In our Returnal review, we take a look at the general dynamics of the game developed specifically for PS5. Returnal is an action game that combines roguelike and metroidvania genres, using horror elements as spice. Combining so many different types, the game managed to keep the all of the aspects successfully, despite some of their shortcomings. In the game, we control Selene, who falls on an unknown planet. While Selene embarks on a great journey towards the unknown on this planet, she also enters a personal reckoning. As we progress in the game, we find our own voice records and even see our own house and discover that we are in a great unknown loop. We find ourselves in places that look like they’re straight out of Alien movies.
The general functioning of the game is based on a time cycle that is very well fed into the story details. When you die, you start the game from the starting point and repeat this cycle over and over again. . This cycle tries to keep you alive with the changing map structure every time, different weapons and enemy types, as well as story pieces. We can hear you saying: “How can we enjoy from dying over and over again. At this point, the fact that the game has a dynamism that changes every time together with the randomly generated map structure has been an element that increases the bindingness of the game.
So if you have played games like Dead Cells or Hades before, we think you have a better understanding of what we mean. Because although you have died many times and spent hours, this bindingness of the game is the most important factor that pushes you to play again.
Of course, although there are changes every time about the map system or weapons, you actually encounter similar lines as a theme. In other words, each region of the game has a complex map system in itself. This map system changes every time, but in general terms, you encounter a forest area in the first region or a desert theme in the second region. In the later stages, areas such as snowy mountains and a large temple were also added to the game. Despite this changing structure, the map is so beautifully created that the dynamics of exploration has always been kept at a high level. If you cannot search around and make the necessary updates, you will start the next cycle very quickly.
As you progress in the game, of course, shortcuts and teleportation portals occur. With these short cuts, you can quickly reach the region where you last died. But the faster you go, the less powerful your character is for that region. This has emerged as the biggest factor that prolongs the duration of the game. You also sense a little inbalance in this regard. Because when you spend minutes and get all the features, it can be a little annoying to go straight back to the start when you die in the last zone. Both your weapons and the features you receive are reset each time you die. And this situation can annoy you at some moments. We can say that there are some “critic” moments when we were writing our Returnal review.
Some permanent items are included in the game to balance this situation. You can get permanent features like a hook that you can hold on to some points in the area, a sword (such as a lightsaber) with which you can break enemies or barriers, or a feature that you can navigate underwater. These features are generally based on navigating the game field faster. Since there is no permanent item for life bar or damage, no matter how fast you go. Because you have to repeat the cycle over and over again if you cannot find key items, especially in issues such as damage and health.
When we first played, we could directly reached the 3rd zone when we were writing our Returnal review. Then we had to repeat the cycle 10-15 times when we wanted to act fast. But when I progress cautiously and slowly, I was able to reach the fourth zone in the game. In other words, the game has a structure that requires patience. And rewards you at the end of this, just like in similar productions.
Patience is Your Best Friend
Although you need to be patient in the progress, there is a completely opposite situation in the dynamics of the gameplay. Because Returnal is a production that you need to stay in action all the time and adjust the dynamics of conflict accordingly. There are only a few points on the screen where you can escape from enemy attcaks in boss fights. Or sometimes there are so many enemies on the playground that you take a moment’s hesitation and you die. Moreover, you may encounter enemies that will knock you down in one shot as well as easy enemies. We can say that the random processing of this whole structure, like the section designs, keeps you on your bumps constantly.
There are also some dynamics that need to be taken into account, apart from searching around and finding weapons and items. For example, your adrenaline level allows you to do more damage. In addition to the items you find, there are also doors that you can unlock and some special items you can buy. To buy them, you need to collect orb-like spheres that your enemies drop. The game is so stingy about this that you can only buy a few items per cycle. In other words, after jumping and bouncing on the whole playground and killing dozens of enemies, only 60-70 unit orbs can be annoying. But remember, this state is the most important dynamics of this type of games.
Among the items, there are items that you can use as well as those that affect your skills. You can regenerate your health, reduce the cooldowns or create a shock wave when you jump for a certain period of time. We can say that it is vital to choose these items, which you can only buy in a certain number, and to use them at the right time.
Apart from these items, there are also some parasites you collect in the game. The functioning of these parasites is based on the dynamism of give and take situation. So let’s say you found a parasite. This parasite gives you 20% more damage, while at the same time wiping 10% of your health bar. According to this situiaton, you pick the parasite you find and enter into a small calculation state. Apart from this parasite system, small challenge tasks are also included in the game. Some special items you buy have a penalty system.
For example, you start to lose your life with every item you buy next. To prevent this, you can face challenges such as kill 6 enemies with a melee weapon, find an artifact or kill 15 enemies. Speaking of challenge, there are also special modes where you can compete with other players from your ship against time. In these challanges, you try to clear the regions in the fastest way and climb the leaderboards. This feature was one of our favourite when we were writing our Returnal review.
Plenty of Weapons to Use
Let’s talk a little bit about weapons. Because every weapon you buy in the game has a level and you can naturally find higher level weapons in the advancing areas. Apart from pistols, shotguns and machine guns, there are bombs, laser guns are also included in the game. Of course, all these weapon types vary depending on the atmosphere of the game. In other words, rather than a classic machine gun, a technology belonging to the race in the game was used.
In addition, each weapon has a secondary feature other than its primary one. This second shot has a cooldown for each weapon. Since this secondary shot deals much higher damage, choosing the strongest one is an important strategy, especially in large groups of enemies. Here you need to do this shot to the enemies that are difficult as the cooldown of the secondary shot ends, while clearing the small ones with normal shots.
Let’s talk about the DualSense feature in the game along with the secondary firing of the weapon. The developer team used the DualSense features in a small but effective way. This makes such a nice contribution to the game that we can’t imagine playing Returnal with another controller. When you press the left trigger halfway, you switch to the targeting system. When you press it fully, the secondary firing mode of the weapon is activated. This is how the Adaptive Trigger feature in the game works.
Of course, apart from this feature, the Haptic Feedback feature has also been used very nicely. Every movement of your character turns back to you as a vibration. Or when you enter a portal you feel the DualSense vibrate accordingly. There are also different vibrations according to the weapons and shooting styles. Our favorite point in this regard was the rain effect when we were writing our Returnal review. Because in the rainy areas of the game, you feel the raindrops coming back as one by one vibration. As we said, this is a small detail, but it was a great contribution to the integrity of the game.
Returnal has a visually unique texture. Of course, it has enriched this texture with familiar atmospheric phenomena, as we mentioned at the beginning. As we progress in the game, we encounter regions similar to those in the Alien (Prometheus) movies. And you find yourself examining the ruins of an ancient civilization. The fact that each region has a different theme also contributed greatly to the visuality of the game. You are entering foggy areas while raindrops are hitting your helmet in wooded areas. Or, in the desert part, you carefully gaze at the sandstorms that greet you as you move away from the map.
The game may not be visually awesome, but it has a rich structure with the lighting details. And elements that complement the atmosphere. Another point we like on the technical side is about loading times. When you turn on the console, you are logging into the game very quickly. In addition, you do not see loading time even when teleporting on the map. Only a small teleport animation is activated and you find yourself at the target instantly. This situation prevents you from disconnecting from the game, which has a fast and binding structure.
Finally, we would like to talk about the sound effects in the game. When we were writing our Returnal review, we had the chance to experience Returnal both with normal headphones and with Pulse 3D. Normally, it has a good structure both in conflict moments and ambient sounds. But when you use a 3D headset, you feel how successful the sound effects of the game are. Apart from the classic features such as hearing from which side the enemies are attacking, you can even hear the sounds that keep you on the edge. Especially in the home area, if you use a good headphone, the game turns into a horror game. We can say that these parts are kept short. But they manage to stress you even though they are short.
Returnal Review: Conclusion
As a result, Returnal is a game that blends different dynamics very well. Enjoyable and fast action structure does not bore you easily. Even when you die in a ridiculous way and turn off the game with anger, you want to play it again after a certain period of time. It has a structure that connects the player in this regard. Our biggest criticism about the game lies in its price. We wish that the game would have a normal price instead of AAA game. And we can say that it is a fun action game that you should experience if you have the opportunity to buy it even in this form or waiting for the discount period.
We hope you like our Returnal review. Stay tuned, enjoy.
If you want to know more about this PS5 exclusive roguelike-metroidvania game, you can start reading our Returnal review.
- Fun and engaging gameplay
- Good game-play dynamics
- Story that makes you wonder
- Fear elements
- Cycle balance could be better
- Confusing item system