Game: “Remnant: From the Ashes”

Remnant: From the Ashes

6 May, 2023 by

Our Rating

Remnant: From the Ashes released in 2019 and is generally thought of as part of the little subgenre of soulslikes that seemed to be everywhere in the second half of the 2010s. On initial release it got quickly labelled as “Dark Souls with guns”, a moniker that is both quite apt and also very reductive. It got a reasonable critical reception, sold quite well, and then largely disappeared without leaving much of a trace on the media landscape. Four years later it’s been ported to the Switch, and so here we are. 

At A Glance

Positives  + Solid shooter mechanics
+ Creative World Design
+ You can shoot Groot
 Negatives  – Lacklustre melee combat
– Graphically Dated
– Weak Opening
Price (When Reviewed)£35
Our Playtime22 hours
Version TestedSwitch (PS5 for Comparison)
Available OnPS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC

Coming to the game in 2023 Remnant plays like a pretty solid 7/10 action game, to paraphrase Alec Meer. It is fine. Solidly made, good workmanship. Some rough edges, but nothing that overly detracts from the finished product. It does, however, show its age, especially when played on the Switch. I had looked up the original release date when playing, and was surprised to see it was as recent as 2019. This is compounded by some rather terrible opening cutscenes, a slow and clunky opening in what is graphically the game’s least interesting or impressive area and some awful dialogue. The tutorial area (which can be skipped, mercifully) feels like it came from a game released at least a decade earlier.

Entering the game’s first hub area some of these problems appeared worse. The level design is more interesting, but the lighting was flat and washed out, everything a drab grey or brown. I remembered at this point that I had also picked up Remnant through the Playstation subscription, and decided that for comparison I’d also boot it up on the PS5 and see how it compared.

It felt like a different game. The opening area of Remnant is a post-apocalyptic city area, overgrown as was the fashion of the time, but unlike the verdant greens of Last of Us or Horizon, in Remnant the vegetation is dressed for Autumn. On the Switch, with an apparent lack of any actual lighting in the outdoor areas, this looks frankly awful. Grey, brown, flat and angular, it feels like an overambitious Half-Life mod from 2009. On the Playstation, however, it all comes together into something far more visually interesting. This isn’t just about aesthetics, either. It feels different, more oppressive, leaning into the horror aspect of the setting that has a lot more going on that the drab opening act lets on.

Of course, while the game looks and plays better on the Playstation, I can’t very well stick that and a 55” telly in my bag when I’m going out and about. On handheld some of the visual issues I had are less pronounced through virtue of the smaller screen, and performance also felt a little better. If you prefer to play games on your TV or a PC then I’d recommend Remnant on either of those options before the Switch, especially when this four year old game is coming out at a new-game price point, but if you want to take some of that Dark-Souls-with-guns actions out of the house and don’t mind paying for the privilege then you could certainly do worse.

Let’s tackle that Dark Souls comparison while we’re here as well. It doesn’t fit so well now as it did in 2019, even assuming that it did then. Remnant feels more like a third person shooter, with a few survival horror elements thrown in. It feels more like a Resident Evil-like than a Soulslike, and not just because of the terrible cutscenes and b-movie voice acting. It doesn’t feel beholden to gameplay elements from another game, and largely to its benefit. There is no penalty to death, aside from lost progress, so no need to fight your way back to your corpse if you die to recover lost currency, you just reload back at the bonfire checkpoint. I like this, it removes the sunk-cost element to exploration and is more forgiving of allowing you to just choose another route instead of banging your head against an obstacle.

Remnant does retain the challenge, however, and is certainly not an easy game. I was initially impressed when loading it up to see difficulty options, however if you were hoping for an easy mode I’m afraid the difficulty slider only goes the other way. Exploration and boss fights are tough, compounded somewhat by a randomiser element. As mentioned, I loaded up the game on the Playstation to compare to the port and was confused to find the layout of the initial hub world different. I put this down to the port – sanding off the more complex geometry, perhaps? Only when I started a second character on the Switch and found the streets laid out differently again did I connect the dots.

Enemies, and even bosses, are also different on each play through, which can certainly spike the difficulty depending on the roll of the dice. My first game on the Switch had the opening area filled with a half-dozen or so teleporting ranged attack enemies who inflicted a bleed effect, while on the playstation there were only the regular mooks and single tough melee enemy in the same area – significantly easier. This switched though when I ran into a far tougher creature in the sewers beneath the streets in that game…

The general feel of the combat is good. The guns feel and sound weighty, with good feedback. The melee options feel less deep, with no defence options beyond dodging and a charge attack but no heavy attack. Of course, that’s only really a problem if you are approaching the game as a Soulslike – come to it as the shooter that it is, with melee being your back-up option for when the enemies get too close, and it feels much better. Ammo is scarce enough that you need to be careful but not so scarce that you need to hoard it, and it replenishes when you rest at a bonfire checkpoint for… some reason. The enemies are varied and visually distinct, presenting different challenges, and the bosses are tough without being ridiculous. A solid 7/10, everything works just fine even if nothing stands out as truly exceptional. 

One aspect of Remnant that does stand out, despite the game’s seeming intent to hide this fact, is the setting and story. The game opens with a generally rubbish cutscene, some nonsense about you being the chosen one from your village to go and fight a dragon or something in a tower… then there’s a big wave, and you’re in an industrial dockside wasteland, fighting tree people. You get knocked out in another cutscene (developers, please stop doing this), and rescued by some people who live in a bunker with no electricity, who then talk at you for too long before letting you go play again. It’s absolute nonsense, to put it kindly. The intro cutscene feels like it is from a completely different game, in a different genre. And… it’s also not even the story?

Very early on, almost as soon as you venture out into the hub-world, you’ll get a keycard you can use to open the lower levels of the bunker. I strongly recommend you go back and do this early, because hidden under the terrible tutorial level (literally) is some exceptionally good environmental storytelling and a series of log entries explaining what the game and its world are actually about, and it’s… good. It’s really quite good. It’s original, interesting, and written presumably by someone different from whoever was in charge of the awful dialogue upstairs. I won’t spoil the details, but there are parallel worlds, gateways, and some later environments that are far more interesting than the ruined city, even on the lacklustre Switch port.

Remnant, then, is a solid action game that sells itself short with a terrible opening half-hour. Get through that though and there’s a lot to recommend in the solid gunplay and exploration of an intriguing setting. The Switch port, however, isn’t great and you can pick this up on other platforms for about half the price. If you’re dead set on handheld (and don’t own a Steamdeck…) then it’s still a bit of a tough sell at £35, but if you spot this in a sale and like the sound of shooting a bunch of Groot-clones through a ruined city and beyond then I think it’s certainly worth taking a chance on.

In the interest of full disclosure, VGamingNews was provided with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.