Returnal, a critically acclaimed and award-winning roguelike game, debuted on April 30, 2021 exclusively for PlayStation 5 and is finally available on PCs today. Created by Housemarque and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment, the game works in cycles, where each time the character dies, they restart their journey on the planet, but always with different equipment and “stages”. It’s a temporal loop that only those with a killer instinct can escape from.
The gameplay style is defined by cycles of trial and error, where with each new attempt, caused by an error, the character acquires knowledge and resources, but returns to the beginning and needs to adapt to the environment again.
Compelling Atmosphere and Story
The story of Returnal follows Selene, an astronaut on a space mission who accidentally crashes on a planet called Atropos. Her suit detects a signal emitted there, and her objective is to find it. When Selene begins her journey, she encounters a dark, damp planet full of traps set by the aliens who made it their home. She also finds traces of communication from the civilization that previously inhabited the planet, which leaves us curious to know what happened to that “xenocivilization.”
During her search for the signal, Selene encounters various alien threats, and at these points, the game also takes on a bullet hell style, which brings adrenaline and excitement to the gameplay. Whenever she dies, the main character returns inside her recently crashed ship in Atropos, but remembering everything she has experienced on the planet in the last cycle. During the journey, she finds traces of her last “life” and recordings that she had already made, which help guide the next steps in the game.
Returnal is unparalleled in difficulty and can result in many sleepless nights for those who want to beat it, as only one cycle can last several hours, but it is also exciting, sinister, and fun in equal measure as it is long. Sony’s game has many storylines that need to be understood, which arouses curiosity and a desire to play without stopping. It’s no wonder it was named the best game of the year at the BAFTA Games Awards 2022.
Returnal Gameplay on PC
Due to its super realistic graphics and the amount of effects, colors, and textures present in Returnal, it’s understandable that it consumes a good amount of PC resources and requires good settings to run smoothly. In this review, a Predator Helios 300 with a 7th generation i7, 16GB of RAM, and a dedicated NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 video card was used.
At these settings, the game ran very well on maximum quality, with minor lag in the most intense parts, where there were many aliens unleashing powers, shots from all sides, and movement on the screen, but nothing that hindered gameplay. In terms of glitches or bugs, there was only one instance where an alien’s head got stuck in a portal between two “environments,” and it was possible to kill it without it attacking me.
The Sony game features online multiplayer and collaborative modes, where you can share your progress with other players. Additionally, Returnal can be played on PC with a keyboard and mouse or a console controller. For those already accustomed to playing on the computer, the result with peripherals is excellent and intuitive, with no lag or stuttering observed, but I personally found the experience of using a controller (PS4) better, perhaps due to the immersion provided by the controller’s vibration.
One aspect of gameplay that I noticed is that there were reports that on the PS5, there was no pause menu and it wasn’t possible to save progress if it was necessary to exit Returnal, even if you hadn’t died. On PC, there is a menu that presents options for sound and image settings, online modes, and the ability to pause the game, saving the cycle.
In summary, gameplay on the computer is incredible and fluid, and despite the graphics and quality of image and sound, the game runs very well. All of the features of the game for PS5 have been adapted. It’s a very challenging game that requires a lot of free time, attention to detail, some aiming skills, and a bit of luck, but it certainly doesn’t disappoint those who have seen or played the game on PlayStation 5.
Game Design and Sound Design
Returnal brings a cinematic and futuristic aesthetic to its visuals. The main character, Selene, has a distinct characteristic in her heterochromia, which emphasizes this aesthetic. The aliens encountered throughout the game are detailed and seem to be related to the Octopod species, although there are different types, including flying creatures that shoot fire, etc. The powers they emanate have strong colors and light that draw attention to the danger.
There are also many textures on the planet, which is sometimes a jungle and other times has chambers with statues of gods from the civilization that once inhabited it. These textures are so well-rendered that they make us feel disgusted by some goo and refreshed when we see leaves swaying in the wind.
Sound is an element that greatly affects immersion in the game and even instructs the player in certain scenes. The environmental noises are very realistic, and during moments of tension or imminent danger, the music becomes louder with faster beats, alerting us to a state of heightened awareness.
There are few spoken lines in the game, most of which are Selene’s recordings, but we can understand them well, and we can feel what the character wants to convey through her tone of voice. Housemarque and Sony did an impeccable job on the game design. Returnal has incredible sound design, and what I found most interesting is that cursed elements, in addition to having a different coloration, emit sounds of voices in agony, giving even an item in the game a sinister feeling.
Sony’s game delivers quality, gameplay, and an incredible immersive experience, now for PC players. Despite the high difficulty and the possibility of taking a long time to finish the game, which can be a problem for some, the game is so captivating, full of suspense, and elements that arouse our curiosity to know what comes next that it will be very difficult to put it aside, not to mention the feeling of being in the cinema co-creating a Steven Spielberg film.
The collaboration and multiplayer features make the fun shareable with friends and are a feast for a gameplay stream full of emotion. Definitely a game that deserves attention from those who like Roguelike games and appreciate a good mix of suspense, action, and exploration.
Returnal for PC Rating
The game’s adaptation, previously exclusive to PS5, to PC is impeccable and delivers a great experience for players. The game’s adaptation, previously exclusive to PS5, to PC is impeccable and delivers a great experience for players.
Rating 10/10 Total Score:
- Ambiance 10/10 Excellent
- Graphics 10/10 Excellent
- Sound Design 10/10 Excellent
- Gameplay 9/10 Incredible
- Story 9/10 Incredible
- Cinematic visuals
- Immersive story
- Impeccable effects and sound design
- No loss of resources in the adaptation to PC
- Completion time
- Does not allow for item selection at the start of the cycle
- Above-average difficulty