Returnal Test

The area initially named Echo Ruins represents a kind of forest covering the remnants of buildings that were once. Its layout with many pathways, levels, and platforms brings back memories of the original Metroid. Like Samus Aran, the explorer Selene cannot stay in one place for long. The first canines swarm through the air and shoot projectiles that resemble shoot-’em-ups in color and design. I avoid them by jumping and sprinting with my rocket backpacks and then shooting back using a laser pistol. They are easy prey. However, I’m staking out that it will not be as simple.

Random rules

Two rooms down, I’m doomed for the first time since I slip into chasms a few times as I dodge and take too many hits. Selene falls over, and then the flashback begins that reminisces the moment of the spaceship’s crash in just a few seconds. She is then facing an area of wreckage from the spacecraft. A brand new yet distinct story begins. The inside of a room is still the same; however, the items and enemies which appear within the room change. Additionally, the order of the zones is also different, which is why I’m not sure what’s coming up behind another airlock.

As I wander through the spaces in a state of apprehension and delight, I get myself with the earliest firearms like shotgun, pistol, and rifle. They differ in terms of the power of penetration and speed of projectiles and sometimes suit me better than others, and occasionally more or less. However, there is no choice for me since the type of weapon inside one of the oldest chests can also be determined by luck. This is also true for occasionally consumable items, which give life energy or cause the creation of a spike that incapacitates enemies.

Another unique feature is the various parasites Selene can put on her costume. Unfortunately, their effects aren’t entirely positive. For instance, the power of their attack could increase; however, simultaneously, any malfunction can increase the amount of time needed to recharge Selene’s Dash. A few of these issues can be corrected by shooting at enemies. Some, however, require me to gather a specific item before I can fix it. It’s a matter of weighing whether the benefits outweigh the harm.

Learning to bear

It’s not necessary to think for long to think about it, but very nothing lasts in Returnal. When Selene dies, she forfeits her progress in the game and all upgrades and items including the last weapon she acquired. In the beginning, I’m content with these cutscenes. I feel like I’m learning with each cycle. I’ve absorbed a lot of things over time and can estimate the enemy’s actions. The first restarts are full of energy as the game moves slowly forward.

But, regardless of how hard I attempt to keep my mind focused, the effects of each day’s journey have me feeling even more. After around six hours, I was irritated. My goal is solidly anchored to the map, yet I cannot reach the exact area every time. New monsters and rooms disperse the method I’ve learned to fight the dog-like creatures. There is no solution initially and then proceed in a state of terror. I hope to move past this problem in the following cycle, but unfortunately, it will not happen.

My inner bastard is coming into the world for the first time, but I’m not throwing down with ease! I hope to conquer the first obstacle with perseverance and a willingness to learn and be recognized. That’s precisely what happens. Because the sword is placed in my hands in a matter of minutes. It is with it that Selene can break through barriers and break into new areas. Selene now has a powerful melee attack, which can kill many enemies with just one hit. The most important thing is that the weapon remains in my possession after the restart.

It’s the ray of sunshine I’ve been looking for. The opponents who previously frightened me now meet with aplomb in close combat. For instance, the bizarre dogs lose their fear. I know their behavior and can use the gaps within their defensive lines to knock away with a sword strike – which feels great!

Soon after, I cross the bottom of a deep valley where the first boss is waiting. The battle rages on, and the beast takes over Selene with a flurry of bullets that are unlike any other I’ve seen. Again, I must examine the patterns, move between the projectiles at just the appropriate moment, and then shoot more. However, it’s not enough; the monster is just too powerful. After two unsuccessful attempts, I’ve decided to find some improvements for Selene and improve her chances.
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Do you want to be fast or tough?

Returnal generally offers two kinds of routes marked with different symbols on maps. The gates in white indicate the path to your current location. On the way, you’ll get some other things like weapons and parasites. However, they are not usually abundant. Therefore, I pass through the blue gates and take a different route. The chance of good loot is more significant as more enemies are seen. This also means more Obolite, a currency exchangeable for better items through terminals randomly placed or at the factory that is hidden in every area. In addition, I increased Selene’s life bar, enhanced the strength of her blade, and purchased cures for future use.

It’s at least as necessary as the ether. As opposed to obsolete, this resource remains after the restart, so it’s essential to look for it. It cleanses contaminated items and chests that Selene can collect or open without damage. It’s possible to “buy” the unique checkpoint inside a particular chamber. It sounds appealing initially, but later I might be unable to clear more of the items and strengthen Selene further. Since, like all other things, ether comes up often, and at random, I’d better think about what I can use it for.

In general, the randomness aspect guarantees that the detours will either result in a positive outcome or fail. In addition, you’re constantly at risk of losing everything you’ve acquired before this point if you pass away on alternative routes. However, my strategy works in that I can get to the boss by using the right equipment. The monster, this time, does not stand a chance to stop me, and I can release a key that takes me into the following location. My confidence is back at 100%, and I’m looking eagerly to the next challenge.

Making the most of every opportunity

The first part of the second zone goes quickly. The red wasteland brings memories of the film Stargate, an alien-themed version of ancient Egypt, and flying tentacle aliens and automated guns create the burning of the air. But the vast area is also a great place to dodge. Therefore, I swiftly reach my final destination: a massive temple at the mountain’s base.

In the midst, I’m confronted by a screaming witch with teleport abilities that knock Selene out in just a few seconds, using swift volleys of bullets and devastating melee attacks. It’s OK, I tell myself; I’ll come back through the gate to the desert. The game has already established this checkpoint. Otherwise, it’s too extravagant. A hope that isn’t real. Because Returnal is a crass fan and crass, it returns in space. It goes back to the beginning.

I let my anger out As I battle my way back into the wilderness and repeat the steps from the first location: study enemies, internalize the environment, utilize various weapons, and look at alternative paths. If I am successful, at least bosses will not be revived. Finally, after a long battle, I get through the temple and then to the mountain’s summit. Boss fight two takes place there and causes me to lose some nerves and a few tears, but it ends with a victory.

In this battle, I have realized how crucial it is to use the full power of weapons. When you shoot enemies, you unlock additional options, including lasers that home in or explosive missiles based on the type of weapon. The second fire mode is the most effective, which inflicts devastating damage and stuns massive chunks of material, which later exposes their red-colored weak point. The additional options you gain will remain indefinitely and encourage you to test out and enhance every weapon.

Another major benefit is the adrenaline Selene increases with every victory. In just five levels, it improves, in addition to melee combat and her perception, and she can see the enemy through walls and doors, for instance. These are powerful effects; however, they have the disadvantage that one counter-hit will reset the adrenaline to zero.

Return doesn’t offer me gifts. I knew this some time ago. Every success must be achieved through hard work, even death. It is always the result of the mistakes that I make. The failure and learning process always precedes achievement in the next world, which leads to massive citadels with ice and snow landscapes and an underwater zone. In addition to the new enemies, I discover new weapons like an acid cannon or a rocket launcher. These weapons operate entirely independently and thus require understanding.

Escape from the nightmare

I am taking this all in because of the story of Returnal. Selene is aware that she’s trapped in a cycle of death. Everywhere she travels, she encounters dead versions of herself who has written audio journals. This is how she discovers more about her experiences during previous cycles and the things happening on the planet every day. The information can be helpful; however, it can also be cryptic and bizarre.

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But, with every death or small improvement, it is possible to come closer to the cause of this cycle. Environments alter based on progress, leading to diaries and other happenings. Like Selene’s initial motive changes from anger to frustration before transforming into a sense of calm, The events on Atropos alter my perspective on the journey.

I’m aware that there’s no need to be angry about the brutal games, deaths, or repeated gameplay time and time again. It only makes it more difficult. Instead, I reduce my anxiety and anticipation. In a sense, I am held by the universe the same way as Selene. The choice to give up cannot be an alternative for us both. It is more important to have perseverance and a calm mind to escape this nightmare. We stay together and attempt to get one step further each session as we did in the previous attempt. The progress is always there, no matter how tiny it may seem.

Luck meets skill

Another reason for my recent peace is that I recognize randomness’s benefits and drawbacks. Sometimes, the arrangement of locations or enemies plays to be favorable, and things move ahead. However, the next time I attempt it, there are tough battles to be faced initially, and I must be more active. At some point, I’m flooded with great weapons and accessories along the main road. Sometimes, I explore an area thoroughly and yet find nothing worth using. If things don’t go as planned, I acknowledge that and expect a better outcome in the next round.

This leads to a second realization that return can be brutally difficult in certain areas, but it’s unfair. Even with no additional gear, it provides me with all the tools I need to survive. Selenium’s dash allows her to shoot in all directions and through the projectile when the timing is just right. I can evade even the most destructive blast of bullets if I clearly understand the pattern and surroundings. A quick sprint against walls blocks specific shots, but I can avoid others by shifting towards a lower or higher level. A small indicator will also tell you the direction that the danger comes.

Alongside the additional enhancements available, Returnal has a remarkable depth that gets deeper as the game gets more complicated. There are many strategies against each opponent, and the continuously changing configuration forces you to use all the options. This is why the game forces me to think again and again to get out of my comfort zone and attempt something new.

The PS5’s strengths

In terms of graphics, Returnal looks consistently good. The native resolution of 4K is stable throughout the day at 60 frames per second. Ray tracking and HDR give high contrast and powerful effects and colors. The six significant regions use these techniques in a different ways. While the dark tones dominate the echoing ruins, the red desert relies on bright colors and warm elements. The variations in the regions of enemies and structure are as noticeable, and there’s no risk of getting bored visually.

Also classy is the sound design, akin to the gorgeously dark Alien: Isolation. The themes are generally in the background and create an unsettling mood. If the music gets louder, then the action gets underway. The sound effects are then heard energetically, spatially, and effectively via headphones or the speakers. The 3D feature of PS5 is highly recommended and must be utilized, as it makes the entire action louder and makes the players more movable.

The game also uses the DualSense controller’s adaptive triggers: when you hold the trigger on your left pulled halfway to the left, Selene usually aims. Pressing it to the fullest will trigger a weapon’s different firing mode. To avoid this occurring accidentally, there’s substantial resistance to the trigger. This is a perfect solution in practice and can also be used in different games. The vibrations generated by the new pad can be intense and sometimes numb, which means that hands feel nearly every action on the screen.

Note that we played the game with version 1.002.000 without any updates. Day One patch is 10 GB. Day One patch is 10 GB in size and adds Returnal to 1.003.000. However, the developer Housemarque didn’t provide any specific information about the details in the new update.

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