A character being confronted by an enormous eyeball in Remnant 2.

Relic 2 Review

need to know

what is it? A procedurally generated looter shooter with intense combat and imaginative play.
release date July 25, 2023
estimated payment £42 / $50
developer gun game
publisher Gearbox Publishing
Comment time: AMD Ryzen 5 3600, Nvidia RTX 2080 Super, 32 GB RAM
steam deck Verified
Official website

I’m a space ninja splitting robot sentries on an artificial planet trapped in time. A few hours ago, I used a cube-firing gun to blast London elves off a dilapidated clock tower. Before that, I was consumed by a cursed board game in the vestibule of a vast golden palace. Oh, and don’t forget the time I was chasing my friend in an ancient temple when he was dragged underground by a sentient tree.

If variety is the spice of life, Remnant 2 is a smashing video game. It’s nearly impossible to go through half an hour without dropping some weird mystery box at your feet, and only half the time its contents pop out to kill you. As someone who deeply distrusts the spina box feedback loop of co-op loot shooters, Remnant 2 completely bypasses my cynicism about the genre. It does this by giving me the games I want, which are unique and exciting adventures with my friends that never depend on numbers going up to keep me in a chair.

(Image source: Gunfire Games)

It might sound simple, but Remnant 2’s game design is deceptively complex. It takes Gears of War’s over-the-shoulder shooting, mixes it with Dark Souls’ twitch-dodging scrolling and checkpoint level progression, and feeds it through a procedurally generated algorithm that randomizes not just the level layout, but the entire campaign structure. Everything from the bosses you encounter to the quests you start can be completely different from other team adventures, and you’ll only see a fraction of what the game has to offer in a single run.

That’s all true in 2019’s Remnant: From the Ashes, a sequel that paints with a bigger canvas and finer brushes. You’ll see that we learned our lesson right away, and Remnant 2 is rolling out interesting content faster. Like the first game, Remnant 2 begins with your custom character traversing a post-apocalyptic Earth that, until recently, was ravaged by a hostile race of tree-like creatures known as the Roots. In the first game, the opening dirge went on for hours. In the sequel, you spend enough time on Earth to complete the tutorial, and that’s it. Within forty minutes, you’ve discovered the secret meeting of survivors, Sector 13, and traveled through glowing red crystals to a whole new realm.

This starting domain may be one of three domains. I ended up in Yessa, an elven realm inhabited by a race of satyr-like creatures known as “Pans.” But you have the same chance of ending up in Nerud, the barren planetary structure I mentioned in the opening paragraph. My favorite realm, however, is Losomme, a mirror world where two reflections of a gilded palace are connected by a vast low-fantasy cityscape of townspeople wielding rifles and farm implements. A slight shift to Bloodborne is Remnant 2.

the world within the world

(Image source: Gunfire Games)

That giant smurf lady who’s been front and center in all of Remnant 2’s marketing? Never met her. More than once.

All of these environments are procedurally generated, and while I found some recurring level tiles in my adventures, Remnants 2’s maps feel unique and handcrafted for the most part. However, what is most impressive is not the appearance of these spaces, but the value of exploring them. Each world has several “main” areas, usually consisting of two or three side dungeons. But every element is randomly combined, including the adventures you’ll experience. While venturing into the sewers of Luthum, I met a frustrated fellow who asked me to search for his wife, which meant looking among the piles of bones that vicious werewolf-like creatures had piled up. The clock tower I mentioned at the beginning is the culmination of another quest that involves navigating between two different areas to solve puzzles. Some quests have multiple potential solutions, while others actively seek out you and actually pull you into a new area, like Arkham Knight’s “Human Bat” side quest. All, some, or all of these can happen to you during your adventures. That giant smurf lady who’s been front and center in all of Remnant 2’s marketing? Never met her. More than once.

There’s a potential counter-argument here, which is “why not let people experience everything at once?”. Well, personally, I prefer a game that takes 20 hours to finish and leaves me wanting more than a game that takes 100 hours to finish and makes me wonder how the hell I’m ever going to find the time to play it again. This approach also makes Remnants 2 run fast-paced and purposeful, more like a pastime than a project. Remnant 2 wants to fit into your life rather than consume it, giving you a full sensory experience within a reasonable time frame while leaving the door open for when you want to come back. This is an attitude I respect.

Of course, “Remnant 2” saves the biggest surprise for its bosses, although what I will say now is that not every boss is very smart. Some of the dungeons I explored ended up with me fighting enhanced versions of common enemies, and the first time I played through, I was faced with not one but two amorphous blobs. However, on the other side of the coin is a giant alien god that can pierce reality, and a living root lair that shatters the platforms you fight it on, sending you tumbling into the void unless you jump out of it in time. The most notable encounter is against a “creature” called the Sentinel of the Maze. I won’t describe this in detail because it was a fantastic surprise, but if David Lynch directed an Indiana Jones movie, you might see this sequence. Destined to become a regular feature in the internet’s “best boss fight” discussions, it’s completely original and absolutely exciting.

(Image source: Gunfire Games)

As a series of cool things to watch, Remnant 2 outlasts toilet paper. But you can also see a lot of weird stuff on Instagram, and you won’t be paying £40 for the privilege. Luckily, behind Remnant 2’s surreal sightseeing tour is a really fun shooter. Mechanistically, its rationale is sound. Movement is light but not weightless, starting weapons are satisfying to use, your dodge roll is nimble, and there’s a large invulnerability window. More broadly, the way Remnant 2 filters combat encounters into its procedurally generated levels is impressive. Enemies attack from all angles, requiring you to be constantly aware of your surroundings. But it’s not an endless, invisible assault, either. It ebbs and flows between tense and intense.

Combat becomes even more unique as you add new weapons and archetypes (the Remnant word for “category”). Remnant isn’t a Borderlands-style shootout extravaganza, with better weapons scattered like chewing gum on the sidewalk. Instead, you’ll receive starting guns that are usable for most of the game but can be modified with special alternate firepower. On top of that, you’ll occasionally pick up brand new weapons that do very different things. For example, I made a weapon called the Twisted Arbalest that fires stone discus that bounce quickly between enemies. This makes it great for crowd control, but less effective against strong single opponents, which I make up for with quick-firing secondary weapons. Strangely though, none of this works with armor. There are some nice armor sets to collect in Remnant 2, but they can’t be crafted or modified.

man’s best partner

(Image source: Gunfire Games)

An AI dog not only helps you fight enemies, but also uses its howl to empower you, and best of all, revives you if you’re knocked down.

At the same time, prototyping becomes more interesting as you progress. Of the six starter prototypes, I spent most of my time with Handler, as it’s easily the best category for mixing solo and co-op play. Beside the trainer is an AI dog that not only helps you fight enemies, but also uses its howl to empower you and, most importantly, revives you if you fall in battle. Each archetype has a mix of active abilities and passive abilities that level up as you progress through the game, and once you hit level 10, you can equip a second archetype and mix its abilities with your own. So you can combine your handler with the hunter archetype and boost your ranged damage. Alternatively, you can combine your starting archetype with one of several secret archetypes unlocked through exploration, such as the alchemist, who can drop vial concoctions for various buffs.

It’s a well thought out system, but it’s not what you’re playing for, as a lot of progression is either automatic or passive. For example, you can unlock about 30 different “traits” that can be upgraded to provide passive bonuses, but these are tiny buffs like “+1% damage reduction” or “+10% mod power generation”. Useful over time, but very unsexy. All the fun happens in the crafting of weapons and weapon mods.

(Image source: Gunfire Games)

Overall, combat is fun and rewarding. However, the overarching narrative of Remnant is not. The world of Remnant 2 hides a ton of interesting stories, including side quests, personal world stories, and asides (such as custom fables you can rummage through in the ancient library). However, the main plot is more episodic than last time, a very basic “find three things to save the universe” event, lacking any interesting twists or characters. It mostly revolves around a young woman named Clementine, who you spend a solid five minutes with before she gets kidnapped by a strange interdimensional entity, so you never get the chance to have any kind of relationship with the character. It’s doubly odd that you start the game with an entirely different female character who is your avatar’s closest friend. But once reaching District 13, the character is immediately downgraded to “NPC Merchant”.

I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to write a coherent story for such an expansive game, especially considering that much of Remnant 2’s campaign is procedural. But that’s exactly why Remnant 2 needs it. Without a clear story thread or consistent supporting cast, Remnant 2 can sometimes feel like a bunch of cool shit that Gunfire Games just randomly threw into a blender.

Still, maybe that’s the price you pay for a game that updates itself with every step you take. I probably won’t learn any unifying life lessons from Remnant 2, but there are a dozen smaller moments that will dance in my head for a long time, not counting the ones I haven’t seen yet. It’s a do-it-yourself, experiential blind bag with layers and layers of colorful, plastic-like fun.

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Bart Thompson
Bart is's List Writer . He is from Houston, Texas, and is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in creative writing, majoring in non-fiction writing. He likes to play The Elder Scrolls Online and learn everything about The Elder Scrolls series.