Originally published at: Review | Remnant II - XboxEra
Remnant II is a sequel that does almost everything right. It has consistent highs that made me love most of my time with it, and numerous lows that were so frustrating that I wanted to quit playing. There is a lot to love here, from the fun class systems, excellent combat, easy-to-understand loot, and beautiful graphics. So, let’s get into why this is a game I mostly adored, and occasionally despised.
30 Years Later
Remnant: From the Ashes was a wonderful mix of Dark Souls stylings and 3rd person looter shooter co-op fun. Remnant II picks up where that title left off and starts off running. Fans of the original will notice just how much faster this game is right from the get-go. You are “the Traveler”, looking for the famous Ward. One of the last bastions on Earth, like much of this title, will be instantly familiar to those who played the first game. The Root has mostly been expunged from Earth, but they still inhabit and infest multiple other worlds. Through 10 to 15 hours, you’ll visit alien landscapes, fight thousands of foes, and live through a completely forgettable story.
While the story itself is both basic and predictable, the lore around everything is fascinating. I found myself reading books, talking to everyone I could find, and just staring at the scenery constantly. There are numerous, gorgeous, and vastly different biomes to explore in both campaign and adventure mode. Remnant II is a title that wants you to repeat it multiple times as you power yourself up to face the harder difficulties. Survivor, the starter difficulty, is slightly easier than the original game. There are three more difficulties above that, and they are brutal.
The story pulls heavily from some of the later DLC in the first title, and it’s worth watching a YT video or two to catch up ahead of time. Levels are procedurally generated again, encouraging replays and mixing things up in the up to three-player co-op. I only had two days to do this entire review (a mistake by PR) and was unable to try out the co-op gameplay but it’s easy to see that it will only make the game better. There are no “souls” in this Soulslike, and death’s penalty is mostly in sending you back to the last checkpoint and respawning every enemy you had taken down already.
Gameplay and Mechanics
Remnant II is a mix of melee, when you’re feeling spicy, and ranged combat. It’s all done from a third-person perspective and on both PC (my main review platform) and Series X it feels damned good. One of the main Soulslike mechanics the gameplay pulls from is your dodge. It’s full of invincibility frames and tends to be your main way of avoiding damage. You have a long rifle, typically with limited ammo, and a pistol slot. Your melee weapon is best for taking out fodder enemies to conserve your precious bullets for the elites and bosses. All of these are upgraded with a mix of scrap, the game’s currency, various types of iron, and enemy crystal drops.
During your first run through the game, you will want to focus on a single weapon in each slot and upgrade it as early and often as possible. By the end of my run, I had a long rife at +11 and a pistol at +10 and I was still struggling against the final few bosses. Armor doesn’t appear to have any upgraded system and instead is a choice of weight, armor, and resistances to suit each encounter. Consumables make a big difference in how certain situations play out, though equipping them quickly is cumbersome.
There are multiple archetypes in the game, each with various traits (more on those later) and abilities. Eventually, you can have two on a character, but that won’t happen until you’ve completed a run of the campaign from what I can tell. I chose the Handler archetype and ended up regretting it. I loved the gameplay style, having a faithful dog companion that was an excellent tank and damage dealer. The issue came because of one of the game’s worst design decisions, flying enemies. Remnant II has dozens of flying enemies, including most of the game’s bosses. Flying enemies are always annoying in shooters, and my with my Handler setup it made my dog companion completely useless. Flying enemies completely ignored him and his taunts, and he rarely if ever attacked them.
The other biggest issue that made me infuriated often was the high number of one-hit death mechanics built into various room and boss encounters. They didn’t happen often, but when they did they sucked out every bit of fun I had been having with the title for their duration. One boss in particular required pinpoint aim at precise angles. A single mistake meant you were crushed to death and instantly failed the encounter. It is a shame as the gunplay is fantastic otherwise. I absolutely loved about 95% of my time with the game and dreaded the other 5%. For a game that wants you to replay it multiple times, I find myself far less interested because of how low those lows were. The trait system of the first game makes a return and is your main leveling tree. It’s another system that demands you replay through the campaign and adventure modes repeatedly so that you can max out your skill trees.
Graphics, Sounds, and Bugs
Remnant II on both PC and Xbox is a fantastic-looking game. Xbox Series X offers up to three graphical modes. First is an ugly and unplayable 30fps. It has the highest fidelity when still but the sluggish feel and heavy blur while moving the camera are too off-putting. Next up is a balanced mode that aims for 60 fps and hits it most of the time. Finally is an uncapped mode that gives up fidelity for the smoothest framerate possible. On console, I’d stick with balanced as it’s the best mix of good looks and feels. On PC the game runs like a dream. Some areas with heavy particle effects did push my 7900xtx hard, but it rarely dipped below 100 fps at ultra settings.
The game is clean, with excellent texture work. This is matched by stunning art design that gets better and better as the campaign progresses. Each world is full of distinct areas, though the level design can be confusing if you forget that an exclamation point above an entrance is the main indicator that you’re heading to a quest area. I often ended up inside dungeons only to realize that they were completely optional after 35 minutes.
The voice acting is competent, though the grim tone of the first game is mostly gone. Your traveler loves to say goofy, trope-filled quips and I wish they didn’t. The alien voiceovers ended up being far more interesting as they weren’t trying to out-humor everyone like it was a Marvel movie. The music is fan-flipping-tastic, and I wish I had it to use for my video review. It’s a mix of epic orchestral tracks and synthy beats, and it always matches the scene properly.
I ran into a few bugs while playing, most of them being graphical mistakes. Most of the time it was an enemy or NPC falling into their ground up to their necks, or ammo drops falling into unreachable spots on the map. The only other memorable glitch was when an NPC completely disappeared during a late cutscene. I could still hear them talk but their model was entirely gone outside of an object they were holding.
Wrapping Things Up
Remnant II tickles greatness but falls short due to a few design choices. It is gorgeous, plays incredibly well, and should be one of the year’s best releases. I’m not sure if my issues with the game can be easily patched out, but I hope the devs at Gunfire Games give this one the same love the first game received over time.