Remnant II: All the Small Things

Remnant II sweats the small stuff so we can enjoy it

Remnant II: All the Small Things
Source: Press Kit.
Minor spoilers for Remnant II ahead.

Remnant II is leading me down an unexpected path. I thought I was in store for a frenetic shooter that my buddies and I would blast through, completing objectives and scoring loot like some sort of Destiny/Diablo-style adventure. Sweet loot has been scored alright, though via a well-earned trickle rather than a torrent of treasure. Blasting through isn't my method of operation, instead, I embark on cautious expeditions and leave no stone unturned. I have become a lone wolf archaeologist gunslinger, my sense of discovery blindingly alight from every subtle detail found in the remnants of civilizations long gone. Yes, in a game chock full of small things that mean so much, developer Gunfire Games has me hooked on all of them.

"I feel your pain Koz'Ha. Music wants to be heard. It's difficult to find motivation without an audience. And it does seem more difficult to find an audience these days..."

Audio log found in Terminus Station, N'Erud.

Source: Author.

That sense has been there from the start and continues to persist after dozens of hours. Over that time I've come to recognize the immense level of care that was put into creating this experience. Remnant II is aptly named. All these precious little remnants speak of the people that once lived here. These baubles tell a story if you're apt to listen.

"The Drzyr seek the permanence of all things, after all. Why devote precious time to a song destined to be forgotten?"

All the small things you accumulate wind up enhancing the broader world, and show Gunfire Games' dedication to worldbuilding. Every amulet, weapon, ring, material, and so on has at least two paragraphs of lore. One usually provides some detail about the object itself and its origin, function, reputation, and so forth. The second is often a quote from someone of the land you're in, speaking of the item or perhaps some sort of dilemma that they or their people face. Together they create a brushstroke, contributing to a painting, a small window into the world's past. As you venture onward, these brushstrokes combine and overlap to slowly reveal a bigger picture.

"I had no answer for them. Music, like all created things, is temporary. Is that not the point?"

Source: Author.

You begin seeing aspects of a civilization's architecture and technology reflected in the items you find, and the specific world you're in feels so very cohesive as a result. The purpose of structures and districts becomes clearer, and soon enough, you're infused with a greater sense of environmental storytelling thanks to the knowledge you've gleaned from simply inspecting these found items. Sometimes an item you inspect reveals a hidden secret, thus altering the item's nature entirely. You feel like an archaeologist, an explorer, an anthropologist. As you should, considering you're one of the only humans to have traversed these worlds.

"Art draws focus to the small things – a friend's tears. A child's laughter, a lifemate's care."

You don't need to learn the story of the land this way, as you'll run into NPCs who will educate you on what's been going on for the past X years. And this education - in my opinion - is the one part of Remnant II that saps your drive to discover. While an NPC enlightens you to gobs of lore through dialogue trees that can take five to ten minutes, you're frozen in place. The conversations and lore are genuinely interesting, yet these impromptu lectures negatively impact the pace of gameplay. Where there was such finesse with storytelling through organic play, being talked at with hardly any input of our own feels inelegant.

"Our people have spent millennia seeking new beings or the origins of creation. but that is not our life."

Source: Author.

Other games have approached storytelling with common but effective flair such as finding lost audio logs that you can listen to as you travel. And while audio logs exist in Remnant II (obviously), you must stand in its vicinity the entire time to hear it rather than picking the log up and continuing on your way, thus mirroring NPC conversations. You the player are left with a choice. Stay and listen to the excellent voice acting and writing for a few minutes, or keep moving forward as the gameplay of Remnant II generally encourages you to do. Perhaps it is intentional, in order to make organic discovery stand out more brightly by means of juxtaposition. Maybe it gets us to slow down and enjoy the journey more. To be intentional with the act of listening to the past. If it is, it's a beautiful intent.

"Our life is our attention, and what or whom we spend that attention on. It is the small moments we share, not the death of uncaring stars. Oh, that's a good line. I'll have to write that down."

I can’t help but sweat the small stuff here – in the best way possible. My favorite details are the animations for seemingly minor actions, which then infuse that act with a feeling of profound significance. Delicately laying a ribbon over the interlocked hands of two statues; reverently placing the carved idol of an otherworldly being upon a shelf; slowly handing a lost ring to a disheveled man through iron bars; firmly inserting the missing cog to repair a derelict clock tower.

Any of these actions could’ve been handled through a simple menu exchange; give item, get item/outcome, no animation needed. Instead, you perform, and in doing so you respect the environment and the story it tells. The story you help create.

"Koz'Ha, be encouraged that music need not be heard by all, nor does it want to be. All created things are beloved by some and reviled by others."

Source Author

Remnant II enraptures its players through a subtle manipulation of time; grounding them to the present with its impeccably tight gameplay, while allowing them to discover the thoughtfully imaginative narrative of each world's past.

I can't help but look forward to unearthing whatever secrets await me in The Awakened King DLC. Cheers to that future, and the past that awaits discovery.

"Do not seek to please. Seek but to make and, in so doing, to find those with whom you may share and create your life."

End of audio log.


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