June 20, 2024
Slick and challenging, Remnants of the Rift is an appetising taster of what's to come. The Finger Guns review:

Remnants of the Rift is, at present, a slice of a promising real-time gameplay, coupled with pause strategy, pie. Combined with rogue-lite elements and a jazzy atmosphere, it feels like the spiritual lovechild of Transistor. Given Transistor was one of 2014’s very best games (almost 10 years ago, TEN!), that’s a promising spot to be occupying.

Coming to Early Access on May 4th, the current build is content-light and definitely a work-in-progress, but there’s a glimpse of a very good game lurking in the inter-dimensional tears.

Morgan You Bargained For

Dimension-diving, new realities, working out inter-dimensional frequencies and traversing the rifts between worlds. No, this isn’t Interstellar, it’s the setup for Morgan – our mercenary tasked with travelling this newly discovered realm called The Bast.

Morgan and her tech assistant Thomas are armed explorers for hire, offering up their services to various factions to uncover the secrets of The Bast. Remnants of the Rift promises a deeper narrative of finding closure and uncovering underlying secrets, but there’s not a whole lot of this on display in its current state.

Between missions, you’ll periodically get short cutscenes providing some exposition about the world itself or some insight into the relationship between Thomas and Morgan. I found it a little difficult to get invested at this stage, as the introduction is so brief it’s hard to get a sense of grounding in the universe. Plus, the dynamic between the duo feels a little flat in terms of the writing.

Having said that, I was interested in the world itself – the idea of The Bast suddenly becoming an explorable reality and the concept of mercenaries being hired out to fulfill corporations biddings within feels like a fertile thematic opportunity. Morgan herself comes across well and while it’s missing the captivating mystery that Transistor held, Remnants of the Rift has plenty of story seeds to cultivate if the developers Bromio really commit to it.

Remnants of the Rift review

The Rift Between Us

Before embarking on a mission, you’ll be able to relax in Morgan’s homebase. Rather than an interactive hub space, it’s a series of nicely stylised menus, which have Morgan performing a different animation in each room (or menu). One of them has you petting a dog so, GOTY, obviously.

You can access the workbench to manage and upgrade abilities, go to the requisitions tab to purchase boons and use the factions menu to see your relationship progress with different groups. There’s not a whole lot to each offering at the moment, particularly as the requisitions section is still a work in progress (it literally tells you this), but the potential is quite obvious.

Once it’s fleshed out, Remnants of the Rift promises to have a variety of factions you can monitor your allegiances to (presumably with upgrades and unlockables attached to levelling these up), a variety of abilities to swap in and out to strategise for runs in The Bast, and some more improvements to purchase for Morgan.

It’s a little difficult to review, as upgrading abilities didn’t seem to work at the moment (it also didn’t track the attached currency for this), I ran out of requisitions to purchase after an hour and there weren’t any new abilities I could mix-and-match with from the starting four. As such, it all feels lighter than a bowling ball suspended in space. The promise and potential are there, but the satisfying progression is missing.

Remnants of the Rift review

Rogue Dimensions

Once you’ve selected which faction you’re signing your soul away to, you’ll set out into The Bast. Remnants of the Rift is a rogue-lite, meaning you’ll be embarking on repeated runs, each time (hopefully) getting closer to reaching the finale with superior skill, increased knowledge and incremental upgrades.

In terms of gameplay, it’s a relatively straightforward real-time tactics game with a pause function to allow you time for strategising your moves. Morgan must defend modulators located from The Bast’s various creatures. To do so, you must move about in real-time, activating abilities using the space-bar.

Activating an ability pauses the game, allowing you to aim up, down, left or right across tiles. Enemies will spawn from all corners of the area and working out how best to deploy Morgan’s abilities versus the current threat is basically the entire game. As you progress through a run, environmental obstacles will scatter the map, enemy density increases and more modulators will need to be defended simultaneously.

There’s a really solid difficulty curve that’ll test both your reactions and knowledge of the game’s mechanics. Morgan has four core abilities which can be used at any one time, all of which will have a cooldown after use. Tactically conceptualising where to throw down a mine before firing off a ranged ability to consecutively knock down a couple of foes in tandem is satisfying.

Enemy variety is also really impressive already, with some AoE enemies prime for becoming your own weapon if you activate them at the right moment. Other foes will only target Morgan or will bee-line it straight for the modulator, making it essential you risk assess what’s being thrown at you. If there’s one lacking element, it’s the limited number of abilities to play around with and some of the enemy spawns and compositions are poorly balanced, effectively ending your run without a real opportunity to thwart the threat.

Remnants of the Rift review

What A Bast

In a pleasant twist, Morgan cannot be killed while tackling the inter-dimensional foes she faces. Instead, she’ll be rendered incapacitated for a few seconds, allowing the fleshy creatures to lay siege to the modulators unabated. Once the modulators inevitably fall however, you’ll be sent back to the real world to assess, rearm and try again.

Morgan can earn a variety of mods and currencies on each attempt. Mods will increase damage or reduce cooldown timers, while Prana and Cores can be spent via in-run merchants to acquire items or power-upgrades specific to that run. It’s nothing on the level of say, Hades, but powers can have their fundamental function spliced quite a lot.

As an example, I acquired a boon which increased my range abilities’ damage by 6x, provided I was stood adjacent to a modulator. I was able to upgrade the stun ability, normally only able to affect one enemy, to affect all 4 spaces next to Morgan on every activation. It primes the potential for unique builds on each run and creates an interesting sandbox for designing a powerful force of space-tearing nature.

Naturally, there’s a couple of issues here to. Firstly, the upgrade tree for cores is broken. Despite saying each improvement would cost 4 or 6 cores, they would actually only cost one. Some upgrades were virtually pointless and The Twins merchants sold little of real value, making them a bit superfluous to prioritise.

You can purchase between-run upgrades via the requisitions tab in the hub, but these boil down to more life and a couple of other random bonuses (i.e damaging enemies that hit the modulators). I ran out of these to purchase pretty quickly, so it’s hard to gauge their impact on the core experience yet.

Remnants of the Rifts review

Space For Jazz

Outside of Remnants of the Rift’s gameplay and story, it looks and animates rather splendidly already. There’s a certain Serial Cleaners and Transistor flair of inspiration in terms of its art style and animation direction. The HUD displays are clear and creative, the colour schemes for The Bast’s environments are vibrant and enemy design is brimming with artistic delight.

It’s a shame that the level design itself is so basic at the moment – it’s almost always a flat square with a few dozen tiles on it. The background details offer a nice touch (and change depending on which faction you’re venturing into The Bast for), but they sort of disappear off into the distance, like the out-of-focus part of a photograph.

I did however, thoroughly enjoy the jazzed up music that ticks along throughout every part of the experience. This kind of music just has you flowing along with it, regardless of whether it’s your genre or not.

I was a bit less impressed with some of the technical shortcomings I encountered, however. I know it’s Early Access, but there are some considerable wrinkles that need ironing before this delightful shirt is hung up to be appreciated. As an example, during a run, both Morgan and the enemies stopped being able to move or perform actions, so the mission couldn’t progress and I had to restart. Smaller problems like menu icons being out of sync or a currency number not tracking are also apparent but don’t materially impact the game, luckily

For a rogue-lite, anything that scuppers your progress effectively becomes a game over screen. If you’re head deep into a run, that’s going to be a major problem. Fingers crossed these problems are dealt with and hey, that’s what the Early Access period is for. It’s just important to be aware of going in, should you be considering jumping into the rift sooner rather than later.

Remnants of the Rift review

Into The Rift-Verse

Remnants of the Rift has a promising foundation. The core gameplay of real-time action and pause-planning is rewarding and challenging, the flair and sense of groove in its presentation is irresistible and rogue-lite elements work relatively well.

It’s a tough one, as the building blocks are very clearly defined and the scope for expansion over the Early Access period is rather grand. But, this is all based on promise, or rather premise, at present. At this moment in time, Remnants of the Rift does suffer from the understandable sense that it is unfinished and lacking in content.

From the works in progress messages to the restart-inducing bugs and the lack of real story currently on offer, there’s just too many immersion breaking reminders that this new dimension is unstable and not quite ready to be traversed. If you don’t mind suffering some of these problems or if you’re a seasoned Early Access delver, you’ll probably get more out of Remnants of the Rift. Should you want to experience this retro-futuristic potential gem in its best form however, maybe check out its progress over the next few months and hop in once its ready.

Rising from the ashes of the almost decade-old Transistor, Remnants of the Rift has a beautiful fluidity to it, when it works. It feels like its missing a decent chunk of its necessary content offering and there’s a fair bit of balancing that needs working out, but the core of this interdimensional tactical action game is as appealing as its jazzy tones and lovely art style. Just maybe give it a bit more time to fully stabilise before diving into these rifts.

Remnants of the Rift is available May 4th on PC via Early Access (review platform).

Developer: Bromio
Publisher: Bromio

Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.

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