentional or not, like when one of the shopkeepers greeted my multiplayer partner Rachael Fiddis by saying “Ho!” and we couldn’t stop laughing. The procedurally generated environments also ensure that hopping into another person’s game is always different and interesting, even if the way progress carries over from multiplayer to solo play is somewhat clunky.
Remnant: From the Ashes’ guns also feel great and much more visceral to use than in most third-person action games. The deep upgrade system and a variety of weapons should also keep players enthralled for quite a bit. The only real gripe with combat is that playing as a melee character felt a bit too risky due to the Soulslike difficulty. This is something entirely new from Gunfire Games, so third-person shooters are something I’d like to see them tackle again in the future, even if they are probably locked into making Darksiders games for THQ Nordic now.
At the same time, Remnant: From the Ashes does lose a bit of the nuance Dark Souls had because of this unique mix of features. When playing with friends, you’re more likely to not pay as much attention to the cryptic storytelling that Soulslikes thrive in. The lack of waypoints and labyrinthine design of some areas can also make it difficult for a group of players to maintain a clear direction. Meanwhile, procedurally generated environments are great for a cooperative game, but also causes Remnant: From the Ashes’ areas to lose the more intricate design that makes the Souls games so enthralling.
Then with combat, scenarios built for multiplayer make solo play much less fun. Especially in the early game, areas can feel insurmountable thanks to that Soulslike design. Instead of being fun and tempting to jump back into, it can just be frustrating to get through the early game areas, which are also some of the least pretty. Even with the multiplayer issues listed above, I highly recommend that you go into Remnant: From the Ashes with friends or at least play with others online as it is not as fun and definitely more dangerous and frustrating to go it alone.
Remnant: From the Ashes is an ambitious title and a fairly unique one at that, it just does not always stick the landing. It’s a multiplayer game that you need to stick with for quite a while before you can really sink your teeth into it and have fun in its fantastical areas, and even then, it is always better with friends. While it may pale in comparison to other Soulslikes, it does succeed as a third-person shooter.
Interesting genre mashups like this don’t come along often, probably because they aren’t always for everyone, but the only way the industry will find cool new genre mixes or avenues to explore is with unique titles like this. If this particular quirky mix of a cooperative shooter and Soulslike set in a post-apocalyptic world piques your interest, Remnant: From the Ashes may be worth checking out.