It starts with the combat. I don’t know who came up with the phrase “Gears of Souls,” but it describes Remnant 2’s core combat quite well. It is as relentless and intense as a Gears of War game, but it actually challenges you to master deeper mechanics you simply won’t find in recent action games like Destiny 2, Gotham Knights, or Borderlands. Learning to dodge, properly position yourself, and exploit enemy patterns/weaknesses is the only way to survive. That combination of concepts culminates in the game’s jaw-dropping boss battles, which are properly epic, multi-stage encounters rather than the skirmishes against larger bullet sponges so many modern titles seem content with.
Remnant 2’s RPG elements greatly contribute to the success of the game’s action. At a time when so many games haphazardly incorporate concepts like skill points and skill trees to foster the illusion of depth, Remnant 2’s character-building mechanics feel worthy of the genre that inspired them. Every class, gear, and skill choice matters in this game, and each of those choices can gradually contribute to substantially different gameplay experiences.
Remnant 2 makes all of its various classes, sub-classes, and even multi-classes feel relatively viable, yet it still allows you to make a suboptimal version of your chosen playstyle. That may sound like a knock, but it is not. It’s a testament to the ways the game encourages you to find the basic playstyle you most enjoy and then use that enthusiasm as the fuel needed to navigate a series of possible optimizations that allow you to constantly experience a genuine sense of progression.
Yet, it’s Remnant 2’s RPG-like quests that surprised me most. Though we’ve seen many games (especially open or large-world games) in recent years that offer an array of sidequests, they typically boil down to simple kill and fetch quests. While some of those do exist in Remnant 2, a surprising number of the game’s quests see you do things like solve murders, uncover conspiracies, and generally participate in the kind of content we typically associate with BioWare-like RPGs.
Even Remnant 2’s puzzles feel like actual puzzles. While some may be frustrated by not being able to clear a logic hurdle in an action game, the fact that the developers bothered to craft thought-provoking puzzles ensures that element of the game matches the intensity, cleverness, and challenges of the rest of the experience rather than just serving as an afterthought that ultimately becomes a burdensome obligation for all involved.
Similar praise could be heaped upon Remnant 2’s various unlockables. I recently celebrated the Resident Evil 4 remake (minus its microtransactions) for featuring an unlock system that rewarded you for playing, uncovering, and enjoying the actual game. Well, Remnant 2 features an even better version of that classic gaming concept. The amount of secret classes, traits, gear, and quests you can unlock in Remnant 2 simply by trying to experience as much of it as possible is stunning. The team even added a secret class to the game they knew players would likely only discover through datamining. Is that excessive? Absolutely, but it speaks to their determination to ensure Remnant 2 feels like a game that is constantly hiding some new and worthwhile discovery.