Remedium: Sentinels brings the auto-shooter to the 32-bit era.
The problem with being the best is that there’s always someone else gunning for your crown. That’s the situation that Vampire Survivors has found itself in over the past six months or so since its full release, with so many imitators coming along to try and grab a slice of that reverse bullet hell pie. Well here comes a new challenger in Remedium: Sentinels with its gothic PS1-era art style and a handful of stompy robots. Expect comparisons to its forebears.
There’s a very loose story here, about the land being overwhelmed by a plague that has turned most people into mutants. You’re one of the few survivors who happens to also have a big steampunk mech and the willingness to fight back. Unlike Vampire Survivors which had lore out of its ears and all sorts of characters and eldritch gods, Remedium: Sentinels is satisfied with a premise and an art direction, which is fine enough. The world here looks interesting though, and I’d quite like a little more than what has been served up. Gothic monstrosities, lava-filled fissures in the ground, and those seemingly out-of-place robots give scope for something with a little more depth than “oh no, there are monsters now”.
The gameplay is pretty much what you’d expect from the genre. Monsters rush at you whilst your character automatically fires their weapons at the nearest enemy. You just need to focus on movement to get a better position and avoid damage. Some enemies drop experience points that lead to levelling up, giving you access to new weapons, abilities, and upgrades.
The level up options are sadly not all that interesting though. A machine gun and damage pulse are pretty generic, as is a 5% damage buff. Much like Vampire Survivors, weapons can evolve when they and an upgrade are fully levelled up, but all it really does is provide an elemental effect, none of which seem to stand out as more or less effective than any other one.
This is the problem that Remedium: Sentinels has. It’s just not terribly inspired, and it doesn’t go far enough with the interesting ideas it does have. The world looks interesting but doesn’t have anything interesting to discover. Your mechs are a nice idea and appear unique, but none of them feels different and their upgrades are uninspired. Monsters seem well designed and suited to the theme, but they don’t scale with you, and spongy enemies will offer less experience than weaker ones just to stunt your late-game levelling.
Then there are the visuals, which have this great low-poly style reminiscent of late PS1-era games, but the camera makes it difficult to play effectively. The isometric angle makes it a little difficult to line up where close-range attacks will land and when enemies are going to make contact with you. It’s just another example of one step forward, two steps back that seems to plague the game.
It should be noted though, that Remedium: Sentinels is in Early Access right now, and all this is clearly subject to improvement. In fact, this also appears to be designed as a set up for another game due out set in the same universe, a twin-stick shooter called Remedium. It’s a little confusing, but I suppose this is a nice way of testing the waters for what works and what doesn’t.
With this said though, actually playing a round is still fun, as is often the case with this genre. The fifteen minute playtime for a stage is just right for what’s on offer, and there’s a gradual unlock of slightly stronger abilities that acts as a carrot to keep you coming back. I had a much better time playing the Rush mode for each stage that unlocks when you successfully survive a stage. In this mode, enemies are strong and appear in greater numbers, but also drop lots more experience. It really accelerates your progress in a level and allows you to get very powerful very quickly. If you are playing this, I’d recommend getting to this setting as quickly as possible.
When Remedium: Sentinels works, it’s a pretty solid auto shooter with a nice art style. But whilst it has a pretty low price tag, it’s hard to recommend this over Vampire Survivors unless you’ve absolutely demolished that game. I’ll check in to see what developments have been made in the run up to the full release and the release of Remedium in the hopes that some of the issues have been resolved.
Remedium: Sentinels is available now on PC.