In late April, a PlayStation 5 exclusive title called “Returnal” hit the store shelves. It is a rogue-like, which means when you die, you must restart with the gear you started the game with. This is one of the main reasons I avoided “Returnal” when it released, as I didn’t think I would have the patience for something like that. I’ve played games like the “Dark Souls” series that are sort of rogue-like in design, but not as much as “Returnal” was claiming to be.
I picked it up recently when it was on sale because I wanted to be able to experience it at a reasonable, non-risky price point. To say I was blown away is an understatement.
This game blends so many things together perfectly, from its pulse pounding gameplay to its “Pulp Fiction”-esque storytelling, “Returnal” fits the bill for what I believe to be a masterclass in this style of video games. Through each death you’ll unravel more and more of the story as time goes on. Questions lead to answers which in turn lead to more questions. It’s able to pull this style off as well as it can through its life and death loop mechanic.
Worldbuilding is slow, but effective. You get a sense of what the planet you’re on is like through each of its various biomes you’ll travel through. Don’t worry about having to go through each of these biomes again and again if you die, there’ll be shortcuts awaiting you.
One complaint I have is the difficulty spike in one of the early biomes that lead to confusingly easy battles afterwards. I got stuck on the boss and after multiple deaths, I finally defeated it, and my heart was beating out of my chest. I haven’t felt this good about killing a boss since I played “Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice” in 2019. After the fight, I was greeted with super-easy enemies in the next area. Whether that is a good or bad thing is up to you, however.
I highly suggest picking up “Returnal” if you have the chance. Your patience in this rogue-like game will be heavily rewarded if you stick with it until the end.