Remedium: Sentinels – PS5 Review 1

Remedium: Sentinels is a top-down auto-shooter from Sobaka Studio and is set in the same universe as their upcoming twin-stick shooter Remedium.  ‘But what is an auto-shooter?’ you ask.  It’s a game where you run around while hordes of enemies chase you down and you shoot, automatically, at which ever enemy is closest to you.  It’s a genre pretty much defined, and certainly popularised, by the sensational Vampire Survivors and while that has had plenty of clones on mobile platforms, this might be the first one we’ve seen make it across to PSN.

You play as a Sentinel, a creaky old mech, and you have to survive in a world where a plague has turned humans into mindless mutants who just want to kill whatever they see that doesn’t have the same virus as them.  So, basically they’re zombies.

Your starting sentinel is armed with a sort of pokey metal weapon and you’ll stab at whoever is nearest to you.  You just need to walk around with the left-stick, aiming and attacking is automatic.  But as the number of enemies increases, your weapon is no longer going to do enough damage per second to keep them at bay.  Thankfully, some enemies drop EXP orbs and these will help you level up.

Each time you do, you’ll be given a choice of three upgrades.  These can include new weapons, buffs to attack damage or speed or improvements to your pick-up range.  They are very much the key to your survival as things get more hectic and you need to pick wisely as each level up gets further and further away while the enemies become stronger and more numerous.  Again, if you’ve played Vampire Survivors, you’ll know exactly what we’re talking about.

Initially, things don’t look good.  Your mech is slow moving and clunky and its ‘Percussor’ stabby weapon seems poorly equipped to deal with the on-coming threat which is a problem because you’re not exactly set up to run away from it either.  However, your upgrades do come in pretty useful.  From mortar grenades, a machine gun and a nifty chain weapon that links damage across multiple foes, eventually you’ll become a bit more useful in combat and, as you progress, new upgrades are unlocked and added to the pool.  As are new playable characters, you’ll find them caged and they need to be rescued to unlock them.

These new mechs then will have either a bit more speed or slightly better armour and some of them have different, but not necessarily better, starting weapons such as spinning saw blades or turrets.  There’s a new one to rescue per level and the levels are unlocked by surviving for fifteen minutes on the previous one.  You can play those levels endlessly too but that’s very much a side thing and doesn’t unlock anything.

So, you’ve got multiple playable characters, different levels, unlockable weapons and perks to discover.  That’s the Vampire Survivors template right there.  But how does this game stack up considering that it’s pretty much the same price.  Well, the honest answer has to be that Remedium: Sentinels struggles in every single category imaginable but it does manage to capture a tiny fraction of what we liked about Vampire Survivors and that’s enough to make this game at least fairly compelling and enjoyable.

The first point of comparison is in the playable characters.  Whereas Vampire Survivors has dozens, this game just has eight and some of them share the same weapons.  Also, we found that second mech (the first one we unlocked) ended up being the most useful anyway.  Their weapons also disappoint.  Drab, unexciting stabby weapons or short range armaments that just don’t compare to all the fun weapons those vamps had to play with.

The perks are unexciting too and their upgrades barely seem to affect the gameplay with damage and speed scaling up so incrementally that you just don’t see a difference.  Then you’ve got perks like Invincibility that just doesn’t appear to do anything or the one that helps you level up faster but just clearly doesn’t have any effect.  Vampire Survivors had a fantastic system where perks and weapons synergised to create super weapons but this game doesn’t really do any of that.  You can earn new weapons by maxing out others but it’s never game-changing or exciting really.

The other problem is the levels.  There are six of them – Crossroads, Church, Ruins, Frozen Pass, Mine and Swamp – but they all look pretty much the same with no sense of fun or creativity.  Also, they don’t stand up to scrutiny at all with textures that look, dare we say it, PS1-esque in nature.  They’re all drab and all ugly.  They do offer a little bit of actual topography which you can use to a little bit of a tactical advantage (ie – run around them kiting enemies) but they’re quite uninspiring.   They’ve all got a contamination level too (whatever that means) but in the game it says ‘Contamintaion’ which adds to the low, low budget feel of the game.

You’d think that the low-poly textures are a necessary sacrifice in order to allow huge hordes of enemies to appear on screen but this never really happens.  Sure, you might get 50 or 60 at once maybe but it’s never as insane or as exciting as Vampire Survivors was.  Indeed it makes you wonder why they even made this a polygonal 3D game as the 2D viewpoint works much better and allows for more action on screen where as Remedium: Sentinels barely does anything with it.  Sure, you can drop the camera in a bit for a closer view but this, obviously, has no useful application.  You can’t really ever zoom out far enough to get any kind of meaningful tactical information either.  It all just feels like they had a game engine for Remedium and decided to craft an auto-shooter from it in an afternoon.

There are also permanent upgrades but, again, these pale in comparison with just a handful of minor upgrades to things like speed, damage and pick up range as well as one that tells you what is in chests (literally useless) and one that speeds the action up and down if you use the shoulder buttons.  That one is odd because it makes you wonder why they left the default speed this slow.  What’s also quite annoying is that the individual playable characters also have their own upgrades.  We only figured out that later on when we accidentally pressed right on the selection screen.

So that’s a load of whining from us but it’s really not all that bad.  Yes, the game, respectfully, sucks in comparison to Vampire Survivors and makes design decisions which almost make it feel like they just chanced upon this genre and had never played the better game, but this is an auto-shooter and we like the genre.  The game is pretty compelling and made for a fun couple of days as we got through the stages, leveled up and did a bit of trophy grinding for the Platinum and by the end of it we can’t say we didn’t enjoy it.  Yes, it could be better in so many ways but it’s still pretty good.  Think of it like the film Prey.  It’s not up there with Predator, or even close, but it’s got enough of the same DNA that it’s reasonably enjoyable in its own right while also, thankfully, not managing to be Predators or The Predator.  Remedium: Sentinels is that.

Remedium: Sentinels
6 Overall
+ The auto-shooter genre makes for decent enough gameplay
+ Doesn't overstay its welcome
+ Does require a bit of tactical play to be successful
+ Can be addictive
- Worse in every way than the game that inspired it
- The 3D graphics are a bit unnecessary
- Painfully slow
- Menus aren't brilliantly designed
- Very drab
Remedium: Sentinels lacks the fun, polish, excitement, humour and brilliant structure of Vampire Survivors but equally it's an addictive, unfussy alternative and the only option we've got on PSN right now. For all its faults, it's still enjoyable.

About Richie

Rich is the editor of PlayStation Country. He likes his games lemony and low-budget with a lot of charm. This isn't his photo. That'll be Rik Mayall.

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