Remnant: From the Ashes surprised me in a very good way. I sat down to play it without knowing much about what I was in for, and I found a third-person action game that plays well, controls smoothly, and is fun as heck in co-op. It’s part third-person shooter, part Souls-like, and part roguelike. And the combination blends together nicely.
You can choose one of three classes to play as – Scrapper, Ex-Cultist, or Hunter (I played the latter) – but the Gunfire Games team (yes, this is the same group that brought you Darksiders 3) told me that your class is really just a starting template. They aren’t a fan of games that lock you into choices, irreversibly, after many hours of play, so in Remnant, you’ll be able to customize almost everything about your character, from the weapons you wield to the armor you wear to the weapon mods you equip.
ABOVE: Boss fight gameplay, in two-player co-op, from my hands-on session with Remnant.
That flexibility should play well with Remnant’s game world, which spans several unique biomes (I saw the “ruined Earth” you start in as well as an Endor-like forest, but there’s also a wasteland and a swamp). While there is a persistent playable campaign – your character’s stats and items will persist as well – it’s also endlessly replayable. Everything is dynamically generated; not just the layouts of the levels themselves but also the quests and the enemies too. So anytime you choose to play the campaign again, you’ll get a fresh game world. Think Diablo, but instead of just dynamically generated levels you also got random quests too.
In combat, simply pressing your attack button triggers your melee attack – a scythe-like blade for my Hunter. Hold down the right mouse button (or LT on a gamepad) and you’ll aim with whichever of the two weapons you have equipped. I had a pistol, which I upgraded over the course of my play session at the NPC-populated base by trading in the scraps of resources I found while out adventuring. I also had a potent rifle, which felt really good to land critical-hit headshots with. And each weapon can have its own weapon mod, whose effects build up over time as you use them before resetting when you do trigger them. This gives you good motivation to bounce back and forth between your guns, allowing you to be strategic about those buffs. For instance, you might want to ready them both up to take into a boss fight for maximum impact.
ABOVE: Forest biome gameplay, in two-player co-op, from my hands-on session with Remnant.
Speaking of boss fights, Gunfire is putting them forward as a central feature of Remnant. The team is promising over 20 of them, and I fought one of them (which you can see in the video above). This one went down fairly easily thanks to having a developer alongside me in co-op who knew exactly what to do, but the roguelike element comes in on the bosses by giving them random buffs. For example, I tried another boss on my own and the Gunfire crew laughed at me sympathetically. I rolled a heck of a buff for the monster, who could set off clouds of poisonous gas from afar while also pelting me (again from afar) with his primary attack, a line of exploding ground magic. It should make for plenty of variety as you play through repeatedly with friends.
As for why Remnant – which will be out on August 20 for $40 on PC, PS4, and Xbox One – supports three-player co-op and not four, Gunfire told me that they actually did try four players, but found that it became too run-and-gun, or they had to make the enemies too bullet sponge-y, neither of which felt right for Remnant to them.
ABOVE: A new trailer showing off some of the bosses you’ll face in Remnant.
Remnant: From the Ashes may have been a bit of an unknown to me before, but it’s now firmly on my radar. Look for more on this one in the coming months.