The Vampire Survivors craze doesn’t seem to be ending anytime soon, and after the hundreds of similar games (known as bullet heaven shooters, auto-shooters, and plenty of other names as well) on PC and mobile, our consoles are finally starting to get a good dose as well. After the recent console ports of the much beloved Army of Ruin and Spirit Hunters, a much less known PC title also lands on our consoles called REMEDIUM: Sentinels, with the title trading colourful fantasy for industrial destruction. Let’s see how it holds up, shall we?
Ah shoot, here we go again…
As pretty much every such game, almost all plot is in the game’s store description, with virtually no in-game lore or story to look into. That isn’t really an issue: bullet heaven shooters, as I like to call them, focus on the ultra-simple yet painfully addictive gameplay loop of putting the player into an increasingly intense arena full of brainless AI enemies running towards them, with the player having to navigate around them, kill them via randomly selected auto-firing weaponry and upgrade themselves more and more. At first, this top-down roguelike formula starts off calmly, with a slowly moving character taking out a couple enemies at the same time at best, but before long it turns into a barrage of dozens, hundreds of foes on screen at the same time, with the player’s maneuvering and strategic upgrade choices making the difference between a lengthy survival and a quick death.
This all will sound very familiar for the many Vampire Survivors players for sure, but REMEDIUM: Sentinels is more than a mere clone. Well, a little bit more anyway. For starters, the game trades the genre-standard colourful fantasy with a dark, industrial tone, with modern 3D graphics that intentionally make use of characters with large polygons and textures with giant pixels, making it feel like a blend of a 90’s 3D game and something much newer. While enemy and level designs are nothing too memorable, the characters are cool upgradeable robots with heavy footsteps and satisfying attack animations as their ever-evolving arsenal becomes faster, stronger, better.
In the beginning…
The first level is a fairly generic desolate landscape, and the default character has to be used to overcome a 15 minute barrage of enemies. There’s of course the aid of power-ups like bombs, ice explosions and health pick-ups, alongside the genre-staple XP collectibles and scraps. Said currency can then be used for permanent upgrades after dying or clearing a level, both universally for your save to increase health, attack speed and more, or specifically to the individual robots that the player has already unlocked.
Beating this 15 minute challenge (with a boss at the end, too) is no easy feat without having upgrades, but the game certainly does not end there. Not only an endless variant of the level can be accessed, but new arenas and further robots will also become available, either after clearing specific challenges or using scraps to unlock them. New weapons, powers and evolutions will also slowly enter the player’s rotation, making the game’s variety increase alongside its difficulty. Levels can even have some civilians to save, which in turn unlocks further content.
With new weaponry, a few extra game mechanics, various bosses and increasingly tough stages, there’s plenty to come back for. But as someone who has probably tried over a hundred titles in the genre, REMEDIUM: Sentinels doesn’t feel particularly unique, polished or effectively too varied compared to some of the bests in the genre. While the stage, weapon and robot variety is pretty decent, the actual gameplay hardly ever evolves a whole lot, as permanent upgrades are very limited and enemies and levels aren’t designed in a way to truly test players’ adapting skills. And with a lot of level geometry with questionable hitboxes, multiple elements on screen with poor readability and a general “cheap” presentation, Sobaka Studio’s take on the genre doesn’t exactly impress, and would definitely need more polish and attention to detail in the future.
But as it stands, REMEDIUM: Sentinels is a fun and cheap (only about 5 bucks) little top-down indie bullet heaven roguelike bonanza, but mainly because this formula doesn’t need anything fancy to work and be fun. But with even consoles having far better alternatives already, I can only recommend this one to hardcore fans of the genre who already grinded the hell out of Vampire Survivors, Army of Ruin and so on.
Xbox Series X
- The bullet heaven formula never fails
- Cool mixture of modern and retro
- Solid amount of content at launch
- Unimpressive presentation
- A bit janky
- Not many new ideas
- Not quite the depth and variety some of the bests of the genre have