I’ll preface this by saying that soulslikes are not my cup of tea in any way shape or form. So much so in fact, my bio at the bottom of this article (if you make it that far) states my predilection for easier difficulty modes in all things (mostly video games because, well, you know). So being asked to review Remnant: From the Ashes was never going to be something I was fully comfortable/capable of. So now that I’ve fully put you off listening to my opinion, here is my review of Remnant: From the Ashes.
This review was conducted on Nintendo Switch as Remnant was recently ported to the console. So bear in mind that any critique may be unique to this particular edition of the game. Or not, who’s to say?
Remnant: From the Ashes was first released way back in pre-Covid times (remember those?), in the year 2019, a more innocent time. Developed by Gunfire Games and published by Gearbox Publishing, it is a third-person action RPG taking its inspiration from FromSoftware’s Dark Souls games, but adding in the quirk of being able to shoot anything that goes bump in the dark, with a gun no less.
By now, gamers will be familiar with the soulslike genre, take the standard formula RPG, make it gruellingly tough, slap some lore over the top and you’re golden. Whilst that is likely an oversimplification, it isn’t far from the truth, especially in the case of Remnant: From the Ashes. The plot has you pitted against a somewhat botanical foe known only as ‘The Root’, which honestly just gave me Groot vibes, minus the affable nature as these trees are decidedly more likely to murder you just for existing.
However, the story is not what you’re likely here for with Remnant: From the Ashes as it goes from story beat to story beat without ever truly innovating on a tired apocalyptic survival genre. Luckily for fans of soulslikes, the combat is mechanically tight, responsive, and suitably frantic enough to keep the game afloat by itself. You are tasked with systemically clearing a series of dungeons each inhabited by a variety of horrifying arboreal foes. As you advance through the procedurally created levels, you will collect loot and resources needed to upgrade your gear, a vital component of Remnant: From the Ashes.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail has never felt so apt.
When you’re not fighting Treebeard’s disfigured cousins, you’re bouncing from crystal to crystal, Remnant’s version of the Dark Souls campfires. These take on a glowing red hue in opposition to the rest of the world which is a dull grey. It is custom at this point for post-apocalyptic worlds to be miserable however, I can’t help but feel that this trope is somewhat played out by now. Beyond my personal feelings, it does make picking out any details in the world exceptionally tricky, especially whilst playing in handheld mode. The experience does improve whilst docked but this was just the first of several issues, I had with Remnant: From the Ashes’ Switch port.
First is the map, in handheld, this is tiny, almost worthless. I yearned for the days of mounting a magnifying glass to my GameBoy Colour whilst journeying through this strange, new world. Zooming in on it within the menus does little to alleviate this issue, making traversal less enjoyable which is always a bummer in any video game.
Possibly the most frustrating, however, is the laborious loading times. Loading up the game can take anywhere between 30 seconds and a minute. Now this may be my ancient console, but I get the feeling that even the slightly more powerful OLED would struggle here. Whether this is a fault of the game, or the system is hard to say, but unfortunately, it is a common problem with Switch ports. Nintendo, release a new console soon, please. Cheers.
Despite some issues visually, the core gameplay of Remnant: From the Ashes seems to have held up well in its trip cross-platform. Gunplay is excellent and the feel of quickly dispatching several horrors in a row with your choice of weapon is very satisfying. Class-wise, you have the choice of close, mid-range or long-range specialities. Each has unique weapons and skills associated with it, allowing for a variety of playstyles which serves the other aspect of Remnant that it leans heavily on.
Remnant: From the Ashes feels tailored to the co-op experience. Whilst the game is perfectly playable solo, certain locations and enemies feel built to be tackled in tandem with ‘friends’, a foreign concept to us nerds, I know. You can choose to play with actual acquaintances or play the matchmaking lottery and team up with an equally lonely soul (an exercise in frustration let me tell you). This will make the game slightly more difficult, scaling to the number of players, but dividing the attention of enemies makes things so much easier. As a soulslike hater, this was a godsend.
All in all, it feels difficult to recommend Remnant: From the Ashes as a Nintendo Switch title. If you like soulslikes, guns, trees, and grey things: maybe play this on any other console.
Chances are, it’s a pretty good game there. But here, it’s not a great experience.