Remnant From the Ashes: Subject 2923 Review — A Cold Farewell
Remnant: From the Ashes and it's latest DLC, Subject 2923, are way more fun than they have any right to be. The entertainment value they offer easily matches the asking price, but looking at them critically paints a different picture.
When Remnant released in August of 2019, it was functional and fun in every way that mattered, but revolutionary and aspirational in no way at all. Neither it's shooting nor its boss fights or worldbuilding were particularly stellar. It was only as a complete package that the quality started to show.
Subject 2923 does nothing to change this fact about the game's separate parts. The new world is interesting, the new gear enjoyable to use, and the combat still reasonably satisfying. But looking at this DLC by itself, it fails to elevate the core game in any meaningful way, unlike Monster Hunter: Iceborne or Bloodborne: The Old Hunters. And in this middling consistency, Subject 2923 is a much lesser product than it could have been.
Remnant From the Ashes: Subject 2923 Review — A Cold Farewell
Subject 2923 boasts three new environments: the misty farmsteads outside of Ward Prime, Ward Prime itself, and the snowy forests of Reisum. Of these, you'll spend the majority of your time in Reisum, and it appears to be the only area that's procedurally generated.
As a world space, it's a nice change of pace from the harsh deserts, dreary ruins, and sticky swamps of both the base game and Swamps of Corsus, the first Remnant DLC.
Outside a shift in scenery, levels remain a series of hallways festooned with hazards, loot caches, and the occasional enemy. There's little in the way of characterization about the ratfolk who live on Reisum or what their history is. It's clear they live something of a subsistence lifestyle, and their technology isn't as advanced as some other worlds. There are some references to their religion, as well, but not enough to glean anything significant.
In short, both level design and gameplay flow are unchanged. Everything boils down to following the path to an area exit or a boss fog before repeating until the game decides you're done.
Were Reisum the only locale in the DLC, there would be a problem. It's not: Ward Prime is an excellently constructed, interconnected puzzle box with the interdimensional shenanigans that elevated Remnant after release and surprised everyone.
It's not the most complicated puzzle, granted, but Ward Prime is the kind of multilayered level we expect all Souls-likes to have. It would be nice if there were a way to expand the area procedurally, using multiverse theory to justify the constant shifting of its lowest levels, but that's not offered.
Ward Prime also has some interesting worldbuilding, much more than Reisum or even some of the base game areas. There are hints to the larger backstory, some well-acted audio logs that foreshadow where the DLC's narrative will go, and plenty of other little details that show how developed Remnant's world is.
The farmstead area is neat, but nothing to write home about.
Plus, writing was never Remnant's strongest suit, and Subject 2923 shines a big spotlight on that fact. In the campaign's four-hour runtime, you activate an old reactor, meet a clear MacGuffin character, and chase her to her house. You learn a bit about her in cutscenes, and if you know anything about how trope-filled stories work, nothing will surprise you. Maybe the final boss will, but the Reisum and Ward Prime sections? Not really.
It's possible to take on Subject 2923 without going through the main story, upgrading gear, or collecting the powerful weapon abilities. But it's not advisable.
The DLC is an end-game experience with strong enemies and fast, mechanically demanding bosses. Early-game builds are technically usable, but unprepared players will face roadblock after roadblock. It is a Souls-like, after all.
If tackled with some of the better end-game equipment, this adventure is perfectly manageable. Don't be too dependant on any particular weapon, however, as there's a point in the campaign when the game forces the use of a new item in the heat of battle.
Speaking of combat, each of the main story bosses are well designed and satisfying to overcome. Understanding of roll-timing, when to engage and when to run, and basic kiting is essential. The final boss is incredibly technical and worthy of its spot at the end of the Remnant saga.
As with any well-constructed Souls-like, you can beat all the fights in Subject 2923 without taking a single point of damage, so long as you understand them completely. Each encounter takes weapon range into account as well, even those where the boss gets up close.
It's a shame the movement and shooting mechanics aren't of a higher quality. They function, but the guns lack a certain punch, and the movement and traversal systems are clunky at the best of times. Bullets shoot straight and you'll be able to avoid attacks and get around the arenas; just don't expect to do so with any agility.
Even the new weapons feel oddly weightless. They look cool and they're powerful, but might as well be shooting paper pellets for all the feedback they provide. Sprinting and mantling can be finicky, and dodging takes a fraction of a second too long to cue up. Little details, but important ones.
Survival mode has received a host of updates, nerfing certain builds and buffing underused gear sets and accessories. Reisum makes its debut as a possible Survival locale along with bosses, new armor sets, and skins. The core conceit of the mode — it's rogue-lite elements — remains intact, and it's plenty of fun if you like Remnant's combat and traversal.
If you're coming into Subject 2923 hoping for dozens of hours of new content, you'll probably be disappointed. As noted, the campaign takes about four to six hours to complete depending on your skill and the difficulty you choose.
The animations and mechanics are still a janky mess at times, there are no significant updates to the base game beyond balance changes, and unless you like grinding Survival or higher difficulties for materials and other equipment, replay value remains low.
Remnant From the Ashes: Subject 2923 Review — The Bottom Line
- Fun combat
- Cool new areas
- Exciting, challenging boss fights
- Lack of new mechanics or designs
- Functional but not exceptional systems
- Short and doesn't add a ton to the core game
The Subject 2923 DLC is a worthy addition and endpoint to the Remnant: From the Ashes saga, but that doesn't make it a tour de force or the kind of expansion that's going to blow you away. It's good but never great, and where it fails, it's just kind of disappointing rather than frustrating.
Which is a good way to sum up Remnant as a whole: a perfectly enjoyable way to now spend about 25 hours of your time. You might come back to it from time to time, too, and you'll always have a good time, but it will never have the staying power of any of FromSoftware's efforts.
If you haven't played Remnant before and you're looking for a new twist on Souls-likes that isn't dark fantasy, I can wholeheartedly recommend the Complete Edition. All of the above complaints don't change how fun the game is and the fact that there is no world where it should be so enjoyable.
And yet it is, warts and all.
[Note: Perfect World Entertainment provided the copy of Subject 2923 used for this review.]