I’ve always enjoyed the brutal punishment of the ‘Soulsborne’ genre. Overcoming challenging bosses and regions is a personal testament to my overall physical strength, with each game completion proof of my capability to continue playing video games. Remnant: From the Ashes is the latest entry, and while it provides an exciting new take on the established formula, perplexing accessibility issues prevent this title from receiving extensive praise.
Developed by Gunfire Games, the creators behind Darksiders 3, Remnant utilizes the classic tropes of ‘Soulsborne’ games, including complete character customization, egregiously difficult bosses and enemies, and a confusing story that requires too much interpretation for my liking. Yet, Remnant differentiates itself by replacing the incredible melee combat with gunplay reminiscent of games like the Destiny series. To further separate itself from its predecessors, Remnant creates a semi-procedurally generated campaign for each individual, meaning that specific enemies and weapons will never be encountered within a single playthrough.
Traditional mechanics remain, particularly equipment weight, resulting in progressively slower roll speeds, consumables that remove status ailments, and the capability to upgrade each piece of armor or weapon. While the aforementioned-melee system still exists, weapons like axes and hammers are merely meant to eliminate weaker mobs, thus enabling players to conserve ammo for tougher opponents.
The real stars of this game are the guns, which are divided into two categories: long and hand. Burst and assault rifles, shotguns, standard rifles, including a devastating beam rifle that progressively increases its damage output the longer the trigger is held, and pistols and submachine guns comprise a mere fraction of each player’s arsenal. Furthermore, each gun can be equipped with an offensive or defensive mod that helps to control the flow of battle. Mods that create a ring of persistent healing, spawn a decoy that distracts every enemy within the vicinity, or a mod that imbues fire damage to bullets allow players to customize each gun to fit their unique play style. My personal favorite mod fires several orbs of radiation at enemies, inflicting massive amounts of damage. Unfortunately, players must continuously eliminate enemies with their respective weapons to charge each ability, thus introducing us to the first of several inaccessible barriers found within Remnant.
There is no option to toggle aiming.
For a game that relies heavily on running and gunning, Remnant severely limits physically disabled players. In order to shoot, you must hold in the aim button. For someone with weakened muscles, like myself, holding the aim button while moving and shooting is simply exhausting. Remnant punishes players by sending enemy after enemy, thus forcing individuals to consistently aim weapons, leaving little room to recuperate. On numerous occasions, I often asked my co-op partner to wait before progressing to the next area, simply so I could recover what little physical strength I had left. Fighting boss monsters further reinforces the need for a ‘toggle aim’ option. Bosses require people to precisely dodge their brutal attacks, as well as consistently damage each behemoth. For example, ‘The Ent’ launches spore-like missiles that explode on impact, continuously spawns countless mob creatures, and has such a large health pool, that my partner and I died countless times, not due to difficulty, but rather because I did not have the stamina to continuously dodge and shoot the tree and its obnoxious friends.
Along with the inability to toggle aiming, Remnant also prevents players from fully customizing their controls. For example, on the PC, certain keys have fixed inputs, meaning that players can never change that option to suit their needs. The mouse scroll wheel, and ‘C’ key are some examples. As someone who only has access to approximately 23 keyboard and mouse buttons, losing three to mandatory inputs is incredibly problematic. As a result, I lose the capability to quickly activate three of my four consumables. While this isn’t game breaking per se, I still find it incredibly aggravating.
To coincide with mandatory buttons, Remnant forbids the use of multiple inputs for a single key. In ‘Dark Souls,’ I can customize shift to correspond with sprinting, dodging, and jumping, all depending on how I press that specific button. For Remnant, each action requires its own key. While I understand this decision, as most games choose this format, Remnant breaks its own rule by assigning the melee and fire input to the left mouse button, creating a perplexing situation as to why players are unable to choose the same button for multiple actions.
Remnant: From the Ashes is a mystery, one that I cannot provide the answer. I love the adrenaline rush as my friend and I take down a challenging boss or discover a powerful new weapon. Yet, as the onslaught of enemies continue, I found myself frustrated and exhausted over accessibility options that should have been implemented from the start. I want to recommend this game. I want players to experience the surge of excitement after completing a particularly difficult section. Unfortunately, the thrill will eventually turn into anger and resentment, prompting players to simply move on to the next accessible title.
Grant Stoner is a video game journalist who loves to run in game worlds because his legs won’t let him do so in real life. You can follow him on Twitter @Super_Crip1994.