Ah yes, the wacky era when Ubisoft declared women “too hard to animate”.
To be fair to them they have done a pretty much full tire-screeching handbrake 180 on that, what with characters like Kassandra in AC:Odyssey. So live and learn, I guess.
After being initially very skeptical because it basically came out of nowhere, and looked quite grey-brown, I ended up getting Remnant: From the Ashes, in part because it was priced at £30.99 instead of the usual £49.99, so was effectively already at a sale-ish price, and in part because I could always refund it if it was super-dull.
I had been all “wait on reviews” but then all the reviews came out pretty much immediately, and it’s at 79% Metacritic and 82% Opencritic, so it was worth a shot. It’s quite a surprising game, sort of like “What if Dark Souls but sorta-Fallout” or “Dark Souls by way of Annihilation (the movie/book)” or even “Dark Souls meets The Dark Tower” (definitely the book version), but that doesn’t really do it justice. It’s certainly in the “Weird SF/horror” vein. Plus it diverges from our reality in the 1960s (even if the computers scream “Particularly expensive computer from the late 70s”), and has a sort of “Western” vibe which evokes various things (including the aforementioned Dark Tower series).
It’s clear that the people who designed this “got” Dark Souls in a way most Dark Souls-based games didn’t, and instead of sort of “cargo culting” Dark Souls and just copying the elements, they took the stuff that would work for them, and not the stuff that wouldn’t. So it’s very like Dark Souls in a lot of ways, and deviates significantly in others.
The combat is extremely good, I would suggest. Initially it just seems like “Shoot shoot shoot no argh ooof ow!” but as you play more you get into the rhythm, you see exactly how effective and precise the dodges are, when to shoot and when to melee, that enemies who seem unstoppable are, actually, quite stoppable (the classic Dark Souls feel there), and it’s actually very satisfying - moreso I thought than Nioh, actually, which has some tremendous combat (and is another “learned what it wanted to from Dark Souls” game), but is a little more frustrating/annoying. It is of course very easy to die to a couple of big undodged hits.
Another developer working on a Dark Souls-inspired shooter, Witchfire (which looks amazing but is a long way out), noted that a non-AAA developer couldn’t make an actual Dark Souls-type game in full 3D, because building and polishing the world is simply too time-consuming and expensive to do, so if you want a large game with replayability, you have to use procedural generation. And Remnant’s developers, Gunfire Games, seem to have had the same thought - hence Remnant’s levels are procedurally generated. So far they don’t have they “procgen” look that games get, at all. In fact, it’s kind of hard to imagine that the first couple of levels (after the base, which I presume is fixed), are procedural, because they seem very solid and well-designed. You can also voluntarily re-roll your world, and make it generate them again, presumably if you feel you’ve been hard done by in some way (or perhaps died so many times you’re bored of the layout!).
It’s definitely not quite a full-AAA. It’s quite polished, but it lacks stuff like the really complex animations common in games like AC:Odyssey, nor is it quite as slick and detailed as Bloodborne, but so far, after about 4 hours, it is very engaging. It’s also designed to be 1-3 players, and the MP works “normally” rather than Dark Souls-style, in that you can either find strangers, or play solo or with friends only. I’m told that it’s very particularly good with co-op, but no-one else I know has it yet, so I’m not sure about that. I will have to avoid mentioning Dark Souls to most of my friends when I describe it or they will run a mile!
I will note one thing - I selected “Ex-Cultist” for my starting class (which just determines initial gear/ability), because it had a healing ability, but I suspect that was a mistake - you’re probably better off with either of the other classes. Still, I do have a very nice hat, much nicer than the alternatives, so I can take some comfort in that!