Having never played either of this game's predecessors (Chronos and Remnant: From the Ashes), I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun this Soulslike-shooter is. For those not in the know, "Soulslike'' is a name given to any game which strives to emulate the Demon Souls/Dark Souls franchises. Soulslike games are unforgivingly punishing towards combat mistakes we are all prone to make while playing this type of game, but also rewarding once you are able to figure out the necessary techniques and timing to avoid dying. As much fun as I had playing this game, and continue to have replaying it, there are some things I feel are holding it back from being the best version of itself that it could be.
If you're unfamiliar with Remnant's action-shooter/looter gameplay, then think: Gears of War only with the focus on run & gunning, evasion, weapon, armour and perk enhancement rather than simple cover shooting.
The game features a large selection of both realistic and sci-fi weapons including long guns, handguns and melee weapons, so if you don't aim your weapon by holding the Left trigger your character will perform a violent melee attack when you press the Right trigger instead of firing their weapon.The melee attack is extremely effective, can be charged and can be widely used to save a lot of precious ammo. Many enemies have weak spots that can be exploited to cause way more damage than just "shooting them in the face."
There's also a heavy RPG levelling and crafting aspect that may turn off some gamers. The RPG elements aren't vital to finishing the game, but they're designed to be an immersive, integral part and when used prudently sure as heck make the game a lot easier, your character more powerful and resilient, and gameplay more fun.
The story (while spanning several play-throughs) is quite simple, and at least for me, uninteresting. The story provides a lot of spoken dialogue and reading matter scattered throughout the game, so this is kind of big considering the backstory is supposed to be a motivating factor to encourage you to advance throughout the game, not impatiently skip it because it's so often tedious to read or listen to, despite the voice acting being rather good. The music & sound is excellent, the orchestral music swells and a horn sounds as waves of enemies are triggered. The dialogue between playable characters is cheesy but often humorous, and the numerous sounds of the alien creatures are well suited to their various bizarre forms-you'll learn to know what's about to attack by the sounds they make...
Even among souls-like games, some of this game's mini bosses and world bosses seem infuriating and brutally tough, even on the easiest "Survivor" setting. With so many mechanics to figure out at times it seems like they are throwing everything and the kitchen sink at you all at once! It won't take you long to realise that although Remnant II is very playable as a solo game, it's a heck of a lot easier and more fun when played co-op. Everything is shared in co-op except ammo-which is weird. This makes playing with non-mic'd, ammo-snaffling randoms online a frustrating experience–even though the game has a set of emotes designed to communicate your requests, wishes or advice.
Checkpoints are spectacular-looking red crystalline rocks called World Stones/Shards, that act as a teleport between worlds and zones within worlds, as well as a save & replenish station and a place where other players can join your game.
Using Unreal Engine 5 you'd expect Remnant II to look great and move smoothly and it does both, often with dazzling visuals that both delight and strain the eyes. The lighting, shadows and particle effects are unsurpassed, and you can't fail to be impressed.
However, it does exhibit a few performance hiccups and bugs, and the presence of a consumable called "Liquid Escape" feels a bit like a quick fix for some of these… Liquid Escape is basically a “suicide” drink that returns your character to the last checkpoint, removing the need to traverse a maze-like map to find one, and also getting you out of a jam–or a glitched situation. While playing solo I didn't notice any performance issues, but I did get stuck on more than one environmental object. Playing co-op I also noticed several instances of falling through "solid objects'' to my death–including falling through an elevator! There were more problems during a co-op boss fight, in a circular arena with platforms around the perimeter of the room from which you fight the boss. These platforms can be destroyed by the boss as the fight progresses and have ramps between them, in co-op I fell through these ramps when none of them had been destroyed on multiple occasions and died. Another mini-boss fight saw a drone called E.D. Alpha clip completely into the scenery where we couldn't kill it, so as we couldn’t exit the arena Liquid Escape was our only recourse. While playing co-op we also had our editor experience a bug where his weapon modifier (Prismatic Driver) was targeting and continually firing at the ground near him knocking him down non-stop!
This game has a bit of everything, and takes inspiration from numerous sources from the Alien movies to Destiny. But who wouldn’t appreciate the originality of a foggy vomit-inducing wall as a means to keep you within the map boundary!? Remnant II has more than its fair share of secret areas, and sometimes you will discover unmapped areas hidden behind illusory walls, destroyable objects, or just outside the map boundary in the retch-inducing fog!
Set in several worlds accessed via a central hub known as Ward 13, Remnant II is very much a "looter-shooter", with a large variety of loot to be found or dropped by downed enemies. Drops range from in-game currency (scrap), crafting materials, consumables, quest items, weapons, weapon modifiers, weapon mutators, amulets, rings, armour or trait points for the player to use and improve their various skills. Every character attribute you can think of, from aiming accuracy and agility to the amount of ammo you get or health you have can be enhanced by wearing the right combination of items, many of which can be bought, but most of which are in-game drops.
Random drops mean some special items might be irrelevant to your archetype and useless on your playthrough. Caution is advised before selling anything that can be used for crafting though (and most things can be), or used to unlock a new Archetype. Scrap (a random drop that's found all over, often from destroyed enemies & objects) is the only currency. This makes not being able to sell unwanted weapons (and there are a few duds) a bit strange.
As with classical RPGs, there are multiple archetypes (this game's version of classes or jobs), some of them purchasable, some of them hidden and unlockable throughout the game. At the time of writing this there are currently 11 known archetypes; this number may increase if more are discovered. The archetypes are Medic, Hunter, Challenger, Handler, Gunslinger, Alchemist, Summoner, Engineer, Invader, Explorer and Archon.
There are two types of skills, those associated with an archetype and those that are not. The skills associated with an archetype automatically get points when you equip that archetype as a Main or Sub. Each level that archetype has grants one point per level into that archetype's associated traits. Traits not associated with any one archetype are skills meant to benefit all, such as maximum health, maximum stamina etc. These points you attain throughout the game max out at 65 so you should choose where to invest your trait points wisely, although a character called Wallace will help you reset them–for a price.
Once you reach level 10 of your first Archetype you can equip a second sub-archetype and benefit from the skills and abilities of both. I really enjoyed my first Archetype–Handler–but I can't help wanting to smack a developer upside the head for designing a wonderful dog companion that can attack enemies autonomously and "tank" the biggest world bosses but dies an agonising death because they didn't give it the sense or pathfinding AI to walk to heel when you enter an elevator or follow you across a narrow platform or bridge–but doggo lovers fear not, unless downed by enemy damage they quickly respawn.
Each world has 2 possible differing story arcs which can appear in your procedurally generated world, and as a result you may wind up fighting one world boss on your first playthrough and a different world boss on your next. Each world boss can be killed 2 different ways, doing so results in different item drops which then results in crafting a different weapon or piece of equipment.
Everything this game has to offer seems to incentivize replayability. With such a wide variety of Weapons, Rings, Amulets, and Archetypes, you can create your own unique character and play the game in a multitude of ways. In my book, being able to replay a game and enjoy it a second time feels like I am getting more than my money's worth, and for that reason I would rate this a solid 8/10.
Remnant II would have scored higher but for the unforgivingly steep difficulty curve, a weird rumble glitch (that means your controller vibrates until you reset the game), a flashlight glitch (that makes its beam dazzlingly useless and look like a lighthouse reflector), a problem with failing to join other people's games (which we're pretty sure is related to the Xbox's 'Quick Resume' feature), and rare, but disappointing lock-ups. Gunfire Games are well engaged with the community and will surely fix these problems.
A thrilling, addictive game that has its fair share of issues, Remnant II is without doubt one of the co-op (2-4 players) games of the year, and while it may be too tough for many to enjoy solo, it might be a good opportunity to make new online friends. As with many online RPGs there are many good players out there willing to mentor new Remnants who enjoy the game but struggle with its crushing difficulty curve and complex skill, traits and attributes system.