Returning to Returnal

Returnal was originally released as a PS5 exclusive back on April 30th, 2021. Along came much fanfare about it being a “AAA roguelike,” and although the game didn’t quite get 10’s across the board, it was very well received within the gaming community. With the PC release fast approaching, we take a closer look at the game’s current state and if it’s worth jumping back in.

Break the Cycle

Billed as a “AAA roguelike” meant Returnal came with many high expectations and met pretty much every one of them. Top-notch gunplay combined with stellar visuals and an engrossing story (something lacking in most roguelikes) set Returnal into a class of its own. That’s not to say it didn’t have its faults. Many complained about the lack of progression, punishing difficulty, and the inability to put a run on hold. This meant either overly long sessions or putting the PS5 into rest mode and praying you didn’t lose power.

Saving Selene, All in One Go

Thankfully, Finnish developer Housemarque released a free patch six months after release, adding an ability to suspend your cycle. This meant you could finally pause your run, close the game, and not worry about losing valuable progress. Now all of those runs that you dumped hours into would only disappear when you were feeling brave enough to take on that challenge room and then quickly get overrun by aliens.

Along with this update also came a dedicated photo mode. I’ve never been a huge fan of photo modes in games, but for some reason, I kept returning to it throughout my runs. The suspenseful and dreary atmosphere of Atropos had me constantly grabbing a quick photo for things that looked so outlandish I didn’t want to lose it. Or, maybe it was just how I couldn’t believe so many bullets were coming at me all at once; either way, the photo mode was a welcome addition to the game.
The bullet hell never looked so good – Source: Steam store page

Sometimes, Dying Can Be Fun!

A few months later came another patch with more free content. This patch added not only co-op mode, but also a new game mode titled Tower of Sisyphus.

With the ability to play with another person, players could now tackle all of those tough bosses or challenge rooms with double the firepower. This meant death was no longer the end of Selene, as the player could have someone there to pick them up and keep on going. Also, who wouldn’t want an extra set of eyes to help you find all those hidden health pickups?

Being able to play with someone else was great, but what if you wanted a different Returnal experience altogether? Enter the Tower of Sisyphus. An endless mode where players strive to climb the tower as high as possible, all while earning power-ups and a score multiplier. Once Selene meets her end in the tower, your final score will be posted onto a leaderboard to see where you stack up against the rest of the community.
Tackle that boss with a friend (or stranger!) – Source: Steam store page

Schedule Your Visit to Atropos, Today!

I’m not sure if we’ll be getting any more major updates to Returnal, but at this point, Housemarque has given us a truly remarkable roguelike experience. With the additions of suspending your cycle at any time, adding in a player 2 to change things up, or wasting hours away climbing the Tower of Sisyphus, there’s been no shortage of free content added since release (not to mention the usual bug fixes and balance updates).

Whether you’re grabbing it on sale from the PlayStation store, dusting off an old copy from your closet, or about to purchase it for the first time on PC (or SteamDeck), there has never been a better time to visit Atropos.



2 Responses

  1. Good read! I haven’t yet played Returnal, but this definitely makes me want to grab a copy myself.

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