Rest II review – sprawling world, finally fun

Home6.5, GamingRest II review – sprawling world, finally fun
Rest II review – sprawling world, finally fun

2019's Remnant: From the Ashes combined a lot of the then (and still) trendy stuff, throwing looting shooters, procedural generation, and a big dollop of Dark Souls flavor into the mixing bowl. Despite being a relatively low-budget affair, the first Remnant gained a loyal following, and four years later we have Remnant II on our hands. This time, developer Gunfire Games has set its sights on something more ambitious, offering a larger, more complex world powered by cutting-edge Unreal Engine 5 technology.

So does Remnant II continue to build a strong franchise on top of its predecessor's solid foundation? Or has the series' potential spread like ashes in the wind? Time to explore its many dimensions…

Remnant II is a direct sequel to the original Remnant: From the Ashes set in a post-apocalyptic Earth surrounded by a creeping interdimensional evil known as the Root. Once again, you play as a custom-made drifter (referred to simply as "The Traveler" this time) who ends up in Ward 13, one of humanity's last bastions. In addition to serving as a convenient hub, Ward 13 also hosts a World Stone, which provides access to a multiverse of other worlds also plagued by the Root. When a key member of the Ward 13 community is sucked into the World Stone, it's up to you to save her, and possibly put an end to this mess once and for all.

While the setting I just described might sound vaguely exciting, Remnant II's story didn't grab me. The characters are shallow and annoying, and the game tries to do the FromSoftware thing, revealing the backstory in scattered fragments, but unlike something like Elden Ring, these narrative breadcrumbs aren't very nourishing. Often when an NPC starts trying to explain what's actually going on, you just want them to shut up (and I'm not usually the type to skip dialogue).

While Remnant II isn't much of an improvement over its predecessor in terms of storytelling, the presentation is a step up. Again, this is an Unreal Engine 5 game, and at times it looks pretty nice. The level of detail in some areas is impressive, and the game uses Epic's Nanite technology to largely eliminate pop-in. Unfortunately, the game's visuals aren't particularly consistent. Character models are dated, and while some of the game's worlds are pretty, others, like the swampy Yaesha region, just look overdone and messy. The game also has some technical drawbacks on PS5, with both Balanced and Performance modes offering inconsistent FPS (you're actually better off sticking to the more stable 30fps quality mode). Native resolutions are also pretty low regardless of mode – the game just doesn't have the sharp edge you'd expect from a top-tier current-gen title. Unfortunately, even the PC version is not immune to performance issues.

While the Remnant series is often compared to Dark Souls, the similarity is more of a mood than something reflected by actual gameplay. Sure, the Remnant games have a dark tone, a high level of challenge, and big gruesome boss fights, but the unique roguelite elements that truly define Dark Souls aren't present here. There isn't much penalty for dying in Remnant II, as you just go back to the last nearby checkpoint with all your stuff. Despite their outward appearance, the Remnant games have more in common with something like Borderlands (it's no coincidence that Gearbox publishes the series). Shooting, looting, co-op play and procedural generation are the real focus here.

That procedural generation is undoubtedly the most impressive thing Remnant II brings to the table. Everything from the general flow of the game's campaign, to the story, sidequests and map layouts are procedurally generated when you start the campaign. After a certain point, the game gives you the option to restart the campaign whenever you want, or jump into the open-ended Adventure mode, and there are so many variables each re-roll feels genuinely different. Unlike many procedurally generated games, individual stages and the larger world feel cohesive, rather than just a series of roughly assembled blocks of content. Remnant II's maps have that immersive, gnarly Dark Souls feel, full of locked doors, shortcuts and secrets. Gradual relaxation and mastering of your own unique world is truly satisfying.

Unfortunately, Remnant II's minute-to-minute gameplay doesn't always measure up to the technical and artistic achievement of its procedural world. The thing about Borderlands is that, procedural generation and looting mechanics aside, it's just a good basic shooter. Fast, challenging and effective. On this front, Remnant II falls short. The character's movement is slow, with a focus on Dark-Souls-style dodge rolling, which doesn't necessarily go well with shooting. The shooting is technically solid, but weapons don't feel like they pack a lot of punch, and basic mechanics, like the ability to take cover or peek around corners, are missing here. The AI is very simple, with enemies simply swarming in packs most of the time. The boss fights vary greatly – some are clever, but others can be easily cheesed. Meanwhile, some late-game bosses are frustratingly cheap, dishing out a surplus of one-hit kills. There are probably a lot of bosses in the game, around 25 in total I reckon, but I prefer consistency over quantity.

Also, for a game that's part loot shooter, Remnant II's loot is very boring. Unlike something like Borderlands, which throws a constant stream of cool unique weapons at you, it's actually rare to find new weapons and gear in the world of Remnant II, especially early on. Instead, you get an endless array of crafting and upgrading materials that don't really generate any excitement when you pick them up. Beat a challenging boss and you'll get some scrap, crystals, and something with a funny name to trade in to make a weapon mod you might not even want. Meh.

It's a shame that Remnant II's loot is so underwhelming, because the character building process offers a lot of depth. Unlike the first Remnant, which only offered a small handful of very basic classes, Remnant II serves up 10+ detailed archetypes that can ultimately be combined to create unique dual-class characters. Add in customizable traits, weapon mods and mutations, and a healing relic you can tweak in a variety of ways, and there's a ton of intricate building potential here. But again, you're not inherently drawn in because the loot that drives this whole character build is so uninspiring.

Remnant II can be played solo offline or with up to two other players in co-op style, with the option to invite people into your game, join other parties or play with friends. It's always a bummer if the randos you drop into your game will actually be useful, and joining people you don't know often feels like showing up to a party you weren't invited to. Playing with friends long-term during a campaign is the best scenario, as you can craft your characters to compliment each other. That said, I have to say that it doesn't always feel like the game was built around co-op. I expected more scenarios where having multiple teammates really helped you strategically, but I guess Gunfire wasn't excluding solo players. As it is, co-op games are pretty much just you and your teammates running around in a pack shooting at the same mob of enemies. Playing co-op with friends is the best way to experience Remnant II, it's certainly easier than playing solo, but there just isn't a ton of unique depth to it.

That said, I'm sure there will be people who will get more hooked on Remnant II's combination of co-op and procedurally generated worlds than I did. Those who find themselves attracted will find plenty to keep them busy. A single playthrough of the campaign will take 25 hours, and those dedicated to experiencing every last scrap of content will play for a very long time.

This review was based on a PS5 copy of Remnant II provided by Gearbox Publishing.

Products mentioned in this post

An impressive technical and artistic achievement in some respects, Remnant II offers a periodically stunning, ground-breaking procedural world that's satisfying to unravel. Unfortunately, a forgettable story, middle-of-the-road gunplay, boring loot, and some performance issues mean that this fantastical world isn't always that fun to live in. Some people, especially those with a regular co-op party, will be drawn into this dark multiverse, but others may find that Remnant II only provides scattered fragments of excitement amidst the frustration.

Randomly suggested related videos:
The High Stress Environment of Travelers Rest (review)

Like every other good game out there right now Travellers Rest is an indie game, It's an early access game with a long way to go but I enjoyed what's already…

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *