I will always remember lockdown as the chance to go gorging on looter-shooters. With one group of friends we would sit down and play Tom Clancy’s The Division on an evening. With another group, we would battle our way through Remnant: From the Ashes on Xbox Game Pass. Both great games in their own right and should be seen as a looter-shooter sandwich that many would enjoy.
And whilst Ubisoft hold out on a true sequel to The Division 2, up pops a sequel to a bit of a sleeper hit in the form of Remnant II. There is no subtitle here, this is a straight up sequel that manages to improve on the framework of the original while staying fresh enough for returning players. Just about anyways.
Remnant II follows the same pattern as laid out in the original. That pattern essentially seeing the Soulslike formula inputted into a looter-shooter. You travel from area to area activating big and small crystals which act like your bonfires, killing all manner of difficult enemies along the way, hoping your limited healing items can get you to your destination. Soulslike games are ten-a-penny now, but the Remnant series is certainly up there with the best.
Several years have passed since the events of From the Ashes. The story was a bit wishy-washy but you defeated the Dreamer and killed the Root once and for all. Or so you thought.
The Root still remains in Remnant II, albeit in a much smaller capacity, with far greater threats now out there. It still remains the focus of the tutorial. This leads you into a revamped Ward 13, which once again acts as your hub area. A mysterious inhabitant of Ward 13 has displayed so extremely powerful abilities in quashing the Root, but before you can properly investigate, they are pulled into the newly reactivated Big Red Crystal. You, naturally, follow through in pursuit.
Your first world can be one of either N’Erud, Losomn or the returning Yaesha, and even these can play wildly differently for players venturing into these worlds. N’Erud for example, had me collecting Seeker Keys in order to send the entire world off through a black hole. Another main quest will have you recovering the Shining Essence Echo for The Custodian. What you then choose to do with it once you have it is just another way to experience Remnant II.
Losomn was my second world, and gave me instant Bloodborne vibes, particularly when a special enemy armed with a series of circular saws came charging at me in a Father Gascoigne way. It wasn’t until I delved deeper into the lore of this world that I discovered why all the residents were hellbent on killing me. But without giving too much away, expect to see this world boss appearing in those ‘videogame sections that aren’t horror games but may as well be’ listicles, or however they more succinctly describe them.
It was more these in-world storylines that pushed me on as opposed to the main narrative if anything. The locations are superbly detailed in Remnant II, with lore around every corner if you take the time to read through the various passages found within. You won’t be able to access everything in one playthrough of that world, nor likely the second or third. But Remnant II is more clued up on this than its predecessor. Adventure mode, where you can reroll worlds to play through them again, is included in the beginning this time.
One of the major new features of Remnant II are the Archetypes. These feel way more unique than what came before with specific perks, skills and traits. Gone is the overall levelling from before where you could pour literally hundreds of trait points into any that you had unlocked. Traits are a bit trickier to find than before, and your only real method of trait points now comes from finding the precious Tomes of Knowledge.
Archetypes can be switched out freely in Ward 13 once you hit level 10 with your starting one, and you can even have two equipped later on. If playing as a trio in Remnant II, it makes sense to maximise your output with these. Don’t let that put you off if you prefer to fly solo, it is perfectly playable in single-player, and if anything, slightly easier. Whether there is some off-balancing or just general lack of skill in my co-op buddies though I have yet to decide.
Archetypes also have another, perhaps unintended benefit. I cared about what mods and mutators I was equipping to my guns, to make sure they maximised my skills in my chosen Archetype. That meant I wasn’t unnecessarily spending scrap on gear and mods that I would ultimately never used, and could use my money into upgrading my weapons instead. Just as well, as scrap feels way more scarce in this over the original.
Unfortunately, when I wanted to spend time with how each equipped item affected my build, the button prompt for seeing my advanced stats wasn’t working. This has been the only bug I have encountered though.
Another major improvement is found in the bosses of Remnant II. There were some iconic foes to best in the original, but they were a little bullet spongey at times, with the sheer number of adds being drafted in to overwhelm regularly causing your downfall. Adds are still present in a number of bosses for Remnant II, but these are primarily to drop ammo for your weaponry. The main area these have been improved upon is in the mechanics within them. You may remember the final boss in the first game, The Dreamer, where one/all of you (depending on whether you played pre or post patch) were sucked into a very dark area to power up attacks to defeat the boss. Well, Remnant II is full of these more tactical moments. One fight in the returning Labyrinth had me literally fighting against a maze where cubes would rotate throughout it. Another, in a rerolled N’Erud had me struggling for ages to figure out what the boss even was. It wasn’t the adds on the floor or the larger, floating enemies around. In fact, it was a parasitic blue enemy that was my true foe. Learning these mechanics and then how to defeat them in Remnant II is incredibly satisfying; much more than just shooting an enemy and hoping you have enough Dragon Hearts to last. It’s something I haven’t felt since perhaps the raids in the original Destiny, only here there are many more of them.
But just because the bosses are less of a bullet sponge, doesn’t mean they are any easier. Even with all the loot and familiarity of improving weapons and relics in Remnant II, I was rarely left to feel comfortable in these hostile worlds.
And yet, nothing pleases me more than being in the worlds of Remnant II. There is no greater satisfaction than hitting a weak spot with a critical hit and seeing a big red number rise up from an enemy corpse. That exhilaration is second to none when finally beating a boss – curse you Nightweaver – that has kept you up way past your bedtime. And that sense of pride of instantly seeing your newly appointed trait point serve its purpose as you feel your weapons and character improve.
Remnant II is absolutely full of these moments from the very beginning, to the middle bit where you keep rerolling the same worlds just in case you missed a minute detail, and then on to the conclusion, knowing you get to do it all over again.