Returnal Review (PC): When Death is Just the Beginning

Returna (PC) Review - When Death is Just the Beginning

Spiel Times Reviews - Spoiler-Free

Reviewed on PC. Review copy provided by PlayStation.


In Returnal, death is not the end. It’s a mere inconvenience, a stepping stone on a journey of discovery and survival. Housemarque’s third-person shooter/roguelike mix is an unrelenting and exciting journey, testing players’ ability to adapt, improvise, and ultimately triumph as they go over a dynamic alien landscape. Returnal is a game that will reward your focus and determination with its stunning sights, tense action, and eerie atmosphere. So fasten your seatbelts, don your armor, and prepare to die as we go on this epic journey. Here’s our Returnal Review for PC.

Returnal: A Time Loop Gone Wrong

Have you ever wanted to be trapped on an alien planet, facing non-stop challenges and never-ending deaths?

Returnal follows Selene, an astronaut who crashes on the strange planet Atropos. However,  this isn’t your typical, everyday planet. This one has a horrible knack for shifting itself every time you die. Which, if you’re playing Returnal, will happen a lot.

As Selene, you’ll battle through swarms of strange enemies, visit eerie ruins, and discover the mysteries of Atropos.  But there’s a catch: every time you die, the game starts over and presents you with a whole different randomly generated territory to explore.

Mysteries of Atropos

If you’re telling yourself that it doesn’t sound that bad, just wait till you visit Atropos. Think of it more like touring a haunted house, except the house is actively trying to kill you. Nevertheless, do not worry! No one should underestimate Selene. She is more than capable of dealing with anything the planet may throw at her thanks to her arsenal of weapons, which includes a space suit that looks really badass.

Returnal - Alien Fight 1
Attempting to stay alive on the ever-changing world of Atropos, Selene squares off against a wide variety of alien enemies, from the icky and creepy to the simply horrific.

You’ll feel like a real space warrior when you successfully finish the game due to its heavy complexity. Similar to Groundhog Day, except with more creatures and less Bill Murray.

Combat and Upgrades: Roguelike Genre Meets Bullet Hell

Returnal is a game that’s all about blasting your way through an alien planet while trying not to die (although you will die.. a lot). The world of Atropo is filled with bloodthirsty aliens, dangerous traps, and mysterious artifacts.

In Returnal, combat is quick, aggressive, and simply exhilarating. To survive, you’ll need to employ every tactic in the playbook, from dodging oncoming attacks to showering your adversaries with gunfire.

Luckily, you’ve got a pretty impressive arsenal of weapons at your disposal, ranging from standard rifles and shotguns to more tools of destruction like the lightning-spewing Electropylon Driver.

Returnal Review - Xenotype Weapon
Selene gets a Xenotype Weapon.

Returnal’s Upgrade System

With any game of this type, you need to know the ins and outs of upgrading your gear to succeed. Antropos’s resources aren’t infinite, so use them wisely. It doesn’t matter how good a gun you get if you don’t invest in the right upgrades.

Returnal Review - Upgrades

Design and Visuals: Beauty and Horror of an Alien World

Returnal is comparable to an interstellar fever dream experienced while on an eye-popping acid trip. The environment design of the game is a disorienting fusion of sci-fi and horror that simultaneously seems both utterly familiar and foreign. You’ll be astounded by the game’s breathtaking imagery as soon as you crash land on the planet Atropos.

The world is both stunning and horrifying, a mixture of weird landscapes and alien architecture. It appears as though someone combined Pink Floyd’s trippy music video with Ridley Scott’s Alien and then added some Lovecraftian terror as a finishing touch.

Breathtaking and Immersive

But the marvel of the world lies not just in its architecture. The elaborate and alien designs of the weapons you’ll employ to survive on Atropos are just one example of the game’s impressive attention to detail.

Returnal Review - Design and Visuals

Returnal’s Sound and Music: Haunting Soundtrack of a Sci-Fi Nightmare

The audio and music of a game are equally as important as the visuals. The audio design provides a memorable sense of suspense and vulnerability, from the spooky whispering of the alien species to the heart-pounding pulses of the combat. The game’s soundtrack is equally captivating, blending atmospheric pieces that invoke a surreal environment with intense fight music that sends your heart pounding.

The frantic and unpredictable gameplay of Returnal is a wonderful match for the game’s audio and soundtrack. Whether you’re going through a creepy dungeon or doing a high-speed assault with swarming aliens, the audio design will keep you on the edge of your seat the whole time.

Difficulty and Replayability: Endless Possibilities and Randomness

You’ll want to throw your controller or mouse through the screen while playing Returnal, but you won’t be able to resist picking it back up and playing again and again. This game is like the Dark Souls of space shooter games, with the exception that you’re battling swarms of alien creatures for your life rather than dragons and demons.

Returnal Review - Difficulty and Replayability
Selene’s first encounter with the extraterrestrial scavenger fauna.

Each replay is different from the last since the courses are generated at random each time you die. It’s similar to playing slots, but instead of wagering money, you gamble on your sanity.

Challenge of Permadeath and Learning from Failure

The suffering in Returnal is so satisfying that you’ll be back for more. You’ll discover something valuable each time you die and be that much closer to finishing the game. It’s like trying to solve a puzzle whose pieces are constantly being rearranged in new patterns.

3 Different Endings: Actions and Decisions

  • “Normal Ending”: It’s the game’s default ending. Simply complete the game’s main storyline. The main character, Selene, learns the truth about her situation and faces up against the game’s ultimate villain at its finale.
  • “True Ending”: You can get this ending by finishing the game’s main mission and then doing some optional tasks in following playthroughs. With this ending, Selene learns the truth about her situation and unlocks a previously blocked area of the game.

  • “Secret Ending”: This ending can be unlocked by performing a specific sequence of actions during the game’s story campaign. In this ending, Selene discovers a secret about the alien planet and gains new abilities.

Conclusion: Must-Play for Fans of Challenging and Unique Games

As Selene’s journey on Atropos comes to a close, it’s clear that Returnal is a game that demands your full attention and respect. From its challenging gameplay to its stunning graphics and sound design, the game has set a new bar for rogue-like action games.

But Selene is the show’s real highlight. She represents the Star Trek equivalent of Bear Grylls. She made it through extremely hazardous conditions using only her wits and a blaster. Plus, let’s be real: we’ve all wished we could muster her level of badassery.

Returnal Review - Conclusion

Check out our Returnal PS5 Review here!

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