We’re officially into the top 5 for my best of 2019 list, and we turn to a game that had such a strong gameplay loop it could have been ranked higher if not for some sad to see issues.
Another game that just came out of nowhere for everyone, Remnant From the Ashes is essentially Dark Souls, but with guns. Players must explore the ruined remains of the world in order to fight back against an interdimensional threat.
Right off the bat, Remnant’s gunplay is great and is what I wanted out of looter shooters like The Division and Borderlands. All the weapons have a heft to them: slower weapons do a lot of damage, while faster weapons are about bullets rather that burst. The different weapons act as quasi classes alongside weapon mods that can be found or crafted. The crafting system is simple, every weapon or armor piece can be upgraded using materials that improve its base stats.
With a solid core gameplay loop, Remnant features some very interesting design elements regarding progression and world-building. When you start playing, the game procedurally generated the world out of hand-made sections. You won’t know what events/bosses you’ll run into, this is important because you’re rewarded with new weapons, mods, and armors depending on completing them.
Because of how skill-focused the game is, every new piece of gear can have a huge impact on how you play through the game. Long-term progression comes in the form of unlockable traits that enhance passive aspects about your character.
With all that said, while the game is #5 on my list, it’s not without some big caveats. The progression model is flawed in my opinion. Once you’ve got two guns that you like, there’s no reason to care or want to get the other weapons outside of completists. The game wants to be like a souls-like, but also have random exploration like an ARPG, but the game’s loop is not built around that. I wanted to see more in terms of experimenting with mods and giving flavor to the various builds. There are just not enough ways for the player to customize their characters.
Another problem is with the bosses, and how these are some of the most frustrating fights I’ve seen from the genre. A big point about this kind of gameplay is that you want to take on everything one on one, but every boss features endless waves of adds that increase the frustration factor. I also found the final boss to be one of the worse fights ever, but getting into that would be too much for this piece.
It’s a testament to the core gameplay loop of Remnant that it was so good that it managed to downplay some of these issues, but they’re the reasons why the game doesn’t rank higher. I hope that the developers do work on a sequel, as Remnant from the Ashes is all around one of the strongest first entries I’ve seen this year, and a sequel to refine the problems could give us a serious GOTY contender down the line.
We’re moving on to #4 tomorrow, with another solid indie game that comes the closest yet to delivering on a 2D souls-like.
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