Review – Remnant II
When it was released in 2019, Remnant: From The Ashes was a flawed, but incredibly successful soulslike. Instead of simply copying the popular genre, Gunfire Games decided to do something different by turning the genre on its head and focusing more on gunplay. It’s also a game I’ve revisited on multiple occasions, thanks to its fantastic core gameplay, and unique and refreshing ideas. Due to its surprising success a sequel was inevitable but I didn’t expect it to be this good.
Set a few years after the events at the end of the Remnant: From the Ashes DLC, and the Root has been largely halted. However, without warning, Ford reactivates the world crystal and disappears with it. He also captures Clementine in the process; a powerful dreamer who helped halt the root. Following Ford and Clementine, you journey from multiple worlds that have been ravaged by the Root, in order to find a way to end the Root once and for all.
If all of this sound similar to the original Remnant‘s story, it’s because it’s pretty much the same here. The plot of Remnant II rarely does anything new (or anything of any sort of substance) with its premise. Characters are all pretty forgettable, and I was left confused as to what was happening. Unfortunately, it a weak ending that leaves far too much unanswered. Seriously, the game kind of just ignores a major plot element it sets up immediately, which is baffling. The stories behind the different worlds you will be exploring are much more interesting. For example, there’s a ravaged sci-fi world, the Losmon; a place where two different worlds have collided. You will fight through forests, temples, haunted mansions, and crashed alien ships. It’s a shame that the side content is more intriguing than the main story.
It’s worth noting that the core gameplay mechanics are practically identically to the predecessor, which is a good thing. Taking the core format of Dark Souls combat and applying that to a third-person shooter, was an oddly brilliant move. If you didn’t like how the original felt then this won’t do anything for you. Combat is fast-paced and snappy, with a great balance between gunplay for ranged enemies, and still being able to smack them with whatever melee weapon you want when they get up close. It’s constantly exciting and challenging, especially as you climb the difficulty ranks.
Much like the original game, Remnant II uses procedural generation to keep things fresh, but it’s been taken to an entirely different level. Your initial biome will be pulled from a list of pre-selected worlds with different storylines. I feel like this is one of those few games where “each playthrough will be different” isn’t a complete lie. The characters you meet, the bosses you face, and the fate of each world will be different from your first few run-throughs. Yet, if you want to reroll your world state for a particular map or boss without restarting your entire campaign. you can. This can take away some of the random elements on subsequent playthroughs.
Playing in a co-op mode with a friend, and then immediately starting my own character, I was blown away by just how much changes. Then, the further we got through the game, the more differences I noticed, even when running through the same worlds. It creates fun discussions and “wow” moments, trying to figure out what each other has missed. In fact, as a cooperative game, this is some of the most fun I’ve had since the original game. It just plays so well.
Then you’ve got the dungeons that provide suitable and exciting challenges that really put your skills to the test, especially solo. There are some especially tough wave survival sections and tough gauntlets, where you’ve got to quickly push through hordes of enemies as a wall of energy slowly pushes you forward. Quite a few zones also have some surprisingly interesting puzzles or traps that throw in some fantastic variety. I was genuinely surprised by just how good these dungeons were. On top of this, the game is filled to the brim with secrets and hidden pathways to discover. In my roughly fifty hours with Remnant II, I still haven’t discovered everything myself, and am still having an absolute blast.
This is helped along by great boss fights that are a huge step up from the original game. Whilst the original did have some solid fights, a lot of them fell flat, partly because there was an overreliance on ads or simply weaker designs. In Remnant II though, I very rarely met a bad one. Thanks to the wide variety of locations we also have a wide variety of bosses. Very rarely repeating the same gimmicks. There are some truly epic fights that stand with the best of the genre. The final boss in particular is a visual spectacle with some of the most challenging mechanics and ideas in the series. A true test of everything the game put me through.
One of the biggest aspects of the original game was the unique weapons and mods that change behaviours. Every single boss and dungeon has something interesting to find within it. Weapon mods add a secondary fire mode that overhauls the look of your weapon, as well as some powerful modifications ranging from basic ammo modifications, to the summons, and more. Then, the occasional boss gives you the ability to craft much more bizarre and unique firearms and melee weapons. It’s been a blast experimenting with some of the wild combinations you can come up with. Unfortunately, armour drew the short straw, with only a few sets outside the starting gear.
Where things really start to differ is in the overhauled class system. In the original, this didn’t really exist, but functioned more as starter gear. Here though, your skills and talents will be dependent on your class. Plus, when you max level you can create an archetype, combining elements of the game’s other classes to create something that truly fits your playstyle. As you explore the worlds you may find some more hidden archetypes to compound your playstyle further. The best thing is that you can do basically everything on a single character! Something a lot of games discourage this practice, so it’s so nice to finally be able to go nuts.
However, rings and amulets provide the vast majority of the items you find, and there’s a lot of them. Whilst not the most exciting loot, they do provide some substantial stat boosts, giving Remnant II some solid build variety. What is more exciting are the relics you can unlock; the basic Dragon Heart acts like your standard Estus Flask, but as you explore you may unlock more that will give you wildly different buffs. Remnant II as a whole has a lot of gear that allows you to craft powerful builds, and as I go up to the higher difficulties paying attention to them is crucial.
Remnant II successfully manages to create distinctively unique biomes for each of the worlds you visit. From Bloodborne-like cities to desolate sci-fi worlds. Each one looks incredible and not out of place, fitting in nicely with the wider visuals as a whole. It’s a visually striking game, with some amazing world designs that will leave you in awe. Unfortunately, its performance is underwhelming. Playing on my RTX 4070 I encountered heavy frame rate drops when entering dungeons. Even with DLSS, I got frequent drops below 60FPS. Recent patches have made it much more playable though with a boost of up to 20fps.
As for the sound design Remnant II boasts an incredible soundtrack that is all the more impressive due to the music fitting into five totally different planets. The boss themes really go hard as well. Unfortunately, voice acting does fall a bit flat. Whilst some of the side characters from the different worlds do a great job, it’s the central cast that fails.
Remnant II is exactly what I was looking for. A straightforward soulslike shooter, that takes everything that made the predecessor work and fixed the few things that didn’t. The plot may still be a bit thin, but exploring the interesting worlds and fighting the bosses to get some great loot has been one of this year’s best experiences.
Each of the five worlds looks and feels amazing, but performance is lacking.
Taking that same “Dark Souls with guns” gameplay to the next level and improving on the predecessor.
A great soundtrack that perfectly suits each of the games distinct worlds.
Remnant II is some of the most fun I’ve had in a co-operative shooter. It’s only let down only by a weak story and unlikable characters.
Final Verdict: 8.5
Remnant II is available now on PC, Xbox Series X|S, and PS5.
Reviewed on PC with an RTX 4070, Ryzen 5 3600X and 16GB RAM. Game installed on NVMe drive.