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On second look, Remnant 2 is one of the great games of 2023

Get past those initial irritations, and Remnant 2 is a top-tier shooter

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Remnant 2
Remnant 2
Image: Gearbox Publishing

Every Friday, A.V. Club staffers kick off our weekly open thread for the discussion of gaming plans and recent gaming glories, but of course, the real action is down in the comments, where we invite you to answer our eternal question: What Are You Playing This Weekend?

It’s always a pleasure when a game reveals itself to be smarter, and deeper, than initially thought. Last week, we noted that Remnant 2 didn’t necessarily put its best foot forward, filling the player’s ears with endless and distracting vocalizations that threatened to drown out everything that was good about it. But a week later—and now that we’ve had a chance to sample the game’s co-op—that good is even more evident than before. (Even if we’re still deathly sick of our player character yelling some variant of “Well THAT just happened!” in the aftermath of a fight.)


The mechanical merits of Remnant 2 have only gotten sharper after another dozen or so hours with it, successfully importing the rhythm, the pressure, and the panic-inducing lethality of Dark Souls combat to the world of third-person shooters. It feels deeply satisfying to mow down oncoming hordes of alien/robot/alien robot enemies here, swapping weapons as needed, building skill combinations from a variety of character classes, and, yeah, endlessly somersaulting like an overachiever at Gymboree. Adding another player into the mix only increases the frenetic pace, making for a satisfying shooter that pulls the Souls game trick of making every encounter feel like a matter of life or death.

But where Remnant 2 really shines, for us, is in its embrace of one of those qualities of the Souls formula that imitators typically skip over: The mystery. Admittedly, Gunfire Games’ storytelling is far more direct than anything produced by Souls’ From Software; you’re not going to catch Bloodborne making a Simpsons joke in the midst of all its Gothic horror. But Remnant 2 does embrace the idea that it’s okay for games to be big, weird, and full of mysterious and obscure secrets. (We’re not sure we’d go quite so far as to say requiring players to datamine to unlock one of your character classes is totally above board, but we can’t deny the pleasure of a good treasure hunt.)


At the heart of Remnant 2's sense of discovery is its random level generation, which glues together enemy encounters, level segments, and, most intriguingly, whole main story quests in different configurations to allow players to be surprised on their second or third runs through its diverse alien settings. Playing with a friend shortly after the game’s release, we were shocked to find that their version of opening level N’Erud had a completely different final boss from our own, complete with its own story, loot drops, challenges, and more. It was bracing, a sudden bolt informing us how wide, how completion-resistant, Remnant 2 was willing to get.

Procedurally generated content gets a bad rap in games, and for understandable reasons: All that infinite generation can end up feeling like infinite “more of the same,” a beige stew of endless, slightly-different corridors. But Remnant 2 stocks itself with such interesting parts—and lets itself get so big with the things it swaps in and out—that it defies those feelings of same-iness. (Often, we’re talking about whole puzzle-filled zones, often with multiple narrative outcomes, each with their own rewards and results.) It helps that, whichever boss the game ends up funneling you towards is likely to be excellent; the major fights in this game have clearly been designed by people who understand the strengths of their combat system, and have thought of interesting ways to push its limits. And the sheer confidence to build three good levels for an area, and then only serve two of them to a player on any given run through the game, is fascinating.

The original Remnant struggled with putting its best foot forward, burying some interesting ideas beneath a couple of generic, sewer-laden opening hours. Remnant 2 opens much more smoothly—but also hits much higher highs, rising from the ranks of “pleasant distraction” to something genuinely exciting to engage with. Our first write-up of it encompassed about six hours of play; the fact that this one, written just a week later, encompasses another dozen, is a testament to how fun and addictive the game can be once it shakes off its early irritations.

Buy Remnant 2: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop | Target