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.
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”?
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.
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.”