Remnant: From the Ashes is a game that snuck under the radar but is getting a fair share of attention now that it has released. Developed by Gunfire Games (Darksiders 3), Remnant tries to deliver a brutally challenging third person shooter mixed with a character action game. Many have described the game as “Dark Souls with guns,” but Remnant: From the Ashes is so much more and a game that players should be paying attention to.
Remnant's Similarities to Dark Souls
There is no doubt that the Dark Souls inspirations are all over Remnant: From the Ashes. The game’s checkpoints act like bonfires – i.e. players respawn at them when they die – and there is an item called the Dragon Heart that replenishes health and has a limited amount of uses like an Estus Flask.
Gunfire Games took the template of Dark Souls’ level design as well but tailored it to a less resource-intensive approach. Much of Remnant’s levels and areas are procedurally generated. No two worlds will look the same and in many cases, some boss fights will be different depending on the world. There is a story and a goal, but the offshoot areas where players can explore – much like a dungeon – are different for every player. First and foremost, this design encourages multiple playthroughs but it also keeps players on their toes.
Randomness Adds Replayability
Unlike Dark Souls, players can’t simply read a guide and find out where to go to get a specific item. For example, the Simulacrum necessary to upgrade that Dragon Heart appears randomly throughout the open world, and only once per main area. For player A it might appear immediately, but for player B it might require a lot of exploration.
Where that might fall apart is the repeat of assets, to the point that small sections of levels/dungeons will look the same. It’s common to go through parts of Remnant: From the Ashes and get the sense of déjà vu, which works against the game’s uniqueness but also helped extend its viability. While Dark Souls is carefully crafted to deliver new themes and styles at every turn, Remnant has a familiar flavor in each of its four main areas.
Chaos With a Gun
Gunplay and gameplay in Remnant: From the Ashes is where the game elevates beyond a simple Dark Souls clone. Obviously, a third person shooter is drastically different than Dark Souls, but the feel is also very different. Instead of facing the player with a single tough enemy that appears out of nowhere, Remnant likes to overwhelm the player. Initially, they might think that a single enemy is ahead and try to pick it off, but doing so usually summons a swarm.
At that point, the focus is on precision shots and leveraging weapon choices to get quick kills. There is a dodge mechanic in the game that has some generous invincibility frames, but it can only help the player so much. Tactics are a key consideration in the gameplay and finding out how best to approach an encounter will go a long way towards survival.
On the basic mobs, it’s still a fairly straightforward experience but one that is a ton of fun. Mowing down enemies while making sure to be cautious has the same kind of feel as Dark Souls, where every decision is considered. Rushing into a new area will almost assuredly be punished and no amount of accurate shooting or strong weapons will help fix a poor decision.
Remnant is Never Easy
To that point, Remnant: From the Ashes has an item level approach to difficulty scaling that essentially eliminates overleveling the content. The game looks at the level of a player’s gear and determines how strong the enemies should be. Never did it feel like an opponent was too strong or too easy. Many players like to grind Dark Souls to make the later portions of the game easier and while you can grind in Remnant: From the Ashes it only makes abilities better, it doesn’t usually make the player stronger (with some exceptions).
Leveling is also smartly relegated to a Trait system wherein players earn stat bonuses that boost their play style. There are the usual Vigor (for health) and Endurance (for stamina) but the nuance comes into play with Traits like Handling or Shadow Walker (enemy detection range). These traits are unlocked typically by focusing on the gameplay qualities that they represent. So a player that revives their teammates a lot might get a Trait that makes that process faster.
Co-Op Changes the Game and Boss Fights
Dark Souls is not designed as a co-op game but Remnant: From the Ashes is and it’s all the better with a squad of 2 or 3. Those tactics become a lot more fun with a team. Weapon and loadout choices can favor different play styles. And just exploring a difficult area is made a little more enjoyable knowing that others are along for the ride.
By no means does co-op make the game easier – Remnant balances depending on the group size – but it helps add a new dynamic to things. Solo players can still have plenty of fun, but having a friend or friends along allows you to make better sense of the chaos. Players can be a little more reckless and also do things like flanking or baiting attacks.
And it wouldn’t be a Dark Souls-esque game without boss fights and Remnant: From the Ashes has plenty of those. But where FromSoftware’s big baddies are about learning patterns and waiting to strike, Remnant uses adds to create that risk reward system. Throughout boss fights, players will find themselves swarmed by basic level enemies while the big bad also attacks. They will need to make sure to manage these groups to ensure they don’t overrun the group and then choose when to pick away at the boss’s health.
It’s a similar feel to a Dark Souls boss but presented in a completely different way. If there weren’t any enemies, most of the Remnant bosses would be fairly easy, but throw in some basic fodder and everything feels barely within reach. You can deal big damage to a boss but it might require letting the adds get too close. Or you can thin the herd but then no progress is made on the encounter.
Remnant: From the Ashes may not have the polish of a Dark Souls but it scratches that itch more than fans might think. But even then it has a lot more to offer in terms of fun gunplay, exciting co-op, and clever design. Let the parallels to FromSoftware’s franchise draw you in, and then stay for an experience that is wholly unique.
Remnant: From the Ashes is available now for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.