Type in the phrase, “’Dark Souls’ with guns” into Google, and the first results you’ll come across are from a game called, “Remnant: From The Ashes”. This 2019 third person shooter was developed by Gunfire Games, previously known for their work in porting “Darksiders 2″ to the PS4, Xbox One, and Switch, as well as developing “Darksiders 3″. Fittingly enough, “Darksiders 3″ also drew inspiration from the “Dark Souls” franchise. While “Remnant” certainly does take some mechanics that were either popularized or originated by “Dark Souls”, it plays and feels very differently with its own identity.
To get the “Souls” comparisons out of the way, “Remnant” does have a high difficulty level where death is frequent, respawns are quick, and boss fights can be brutal tests of dexterity. You do have a health restoration item with a certain number of uses that ultimately has to be replenished at a checkpoint. Doing so will also bring back to life any of the enemies you have defeated. Your health bar is accompanied by a stamina bar that depletes when you run or dodge roll. You will also frequently pick up items and materials that can be used to gradually upgrade your weapons and armor.
With those similarities out of the way, it’s time to focus on what this game does differently to develop its own identity. “Remnant: From The Ashes” takes place on Earth following some sort of cataclysmic event that has left humanity on the verge of extinction. Finding out what transpired requires you to interact with a limit number of NPC’s, read some documents that have been left behind, and access computer text files from old terminals.
A large chunk of your time will be spent within the grounds of your home base, Ward 13. It’s here where you’ll upgrade weapons, buy and craft new modifications, purchase supplies, and ultimately dispatch yourself to various locations through a teleportation crystal. The levels and dungeons are procedurally generated as opposed to being meticulously designed, but you’ll still find yourself exploring them thoroughly to find new and better loot. The procedural generation means that each playthrough of the game could be completely different for you including different potential bosses throughout the levels.
Much to the game’s credit, these levels don’t feel like they’re just randomly assembled by a program. Your journey will take you through multiple different regions, from cities, to a desert, to jungle swamps, and more. Each of these regions are filled to the brim with uniquely powerful enemies for you to gun down.
And gunning them down is exactly what you’ll be doing as there are firearms aplenty in this game. Unlike a loot based shooter-RPG like “Borderlands“, the guns here are not just a set of damage dealers with different stats; they’re uniquely different creations that will change the way you approach battles. You may find a submachine gun that’s just a standard SMG with an open slot on it for modifications, while another one you find will have a permanent fire effect on it that takes up the mod slot. Alternatively, you may stumble upon a pistol that fires massive radioactive blasts but is hampered by a much slower firing rate and lack of modifier slots.
How you want to plan your loadout of two guns and a melee weapon can change significantly based on whether or not you’re playing with other people. This is where Remnant really shines, the game was built around multi-player. With up to a team of three you can tackle the campaign or individuals maps with a difficulty that adapts to however many people you’re playing with. Even though your own character’s individual story campaign won’t advance when playing on another person’s campaign, you’ll still reap the rewards of experience points, armor, loot, and items for your character.
Speaking of experience points, there’s no risk of losing them upon death. The way you utilize them is also different from other games of this ilk in that your level-ups give you trait points. These can then be invested into various traits that you earn along the way. For example, if you spend time in game vaulting over small barriers, you’ll eventually learn a trait that allows you to fault faster if you level it up. Similarly, if you spend time reviving teammates in battle, you’ll earn a trait that will allow you to speed up revival time.
Graphically, Remnant isn’t anything to necessarily write home about, but it gets the job done in presentation. Creatures look suitably grotesque and the environments are vivid enough to create an appropriate atmosphere of tension and discovery. It plays very well too with gun handling and character movement feeling just as it should.
Gunfire Games has gone to the trouble of making the game pretty easily accessible for players. The game has different difficulty levels you can set, and because its gameplay elements are rooted in the shooter genre, it’s not hard to understand the intricacies of gameplay; point at a bad guy and shoot it. The nuances beyond that are made easier by a map that tracks your progress through a level, easily understood upgrade paths for weapons, and a very low level of punishment for dying.
If there’s one drawback to the game, it’s that it can sometimes feel like it was designed more for multiplayer than single. Many of the bosses for instance will cause smaller enemies to spawn in the arena. If you were playing as a team, you could have one or two team members tackling the additional enemies while the remaining players concentrate fire on the boss. You don’t have that luxury in single player and the removal of a straight, one-on-one fight can be frustrating at times.
Whether you’re in a party of three or going it solo, “Remnant: From The Ashes” is a great deal of fun. Progression through the game is rewarding unto itself, but the steady feed of new weapons, armor, modifications, accessories, and not knowing what could come next, will keep you engaged for hours.
Do not let the “Dark Souls” comparisons keep you from experiencing this game either because you’re intimidated by the mechanics, or off-put by yet another game that’s trying to follow a trend instead of starting one. “Remnant” is a wonderfully unique title that doesn’t indulge so much in familiarity that it feels like you’re treading old ground.
Even better, at the time of this review (March of 2021), “Remnant: From The Ashes” is free to download for PlayStation Plus subscribers. So if you’re already a member, you might as well try it for free and see if it’s something you’re willing to spend some time with.