Rinse, Return, Repeat

Roguelikes aren’t my favourite genre of games, I don’t mind punishing games but when they require an insane amount of skill, luck and starting again I tend to give up quite easily. When I first saw Returnal I had heard it was challenging but I wasn’t aware of how much. Being a new PS5 exclusive, this game had me thinking it may not be as bad as it sounds in terms of difficulty and will actually cater to many people considering how hard it is to get a PS5 currently and the lack of PS5 games currently available. This isn’t the case though, Returnal is a pure Roguelike and easily the hardest I have come across.

The game starts off with you crash landing on an alien planet, after heading out of the wreckage you are left to wander and the alien world around you uncovering its secrets. Returnal is a great game and contains everything that a Roguelike game should, hard bosses, fluid gameplay and the graphics for this game are stunning. The protagonist of Returnal by the name of Selene finds herself in a situation where due to the nature of the game finds leftover logs from her former self which uncovers more of the deep story behind the game, it is an interesting concept and a way of telling a story which just about any game of this genre lacks for the most part.

One gripe with Returnal is the games default controls. The adaptive triggers are used for firing and when you have enough charge you will fire the special of the weapon you are currently using, this is done using the same adaptive trigger that you use to fire by holding it down, naturally though as someone who holds down the trigger to constantly fire this just does not work for me instead you have to hold the adaptive trigger at halfway to constantly fire a stream of bullets, not the greatest way to play a fast-paced shooter, fortunately, though these can be changed and not a deal-breaker.

Returnal eases you in gradually by exploring the world of Atropos and allowing you to get used to the controls and the features of the world you will be exploring. You will find a few enemies, power-ups and maybe even a new gun. Soon on you will then be forced to deal with the harder enemies that move in groups forcing you to take a more tactical approach to any given situation. Taking a slower approach is longer but is key to survival. Returnal wants you to play exceptionally well due to the buff that is given once you defeat an enemy without taking a hit. There are various levels of the buff that will prove useful providing you continue to remain in the adrenaline zone by not getting hit. Nearly everything will reset once you die in Returnal but there is one resource that won’t; Ether. Ether is a resource that carries over and one of the most useful. Ether can cleanse treasure chests that have been affected by Malignancy, this is useful as messing with a malignant object you run the risk of one of a few malfunctions to Selene. Getting these can be done by doing various tasks while in a malfunctioned state, some of these can be especially annoying such as causing your map to malfunction and making It harder to navigate. Most useful but most costly however is the ability to use the reconstructor. A large device that once used, will let you respawn if you die saving you the hassle of going back to the beginning. It also removes any Malfunctions you may have acquired and restores your health back to full making it essential. Sadly it is a one-time gig meaning once you have used it and then died again you will restart from the beginning. Ether can also be used to buy items at the Obolite repository and vice versa, this depends on how well your runs are going as naturally you will have more Obolites if you are making good progress which can be used to turn into Ether which is a more scarce resource. Obolites are gained from killing enemies and finding them in crystal form in all places.

Finding new weapons are also a crucial key to survival and there is no holster and you need to make a decision on what to take with you and knowing what is best in a situation, lack of concentration can leave you wide open to enemies so running and taking cover is also another option to explore or you may find yourself back at the start sooner than you imagined.

You can hold several malfunctions in Returnal but just be aware that having too many will cause the game to be harder and less enjoyable. Also, players need to be aware as of right now that this is a game that lacks a viable save feature and turning off your game at any point may hinder all the progress you have made. Even automatic updates will turn off any progress made and while the developers are aware of this and have advised gamers to turn automatic features off and putting the console into sleep mode it’s not really something you should have to do. This is something I did as a kid when playing Final Fantasy VII without a memory card, it’s not something I should be doing now just because there is no other option.

Maybe this is their intention though, just because a game is hard doesn’t make it a bad game. Returnal is actually impressive on a scale that I have not seen with many rogue likes and although I have not played too many, I can definitely feel the presence of danger here, the liability of picking that one chest that was malignant forcing you to play better or failing to pick that one health pick up just before that boss that you failed for the fifth time and then the sheer delight of beating that one boss to finally continue onward.

A PlayStation 4 Review code was provided by PlayStation UK