You won't get bored in Remnant 2: you're never with a world or enemy long enough to tire of it. By the time you think you're starting to get sick of the sinewy strata of Yaesha, you'll be thrown into a Labyrinth where the stone is sentient, and the cool portal pools belie the fact they may be about to catapult you to your death. And when you think you've had enough of those, you can explore the back alleys of Losomn, where gun-touting cockneys and werewolves - well, I think they're werewolves; the real life and otherworldly walk side by side here - stalk cobbled streets, faces half-hidden by the flickering torchlight. Later, you'll be chased across an alien sandscape by lumbering robots and petite UFOs, and visit a grey, ashen world where the only colour is the blood that's spilt - be it yours or theirs.
It's a far cry from the broken, and chronically over-used, post-apocalyptic backdrop you kick off in, and came as quite the surprise given I'd missed the original Remnant and had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I can't tell you how your game will begin because every playthrough is unique, kicking off in one of the three distinct planes detailed above, and each of those are procedurally generated. No, not all set-pieces are individualised - if you replay a dungeon, for instance, you may find more similarities than differences - but it's enough; enough to make it feel as though this world is uniquely yours to explore.
And there's substance here as well as style. As deliciously detailed as the worlds are, and as joyful as they are to explore, the gunplay, too, is equally rewarding. You'll see Remnant 2 described by some as a looter shooter, but that is categorically not the case. 25 hours and four worlds in, I'm still using my starter weapons, albeit souped up with some tasty upgrades and alt-fires that add a delicious layer of absurdity to proceedings. My armour, too, chiefly consists of the same threads I walked in with. But there's nothing wrong with that. Customisation comes not by collecting and discarding loot but by the plethora of ways you can tinker with your tools, adding mods and mutations world by world, boss by boss, experimenting and upgrading until you hit upon the perfect mix for the job at hand. And rolling out of harm's way, of course; lots and lots of rolling.
There are four classes – called archetypes – up for grabs initially, including one with an AI dog companion that I refused to use in case the dog got injured or killed or breathed on in any way. There's a fifth - the Gunslinger - for pre-orderers, too, although I spent most of the time perfecting ranged (read: cowardly) combat as a Hunter, although I'm not sure how I would've gotten through the first dozen or so hours had it not been for my partner playing a Medic. The game is tough, yes, and it's staggeringly easy to be overwhelmed by even the most innocuous enemies. You could say that we learned the hard way never to let our guard down.
The co-operative action is one of Remnant 2's strongest pulls, by the way. I'm endlessly on the lookout for meaty shooters that my fireteam and I can get lost in, so Gunfire's decision to permit the entire campaign to be playable with one or two other pals as well as solo is a welcomed one. You'll need to be courteous, though; ammo drops are unique, so if you pick some up, it'll disappear for your pals, but it looks like most other spoils are shared equally. (Which is just as well, as I've been unjustly accused of being a "loot goblin"!)
Through natural play you'll unlock additional archetypes and trait points, which in turn can be used to boost the numerous traits you'll acquire. There are gazillions of them. This makes it surprisingly challenging to perfect your usual RPG build, not least because some, like Scholar, won't unlock until you've finished the campaign. Some you'll recognise from other Souls-like offerings - life, mod power, defence, and so on - and some you won't. Either way, and the more you play, the more you'll be able to level up each one.
Those aren't the only goodies in your toolbox, either. Relics - much like Bloodborne's flasks - are interchangeable, but, like my guns, I was loath to swap from my original life-restoring Dragon Heart once I'd upgraded it a couple of times. It's a good thing, then, that its power can be further enhanced by the relic fragments you press into it. Again, there are zillions of those, too, but unlike the rings and amulets you can equip - every one of those are brilliant, which made me want to run about the place with five rings on each finger, like a poor man's Mr. T - the relic fragments offered exceedingly modest buffs indeed, and some are much better than others.
Within each world you'll locate dungeons, too, identifiable by the soft golden glow of their doorways. The round ones are side paths, yet almost always worth exploring, whilst the square ones will keep you firmly on the pathway of your main objective. No matter where you choose to explore, though, there'll be enemies galore and a delightful mix of boss fights to take on. I'm not typically a fan of them - sorry if that alarms/irks/enrages you - but I'll admit that the joy of never really knowing what's waiting for you, beyond the smoky curtain, was curiously exhilarating here. Yes, a couple felt a tad pedestrian, but there are some truly epic battles here with some astonishingly memorable encounters (I'll never look at Portal's Companion Cube in the same way again).
"Complete" a world - that is, achieve the objective - and you'll unlock Adventure Mode, a clever mechanic that permits you to replay completed maps in order to farm without impacting your story progress. It also lets you replay boss fights, although some were tricky and/or frustrating enough that I hope never to encounter them again - Nightweaver, I'm looking at you.
Yet whilst Remnant 2's worlds are stellar, its storytelling is not. I never really cared about Ward 13 or its people - they're all facsimiles of cookie-cutter personalities you've seen a thousand times before - and given how little time you spend in their company, it's hard to forge any meaningful attachment with them, anyway. You're introduced to some characters as though they'll have a significant impact on you and your journey, only to never see them again. Others I feel I discovered entirely by accident, and only when I had a few quiet moments to sit through their insufferably long monologues. Eventually, you'll focus your trips home on two or three key players - the guy who upgrades your weapons, for instance, and the gruff gal who can fashion weapon mods for you - and you'll be no worse off for it. I doubt it's accidental that these two characters are closest to the ominous red stone - think Dark Souls' bonfires - you use to travel through worlds and save your progress.
A lacklustre story is not the end of the world, though, because everything else - the different realms, the combat, the puzzles; yes, even the more abstruse ones - are fabulously engrossing, and, like a clock chime, every half hour or so one of us would cry "What the hell is that?!", having bumped into a peculiar enemy we hadn't taken on before. It's also to Remnant 2's credit that it admirably balances the excellent gunplay of a live-service shooter without making the same demands on your time: you'll likely finish up your first playthrough in 18-20 hours or so.
Best of all? I may have finished the campaign, but I know I'm nowhere near completing the game, and I'm itching to see more. We only stumbled upon a handful of Remnant 2's secrets in our first playthrough, and there are plenty of puzzles, collectibles, and loot chests to solve, collect, and unlock. Maybe I'd feel different if I'd invested dozens of hours in its predecessors, but right now, all I want to do is get back in there and explore… and that can only be a good sign, right?