Is Remnant Really “Dark Souls With Guns”?

Remnant: From The Ashes, is a new title from Gunfire Games, (Formerly Crytek USA).  The game is a procedurally-generated adventure RPG with shoot & loot game mechanics, set in a post-apocalyptic science-fiction future. Many call the game “Dark Souls with Guns,” alluding to in-game systems being borrowed from FromSoftware’s legendary title. These include, but are not limited to: a limited healing system, checkpoint-based progression, weapon and armor upgrades, and some similar combat mechanics.

Remnant
Looks more like Doom than Dark Souls in this Promo Art

Despite similarities, I find myself disagreeing with the comparison. I do fully understand the desire and the logic in giving Remnant this nickname. I do not and cannot use it in good conscience, however.

One issue for me stems from people already over-using “Dark Souls” as a way to describe things. How often did we hear Studio MDHR’s Cuphead described as “The Dark Souls of Side-Scrollers”? How often have writers from other big publications run into an even moderately challenging game and stated that it’s “Just like Dark Souls”?

cupsouls
Image Credit – September 2017, Twitter User @folyqa (since suspended)

The phrase itself has at this point become a boiled down, lazy comparison focused entirely around someone’s struggle with a game, instead of describing any actual challenge inherent within the game’s design. This reductive way of describing things is so popular a twitter account exists solely to mock the practice of doing it. This is an account with over 2,000 tweets, might I add.

My main problem, however, is actually not far from that revelation about difficulty.

You see, Remnant isn’t a terribly difficult game. For those who hear the name “Dark Souls with Guns” and come running in expecting the sort of masochistic challenge that will keep you gnashing your teeth for hours, memorizing patterns for the satisfactory experience of conquering a big baddie, you will find yourself disappointed.

There are boss fights, complete with fog gates, but they do not come with nearly the challenge expected from a “Souls” title. Wind-up animations are generously choreographed, ammo is plentiful and consumables never seem hard to find. The biggest challenge often comes from add mobs (groups of weaker enemies spawned in addition to the boss) that spawn to provide you ammo sources and get in your way.

This is my biggest gripe with Remnant, because in many ways, it IS Dark Souls with guns. From the Dragonheart/Estus Flask, ramping status elements, the rune bonfires needing to be kindeled… Gunfire has clearly taken liberties in borrowing heavily from FromSoftware’s formula to produce Remnant.

The key thing everyone has come to expect from a Souls game, however; that white-knuckle, frustration-inducing challenge of “The unkillable boss” which leaves you hating yourself for hours until you finally conquer the grand enemy before you?

It’s just missing.

Remnant has no Blazing Bullsh*t to be found, like it or not.

For some this will be a welcome change, but for those who play a Dark Souls title for the  love of conquering the challenge of it, it will be the difference between a great game and a pale imitation.

Really though, complaining that “‘X is like Dark Souls’ is reductive” is old hat these days. It doesn’t solve the underlying problem, it just adds more whining to the pile.

The issue that underpins this whole topic, I think, is that many games these days have come to blend similar gameplay elements, settings and plot devices, without really having a genre to call their own.

I would argue there’s at least as much in common between Borderlands and Remnant, as between Remnant and Dark Souls. That, I think, is one of the big challenges in describing games these days. We’ve gotten lazy at classifying new genres in our rush to condense things into simple to digest terms.

Frankly, we can easily look at the likes of Gearbox’s Borderlands, Bungie’s Destiny, BioWare’s Anthem and yes, Remnant, and say that with the themes, elements and gameplay loops they display, they are  best described as their own genre.

Drawing on predecessors like id Software’s Rage & Bethsda’s Fallout, all of these games focus on a post-apocalyptic, science-fiction landscape. They’re also all, to some degree, focused on a multi-player looting & shooting loop.

I think the best term to describe all of these games is PALSRPGs. That is, Post-Apocalyptic, Loot & Shoot Role-Playing Games. You also have the option to play them with your pals, so that fits too, in a way.

We need a better name for this style of game, at the end of the day. Maybe this isn’t the best one, but it works, so until I hear better, I’ll be using it. I encourage you to do the same. It’s at least better than calling another game “Just like Dark Souls.”

Becoming a Dungeon Master: Bringing Your World To Life

So after a week off and letting you run a few sessions on your own, I wanted to let that sit and digest. I’m sure you’re still learning the ropes and the rules by heart, but all of that will come with time.

So this week, we will talk about breathing more life into your already living world. If you missed the last segment you can find it here.

Continue reading “Becoming a Dungeon Master: Bringing Your World To Life”

Becoming a Dungeon Master: Running Your Game

The night is here! Again, you’re driving home from a very hard week of work. You got your Session 0 done last week, your gang has their characters, and you have your campaign. Tonight is finally here.

Running your weekly games takes effort, that goes without saying; it isn’t just improv and winging it, hoping your game sessions are epic. You need to know how to prepare, adjust, multitask and set up hooks for your players.

Continue reading “Becoming a Dungeon Master: Running Your Game”

Becoming a Dungeon Master: Session 0

This is the fourth installment in the series and is focused on creating Session 0 for your campaign. If you missed part three, check out Becoming a Dungeon Master.

It’s Friday night and you have your table set-up. Your group of players all said they would be there in about an hour, but you couldn’t help yourself; you got your grid out, set up your screen and have pencils placed in front of each seat.

You’re utterly giddy. Your first campaign is about to start. With this session; you just can’t wait to see what characters everybody came up wit-.

Wait a minute…

Continue reading “Becoming a Dungeon Master: Session 0”

Becoming a Dungeon Master: Building Your Campaign

This is the third installment in the series and is focused on people wanting to homebrew their story. If you missed part two, check out Becoming a Dungeon Master.

Happy Friday, fellow Dungeon Masters! It’s that time of the week for D&D! In the previous installments, we talked about getting started in your journey of becoming a DM and about building your very own world.

In this entry, we will be building the brain of your game-nights; the campaign (if you want to homebrew your campaign). Continue reading “Becoming a Dungeon Master: Building Your Campaign”

Assigning Weight to Death in Games, Pt. 4: Permadeath

If you’re joining us for the first time, check out Part 1: The Problem and Challenges. If you missed the last entry in the Assigning Weight to Death in Games series, take a look at Part 3: Classes of Assigning Weight.

In the second installment of this series, I mentioned permadeath. I also said that I would cover it in some greater length in a later article. Well, the time for that article has come. So, let’s remind ourselves (not that I think anyone likely needs to): what is permadeath? Well, everybody knows that it’s when death in a game works in such a way that, when the player dies, their character is dead permanently. They aren’t coming back unless the game restarts. Simple, right? Well, I would argue not quite so simple as it seems. Not by a long shot.

Continue reading “Assigning Weight to Death in Games, Pt. 4: Permadeath”

Mages through the Ages Part 1: An Introduction

Video Game Mage

Ah, the mage. The word is defined as “a magician or learned person” according to the Oxford Dictionary, with its origin being in the Latin word magus, which comes from the Greek word magos.¹ It is described as a word that was archaic by the late 19th century but has since been revived by fantasy games.² According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the following words are all synonyms for mage: charmer, conjurer, enchanter, magian, magician, magus, necromancer, sorcerer, voodoo, voodooist, witch, and wizard.³

Continue reading “Mages through the Ages Part 1: An Introduction”

Celeste Review: A wonderful revisit to retro platforming

Celeste

Celeste, winner of “Best Independent Game” award from The Game Awards 2018 and from the creators of Towerfall: Ascension, came out early in the year to a tidal wave of praise. It’s a near-pixel-perfect platformer akin to Super Meat Boy or I Wanna Be The Guy but if the developer didn’t hate humanity and wish for its demise. Deaths are expected and counted, but evenly spread out so as to make sure the player never gets so frustrated that they quit. Even for the players not accustomed to platformers, there is an Assist Mode that allows you to adjust the game speed, your stamina, how many jumps you get, and can even make you invincible. Continue reading “Celeste Review: A wonderful revisit to retro platforming”

GRIS review: An interactive masterpiece

Gris

Captivating. That’s the first word that comes to mind when I try to describe the experience that is GRIS, the debut puzzle platformer from independent developer Nomada Studio. The Steam page describes Gris as “a hopeful young girl lost in her own world, dealing with a painful experience in her life. Her journey through sorrow is manifested in her dress, which grants new abilities to better navigate her faded reality.” This concept really spoke to me, and admittedly it was an impulsive Steam purchase (someone told me about the game, I saw some screenshots, and then pulled out my credit card and bought it), though I in no way regret it. Now, let’s dive in. Continue reading “GRIS review: An interactive masterpiece”