Welcome to This Is Not A Review. In these articles we discuss general impressions, ideas and thoughts on any given game, but as the title implies, it’s not a review. Instead, it’s an exercise in offering a quick recommendation (or dismissal) after spending enough time to grasp the ideas and gameplay of a thing without necessarily playing it from A to Z.

The subject of this installment: Remnant: From the Ashes, developed by Gunfire Games and published by Perfect World Entertainment.

Darren Forman

Remnant: From the Ashes is a third-person looter-shooter that takes place in a world overrun by enemies known as the Root — they’re treelike abominations that have soundly kicked humanity’s arse to the curb and left only pockets of bedraggled survivors behind. After almost dying, the custom-made player character is rescued by a small band of misfits and welcomed into the fold.

Fortunately, this merry band of survivors is pretty handy at upgrading equipment and selling useful items, so their base makes for a neat place to rest up between expeditions into the unknown as the player tries to prevent the complete extermination of the human race.

The combat generally fares well. Despite the fact that there’s a fluid system that makes swapping between guns and melee a breeze, melee seems laughably underpowered in most situations due to weak damage output and enemies with traits such as exploding on death or dropping clouds that radiate elemental damage.

Perhaps other builds and different equipment would make getting in a monster’s face more viable, but it seemed to me that gunplay was the way forward. Fortunately, Remnant‘s gunplay feels just about right — the sensation of shots landing is both solid and satisfying. Regular enemies attack in groups with little intelligence or variety to them, but they fulfill their role as cannon fodder reasonably well.

Bosses, on the other hand, are a pain in the ass playing solo. They regularly feature an endless procession of minions during moments when players should be smashing a hammer through their skull and progressing the fight — tolerable, but irksome. It also struck me that the frequency of these adds would make things difficult for any players with hearing issues. Without the audio cues of these unwelcome annoyances approaching from off camera, they’ll be wide open to getting unfairly stabbed in the back.

The world of Remnant is procedurally created, featuring handcrafted zones stitched together in random fashion. It’s a setup that I rarely enjoy, and only ever works if there’s a large pool of interesting zones to pull from. To its credit, Remnant almost pulls it off. It’s a shame they’re not more interactive — they offer a lot of walls blocking off paths and limited environmental nuance — but this system gets the job done.

Loot of notable quality is quite scarce, with armor and weapons littered around or stashed behind boss drops, hidden areas or secret puzzles. I quite liked the Spitfire — it’s a submachine gun crafted from the bones of an early boss with a flamethrower alt-mode that sets foes ablaze.

Remnant also offers some light RPG elements in addition to the looting and shooting – after talking to an old man and listening to his rambling dialogue, he gave me an item that I traded to a boss. It let me bypass the fight completely and earned me some sweet armor for my troubles.

So, Remnant: From the Ashes does its duty in solid, dependable fashion even if it lacks the pizzazz necessary to set it apart from the crowd.  However, there’s an issue with it on PC — the code is so buggy, a ship being tossed around by a tsunami offers more stability.

The first time I noticed something was amiss was when my PC blue-screened while trying to teleport between zones, looping a dreadful stuttering, screeching noise while it collected crash data. Highly uncommon, but perhaps not necessarily due to the game itself. ‘Let’s be charitable and give it the benefit of the doubt’, I thought.

I was an idiot. That crash corrupted my profile, and with no backup system in place, nine hours of progress was tossed into the void. The next time I started it up, I had to delete folders in the game path to get it past the title screen.

After getting it running, starting a new character and redoing the tutorial, it froze again.

This wiped my profile, again.

I deleted those folders again and started another new profile in one last ditch attempt to play through Remnant, but it blue-screened my PC again while trying to teleport out of that goddamned tutorial. I suspect it ate my profile at the same time, but I’ll be buggered if I’m turning it back on.

From my nine hours of impressions, Remnant: From the Ashes would be an okay game if it wasn’t actively trying to kill my PC, maliciously deleting my save data as it goes. I recommend that PC gamers stay the hell away from Remnant until it’s in a fit state. Whether that’s a week from now, a month, or never, just be sure to check before purchasing – multiple people besides myself have complained about this exact same issue on several different online forums, so it’s not an isolated issue.

But don’t just take my word for it — after the save data situation went to hell in my game, we drafted another reviewer to see how things went on another player’s system. Ball’s in your court, Suskie.

Mike Suskie

Well, Darren just said his piece and put the ball in my court for the second half of this coverage, but the ball has burst into flames and its ashes have been scattered to the wind, the court has been razed, and Mirriam-Webster is removing the words “ball” and “court” from its dictionaries. While I didn’t experience technical problems on the scale that Darren did, I also lost a good eight or nine hours to a corrupted save, and that’s where we need to punch the clock on officially reviewing Remnant.

It’s a shame, because I was having a great time with it — far more so than it seems Darren did.

Maybe it’s because I’ve already witnessed an example of the “Dark Souls with guns” premise going horribly awry in last year’s excruciating Immortal: Unchained, and I think I’ve figured out why this game works so much better.

While players are obviously supposed to be relying on firearms rather than melee weapons, the secret is that the enemies are extremely limited in their ranged capabilities. So, even though we’re using guns, we’re still encouraged to hover within relatively close range of our targets, familiarizing ourselves with attack patterns and engaging in some Souls-esque stamina management. It lends Remnant a rough-and-tumble physicality that most shooters lack.

Granted, I definitely agree with some of Darren’s criticisms. The dearth of exciting loot is a real drag (especially in a multiplayer-focused title in which players will be taking pride in their avatars’ appearances) and if I ever get elected to Congress, I’ll push for a bill that permanently bans developers from adding endlessly-respawning trash mobs to boss battles.

I’ll also note that Remnant‘s story has done nothing for me so far – it’s just some combination of a stiff script and the actors’ inability to sell it, but the core combat is such a blast and so unlike anything I’ve experienced in recent memory that I was still completely on board until my save went belly-up.

Unfortunately, when both of our intended reviewers encounter game-ending bugs – at exactly the same spot in the campaign, I’ll add – that’s the point where we need to call it. I was most definitely not a fan of Gunfire Games’ Darksiders III, so for the studio to turn around and deliver an experience as thrilling as Remnant: From the Ashes less than a year later was a wonderful surprise. I’ll be happy to dive back in if I’m ever confident that it’s been patched into stable condition, but until then, buyer be particularly ‘ware.

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