With an incredibly unique and almost terrifying atmosphere, Returnal set a whole new bar for third person roguelike shooters. While the game inspires an Alien like setting with some of the most grotesque alien creatures and hostile environments, I can’t help get lost in Atropos with the abundant amount of secrets and areas to explore. Returnal was developed by Housemarque, and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment. This game is available on PS5 only for 69.99 USD, but I do hope to see it find its way elsewhere. The experience for playing this game is unlike any other, and its addictively challenging.
The game follows Selene, who has an uncanny similarity to Alien’s Ripley in personality. Selene finds herself stranded after crashing her ship on a living planet, and Selene finds herself in what seems to be an infinite time loop. Every time you die, you end up at the beginning of the game and seemingly run into your corpses. Selene has to find a way off the planet, and runs into terrifying aliens and living plant life along the way.
The gameplay is nothing short of satisfying between exploration and combat. Players have to unlock different mods and abilities by discovering or killing different enemies and finding alien technology. When fighting aliens you can stumble upon a variety of different weapons like pistols and shotguns that come with various modifications such as adding to your suit integrity or getting an armor-piercing ability. However, some suit modifications can become a give and take when alien life attaches to your suit, adding an element of gambling when it comes to fighting. Some of these modifications can even become malignant debuffs and hinder players in the long run. You find these mostly in chests discovered around the areas, which players can choose to remove before unlocking uses resources.
My favorite part of the game is the sheer amount of areas to discover and the different kinds of doors that take you there. Some doors have a triangle symbol on the map and are considered side areas. They can consist of anything from mini-bosses to hidden chests that come with abilities such as teleportation or alien tech needed to unlock certain areas in hidden laboratory-like areas. Other doors can lead to completely new biomes while square doors lead to your next objective. There are at least 2 to 3 doors per area to explore making it easy to get lost in the atmosphere of every area alone.
My only complaint about the game is that the game can become exhausting. Due to the lack of being able to save or rest, and no checkpoints, players are forced to choose between whether they want to try and explore everywhere possible with the risk of dying and starting over or trying to blast their way to the end fast. The story is not long, but the grinding and difficulty force players to try and buff up and avoid starting over. I feel like the game would be more beneficial with either fewer areas to explore, or allowing players to keep their discovered weapons and suit mods like various dungeon crawlers to make the game a bit more rewarding for gamers who want to explore without penalty.
While the ever-changing biomes keep players on their toes, forcing strategy change-ups on the fly and constantly skill checking players, this game is extremely well done. This title in my opinion will find its way to become a game of the year candidate. Returnal is unique and stunning, with drop-dead gorgeous graphics and solid gameplay. For those who love Alien or even Deadspace, or those who love a challenging roguelike in general, this game should find its way to the top of your list.
DVS Score: 8/10