I used to wonder if if there was such an opportunity, he would decide to travel in space. Discovering the unknown seems really interesting. However, I quickly realized that I was not an astronaut and prefer to watch outer space in games, movies and series. The time I spent with Returnal only confirmed that. Why conquer the galaxy when sitting with a pad in your hand provides so much excitement?
A space mission
In Returnal we play the role of an astronaut named Selene. The heroine’s ship has an accident and she crashes on a mysterious planet. There is something wrong right there. After a few minutes of exploration, Selene finds traces of a ravaged civilization. Apart from that, there are also my recordings and my own body. The woman has no contact with the base and is in an unenviable situation. Local creatures are hostile and bring death with ease. However, death is not the end but only the beginning of a new cycle. After losing her life, the heroine wakes up again next to the wreckage of her ship and notes that her location has changed. Selene must find a way to end the cycle and return home.
Returnal’s plot is interesting from the very first minutes. The plot of an astronaut lost on an alien and sinister planet is combined here with a psychological horror. Selene begins to have strange visions. Suddenly her child’s home appears on the planet, and from time to time we may encounter a mysterious figure. Everything is solved in an interesting way and it pairs well with the game mechanics.
What is most important to me, this title has a large atmosphere. The remains of an alien civilization that survived some terrifying cataclysm. The strange flora and fauna only intensify the feeling that we are in a hostile place and that we should get out of it as soon as possible. Added to this is the theme of the vision and what Selene encounters. I had associations with something like Solaris, where we simply cannot understand how and why aliens work.
A mix of genres
Returnal can be described as a roguelike game where the action is observed from the perspective of a third person. Our heroine goes to the next sections of the map full of enemies, defeats them with the help of her weapons and looks for improvements and new equipment. As we progress, we become stronger and stronger. However, death means starting the adventure all over again. There are no game save or checkpoints here. However, our progress is not completely reset and we still have access to some items of our inventory despite our death. In essence, however, we start from scratch and play the game anew. We repeat it until we succeed.
Housemarque’s game also draws on the achievements of the so-called bullet hell shooters, i.e. games where the basis of the game is to avoid bullets flooding the entire screen.However, we are not completely helpless. We have a sword and the ability to dodge, which allows us to eliminate potential bullet damage. It is a really interesting solution that makes the fights extremely dynamic. We don’t have to stay at a distance, because if we use dodge efficiently, we will be able to deal with close combat.
You need to be careful.
The last ingredient in the potion known as Returnal is the high level of difficulty. We’re talking about a title that needs to be figured out, understood and mastered. Success requires a little bit of luck on our part, but also learning and using all the systems. Without it, you can’t even count on defeating the first few rooms. It has been assumed that difficult games are compared to the iconic titles from From Software. Returnal, however, is a completely different beast. Here, the barrier is not only our endurance and willingness to repeat the same forever.
We also have a skill aspect. There is no point in summoning someone to help or grind to become stronger than our opponents. Of course, as in the case of other roguelike games, luck also counts, because we can come across very helpful items or useless scrap. In fact, you have to learn how to play, how to avoid enemy attacks, and when is the best time to deal damage. However, there is a barrier here that you simply cannot jump over. It is impossible to lower the difficulty level and it may just happen that we get stuck.
I would like to pause for a moment on a minor but, in my opinion, quite interesting point. Returnal draws a bit from Metroid. There is a bit of metroidvania in the game and we have permanent improvements that allow you to reach previously inaccessible places. There are also some secrets. What struck me, however, was that Returnal looks like I would imagine some modern version of a Metroid. Our heroine runs around an alien planet and the ruins of a strange civilization in search of improvements and a way home. The architecture of this place reminded me of the classic Nintendo or something like Prometheus.
As for the problems with the game, I think they can be divided into two categories. The first will be the real issue with Returnal being a title with no checkpoints and no save. We cannot stop playing at any time and return to the game when we feel like it. If we start a game, we have to finish it. The only way to get interrupted is to put the console into suspend mode and come back after the system has resumed. Then we will finish the session. Quitting the game, turning off the console or launching another production will result in losing your progress and restarting the session.
It won’t be a colossal problem for everyone, but I like jumping between titles.Unfortunately, this is not possible with Returnal. Switching to sleep mode also did not turn out to be an ideal solution, because a momentary problem with electricity at night meant that we woke up knowing that an hour of play had gone to the sand. There is no tragedy, but it only intensifies the feeling of Returnal as an inaccessible game intended only for a specific audience.
Locations full of obstacles.
Probably not for everyone
The second question, or if you like the problem, is connected with this last sentence. Returnal is a very difficult title that challenges you at every step. The combination of the roguelite formula with bullet hell gameplay elements and a high level of difficulty creates a game that is beaten, not beaten. In addition, some of the mechanics of this production are not well explained and a less experienced player can get lost at the same time. It makes sense because we’re as confused as the character we’re playing, but I’m a bit afraid that it will be too much for a large proportion of the players. Maybe it’s my little faith in humanity, but Returnal can be hard. I don’t blame it and to some extent I like the game even more thanks to its ruthlessness. However, I have the impression that for many it will be a problem and a barrier that will make it impossible to enjoy this extremely atmospheric and intriguing production.
How does it look like!
The audiovisual setting carries a beret here. Returnal looks stunning in both action and screenshots. This is mainly due to the world, which is extremely mysterious and sinister of our character. Both the sounds and the visuals intensify the atmosphere of Selene’s horror. In addition, the game flashes and shows the power of the new generation. It is the same with the audio sphere. The loudspeaker in Dual Sense has been well used and on good headphones or a decent set of speakers the Returnal is simply a feast for the ears. I am writing this as a person who often doesn’t pay attention to these kinds of issues, so it must be really good here for me to notice it.
I am like that
I must say that I am in awe of Housemarque and Sony Studios. The developer managed to create the game they wanted, without the compromises that can be expected in high-budget productions. Sony, in turn, took a risk with a rather niche production as the first large, original title for its new console. Returnal presents itself as an experiment that I do not associate too much with large games published by Sony. I am seriously impressed by the very fact that this type of game becomes one of the symbols of PlayStation 5. I hope this is a good sign for the future of the new Sony console.
From the desert to the icy lands.
Housemarque turned out to be a real art and something I did not expect.In addition, it is one of the best representatives of the genre I have ever come into contact with. For me, Returnal can easily stand next to the roguelike elite like The Binding of Isaac, Dead Cells or Risk of Rain. That’s why people who like these titles should be extremely satisfied with Returnal.
Almost a must have
I would like to call Returnal a must have title. I really have a million positives in my head and things that I like about this production. The appearance of the world, a dark plot, audiovisual setting, gameplay, transferring the roguelite formula to a three-dimensional game. I probably appreciate every single element of this title. However, I am aware that this game is not for everyone. The high level of difficulty will make many people bounce off this production. A certain level of skill is just required to be able to make progress on Returnal. For this reason alone, I can’t really write that everyone should go to the store to get their copy. However, I can boldly write that people who have no problems with demanding games should already hold Returnal in their hands ..