Rather than implementing sweeping changes to the original’s souslike-with-guns formula, Remnant 2 works to make its core pillars sturdier, infusing more variety into its procedurally generated world-hopping adventure.
Picking up where its predecessor left off, humanity’s efforts to destroy the Root – a race of tree-like creatures led by a hive mind hellbent on devouring everything in its path – haven’t exactly bore fruit.
After a brief tutorial section walks you through basic mechanics like dodging and healing, you once again reach Ward 13, the hub area where a dogged group of survivors largely exists to offer vital services for your needs. You’ll often return in between bouts of dungeon delving to purchase consumable goods and gear or craft and upgrade equipment.
It’s also here where you choose your very first archetype. Rather than simply acting as a set of items that briefly informs your starting playstyle, archetypes now have a greater say in terms of how your character performs.
These come equipped with a defining prime perk, a unique trait, alongside four passive perks that are unlocked and enhanced as you level up the archetype. Additionally, they include a set of three active powers. While you can only equip one of these active powers at a time, you’re free to interchange them as you progress through the game.
The closest thing to home.
Where the Challenger prefers fighting up close and can outright shrug off death, the Gunslinger excels at filling up enemies with lead in record time. The Handler – which I picked for my solo playthrough – is an all-rounder who relies on his canine companion for revives in the midst of battle, buffs, and keeping enemies busy.
The archetype brings the same benefits to co-op playthroughs, with your dog pal – aptly named Dog, to avoid any possible confusion – actively making its presence felt in combat.
The Handler’s powers, which are multifunctional, can be somewhat tricky to utilize in the heat of combat due to their assignment to a single key. A single press directs the dog to attack a selected enemy, while pressing the key twice calls it back to your side. It’s worth noting that the dog occasionally tends to return on its own after neutralising a target, even if there are other enemies still nearby. Then, holding the button triggers its howl. Depending on your equipped power, this allows your canine friend to generate more threat, heal your party, or increase damage dealt.
Each command also necessitates the Handler to cease fire and gesture towards their pet with their hand. Furthermore, singling out high-threat enemies from a group - such as those with the ability to revive allies or deal significant ranged damage - can occasionally be challenging. Since the only option is to press ‘Q’ while aiming in their general vicinity, it often becomes a game of chance hoping the pet targets the correct enemy.
The Root's minions still pack a punch.
After you reach the maximum level with one archetype, you also unlock the ability to equip another as your secondary. This grants you all of its perks and powers, with the exception of its prime perk.
The Medic proved an excellent fit during my solo playthrough, providing extra survivability through its ability to drop a healing pool at my feet, alongside a welcome buff to damage and resilience from its passive perks.
I leaned even more into survivability with my accessories, opting for an amulet that replenished health as I dealt ranged damage and a ring that provided a slight amount of passive health regeneration. My three other rings offered more ammo while increasing my damage.
In tandem with my automatic long gun – whose mod enabled it to lob a projectile that exploded into a separate healing pool – and electricity-spewing handgun, I could deal good amounts of damage both up close and at a distance, while keeping the Dragon Heart – Remnant 2’s equivalent of Dark Souls’ Estus Flask – and its limited charges for emergencies.
Even though armor plays a less significant role in stats in this iteration, it represents just one of the multiple routes available. A multitude of rings, amulets, weapon mods, and mutators await discovery and crafting, each enhancing different gameplay styles. Some options may encourage a greater reliance on your melee weapon, while others may boost mod power generation, augment damage output, or facilitate quicker movement and improved evasion capabilities.
Some foes are best kept at a distance.
There’s a rich arsenal to choose from and upgrade during playthroughs, comprised of both traditional weapons like revolvers, sniper rifles, and shotguns, as well as a suite of otherworldly guns crafted after obtaining valuable materials from downed bosses.
For a more defensive approach, the Cube Gun’s mod produces a purple barrier around my Handler, protecting against damage. The Nightweaver’s unique mod turns a semi-automatic rifle into an automatic beast that has infinite ammo and requires no reloading for a couple of seconds, offering a different flavor of offense.
While you cannot remove unique mods from boss weapons, their regular counterparts have customizable mod slots. These alternate fire modes are charged by damaging opponents, creating a satisfying loop in which landing shots and killing foes means that you can later kill (bigger) foes in a flashier, more efficient manner. The attached power trip never got old in my 30+ hours with the game.
Spread across Remnant 2’s levels, you’ll find Tomes of Knowledge that reward trait points, which you can spend to improve a number of generic passive traits. Although not as gameplay-defining as your archetype’s, they still provide helpful percentage increases to things like skill cooldown, health, or damage resistance.
Remant 2's archetype system is easily one of the sequel's most notable improvements.
Remnant 2’s revamped archetype system doesn’t actively require intense planning to create a build, but is a welcome step up over its previous iteration, successfully elevating its already satisfying moment-to-moment gameplay.
On the first two difficulties, combat encounters offer a mixture of easily manageable and challenging fights that are often well-paced. Soulslike elements – like the more frequent need to counter status effects with consumables and devastating attacks that affect large areas – only made their presence properly felt toward the end of my first playthrough. Basic enemies can still hurt you if you’re careless, but they do fall relatively easily, especially if you keep your arsenal upgraded as the difficulty progressively ramps up.
It’s awesome to see a sustained arc of electricity melt foes in a matter of seconds, and the crunchy sound effects behind each shot contribute heavily to wanting to bring your wrath upon the denizens of one more dungeon.
When a bigger foe – like a teleporting archer whose arrows deal heavy damage or a caster capable of resurrecting allies – enters the fray, it makes even the basic enemies more dangerous, as you have to account for different attack patterns and timings. Better yet, there’s a good amount of enemy variety across the different worlds you explore.
Proof that electricity has many fun uses.
Like in the original, bosses are, unfortunately, a mixed bag. Some simply fall too easily while others have annoying, poorly telegraphed one-shot mechanics that make fighting them a frustrating exercise in trial and error.
Going up against a large mutated hog in a very cramped arena counted among the lowest points of my time with Remnant 2, as the boss spent half of the fight standing in place while attempting to turn. Dodging its rare charges also felt janky, while the camera struggled to offer good visibility in such a tight space.
But other boss fights do require learning attack patterns, properly timing dodges, or using the environment to block projectiles and avoid dangerous status effects. Get hit by a flurry of attacks and you’ll lose entire chunks of your health bar.
Whether or not your playthrough includes more of the latter is up to chance. Yet, overall, the sequel’s procedural generation manages to keep things interesting. And, if you’re unlucky to face several of the less impressive bosses, at least there’s a cool new gun or mod that you can craft once you’re done.
Visually, the overall theme of each world doesn’t change all that much between playthroughs. Yaesha is always heavily forested and dotted with stone ruins, while splashes of vivid red – resulting from the Root’s presence – disturb its otherwise tame color palette.
Magister Dullain on the receiving end of punishment.
Losomn’s moonlit sky invites a gothic atmosphere. Pyres and buildings burn brightly while husks of its disheveled vampire-like citizens await their fate in cages hanging from its sewers’ tall ceilings. This decrepitude precedes a romp through lavish Fae halls defended by warriors in shining armor.
Spread across an open desert, N’erud’s futuristic halls have a Gigeresque feel to them, standing in stark contrast to any of the previously visited worlds.
Structurally, there are always bigger areas that house multiple doors which act as dungeon entrances. Exploration is encouraged by checkpoints that facilitate fast travel. In addition, killing as many foes as possible is the main way to level up your archetypes and you’re likely to find new items and uncover secrets while you’re at it.
I wrapped up my first playthrough with a large collection of rings, most of which I picked up by simply checking every nook and cranny wherever possible, which is made slightly easier by the introduction of a fully 3D map.
I also missed certain narrative choices that led to different paths, interactions, and rewards. On top of that, I couldn’t instantly figure out the solutions to Remnant 2’s more arcane environmental puzzles. That, however, is territory to be covered in subsequent playthroughs, which the sequel is built around.
N'Erud dials up the sci-fi.
When I rerolled my campaign - a process that thankfully doesn’t erase character progress - and began my second playthrough, I discovered a new layout in Yaesha. Despite maintaining its familiar ambiance, it still managed to surprise me with fresh and unexpected elements.
The first dungeon introduced new enemies in the shape of rifle-equipped Root warriors alongside bigger monsters whose cannons and grenades dealt heavy damage in a fairly large area. It all culminated with a dungeon boss that I hadn’t previously faced.
Defeating a world’s final boss unlocks it for use in Adventure mode. This is a shorter experience with its own difficulty settings that runs parallel to an active campaign, without overwriting progress. It’s focused on a single world, allowing you to more quickly target specific rewards.
Although its combat and class design have visibly improved, Remnant 2’s narrative still relies on tired tropes and cliches. In the review build of the game, its ending sequence also had environmental sound effects drowning out the dialogue that seemed to make a potentially important point about the fight against the Root.
The characters I met along the way did considerably less to make sure I was invested in humanity’s struggle than the simple prospect of using awesome guns to defeat challenging enemies. Some are unbearable, others actually likeable, but none of them evolve beyond simple vendors attached to vital systems that were also given some dialogue.
Forgetting about defense on higher difficulties is a pretty bad idea, it turns out.
The sequel makes an active effort to improve world-building and familiarize players who might have skipped the original with what’s going on. The problem here is not always the writing itself, but rather its delivery. Instead of organically sharing information about its worlds, you learn relevant details from lengthy dialogue sequences with NPCs found in the areas you visit or equally lengthy books and journals. Part of me was initially curious to stop and learn about new alien cultures, but I was rarely keen to have my progress through the dungeon grind down to a halt.
I wish part of this was shared during the small bits of downtime while exploring or was otherwise accessible – similar to item descriptions – when I didn’t have murder and shiny new guns on my mind.
On an i7-13700K, 32 GB RAM, Nvidia RTX 3080@1440p, performance wasn’t exactly ideal. Without DLSS turned on, Remnant 2 hovered at around 40-50 FPS on Ultra settings. I kept it on for the vast majority of my time played, which enabled a mostly stable 60 FPS, but still saw plenty of dips that went as far down as 35 FPS. I even had to lower the graphics settings to medium to defeat several bosses, due to the shorter reaction windows and crazier abilities on show.
Remnant 2’s revamped archetype system and improved world generation breathe new life into what otherwise remains an iterative sequel that sees no need to fix what isn’t broken. Great gunplay and creative weapon mods fuel its addictive moment-to-moment gameplay, while offering enough reasons to keep clearing dungeons, grinding materials, and upgrading or trying out new guns.
But as much as it’s a better game than its predecessor and one whose action scratches that itch for a challenging third-person shooter, less than ideal optimization, forgettable characters, and clumsy writing, alongside a suite of hit-or-miss bosses keep it just shy of greatness.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Learning the final boss’ attack patterns and taking it down after multiple attempts.
Improved world generation
Revamped archetype system facilitates different playstyles
Frame drops can artificially raise difficulty
Forgettable characters, cliche story
About Bogdan Robert Mateș
When not brewing coffee or debating serious topics with my cat, you'll either find me playing video games or writing about them.