Review: Remnant II – The Awakened King

To borrow words from one’s closing comments on the review of the base game last July, if there’s one factor Gunfire seem to have delightfully employed in their development of post-launch content for Remnant II, it’s that it feels rewarding. That the foes tackled, dungeons traversed and inevitable boss fights bested properly give back through sufficient returns, directly and indirectly alike. That The Awakened King, Remnant II‘s first of three planned DLC packs, needn’t invent an entirely new world setting to coax its player-base back can be read one of two ways. The first and in all likelihood main reason Gunfire themselves will surely state in returning to Losomn is its status as a fan favorite with ample room to explore its unanswered plot-threads and world-building.

The second, the reason the developer will equally-likely be more humble in refusing to say aloud, is just how more confident a release this year’s sequel stands on both gameplay and artistic aspects. That rejuvenated confidence in what the sequel had established is evident throughout The Awakened King. In an expansion whose main quest can be beaten in around three to five hours, it’s no exaggeration to say that for fans of this year’s sequel, you can be sure to invest a further fifteen-or-so hours hoovering up every possible new encounter, dungeon, side-activity and more importantly piece of loot Gunfire have brought to the table.

Some lingering issues on a technical level do continue to dampen the core experience and what is an otherwise satisfying return to Losomn. Some brief choppiness on frame-rate is intrusive enough it can incur horribly-cheap deaths to enemies you should’ve easily dealt with. So too the game isn’t shy of throwing up one or two more comical bugs, such as the case of enemies existing for little more than a boss fight’s introductory cutscene, suddenly respawning upon return visit — albeit completely still and motionless. Minor grievances aside, though, on the basis of just how much is here to tackle and tinker with, in a similar vein to Remnant II‘s delivery early this year, it says something that The Awakened King can once again ride out its rough spots. Even without the pleasant accompaniment of a new mode or two; unlike something like Swamps of Corsus‘ introducing the shockingly-addictive roguelike-esque Survival mode. Gunfire here are off to a strong start in their post-launch plans.

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To set the stage, The Awakened King‘s main story quest finds players returning to Losomn, as it’s revealed that the titular ruler of the world — the unseen yet highly-spoken of character usurped from his position prior — has returned. In typical Remnant fashion, The Awakened King closes on players making a decision on whether to aid or alternatively stand against the King and his questionably-tyrannical rule. Understandably, the main through-line is complimented by added tidbits of lore and exposition as to the nature of Losomn’s setting, itself complimented by faces both returning and new alike who serve as merchants to trade with as they do NPCs to exhaust dialogue options with. The Awakened King‘s nature as a quest one can re-roll to alter the layout and variance in content means players will never see all there is to the DLC in one run.

As familiar a structure this might be, the more surprising aspect to praise with The Awakened King is Gunfire’s expanding on how they’ve gone about constructing these new locales and dungeons. How Remnant II‘s first slice of DLC showcases Gunfire taking things in a more verticality-honed and dare-say more interestingly-labyrinthine nature in its level design. Not only in the case of dungeons that involve a touch more of careful ascending/descending spaces to acquire certain items, but that the overall setting of Losomn has taken a gracious step forward in feeling anything but purely linear in nature. Granted, there are still narrow streets and sections that have players push forward amidst a fair number of enemies surrounding them. But for arguably the first time across both series games, The Awakened King does a great job at disguising its core linearity in favor of presenting its worlds as actual spaces to roam through. Spaces that still house a plentiful number of secrets to discover and routes that at first glance may not be all that obvious to spot.

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Spaces too that play host to some new enemy types too. Enemies that, annoyingly but in a good way, can so quickly get the jump on you and if one isn’t careful, easily take you down in no less than a couple of hits even for veteran players with ample hours invested and a plentiful amount of armor equipped. One enemy type prone to lying in wake on walls around corners and when one is least expecting it. And while the new introductions are in the minority here, The Awakened King still provides a sufficient challenge when enough of these foes — foes that as deadly directly as they are indirectly through projectile fire — are dished out in unison in certain situations.

The balance in quality over quantity in this department doesn’t always admittedly strike the right balance. The Awakened King making the briefest of mistakes in assuming simply throwing more into the mix is the most sufficient way to instill challenge. A decision that veers too much into sheer frustration during moments that have players whittle the health of a static sub-boss with significant HP down to zero so as to be rewarded. The game too instigating this, more annoyingly, by having said enemy types spawn in any number of random directions without warning. Arguably the one and only, thankfully isolated, case where Gunfire’s need for challenge isn’t so resolutely delivered.

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Such issues fortunately can’t be said for its other more notable boss encounters. And while some mid-objective encounters along the way don’t offer the same versatility or type of memorable locale as the base game’s roster, The Awakened King‘s major fights don’t disappoint, both in location and in certain cases, mechanically too as to what takes place mid-fight. Not least for the closing fight against the titular King (should that be the choice you make). The rewards reaped across the breadth of The Awakened King’s numerous objectives seldom disappointing. Without giving away any of the key details or benefits to some of the new bits of loot to uncover, needless to say Gunfire have once more thrown a clever little spanner into how players once more go about altering and fine-tuning their load-outs. Amulets, rings and even crafted weapons with their own unique traits and opportunities for a trade-off in some regard.

Then of course there’s the new player Archetype, the Ritualist, that can be acquired should players manage to successfully hunt down the required material. And to say the new Archetype brings with it even more ways to be dexterous in one’s build would be an understatement. Not least for those, like myself, who prefer to prioritize mods and weapon traits with status-inflicting ailments. And while it may slide into more of a supportive role, the Ritualist class nonetheless proves to be a valuable addition. In a game already bolstered by its wealth of Archetype classes, that the Ritualist class is immediately appealing on paper and well worth the eventual grind to reach its ten-level cap.

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Closing Comments:

Even without the niceties of a new mode or that significant an addition to the overarching plot, The Awakened King‘s exciting array of loot to acquire, an impressively-built setting to explore and fights to conquer serve as a promising start to Gunfire’s post-launch support for Remnant II. That the team have proven once again they can offer even more means for players to further experiment and tinker with their set-up is a testament to just how impressive a delivery the sequel remains and how exciting future prospects may look in the coming months. While minor technical issues do sadly persist at times, alongside brief frustrations on balance when it comes to the sheer volume of enemy types during more enclosed set-pieces, The Awakened King is a delightful addition to what was an already-delightful follow-up.

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