Remnant: From The Ashes Review
Dark Souls is a brass ring that so many teams have reached for over the last decade. Something about that heady mix of challenge, worldbuilding, and butter-smooth controls is a siren song to developers the world over. Remnant: From the Ashes is the latest effort to perfect that natural Soulsborne flavor in a brand new way. The result is a beautiful, deeply frustrating adventure that demands your blood and mostly respects your time. It’s a rough road, but one with a pretty decent bounty at the end.
Let’s rip the bandaid off right now: Dark Souls, this ain’t. But don’t worry! That’s not exactly a bad thing. The good news is you suffer almost no consequences for dying in battle. No lost items, experience, or weapon durability to worry about. The bad news is the dungeon layout and enemy placement is a total roll of the dice. The procedural generation is unforgiving, as well. In fact, you can get shafted so hard during any given playthrough that you can reset the World Stone. This rolls your campaign back to the beginning, while keeping your character intact. There were definitely a couple of very frustrating hours before I discovered this mechanic.
Don’t Give Up It Gets Better
While we’re on the Soulsborne railroad, let’s take a moment to talk about controls. I was initially thrown off by the lack of a lock-on feature (that I could discover), it does make a bit more sense in this case. Guns are a massive part of the combat in Remnant, so giving people any sort of auto-targeting would be tantamount to hand-holding. The dodge-rolls and the slow-moving melee swings take some adjustment, but I eventually worked them into my regular combat routine. Magazine capacity and reload times are also a lot to wrangle, but I mostly handled it. None of this addresses the core obstacle, that of the difficulty.
I started out as a Scrapper. They’ve got a shotgun and a massive hammer. Perfect, right? My mistake was getting impatient. After a slow, brutal hour in the subway tunnels, I backed out and tried the other character classes. Maybe they would give me less grief? Three hours later, the contrary evidence was irrefutable. I’m not saying don’t give up. You can totally do that! Just don’t give up by starting another character. No, you want to walk back the campaign. That way you get more time with a familiar build at a temporarily reduced difficulty level.
Boss battles will sorely tempt you to back out and try this all some other way. My own average completion time for a tough boss challenge was somewhere around the 90 minute mark. Even then, my eventual success was more due to luck rather than skill. A slight shift in enemy behavior that worked out in my favor one time in 20. The Root Mother boss fight was an especially egregious offender on this front. I only beat that boss after the perfect sequence of enemies let me survive the two minute challenge and move on. I must have smashed my head against that fight forty times before I scraped out the other side.
By The Skin Of My Teeth
In fact, there’s enough luck peppered throughout this whole game that your victories are cheapened as a result. Killing, for example, a Dark Souls boss, you feel like a god-given flesh. It’s like seeing the sheet music of the universe. Remnant somehow misses that feeling. Instead, you just sort of survived? Like crouching in the window frame of a falling building. The sudden release of tension and stress is still cathartic, but in a subtly different way. Things like item drops and sidequests can also work in your favor, if they end up being good ones. The luck you’re saddled with can be good or bad, but it’s still a major component of Remnant: From the Ashes.
There are rewards for your perseverance, to be sure. Struggling through the ruined cityscape unlocks some fabulous new worlds. You don’t even have to suffer for that long! Every new wave of opponents are awful beasts who will snuff your out like a candle, but at least they’re also really cool. The enemy design, the worlds, and the lore all drip with eldritch potential. Any wonder you feel is quickly replaced by bundled nerves and building frustration, but still. The stage is set for your constant suffering in some truly excellent locales.
Beautiful Places To Die In
One thing that helped offset the rising misery is the crafting system. Even if you’re being mashed into an oily leather paste, all your loot carries over. Eventually, the fruits of your savage toil can be funneled into projects like better armor, stronger guns, and cool weapon mods. You don’t even lose experience when you die! Of course, the downside is that said experience is almost worthless. You can trade it for traits, but these offer up tiny boosts for like, the first thirty ranks. On that note, spend every scrap you have on better armor and guns. So many of my fights were survived by mere slivers of health, it’s absolutely worth it.
My time with Remnant was a total roller-coaster. There were moments of pure, unfiltered rage, peaks of elation, ah-ha moments, and quiet zen grinds. For the most part though, it’s just a steady climb. The developers are not shy about how hard this game is. If that’s your cup of tea, perfect! Every victory will be hard-fought, bloody, and beautiful once behind you. I just couldn’t shake the small, nagging sense that my few successes weren’t earned. I just got lucky, squeaking through the cracks. More than this minor unease, my playtime was marked by anger, by exasperated breaths and whitened knuckles. I ended up having more fun than I expected to, but that shiny nugget of suffering remains. Heed my wary words and proceed at your peril. If a tough time is your aim, then Remnant: From the Ashes is absolutely your game.
***A Steam key was provided by the publisher***
- Beautiful graphics
- Compelling worldbuilding
- High replay value
- Game is crazy hard
- Flies too close to the Dark Souls sun
- I wasn’t kidding about the difficulty