Remnant II is available now (in early access for Ultimate Edition owners), and developer Gunfire Games delivered a “memorable, impressive, and damningly fun” experience. It’s enjoyable on your own, but it almost feels as though something is missing. Your character speaks to themselves, and as you level your archetype – Remnant II’s analog for character class – you’ll earn passive abilities that benefit not just you but any hypothetical squadmates, allowing you to heal, revive, or buff them through a variety of means. While Remnant II provides a genuinely fun and sometimes terrifying adventure, it’s a journey that is best shared in co-op with a friend (or two, or three). Unlike other games of the genre, however, grouping up with friends or even random strangers is a largely painless and straightforward endeavor.
After a lengthy introductory session and a debriefing at home base, followed by yet another venture into the dangerous world, players are finally free to group up for cooperative efforts. The game very plainly tells you when you can and cannot play with others, which is a refreshing change of pace from other, more cryptic games. From there, interacting with a World Stone allows you to travel to another biome or Ward 13 or, most importantly, to another player’s session in some far-flung parallel dimension. Selecting your game mode and difficulty automatically filters the joinable games, with friends’ sessions taking priority, so be sure to coordinate what difficulty and mode your friend is playing in if you want to join them.
Once you’ve joined a friend, you’re free to wreak havoc together. Friendly fire is enabled, requiring you to coordinate somewhat with your allies. Enemies also seem more aggressive and deal significantly more damage, to keep things fair, but the elevated experience is well worth the added risk. While in single-player, the player character will quip to themselves while thinking aloud, in cooperative play, the characters share a more substantial conversation, granting a natural rapport that aligns with the rest of the cooperative mechanics. As mentioned previously, archetypes provide not just a useful combat ability but passive buffs, such as damage reduction or area of effect healing. These archetypes and even some weapon mods reinforce cooperative gameplay, which you’ll need to take advantage of to survive.
Exploring the haunting corridors of the worlds of Remnant II is dangerous enough solo, but boss fights in co-op really push your teamwork to the limit. Even when a boss can’t attack all of your party members at once, players will need to manage aggro to make the most of their breathing room, especially when some boss attacks can finish you off immediately instead of leaving you in the downed state (from which you can be revived). The increased damage and difficulty require that teams make the most of their abilities and weapons, covering each other when stopping to heal or reload. Defeating a boss just before it wipes out a weakened friend is an unmatched feeling, but Remnant II provides plenty of opportunities to surpass it.
Your brawn is not the only thing being tested; puzzles are scattered across the many biomes in Remnant II, and solving them with a friend (or having them solve it for you) is a special kind of fun. It makes exploring the biomes feel like you’re in an escape room, where every crooked painting or odd rock formation is a potential clue, except that successfully escaping gives your group a cool new weapon or mod.
If you’re playing through the entirety of the story with a friend, you can certainly do that, but your own story will not progress. This can create some tedium because you’ll have to play through the story a second time in order to progress your own campaign. You’ll also need to beat each biome in the campaign to unlock them in Adventure Mode, but you’ll still receive worthwhile rewards for finding unique weapons in subsequent instances, and you can double dip on any trait points you find, making you even stronger for the trials ahead.
Regardless, after trying both solo and cooperative play, I would choose the second option every time. Getting insta-killed by a giant cube boss is frustrating alone, but it’s hilarious with friends, and that formula applies to the experience as a whole. Ultimately, many of the game’s design points to Remnant II being an intended co-op experience. While you can play it alone, the dialogue, skills, and even weapons and mods all feel underutilized without at least one partner along for the ride. Remnant II solo is a lot of fun, but it’s dangerous to go alone, and take a friend.
Remnant II releases on PlayStation 5, Xbox S and X, and PC on July 25, 2023. Early Access releases on July 21, 2023.