Remnant: From the Ashes – The Game Hellgate: London Wishes It Was

It’s odd. Remnant: From the Ashes is a mish-mash of pretty much every game genre you can think of.

In the opening cutscene after character creation, we zoom in to your hero, a proud warrior in fantasy-style garb, complete with sword on back, as they sail off into the sunset in a medieval sailboat.

Not my video, but illustrative of the intro

The narrator gabs on about beasts and dragons and your quest… right up to the point you see a perfectly modern-day lighthouse…

It segues right into ye olde standard shipwrecked on the beach game trope (plenty of RPGs do this too, not just MMOs) and as you pick yourself up and explore further, you find yourself facing the rusted husks of modern-day industrial warehouses and fences.

Oh, you think, revising your initial concept hastily, it looks like we’re in a Numenera or Dying Earth sort of world, a far future fantasy where post-apocalyptic Earth has passed us by long enough for folks to create new tribes and forget much of old Earth. Cool, cool, the genre seems to be taking off in popularity lately, what with Horizon Zero Dawn and all that.

Then as you walk further, the occult red glow of demonic entities teleporting in to devour you body and soul blends the genre further, as we move towards horror and The Secret World.

There are so many genres contained with this game, just to satisfy the conceit of being able to portal around to different procedurally generated worlds and take on varied enemies for loot, challenge and progression.

There are gates or portals, and an demon-like plant-like enemy known as the Root invading worlds, you discover, as you roam the streets of apocalyptic Earth, dressed in Fallout-style scrap armor and getting serious Hellgate: London vibes every time you pass an abandoned ruined subway and contemplate them stuffed full of demons.

And that’s just the early game setting. Eventually, once you break through to a place where you can access other worlds, science fiction and pulp will cheerily join hands to play.

Warhammer 40K, anyone?
Conan the Barbarian meets Martian aliens?

Gameplay-wise, the moment you swing your sword and feel the measured pace of your character locked into an animation, you realize you’re playing a Souls-like where observing enemy attack animations are key, dodging or evading appropriately before striking only when there is opportunity.

The only thing possibly original about Remnant: From the Ashes is their incorporation of modern ranged weapons like guns into Souls-like gameplay. No rapid-fire hipshooting allowed here. Guns must be aimed by holding down the right mouse button, and there are limited number of shots you can make before reloading.

Staying too long in aim or zoom mode gets dangerous, because your field of view is not wide enough to realize that an enemy is flanking or coming up from behind to gank you. It cleverly turns gunplay into an exchange that follows the real time, semi-turn-based style of Souls-like games.

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, you get to the end of a mini-instanced dungeon chain and walk into a boss room, where you now play Monster Hunter against a Colossally Big Boss, and realize there’s more genres that can be crammed in still.

The Singe dragon boss has one of the more glorious-looking and sounding fireball attacks I’ve ever seen though. It is seriously fearsome and breaks walls, shattering your cover as part of its gimmick. I enjoyed the immersive glimpse into what it might be like to face a fantasy dragon.

The only genre we’ve lost along the way is a Diablo-like looter, if only because gameplay where you can mow down hundreds of enemies with a single button click is the antithesis of a Souls-like game.

Yet, somehow, the mashup works.

The overriding flavor is Hellgate: London meets Dark Souls, with mix-ins of every other genre mentioned above, and a final The Secret World cherry on top.

Honey, we’re not in Kansas anymore

The pace is stately, yet compelling.

It’s maybe a little too stately for me at times, being more of a fast frenetic action fan gamer-motivation-wise, but I can appreciate the appeal objectively. The originality of getting to play Dark Souls with slightly more modern day graphics and guns is more or less carrying me through the slow bits, while I’m intrigued to discover all the various worlds and see the monster designs.

I’m really enjoying the Sniper Rifle because I can pick off most things at range. The rest of my kit is still the original Scrapper melee archetype, so if things get up close, it’s down to pistol and a big hammer to take care of things. Realizing I can change weapons even mid-zone has been another one of those revelations. So in the rare case where sniper rifle doesn’t work, I just switch back out to my trusty shotgun and become close combat specialist extraordinaire.

It’s an interesting contrast to UltrViolet’s take on Remnant: From the Ashes where presumably Mastery is a primary motivator, needing to keep going back and pounding away to beat bosses and the game, and being pissed off if the game appears not to be playing fair. Challenge-wise, he’s got it cranked up on Hard, while I’m pretty darned comfy being Normal, thank you.

I’m probably still dying the same amount of times that he is. It’s that kind of game. Souls-like games are pretty much puzzle games of observation and trial-and-error of all the different tools and tactics at one’s disposal, where what doesn’t work is promptly and directly fed back to you by dint of a Game Over, You Died screen.

Punishing, they call it.

Some people like it that way.

Me, I can very much take it or leave it. Meaning I accept the game premise, unless something annoys me enough to not want to spend any more time on it.

What’s mostly preventing a ragequit is Remnant’s careful design in incorporating the equivalent of a Dark Souls campfire, a checkpoint in this game, after a short segment of adventure and most definitely, there’s one just before a boss fight. So getting back into the fray is not a depressing contemplation of having to run past or slowly defeat two zone’s worth of enemies before getting to the actual boss you want to deal with – just more like five to ten seconds of “OK, that didn’t work, what else can I try now?” contemplation before you’re back into the thick of things.

What does perplex me somewhat is Remnant’s surfeit of enemy types. I think for most people who enjoy more challenge, this is a good thing, to have SO MANY varied enemies with tons of different attack patterns and styles.

This particular Root enemy is highly annoying, armed with a gun that fires five shots, and with excellent AI that encourages it to take cover and flank you. Once four or five of them get into the fray, it becomes a crossfire of shots exchanged from cover, keeping you pinned down while one or two of them do their little flanking maneuver.

In the campaign, Remnant is also very eager to park different enemies in every zone you wander past, so what you learned in the previous zone… is likely not going to apply in the next zone. I think, for mastery motivated players, this is probably something that keeps them wanting to keep going, because there’s always something new to beat around every corner.

Me, it miffs me, every so slightly. After I learn something, I want a little time to be able to rest on my laurels and -enjoy- being able to blow up that enemy without a scratch, thank you. At least for one more zone or two. You can throw in a few more surprise enemy types, no problem, but seriously, enemy A in zone 1, then enemy B in zone 2 and enemy C in zone 3?!

How about AAA in zone 1, ABA in zone 2, ABBC in zone 3 or something? Let me feel at least a little clever in dealing with enemy A when I see it again.

Nope. Remnant’s solution is that you can jolly well just revisit that zone again, after a checkpoint respawns enemies… for not that much reward besides XP, since you’ve already looted the place once. Or you can generate a short adventure on that planet that -may- or may not contain the zone, and just encounter whatever on your way. Rinse and repeat until you’ve played plenty of adventures long enough to master all the enemy types on that planet.

As mentioned in one of my comments to UltrViolet, it makes me crave a nice little walkthrough or guide where someone has written up a nice little enemy types dossier, complete with mugshot, a profile of attacks and suggested tactics on how to deal with each… just to shortcut the process. Because it takes so long, and is so stately.

I know I lack the time to play this game like an MMO, while the assumption seems to be very much that you can and -should- indeed play through multiple campaigns, as well as visit friends and have co-op adventures together. All very well for people who really love the game, I dare say.

Me, I’m going through one or two zones a night, and that’s about all the time I have for it. It’s a pleasant experience at the moment.

But knowing my intense distractability where I certainly do not finish things, a slow stately game is at imminent risk of “Oooh, look at that other shiny thing” syndrome where it gets dropped midway through, for no real reason.

No harm, no foul. I got it free on Epic.

(The offer lasts approximately one more day, so interested parties reading this blog post early may want to nab it, if they haven’t. It’s certainly worth a try, at the price of free. I’d only pay for it if you like Dark Souls-like games. If you’re more on the fence about them like me, then I wouldn’t.)

I’d love to see more of the art design while my interest holds though.