With Remnant II slated for launch on July 25th (although Early Access actually begins earlier than that for those who purchased the Ultimate Edition), I had the chance to interview Gunfire's Design Director John Pearl and Lead Designer Ben Cureton as a follow-up to Kai's Summer Game Fest chat with principal level designer Cindy To.
The Q&A has been divided into lore, combat and gameplay related answers (available in this article) and technology related answers (which has its own article, where we reveal that Remnant II runs on Unreal Engine 5, among other things). Without further ado, here is the transcript, slightly edited and condensed for clarity.
According to the lore, how many years have passed since the first game? Will there be more characters returning in Remnant II?
John Pearl: It's been a little over 2 decades since the events of the DLC, Subject 2923. The Earth has changed, and the root has gone into remission. The residents of Ward 13 have moved out of the old bunker from the first game and built a city near the surrounding docks. Returning players will find quite a few familiar faces, including some surprises as well as some new ones to meet in the new Ward 13.
How did you choose the cannon choices from the first game? Was there a narrative reason, or did you simply choose the most common player actions?
John Pearl: Allowing players to have multiple choices about how to handle or complete a story makes it hard to tell if there is a definitive version of an encounter. At Gunfire Games, when we set up these choices in Remnant (Remnant: From the Ashes), we had an idea in the back of our minds that were the canonical outcomes, and when we came back for Remnant II, we implemented them. Because of how we designed the game, we found that many players went through Remnant multiple times so they could see multiple outcomes, so it's hard to say which were the most common choices made.
The branching storylines are a big feature of Remnant II. Can you talk about how they work? How much replayability do you think they can bring to the table?
John Pearl: The story structure of Remnant II is much more complex than Remnant. In Remnant, there was a linear story arc that took the player through the root-infested earth, and eventually to other worlds in search of the fabled "Founder Ford". In that game, the order of worlds the player encountered was static, and each world had its own story that tied into the larger story arc. In Remnant II, there is a high-level story arc that eventually takes the player to other worlds; however, these worlds will be encountered in a random order, and instead of one world having a single story, there are 2 completely unique ones, and which story players get is random. So two people playing the game separately can not only have traveled to the worlds in a different order, but also seen a different story in each world. This doesn't even take into account all the non-story related locations and events that could potentially appear in one game versus another. Encouraging replayability and players experiencing new things on successive playthroughs was a big edict for us when we created Remnant, but we really expanded that idea even further with Remnant II!
Will the environments get bigger in this sequel? Does verticality play a bigger factor?
John Pearl: We set out to make the visuals of the world much more varied in feel than the first game, and with that we're expanding the size of the areas. We have added more open spaces, but also kept some of the tighter spaces. There is a much wider variety of locations than the first game, both in terms of look and feel. Verticality now plays a much bigger role as we've added a contextual jump, which allows the player to jump over gaps and chasms to explore new areas that wouldn't have been available in the first game.
Can you explain how scaling works in Remnant II in different situations, such as solo and co-op?
Ben Cureton: Scaling works similarly to Remnant, where the world gets tougher as you get stronger. In the original game, we calculated your total item level (weapons and armor). However, since Armor can no longer be upgraded, it is not factored into the equation. On the flip side, archetype levels are included. Since they automatically level up with experience gain, this motivates the player to upgrade their weapons to keep pace and/or surpass the current challenge.
How many weapons are in the game and which ones are returning from Remnant: From the Ashes?
Ben Cureton: More. That's the theme of Remnant II: more weapons. Much more. We'll leave the exact number up to the players to figure out, but we can safely say that there are a lot of weapons to play with. We brought back a lot of fan favorites (including almost every standard weapon from the original game + DLC), we updated the behavior of all returning Boss/Special weapons to make them even more appealing, and then we added a whole bunch of awesome new tools you can enjoy yourself.
Can you talk about "Mutator Slot" and what it entails?
Ben Cureton: The Mutator slot is available on every weapon (both firearms and melee) and it allows you to customize the behavior of that weapon. You can think of them similar to Remnant Armor set bonuses, except instead of just 1, now you can have 3 splits in total. They each come with a basic effect that can be upgraded 10 times.
At max level they get an extra bonus. Part of the design goal of Mutators was to give players even more flexibility with their builds, but it also helped move Armor Set bonuses out of armor so players could enjoy the most important part of surviving the apocalypse…'FASHION!'
Will there be greater emphasis on differences between different types of damage?
Ben Cureton: There are now 4 core damage types; Ranged, Melee, Mod and Skill, and a handful of subtypes, such as Elemental, Physical, etc. Each Archetype specializes in one or more of the core types (eg Gunslinger focuses on Ranged, while Handler has both Ranged and Skill, compared to the doctor, who has all 4, but with a reduced amount). Focusing on a specific damage type (or types) can really help you increase your offense. Combining archetypes to stack damage is always a good option, but also creating a build with a more rounded spread can also be very beneficial.
What is the extent of the improvements made to melee combat in Remnant II?
Ben Cureton: The first thing we did was tighten up the response to the first button press and release. Every melee attack in the game now executes between 5-8 frames faster, giving melee combat a much sharper feel. We also adjusted the speed of each melee animation along with their transition windows (follow-up attack, dodge, move, etc.). After the core feel was in a solid place, we rebalanced each weapon to have unique stats between each type (so no two swords will ever be the same) and ensured that the damage output was worth the risk. Melee weapons, on average, now deal roughly the same damage as a sidearm, but obviously require no ammo. The charge attacks now cost stamina, but deal about 20-25% more DPS. Melee was never intended to be the star of the show, but we certainly want it to be efficient and powerful.
In addition to reworking the animation sets for old classics (like the Flail, Claw, and even Unarmed), we also added brand new melee weapon types, like the Broadsword, Katana, and Staff.
During a recent developer stream, someone mentioned the ability to "upgrade shields." Did it refer to physical shields?
Ben Cureton: We don't have the traditional "Sword and Board" type shields, but players will have some other shield related options. The first is access to an "over-shield" mechanic that acts as extra health. This is not a core/always present mechanic like in other games. You need to find skills and items that allow you to get the overshield.
Second, there are a handful of different skill- and mod-based shield options. For example, the player may be able to summon a wall to protect themselves from incoming fire, or set up a barrier that slows projectiles and increases defense, etc.
Will stealth be a factor in Remnant II?
Ben Cureton: While pure stealth gameplay is not a focus for us, players can, in some cases, eliminate enemies before major battles break out. The planning and execution of a pre-battle strategy is always present and can be exploited, but we don't lean into the more traditional stealth gameplay.
Will there be some way to "farm" certain events or bosses, perhaps after you've completed the campaign?
John Pearl: As Remnant, when you complete a world for the first time, the ability to play adventure mode for that world is unlocked. This allows players to replay a given world as many times as they want. Since this option appears immediately when a world is completed, this means that players do not have to wait until they complete the game to start "farming". Ultimately, this gives them the ability to hunt down all the harder to find items, events, and bosses when they see fit.
Is there a specific feature at launch?
Ben Cureton: Players can respect their traits whenever they want if they have the resources to buy an Orb of Repentance from Wally. It is available from the beginning of the game.
Why did you stick to the three player group? Any chance the party size could be expanded to allow for even more epic boss fights at some point in the future?
John Pearl: Three feels like the right group size for our game. We've built the world so that up to three players feel like they have the room they need to maneuver around and never feel cramped. On the flip side, the world never feels too spread out or empty for someone playing alone. Never say never in game development, but we currently have no plans to increase the number of players.
What kind of post-launch support can players expect? Are you going to add more archetypes, worlds, stories, etc.?
John Pearl: We want to support the game well after launch with updates as well as paid DLC. We are not currently discussing details about DLC other than to say we are doing something. We will get more information to discuss it later.
Ben Cureton: On the progression side, besides just balance patches, we also want to include as many useful quality of life (QOL) features as we can. Of course balance and QOL stuff will be completely free.
Are you planning a simultaneous launch with cross-play?
John Pearl: Cross-play is not something we are talking about right now.
Thank you for your time.
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