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Remnant II review: fast, brutal combat meets procedural dimension-hopping in this ambitious sequel

Like a phoenix

An enormous ghostly woman with a halo and a spectral core emerges from the ground in Remnant 2.
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Gearbox Publishing

Remnant II has a lot of moments that will make you say things not appropriate for children’s ears. Then again, given the mild horror themes in many of the levels and the general terror the excellent enemy design invokes, you probably shouldn’t be playing it around kids in the first place. As a fan of this sequel’s predecessor, Remnant: From The Ashes, I had my hopes set unreasonably high, and not only has Remnant II completely met my expectations, but it also kept messing around with what I thought I should be expecting. It left me in a constant state of awe. This is a furiously ambitious follow-up and has everything I could have ever wanted.

Remnant II shares much of its lifeblood with the first game. It’s a chaotic third-person shooter played solo or in co-op with some Soulslike aspects, some roguelike aspects, and a lot of its own personality and flair injected in there as well. There’s melee combat you can lean into if you want, but the majority of the game is meant to be played as a shooter, with weapons ranging from pistols and machine guns to handheld railguns and crossbows that shoot five projectiles at once. Each weapon feels more ferocious than the last, and it only gets more bonkers when you start to mod them. Modded weapons have a chargeable special ability you can power up by brawling, and when unleashed can be anything from summoning tentacles from the ground or shooting a swarm of angry bees out of your gun. Basically, Remnant II wants you to not only look cool, but feel cool, and it does so with aplomb.

Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun / Gearbox Publishing

Of course, you can’t start off as a badass. The tutorial not only teaches you what’s what, but also sets the scene for the last few survivors of humanity in a post-apocalyptic world. The Root is Remnant’s big bad, and it's an interdimensional tree virus thing that infects worlds by corrupting its denizens and turning them against each other. Despite having saved Earth in Remnant 1, the Root is still lurking around so you and your mates need to fight your way back to the game’s home base. The tutorial is a bit exposition-y, but it acts as a great set-up that helps beat down the usual boredom that many tutorial sections have, and you can skip it when creating any future characters.

Let’s get into character creation and archetypes, which is this game's word for classes. The starting ones are your usual RPG fare: a healer, close-range combatant, ranged shooter, and what is essentially a dude with a dog (obviously, I went with the one with the dog, because you can pet the dog whenever you want, and so can your co-op partners). Those four are the standard classes but are also secret archetypes nestled among Remnant’s worlds and challenges, and you can equip a second archetype later on in the game. It’s Remnant’s version of multi-classing, and you can swap between them as you see fit at no extra cost.

With your character built, it's time for some dimensional world-hopping. To save the Earth this time you need to find a woman called Clementine, a certified badass that can hold the Root at bay with just her mind. Where you actually begin this quest is anyone’s guess, as practically every element of your adventure in Remnant II is procedurally generated. The first game had something similar, but the difference is that the procedural stuff in Remnant II feels far more substantial and ambitious. The NPCs you meet, enemy types you encounter, level layouts, potential storyline interactions - everyone will experience something different.

Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun / Gearbox Publishing

In whatever version you roll, your journey will begin in one of three different worlds, that are all so different you’d be forgiven for thinking they were in different games. Yaesha is a returning planet from the first game and is a stunning alien forest with strange fauna all over the place (we also sort of killed their gods in the first game, sorry about that). Then there's the Giger-esque, desolate, desert planet called N’erud, an open world planet where life has all but died out because the atmosphere is deeply toxic. The final of the three is Losomn, which is split into two halves, one of which is basically Bloodborne, with the locals being very keen on getting rid of you, and the other half is the Fae realm, where the enemies are clad in magical armour and can sprout ethereal eldritch wings.

These worlds are horrifically stunning in their own right, each one with two main storylines and a plethora of procedurally generated harrowing mini-dungeons and sidequests.

These worlds are horrifically stunning in their own right, each one with two main storylines and a plethora of procedurally generated harrowing mini-dungeons and sidequests. One I experienced in Losomn had me fighting through an underground sewer in search of a spirit that seems to be possessing people and turning them against each other - which is grim. This quest has two potential endings: you can keep an item the ghost drops, or give it to a rambling, unhinged dude behind a sewer grate. Depending on your choices, you’ll receive different items and - as a bonus gift - a lingering sense of unease either way, which is, uh, lovely. These aren’t decisions that will affect the end point of your game, but they will change the way your journey feels and add to your growing anthology of personal game stories.

There are so many corners of Remnant II that are just begging to be poked around in. As I was journeying through Yaesha, I stumbled across a completely optional mini-dungeon aptly called The Lament. After some noodling around with instant death traps, invisible pathways, locked doors, and some genuinely smart puzzles, I’d assumed I’d just get a nice brownie sundae, a high five, and a trait point or something. But no, there were more mysteries to uncover. After picking up on some subtle clues, it turns out there was a hole in the ground hidden behind some rubble, and jumping down there led me to another hidden key, another locked door, and a horrible buzzsaw corridor, that eventually rewarded me with a cool armour set. Exploration is always worth it in Remnant II, and never is that felt more than in these little dungeons. It's a game that demands multiple playthroughs.

Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun / Gearbox Publishing

Then there are the boss fights, and they are so damn good. Unlike the first game, bosses are no longer simple bullet sponges. They still have a gimmick to contend with, but they're dramatic and relentless and very satisfying. One particularly memorable boss was just a collection of cubes that are rolling around an area trying to crush you, and I really had to hustle to shoot each of its weak points. It ended up being a puzzle where you need to figure out which weak point to go for next while dodging life-draining projectiles from above and instant-death cube crushes from all around you.

Another boss chucks corpses and hurls poisonous spit all while trying to just straight-up eat you. There's another one that crawls in and out of the walls in a horrifying asylum, sending exploding skull spiders at you while trying to steal your soul. Each boss is sublime, and honestly, their design and intricacy make for some of the best bosses I’ve fought in any game.

Every aspect of Remnant II is excellent, and I've only just scratched the surface. If you're up for round two, you can "re-roll" the campaign, which completely rebuilds the game with a random collection of areas and bosses. You also have the ability to reroll planets if you wish, for those who just want an extra dose of their favourite area. Remnant II doubles down on everything its predecessor did, and the result is an incredible achievement. I’ll be playing it regularly for years to come.

This review is based on a review build of the game provided by the publisher Gearbox Publishing

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