Remnant: From the Ashes was one of my favorite, and most underrated, games from the last decade. Combining third-person shooting with a Souls-like atmosphere, it was far from being perfect, but showed a lot of potential. With Remnant 2, this formula succeeds as a sequel — providing more of what works and iterating on what doesn’t. While it won’t win back the people who hated the first, this is a fantastic game for people looking for a little shooting with their Souls-likes.
The Root of the Problem
If you’re expecting a lengthy breakdown of the series’ lore, you will not find that here. Continuing from the first game, an eldritch threat known as “the root" invaded the Earth. Our hero of the last game defeated the tether it had to our world and saved it with the remaining people trying to rebuild. However, something has gone wrong. The root is still invading other worlds, and it’s going to be up to us (and maybe two other friends) to loot and shoot our way across reality to put things right.
The star of Remnant 2 is its gunplay and gameplay. This time around, instead of focusing a lot of procgen (procedural generation) on basic environments, there has been more done to make each playthrough and piece of content stand out. You will go through three "worlds" like before. Each world has different variations that decide what you'll discover, which dungeons you'll fight through, and the boss you'll have to beat. The new side-content is greatly expanded — complete with secrets, secrets in secrets, puzzles, and more events beyond just fighting bosses to clear them.
This is important because every boss and encounter has a unique reward associated with it. This can be a new weapon, a new mod that acts as special attacks, or one of many rings and amulets that allow you to fine-tune and create a build for playing. The builds this time have been improved with a fresh approach.
In the first game, while you could start with a specific class, the class itself only determined what your starting gear was. Each armor set had a specific set bonus for wearing it, and this was what you would do to make a build. The problem I had was the restrictive nature of this choice, as it did not encourage a change in gameplay approach.
Now, the developers have taken inspiration from ARPG design, strangely enough, from Grim Dawn and Titan Quest. At the beginning, you’ll choose from one of several archetypes, with more unlocked as you play. Every archetype has a primary skill that you can upgrade with one of three variants. They also have passive perks and a unique trait that fits with the redesigned system.
Traits now have an end cap of how many points you can put into each one. Leveling up the exclusive archetype is free, and you'll receive significantly more impactful benefits from the traits in return.
Remember those rings I mentioned earlier? Now you can equip five of them and one amulet, and they also have far more build-defining effects. For me, I went with the handler who comes with a pet dog. By combining rings that provide life steal when enemies bleed (which the dog accomplishes), and health and armor for having summons, I made myself tankier than I ever was in the first game.
Further still, you can equip a second archetype, complete with another unique trait, a second main skill, and more passives to help you. These improvements add to the gameplay of Remnant 2 and give it a far stronger foundation for more content and more challenges down the road.
What I enjoy the most is that the different archetypes do not force you to use specific weapon types. If you want to be a summoning sniper like myself, there are ways of doing that. The same enjoyable third-person shooting from the first game is still at play here.
With all that said, while the developers have created a stronger game, Remnant 2 still has some of the pain points and frustrations from the first.
The original game had some design issues that were baked into their third-person shooting Souls-like, and those aspects have made a return.
Remnant 2 is not what I would call “solo-friendly.” It’s still possible to play this game by yourself on the highest difficulties like I did, but I wouldn’t say that it was a “happy affair.” The game’s MO consists of introducing waves of enemies, with elites rejoining the fray. A wrong wave at the wrong time can lead to a world of trouble and pain. There are no on-screen tells for attacks coming at you from your blind spot, and some encounters do not feel balanced for fighting solo.
The boss designs are improved and feature a lot of variety to them, but they can still feel a bit tanky to fight. You will still have to make do with limited ammo supplies for your weapons, and the bosses continually summoning minions to get in your way. Some enemy attack combos feel very awkward to dodge. The game has a basic weight system that affects the speed of your dodge-roll, and going “heavy” makes it very hard to avoid certain attacks.
Despite so many varieties of areas and points of interest, the level design is still one of the weakest parts of the game. There is more platforming to do this time, but the levels lack a sense of personality. Every hallway and large room is an excuse to throw an enemy wave at the player, and the game is still a far cry from the personality of environments seen in the Dark Souls series.
The highlight of the game remains fighting bosses, and they have expanded the boss designs with many devious tricks to deal with. However, that means that the difficulty of your game is going to depend on what bosses you get along with modifiers.
I would have liked to have seen more random events or special occurrences that can happen in the regular areas. The jungle world has a mini-event that lets you earn a special resource, but the other two worlds don’t have that.
A Better Second Verse
Remnant 2 is one of those sequels that supersedes the first game. If you had any liking of the concept of From the Ashes, Remnant 2 improves on all the parts that worked. While it doesn’t quite fix the inherent issues with the gameplay, it presents everything with a stronger and fresher take. I hope that the DLC they have planned will add more to the game and hopefully, a third game will iron out the remaining issues.
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