The more that shooters embrace RPG elements, the worse their boss fights tend to get. Instead of featuring unforgettable encounters that test players’ skills and recontextualize game elements in exciting ways, many bosses in games like Outriders feel like bullet sponges that any player can beat as long as they have a good enough weapon. I haven’t experienced a truly fantastic, memorable boss fight in a shooter for some time, so Remnant II shocked me when it provided three in just a couple of hours of play.
Gunfire Games’ Soulslike shooter sequel to 2019 sleeper hit Remnant: From the Ashes builds upon the formula that its predecessor established, so fans of the first game will find a lot to enjoy here. At first, I had trouble getting into what felt like a mediocre third-person shooter with some stark, colorful levels. But after a couple of astonishing boss fights, I’m starting to come around on Remnant II.
For those that haven’t played Remnant II, players essentially fight through a string of dungeons set across multiversal realms. Big bad bosses that play around with the third-person shooter’s mechanics are often lurking at the end of each area. At the start of my Remnant II campaign, I ventured through a realm called Yaesha and met my first memorable boss in a place called The Twisted Chantry.
That boss was Legion, a powerful floating mirror that would deal damage and slowly inflict a madness debuff if I directly stared at it; unfortunately, I had to do just that to damage it. That dynamic made for a cat-and-mouse boss fight where I would hide behind cover to dodge Legion’s gaze, popping out to damage it and the regular enemies it spawned whenever it lost sight of me. As I played Remnant II as more of a run-and-gun shooter, it made me rethink my approach to combat in the game and whetted my appetite for more boss fights that were just as engaging.
Thankfully, Remnant II’s big fights kept delivering as I fought through Yaesha. The next boss to stand out to me was Mother Mind, a giant creature with praying mantis-like arms. The idea of a massive boss in the center of a circular arena isn’t a new concept for the genre; even Redfall had a fight like this. Despite that, Remnant II finds a way to make it feel new thanks to a hyper-aggressive foe.
It’d constantly swipe at me, lay down damaging goo for me to avoid, and would even destroy a fourth of the arena after I took out an equal amount of health. Remnant II’s Dark Souls influence is most apparent in this battle, which required me to be mindful of my character’s surroundings, dodge at the correct times, and be reactive to Mother Mind’s attacks. These elements meshed together nicely to create a frantic duel that kept me moving and created moments of true intensity when I wasn’t sure I could get out of a soon-to-be-destroyed part of the arena in time.
The art of a great boss fight
What affirmed my appreciation of Remnant II is the final fight I had in Yaesha against a being called the Corruptor, whom the game also refers to as Many Faces. The boss itself is technically just a giant brain that can occasionally launch giant death rays down one of the three lanes that make up its arena. That’s a pretty big target, but the fight isn’t all that easy because the Corruptor can sacrifice a third of itself to create a bio-mech that can detach and throw its limbs.
Not only is that a sublimely gruesome visual, but it means that I also have to anticipate attacks from up close and afar as I try to balance warding off the mech and damaging the giant brain. I beat this fight with only a sliver of health left as the mech charged toward me, making it one of the most cathartic boss fight victories I’ve experienced in some time.
Initially, I didn’t love Remnant II, but these impressive boss fights allowed the third-person looter shooter to grow on me. And because of the shooter’s structure, I’ve only scratched the surface when it comes to finding all of Yaesha’s bosses. Remnant II randomizes each player’s campaign too, so there’s a lot I still haven’t seen.
Judging by some boss guides that already exist online, there are still plenty of enthralling battles I can look forward to if I keep playing Remnant II. While it could’ve fallen in line with its genre peers and relied on bullet-sponge baddies, developer Gunfire Games instead got creative and used boss fights to test players’ mettle and familiarity with the game. It demonstrates how great enemy design can elevate an otherwise okay game, an approach I hope the developers of upcoming looter shooter games can learn from.
Remnant II is now available on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S to those that purchased the game’s Ultimate Edition. For everyone else, it launches on July 25.