When is the last time a game has surpassed your expectations? Given the exceptional slate of games from this year that keeps on giving, I imagine many would state a very recent title. But while so many games are delivering outstanding quality, did they truly blow you away in such a surprising manner that you changed all gaming focus to that game? Titles like Diablo IV, Street Fighter 6, and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom have caused many a sleepless night, but most of us understood that those nights were coming. We took time off of work to play, and we even skipped family events to log in more hours, but we knew this would be the case. How many of you, even after playing the incredible first Remnant: From the Ashes, would have pegged this level of fanaticism on the second title of the series?
Remnant 2, published by Gearbox Publishing and developed by Gunfire Games, is a true surprise, not because it delivers more of the amazing gameplay from the first game, but because it goes so far beyond that you’ll find yourself forgetting to call off events to play, losing track of anything else around you as you are engrossed in the worlds, character building, and looting found in Remnant 2. And a truly amazing aspect of it all is that Remnant 2 does all of this while staying completely true to the core foundation of the first game.
From The Ashes
In fact, if you played Remnant: From the Ashes, you will get even more out of Remnant 2 due to meeting some of the characters and witnessing the aftermath of events from that first game, along with witnessing a few Easter eggs included specifically for players of the first game. With that said, you absolutely do not need to have played the first game to grasp the story of what is going on in Remnant 2. Within its first few moments, the game does a fine job of getting everybody up to speed with the situation, as opaque as it may be.
The story has much of the feeling of the original, with your character learning about the Ward and the red crystal, and then getting literally sucked into its worlds. It feels so similar in many ways that it seems obvious that Remnant 2 is serving as a reboot of sorts, even though the story takes place directly after the events of the first game. The set-up will feel very familiar to players of the original game, as will many of the gameplay systems found within. But if it feels so familiar to the first, why am I stating that this game goes so far beyond the original? The answer is simple: Remnant 2 does everything galactically better.
“Galactically” is apropos since the world-hopping found in the first game is in full effect here. However, where the first Remnant sprinkled some randomization dust onto its game, Remnant 2 kept shaking the bottle until the top fell off, saturating everything with a ridiculous amount of randomization. To make sense of all of the chaos, let me explain from the beginning.
When you first start the game, you create a character. While I do wish the character creation system had many more options than the few present, it’s serviceable enough. After this, you will take part in a brief tutorial prologue that will ensure you understand the basics of controlling your character. You will then go to a hub town filled with the same layout and characters that every other player will experience. In the town you will select a character archetype which differs immensely from the first game (and we’ll talk about it in a moment), you’ll meet some of the townsfolk to learn how they can assist you in your adventure, and then you will go on one final tutorial mission to gather a few essential items.
Then the training wheels fall off. You will go to another world, and this world may or may not be the same as the one your friends may be sent to. Even if it is, it may not be the same story-wise, with many of the characters you meet, and even the bosses you fight, being completely different from what others experience. The random aspects go so far beyond whether a boss or dungeon may or may not appear; here, the entire story can be completely different for that same area, leading to an entirely different culmination of story arches, areas, boss fights, and outcomes. For players that enjoy things being new and fresh, you will have this every single time you play. It is one of the core concepts that Gunfire Games strove so strenuously to achieve, and boy does it succeed.
Hot Take, Yet True
Of course, loot is also randomized, and it is entirely possible that you will not even have the ability to see some of the items in your first playthrough since many require specific bosses or other random effects that you simply will not encounter in that run. This is because the game is meant to be played through multiple times, and each playthrough will assuredly bring a different experience. But allow me to state my hot take about the loot in Remnant 2 compared to a recently-released juggernaut: it’s even better than the mighty Diablo IV.
Gasp! How dare I state something like that! Time for a brief aside as I make my case while explaining the loot system. For reference, in Diablo IV, much of the loot is about looking for specific affixes (passive or active abilities allowed by the loot) that fit your build, and you basically look for better versions of that same loot. Often, you will know the exact items you will want from the beginning, and even if not, you will likely not even give the time of day to most of the loot you obtain.
In Remnant 2 you will absolutely look at every single piece of gear you obtain. Everything you get has a chance at not only enhancing your playstyle, but of “breaking the game,” allowing whatever build you conceive of to really shine. It’s entirely possible that you will find something in the first hour that will be essential to your entire build for as many hours as you play the game, but then you may find something that completely changes the way you see your build, giving you a compelling choice to make. And this all happens because of the way the leveling system is implemented.
Remnant: From the Ashes had a controversial leveling system where upgrading your loot also saw the world upgraded at the same time. If you upgraded your armor, the world would hit you harder, leaving many scratching their heads as to why they “upgraded” in the first place. The game took the highest level of gear that you had, and when you first entered an area, it would make the area a specific level ahead of what your highest gear was. In other words, if you had a piece of gear at level 8, and the rest of your gear was level 1 or 2, then a new area you went to could start with monsters at level 9. Thus, you needed to upgrade everything simultaneously or risk feeling very underpowered.
This time, however, one simple fix makes it all work splendidly: armor isn’t even a consideration. Armor is not upgradeable, and it makes sense as to why since the enemies will hit you with the same attack power regardless of level, leaving the items you receive to do the work of protecting your hide. The gear that does the heavy lifting in Remnant 2 consists of your weapons, relic, amulet, and rings. You get one long gun, a hand gun, and a melee weapon. Your relic, which contains three slots for enhancements, will start as the dragon heart from the first game (basically the flask from Dark Souls that heals for a certain amount of charges that replenish when resting), but you can find other relics to replace this. There is one slot for an amulet, and four slots for different rings, so there are many ways to mix different powers and get creative.
Along with this, you can upgrade weapons in both their base power levels and via a mod and a mutator slot in which you can equip further items. Mods are temporary abilities with cooldowns, and mutators can break the game with powers that can define your build on their own. Plus, mutators are upgradeable with powerful ultimate enhancements when leveled to a certain amount. And to top these all off, you will discover traits, along with trait points, as you explore the worlds, and each enhances your build in incremental but important ways.
Finally, for the heart of your build, we have archetypes. As stated before, you will choose your archetype from the starting town, and these will define the way you play the game. From being a healer, a melee brute, an old-western gunner, a ranged tour-de-force, or even a handler with a dog companion, these form the foundation of your preferred style of play. Each has its own unique trait which levels up as you slay enemies, and each has passive perks that will unlock as you progress in each. Along with a specific skill that you may select, which provides a special ability to use with a cooldown, there are an incredible number of avenues to take when it comes to character building in Remnant 2, especially when you consider that you get to add a whole second archetype to your build as you play through the game, mixing together all sorts of combination possibilities.
And you will need to build a competent character, because Remnant 2 doesn’t pull its punches, even on the easiest “Survivor” difficulty. The enemies, while being creative aesthetically, are relentless. None of the normal enemies is particularly challenging one-on-one, but they often swarm you with overwhelming odds. Each enemy brings a specific tactic to the engagements, so when they group up, you will find your brain spinning as you figure out the best approach for prioritizing and taking down your foes. But one thing that you will come to fear, especially in the early hours, is the Taco Bell-style “gong” that sounds whenever a brute is alerted to your presence.
I say “brute” because these enemies are much tougher than the standard fodder, and the fact that they join in with a normal swarm of enemies means that the gong sound you hear may often become synonymous to you dying while you grind the first few levels. But fear not because death is a normal part of the game, and there is literally no penalty to dying other than having to start back at your last red crystal checkpoint (basically the bonfires in Dark Souls). Any items, experience, and resources that you found before your death remain with you, so explore away and do not fret the deaths as you grow.
While battling the many different enemies, you’ll find that the shooting mechanics feel very tight and responsive, even more than they did in the first game. Plus, the enemies sell their hits splendidly, allowing you to feel the impact of each blow dealt. There are many different weapons to purchase and find, and all of the ones that I used felt balanced and useful for different purposes and styles.
Putting On A Show
The graphics also got quite a boost from the first game. While it’s not the most impressive game that you’ll see this year, the aesthetics of the different worlds are amazing, transporting you to alien and eerie realms in which to adventure. The first place that I went to had areas that felt straight out of Terminator, Alien, and Starship Troopers. And that was my starting area; I’ve also experienced mystical fantasy realms, a place that is basically scenes from the much-hoped-for Bloodborne 2, and more. The quality on display is immense, and each of these worlds could exist to be a game of its own.
Likewise, the sound design nails the feel of each world. The music is alien, creepy, or atmospheric as the situations necessitate, being a perfect catalyst for immersion throughout Remnant 2. Sound effects are sharp and satisfying, with cues alluding to many different situations, including the aforementioned “gong” sound. Overall, the audio screams quality in nearly all cases, with only a few minor missteps regarding voice cues and uniformity.
When the odds seemed stacked against you, you may choose to find a way on your own, or you can call up to two other adventurers to assist you in your task. The game handles the random aspects with each player’s worlds quite simply: you are pulled into someone else’s instance, or they are pulled into yours. Items gained are for each player to keep, and then each player is back off to their own experience once the multiplayer session is over.
For as great as Remnant 2 is in nearly all aspects, there are a few missteps. First, I wish there was more customization for your character’s appearance. This extends not only to the character creation options, but to the armor that you can equip. The small selection there is looks nice, but there just isn’t much in terms of differentiating one character from another beyond the starter armors for each archetype and a few you’ll find and discover along the way, which, admittedly, do tend to look cool.
Next, there are some inconsistencies regarding voices. The voice I chose for my first character sounds like the accent keeps changing, and it’s very uneven. The second one was much better, but both have issues upon death where sometimes the character will struggle until lying dead on the ground for a bit, and then some gruesome screams will occur with no movement selling it, as if the effect missed its cue. Finally, even though the worlds are extremely varied with an insane amount of random elements, there are only a handful of them overall. These are all minor things given the bigger picture of awesomeness found in the gameplay, but they are still worth noting.
Given that these are the only true issues present, I think it’s rather obvious that I really enjoy Remnant 2. It’s a game that keeps on giving long after its first playthrough, and I don’t know of a game with more replayability due to the excellent use of random elements throughout. While there is no dedicated end game at the moment, this is made up for by the fact that you can increase the difficulty and experience the game anew from the beginning, and it will feel nearly like a different game.
Also, like the first Remnant, you can replay each world in “Adventure” mode, which is a mode that re-rolls the world, allowing you to access new bosses, items, and experiences in that world. Adventure mode runs independent of the Campaign mode, meaning you can play your character through each, going back and forth as you please, independently re-rolling each mode while keeping your items, experience, and everything else. These options ensure that you’ll be playing your character for some time to come.
Bringing It Home
I can’t get enough of Remnant 2. When I’m not playing, I’m often thinking about new upgrade paths, character builds, and play styles to explore while adventuring through Remnant 2’s engaging worlds. The challenging gameplay necessitates creative upgrading and tactics, with many of the challenges being enticing puzzles to solve. There is so much more I could talk about, including secret areas, increasing depth as you progress, and hidden mysteries and puzzles, but let me leave you with this: in a year that has already provided so many compelling titles, this is the game that I keep thinking about. Remnant 2 delivers amazing remnants of gaming that will persist throughout this year and well beyond.
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