Games Reviews

Returnal: Game Review

Returnal: Game Review

    Last Updated on May 5, 2023

Returnal is a third-person shooter published by Sony Interactive Entertainment and developed by Housemarque. Only available for the PlayStation 5 system in its initial release but now is also available on PC via Steam. The game is a one-of-a-kind combination of roguelike mechanics and sci-fi fiction. Its elements combined make for a thrilling and engaging experience for players.

Here is a quick but in-depth review of one of the PS5’s greatest hits to date.

Returnal Summary Review

Without giving too much away, here’s a synopsis of the game’s plot: Selene is an astronaut who crash-lands on an alien planet called ‘Atropos’. She finds herself in a never-ending cycle of death and rebirth. Each time loop reset the environment and her development. The story of the game is captivating, with Selene unraveling the planet’s mysteries as she goes through it.

Gameplay-wise, Returnal is a punishingly challenging game. It presents different obstacles for the player to overcome. Choosing risks and rewards on the fly is crucial. The game’s combat is fast-paced and frenetic. Players will use a variety of weapons and abilities to take down hordes of alien creatures and the usage of adaptive triggers adds to the immersion.

The visual and audio design of Returnal is one of its most notable aspects. With gorgeous and intricate surroundings, the game’s graphics truly bring the alien world to life. The game’s audio is likewise top-notch, including an eerie and atmospheric score that harmonizes beautifully with the sci-fi environment.

Overall, Returnal is a fantastic game that will thrill fans of the sci-fi and roguelike genres. Definitely, a must-play for PlayStation 5 players. It has demanding gameplay, an engrossing plot, and stunning sights and audio. Take note that if you are a PlayStation Plus Extra or higher subscriber, you can get this amazing game for free.

Returnal Playthrough

Returnal Gameplay

Returnal makes you feel anxious, not only by its story-telling but the challenges and the map itself as well. It is hellish enough to give you that ‘oh no’ feeling, but intriguing just the same. My first time walking in and figuring out the controls were filled with fear for not knowing what was coming. Though being someone with experience playing bullet hell games, I managed to pass through the first (let’s call it) mini-boss before seeing myself crashing back to Atropos.

As you power through, you’ll soon realize how important dashes are. This ability momentarily gives you invulnerability versus attacks. It places you away (if done right) from being bombarded with a horde of foes. Mistakes such as choosing a ‘parasite’ that will give you a lower cooldown for dashes were something that I avoided as much as possible.

Having met almost all formidable enemies in the game, you will quickly realize their attack pattern. This will make it quite easier for you to dodge attacks. Furthermore, it lets you know when to use certain moves such as your alt-fire to finally defeat them and progress into the story.

Sometimes you’d get a ‘good start’ if luck is on your side. Perhaps getting powerful upgrades, weapons, and secrets that can definitely help you to not give up on a run. Although having to repeat it over again is not so bad. It sometimes triggers the map to open up secrets that you would’ve otherwise missed.

The Addicting Cycle of Risk and Reward

Every single run is full of risk-reward decisions. The way that it’s presented is truly something else. Playing as Selene, you get to decide whether you stick your arm in an alien device for items, lay down on ancient beds for a chance to revive health, or lose some, and even get in an ancient tomb to revive without starting a run over again.

The tentacles and eeriness of it all got me hooked to keep powering through despite almost ripping my hair out for making a lot of progress only to die by a mistake that I could’ve easily avoided.

Audio logs and seeing how ‘other Selene’s’ died is also a very cool addition, making it more interesting for you to explore the map. Despite knowing that you might encounter something that you’re not prepared for yet, you are still compelled to power through.

After hours and hours of this bullet hell fever dream-esque runs, killing bosses and getting to another map of the game really feels rewarding, and you’d think, hey if I was able to get there earlier, I can definitely do it again (something that I always say with games like Muck, Getting over it, and Gunfire Reborn).

It’s difficult, so every progress you make feels so good that you would celebrate a little then go back to feeling the fear for your life (or at least the next few hours trying not to die or trying to get back to where you were and play it smart this time around). Don’t forget to take breaks and drink water because it can definitely get exhausting.

Die, Try Again, Die Again, Try Once More

If you’re anything like me, you would try and change up controls to customize for comfort. One of which I use is, instead of pushing L1 for the items, I turned it into a dash. I just thought that it would help me navigate easier as my thumb will only focus on jumping. The accessibility options in this game are genuinely impressive.

Sometimes before runs start, you would have your own ‘ritual’ thinking that it would bring luck. Going back to Selene’s ship allows me the comfort of knowing that there is no other way but to go forward. Given the RNG-based achievements, it’s not that far-fetched wanting lady luck by your side while playing this game.

Guilt (of the time spent on a run). Getting out of the cycle only to live, die and repeat. It gets nerve-wracking, but that’s what makes it great enough to not quit. Or maybe quit to only return to it all over again. It’s like you are now Selene.

Power through the fear, that’s what you tell yourself while playing Returnal, as panicking would only get you killed, having precise movements and smart choices can be hard sometimes but it’s possible.

Once you get the hang of it all, it does get easier. On my 11th death, I seemed to not take that time to scour through the item information because somehow you’d get to memorize them. This makes it faster for you to navigate because you don’t have to read much into them knowing the benefits and the cons that artifacts and consumables that you come across with.

Mastering What You Thought Was Undecipherable

You would want to explore more, save up for items, discover secret rooms, destroy everything, and collect the good rewards to reap the fruits of your hard labor. When it’s time to face the boss that you have encountered over and over again, you get to say “You have no power here” because you already know how to dodge and defeat them.

Eventually, you’d get used to monsters coming at you and you would already know how to power through them, it gets so much better as you get better with your items and playstyle.

Without spoiling too much, it is definitely worth noting that no matter how many hours you spend on Returnal, being able to finish the story and discover secrets is definitely something that you wouldn’t want to miss.

Written By
Sushi Diaz

Is always looking for friends to play games (and dnd campaigns) with, your resident writer, cosplayer, model, actress, barista, and favorite seafood all rolled up in one ball!

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