In the modern game industry, it feels like there’s quite a continuous push for ‘event games’, like the sorts of action titles you see plastered over advertisements and social media just about everywhere you go. What doesn’t often get talked about is the market for less intense games; the sorts of experiences more geared towards people looking to play for a few hours when they can, rather than making their gaming habits akin to a second full-time job. RemiLore, a new action RPG from Nicalis, caters more to this latter category, offering up a chill, beautiful adventure that’s light on new ideas, but still deeply enjoyable in its own right.
RemiLore’s story follows a schoolgirl named Remi, who accidentally wakes up a sentient, magical book named Lore when cleaning out her school’s library and finds herself transported to a distant land called Ragnoah. Lore claims that his ‘Master’ has disappeared, which has caused Ragnoah to become overrun by hordes of mecha-monsters, and enlists (read: demands) Remi’s help in setting things right again.
Admittedly, the narrative comes off as being a bit of an afterthought, rarely straying beyond tired anime clichés and humour, but it provides just enough context to the events on screen to keep the player interested. The Japanese voice acting is a nice plus, and Remi and Lore’s frequent banter as you plough through levels helps to keep things lighthearted while also subtly filling in gaps in the overarching story. We wouldn’t recommend this one based solely on its narrative, but you’ll likely be satisfied by what’s on offer.
Gameplay is a bit like Diablo in nature, but perhaps with a bit more emphasis on hack ‘n’ slash action. You fight through hordes of mecha-monsters with a mixture of light and heavy attacks, which can be chained together to keep combos going for as long as you can manage to go without getting hit. Combat is very much a matter of knowing your proper spacing and timing, of learning enemy tells for impending attacks and knowing the animation lengths for Remi’s own moves, that leads to repeated success. Things are further complicated by the addition of helpful support magic attacks by Lore, which can do anything from casting an area of effect freeze attack to speeding up Remi’s attack rate, depending on which weapon is equipped. When used effectively, these spells can make a substantial difference in the outcome of a fight and keeping the combo chains high ensures that you’ll have a steady supply of mana to keep the magic going.
Remi can also dodge up to three times at once (each dodge is on a short cooldown), and once things click together and you find that pocket where you can reliably mix light attacks, heavy attacks, magic attacks, and dodge rolls into seamless flurries of death, the combat hooks you in a way that few other games manage to do. This is due in no small part to how responsive the controls feel; Remi immediately and seamlessly performs whatever attacks you tell her to, making for a rewarding combat system in which all victories and mistakes feel rightfully earned. Mastering the combat is truly rewarded, too; you receive a grade on every enemy encounter based on how quickly and flawlessly you dispatched of everything, and those grades are all tallied together at the end of a level to decide what kind of special loot drops you’re given. It’s not a revolutionary battle system by any means, but it’s certainly a well-constructed one, and those of you that enjoy simple (and perhaps a bit mindless) action games will find plenty to love.
Remi can choose from up to six different weapon classes, each of which come with their own strengths and weaknesses, such as how one-handed swords are quick but light on damage and hammers are slow, heavy hitters. The loot grind comes in by how enemies and occasional randomly-generated shops consistently offer up new weapons with stats that trump the one you have equipped, usually also switching things up by offering a new passive ability and magic attack. That slow power creep of acquiring ever more powerful gear can be intoxicating, and the bizarre designs are sure to keep you surprised throughout. For example, a ‘sword’ can be a broom, a tennis racket, a carrot, or any other manner of household items or delicacies, and you’ll quickly find that bludgeoning mechas to death with a fish on a stick feels oddly delightful.
Character growth is handled in an interesting, slightly randomized way, wherein Remi’s health and mana stats can only be boosted by picking up mystery scrolls that are either dropped by boss enemies or picked up at a shop. It’s a roll of the dice when you pick up a scroll; you’re not told what stat will be affected or how, and a scroll can either increase or decrease a stat. So, every time you’re faced with one, it becomes a question of whether you’re willing to risk worsening your current status for the chance of something better. As it would happen, RemiLore is generally a relaxing, low-difficulty adventure, so min-maxing stats isn’t terribly important, but this light risk introduced to potential stat gains is still a welcome inclusion.
This being a 'rogue-lite' adventure, there are some elements of randomness in the overall design – such as the layouts of all the levels and the weapon drops – but some passive stats persist between runs and offer up more permanent progression. Shattering just about any environmental object or killing any enemy will cause all manner of desserts and candy to spill out, which are then quickly collected by Lore and added to your “Dessert Points”. These act as RemiLore’s main currency and can be spent at any time in the pause menu to upgrade more passive stats, like a greater shop discount or more HP restored by health flasks. The effects of these stat boosts are often softened considerably by the relatively easygoing difficulty, which may come as a disappointment to some, but overall we found that including this persistent progression helped to make subsequent runs feel meaningful to a degree.
In case you haven’t gathered by this point, there’s a generally laidback design to RemiLore which no doubt will prove to be a sticking point for many, especially for fans of this genre. It’s the sort of game that endeavours to strip down an RPG to its barest components, making for an experience that’s exceedingly approachable, but also one that lacks long term depth. Much like the cupcakes and lollipops that overflow from every nook and cranny of Ragnoah, RemiLore is an endearingly sweet experience, but it’s also not something that’s very ‘filling’. There’s certainly a place for RemiLore in the backlog of any Switch owner’s library, but it’s important that one manages their expectations when coming into it; understanding the kind of experience on offer here. This is a ‘Sunday afternoon’ game, or the sort of thing you play to wind down before bed; it’s not the kind of game you excitedly look forward to playing, but it’s certainly the kind of game that you’ll enjoy spending time with.
Although it’s not nearly as bottomless as Diablo, there’s more than enough replayability on offer here to keep you coming back for potentially dozens of hours. A couple hundred different weapons ensure that each class is well-filled out and diverse in offerings, while also giving you something to collect and build upon for subsequent runs. Single player can be played either with or without cutscenes, a new game+ mode (we won’t spoil it) suitably changes things up, and there’s even support for local co-op if you happen to have a friend on hand. Single Joy-Con play works exceedingly well, and we didn’t detect any noticeable slowdown by having an extra character onscreen. All of this, too, is governed by an in-game achievement system that rewards things like completing a run with a specific weapon type or when wearing a certain costume; nothing too hard here, but some of the achievements will likely encourage you into a few ‘unconventional’ runs.
One area in which RemiLore positively excels is in its presentation, which does a fantastic job of creating stunning, beautiful environments that you can’t help but wish truly existed somewhere. There’s a theme of ‘passing time’ at the heart of RemiLore, as every act and stage differentiates itself by being set during a different time of year or at a different time of day. Running across dark castle parapets as moonlit snow falls quietly around you makes for as transcendent a moment as watching the red sun set over the ocean, and we frequently found ourselves stopping to gaze in awe at the lovingly crafted backgrounds on numerous occasions. There’s a naturally a distinct cartoonishness to proceedings – after all, you can slap enemies with giant ice cream cones – but there’s something to be said about how RemiLore frequently manages to surprise in how splendorous and detailed the locales can be; you may very well find yourself eager to go to the next level just to see what kind of eye candy you’re in for. These visuals are marred somewhat by occasional slowdown when things get a little too busy, especially in portable mode, but aside from those few moments, this is a delightfully colourful and animated adventure whether playing at home or on the go.
RemiLore is the sort of game that’s meant to soothe and delight while offering occasional moments of legitimate excitement, and it achieves this goal to a wonderful degree. With that being said, there’s also very little here that you haven’t seen before; the hack ‘n’ slash action, roguelite elements, and RPG mechanics rarely stray beyond well-trodden tropes, making for a very ‘safe’ gameplay experience. If you’re looking to buy a game that has a decent amount of depth and doesn’t require much from the player in terms of skill or time, RemiLore is a fantastic recommendation. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a game to replace your Diablo addiction, you’ll likely be disappointed by what’s on offer. Either way, RemiLore proves itself to be a well-made and inoffensive loot grind of an RPG; consider giving this one a look.