Unlike its predecessor, Remnant: From the Ashes, Remnant II features an expanded and more clearly defined archetype system, allowing players to take on defined roles in co-op whether it's as the squad's tank or damage dealer. So far, three of the archetypes have been revealed: the DPS-focused Gunslinger, the tank-like Challenger, and the supportive Handler. At GDC 2023, I got the chance to play as all three and walked away enjoying the Handler the most--the archetype's dog companion is just wonderful to have, especially when you're playing solo and want an ally on hand.
Much like the first game, Remnant II sees you fight your way through a world twisted by demonic god-like monsters in an effort to prevent humanity from being completely killed off. You primarily rely on firearms throughout your journey, but have access to melee weapons in a pinch as well. Combat is frenetic--your precision is oftentimes rewarded with higher damage numbers but ammo is plentiful and enemies regularly outnumber you, so shooting with abandon is a viable strategy. On occasion, an enemy may have specific weak points--in the demo I played, the boss at the end of the level had distinct points on its massive body that you had to shoot in order to deal damage--but oftentimes it seems the best strategy is to just pump bullets into an enemy before it reaches you for a melee attack. It's not especially challenging, but it seems like it would be good fun in a group.
You can absolutely play through Remnant II entirely solo, but the new archetype system seems to lend itself to a more cooperative experience, encouraging folks to play through the game in co-op. Every archetype feels dangerous in a firefight but each brings a different skill set to combat to inform how they fight, with the Challenger and Handler definitely feeling like they'd better reach their full potential by fighting within a squad that includes a glass cannon class like the Gunslinger.
The Challenger, for example, can emit a powerful short-range shockwave that disintegrates weaker enemies and stuns stronger ones. Plus, the archetype has a perk that allows it to get back in the fight after it goes down the first time. When played solo, these skills are valuable for crowd control and staying in the fight against a surprise attack that ends you before you can react, but the entire time I was playing as the Challenger, I couldn't help but feel like I was supposed to be using these abilities to mitigate the swarm of enemies for someone else to then mop up. Similarly, the Handler can buff attacks with the area-of-effect howls of its canine companion and even have its dog raise downed fighters--strong abilities even when you're on your own, but ones that seem ideally suited for supporting a whole squad.
That said, this sentiment is all just an assumption on my part--I was only able to play through the GDC demo solo and so I don't yet know how it feels to play Remnant II within a squad. Maybe the Challenger and Handler actually don't feel all that supportive when aiding more offense-focused archetypes like the Gunslinger.
Of the lot, I had the most fun playing with Handler. Not only does your dog companion buff your attacks with its howls and revive you when you go down, but you can also direct it to follow and defend you, sniff out and pursue enemies, or focus its attention on a specific spot or enemy. It's like having a friend, even if you're not playing co-op. Playing as the Handler was the big indicator for me that Remnant II is perhaps better with friends than on your own. Firefights were just more manageable with a fluffy companion.
This was most apparent against the demo's boss--the monstrosity attacked me while also destroying the amount of safe ground I could stand on and spawning smaller enemies to distract me. I managed to defeat the boss with the Challenger as well, but the entire experience was far less frustrating and felt more doable with an ally there, even if they were just a dog. (And for those curious, the boss absolutely smoked me when I faced it as the Gunslinger--it tore through my health faster than I could deal damage to it.)
The shifting randomness of From the Ashes is back in Remnant II, so your time through the game could be drastically different than a friend's. I saw a bit of this in the demo, as I played through the same area three different times and each time found myself in the same area, but with the layout and enemy placement slightly different. The only part that didn't change was the boss at the end of the level, but I was told that in the final game that the minibosses and bosses will be randomized as well. At least in terms of the level design and enemy placement, the changes weren't fundamental enough to make me want to replay the game multiple times--if not for the nature of needing to play the level over and over as part of this preview, I doubt I would have done it. But it is a nice touch for folks who do enjoy playing games multiple times and are looking for a little variety from playthrough to playthrough.
I'd need more time with the game to have a more substantial opinion of Remnant II's replayability--it's tricky to judge the entire basis of a game on a 10-minute section. We will be able to play through the full game in several months, as Remnant II is scheduled to launch for Xbox Series X|S, PS5, and PC in Summer 2023.