Remnant 2 preview: A no-nonsense shooter for those who suck at Soulslikes

Remnant 2 screenshot
(Image credit: Gearbox Publishing)

Shoot, dodge roll, reload, shoot. Third-person blaster Remnant 2 very rarely gives you a second to catch your breath, throwing enemies at you from all directions and daring you to survive. 

There's something about the chaos that's oddly compelling from the moment you start playing. It could be the slightly sluggish movement that means you can't reposition yourself at a moment's notice, forcing you to think several steps ahead even as combat gets faster and more brutal. It could be that developer Gunfire Games gives you a dog. 

There are several different characters on offer at the start of my Remnant 2 preview. Hearing that one of the four archetypes has a pet dog who will fight enemies and draw aggro for you, I had a bit of a decision to make. While the other characters consisted of snipers and close-combat specialists, there was something alluring about fighting through an army of monsters while man's best friend helped me out with a couple of well-timed assists. Perhaps it goes without saying, but I made the right choice. 

Clear influences

Remnant 2 screenshot

(Image credit: Gearbox Publishing)

Remnant 2 wears its inspirations proudly, and the most obvious nod is towards FromSoftware's Souls series

Remnant 2 wears its inspirations proudly, and the most obvious to the game's structure is FromSoftware's Souls series. The person handling my demo at Summer Game Fest even pointed at the healing item on the screen saying "this will work like the Estus flask", but you can feel it too in the checkpoints dotted around that act like bonfires, and the reliance on rolling your way out of combat to avoid some brutally difficult fights.

But I have a pre-existing problem: I have never been good at the Soulslike genre. In fact, I've barely even been competent at them. So, the idea of a pet dog to kite enemies seemed essential; and this thinking reaped rewards, as several enemies would try to batter the poor pup while I lined up headshots. When the focus turned to my character, I'd dodge roll awkwardly away, with character movement feeling more like something out of Gears of War or Outriders than anything else. 

Each character has different weapons that can be upgraded, and my character had an automatic rifle which looked like a Ruger Mini-14 and was controllable even in full-auto, with a luger pistol that did less damage and was clearly designed for a backup role rather than a viable alternate choice. Accurate fire seems key though, monsters come in all shapes and sizes, from annoying flying creatures that fired balls of energy to combat worms that would slither up and deliver savage close-range attacks. Your enemy, known generally as The Root, have next to nothing in common beyond a glowing red aesthetic. 

The end of my hands-on had me fighting a giant spider-like worm and losing repeatedly. Remnant 2 has instanced dungeon areas that offer up one of several different types of objective. My focus for this playthrough was a miniboss that felt much more maxi, destroying the arena around me and making me kill myself by falling off of a platform almost as much as it eviscerated me with giant claws. I died several times, but was slowly coached through it by a developer, and the elation I felt when finally killing the giant worm was fantastic. 

Fun and familiar

Remnant 2 screenshot

(Image credit: Gearbox Publishing)

In a sense, Remnant 2 does make me nostalgic for a certain type of PS2-era shooter. It's full of schlocky blasting, slightly janky movement, strong weaponry, and a delightfully moreish core loop that's difficult to walk away from – unload on enemies, roll to safety, and reload just before your opponents overwhelm you again. 

I didn't get a real sense of the Remnant 2 story from my hands-on, although the game does put you into the shoes of a dimension-hopping soldier attempting to protect the last few survivors on a post-apocalyptic earth. While my experience with these dimension shifts was largely relegated to rolling through several vivid red hellscapes, I did get a sense that it'll have a larger impact on the characters through the gear system. 

Originally, my character was donning a plaid shirt, gilet, and baseball cap. Several different alien armor sets had bold designs, including one that felt like some sort of alien symbiote suit and another that looked like something magical you might be given for completing a quest in an RPG.  The gear system looks beefy but was hard to get a sense of during the demo. There are rings to equip and the different armors change your speed and damage mitigation, but it wasn't something we spent too much time with. Another system was crafting. Remnant: From the Ashes had a fairly deep economy, but it's hard to see how Remnant 2's will play out, with the several different resources and reagents being collected feeling like an abstract concept amongst all of the shooting. 

Remnant 2 is plenty enjoyable, then, even if it feels like it's lacking a killer feature. However, it's offering the chance to experience a no-nonsense shooter, but it's also the chance for shooter fans to play a Soulslike and not suck at it. That proposition is juicy enough that Remnant 2 is definitely one to keep an eye on. 

The Remnant 2 release date is July 25, 2023, where it's set to launch on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X.