Returnal (PlayStation 5)

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Returnal is a very interesting game, a big, expensive production that is completely uncompromising in aesthetics, storytelling and gameplay. Alien-esque visuals, dark and discordant atmospheric music, a world where you are utterly alone, and a story told through Selene's sparse monologue, which hints at a fascinating sci fi mystery.
In contrast, the fast third-person shooter gameplay demands precision and mastery over sophisticated controls, and the uncompromising roguelike-inspired structure keeps the game interesting, while threatening with the loss of hours of progress.
As I have come to expect from veteran PlayStation developer Housemarque with roots on the Amiga, this PlayStation 5-native game runs flawlessly and is a joy to play.

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  • You can go back to the Helios and sleep to restore some health.
  • Translocators are teleporters that are usable after getting the proper artifact and then touching them.
  • After sleeping at the Helios, enemies stay dead.
  • I believe the triangular doors are dead ends with loot, and rectangular doors connect to the rest of the map.
  • The Astronaut Figurine is an instant respawn, which can be seen as the recycling arrow next to your health.
  • Proficiency is your per-cycle weapon pickup level. It increases with kills and certain items. Proficiency Rate is how fast it grows with kills.
  • Ether can be used for 1) The Reconstructor (6 for an extra life), 2) removing 'curses' from chests and the like, 3) exchange for Oobelites, and 4) The Cthonos, which produces per-cycle items and gets more expensive per purchase.
  • To complete Act 3 and see the final ending, I need to collect 6 Sunface Fragments, a permanent item hidden in each of the 6 biomes.
  • Apparently, before the Sunface Fragments can be collected, I needed to go once more to the 20th Century house in the *Echoing Ruins* to experience the final sequence where Selene goes into the TV.
  • Silphium heals Integrity (HP). Silphium *Resin* increases max Integrity. If you have full health, Silphium turns into Silphium Resin. If it is possible to heal using other methods than picking up Silphium, you will increase your max Integrity quicker.
  • Weapon ability unlocks and progression towards them is permanent.
  • The yellow barriers can be broken when you have the Blade Balancer artifact.
  • Adrenaline goes up one level (max 5) whenever you kill 3 enemies, and resets when taking damage.
  • The 'Survey' trophies require completing three tasks for every biome:
    • Scan every Xeno-Archive,
    • Collect every Xenoglyph Cipher, and
    • Retrieve every Scout Log.
  • The last song Selene and her mother hears on the radio is Don't Fear The Reaper by Blue Oyster Cult (1976). The first line in the verse of the song goes C-B-A-G-G, it's the theme that Selene plays on the piano in the cut-scenes, and a theme that is present in almost the entire soundtrack, even in the same key. Very clever.
  • I think that everything we see and hear in the game is somehow created by Selene, either in her own head (my least favourite hypothesis), or in a more sci-fi way by her landing on the planet. She hears The Reaper in her head, which is represented non-diegetically in the soundtrack, and possibly diegetically in the Hyperion boss fight.
  • If you have 2 Malfunctions and get a third when you don't have any Artifacts, your health bar will be reduced. They thought of everything.

Log entries

  • I have pre-ordered this at full price, i.e. 529 DKK.
  • 2021-04-30
  • Downloading version 1.003.000 10 GB patch...
  • This game is very good so far. I'm so happy that a game like this exists in 2021. Every choice made so far is something that appeals to me. The Alien-esque visual aesthetics, the dark atmospheric music, a world where you are utterly alone, with almost no dialogue, the complicated and lightning-fast action, and a mysterious story that hints at a huge sci fi mystery. And this is a big expensive game as well. Amazing.
  • I need to figure out what the door shapes mean on the map.
  • Another question: is weapon proficiency permanent?
  • 2021-05-01
  • After watching Malu play two very long runs where she got to the boss of the first area, I played a single run before going to bed. I ended up doing pretty well myself, I got the sword, found the surreal house and entered it, and fought the boss twice. I'll get him next time.
  • 2021-05-02
  • I had a really good run and managed to beat Phrike. My pulse is pounding like crazy. This game is one of the most stressful experiences since playing the Souls games for the first time.
  • I died in the red desert, but I feel great about beating the first area.
  • I completed a daily challenge run with 409.408 points, which is rank 4100 out of 7697 playing today.
  • I did another run in the red desert. I reached the end boss, a horrible warped angelic creature.
  • 2021-05-04
  • I reached the second boss, Ixion twice, and died twice. If only I had had a Astronaut figurine.
  • 2021-05-06
  • Got the Ascension trophy. - I played a very intense run where I ended up in the Crimson Wastes with low health but a whole bunch of good upgrades and a good weapon. I found the shop but didn't have enough Obolites to get a health Consumable. After running all over, I managed to find enough Obolites in rocks to buy it, and I went to fight the boss, IXION. I managed to beat it, and got the Grapnel upgrade. I immediately flung myself down from the mountain and died. But the Grapnel is a permanent upgrade.
  • 2021-05-07
  • I visited Martin and played some Returnal on his awesome surround sound setup. It was cool to hear the bullets impact behind me.
  • 2021-05-08
  • I had to go back to the Crimson Wastes to proceed to the new area, the Derelict Citadel, which is an cool looking place full of robots.
  • 2021-05-09
  • Exploring the Derelict Citadel, I entered a 'treasure room' with an astronaut looking down from above, and then a giant astronaut-looking robot appeared and destroyed me. They are called 'Automatons'.
  • 2021-05-12
  • I got killed by the horrible rocket drones in the Citadel. I hate them, they are even worse than the vampires from the first area.
  • I managed to permanently activate the bridge to the Tower, but didn't reach the boss.
  • I reached NEMESIS and reached the second stage. This boss fight is very stressful.
  • 2021-05-15
  • I did a run and heartbreakingly reached the third stage and died to yellow laserbeams.
  • Erik visited and tried playing this game from the beginning.
  • 2021-05-23
  • Got the Failed Escape trophy. - I beat NEMESIS and finished Act 1/3. Selene escaped and lived a full life on earth, dying of old age, only to experience the horror of reviving on Atropos. Seemingly, a lot of time has passed. I kept playing through the first new level and entered the house, where I played an amazing sequence where you play as Selene's child playing Returnal on her PS5. The number 836 seems to be significant. I encountered the boss of this area, an alien organist. I'm more convinced than ever that the creatures are somehow created by Selene or her daughter.
  • This one game lasted 4 hours and 44 minutes!!!
  • 2021-05-30
  • Got the Silence the Song trophy. - I defeated HYPERION with a level 20 ROTGLAND LOBBER! It's very useful for me to be able to deal damage over time while I'm dodging all the bullets. Now I have access to the FRACTURED WASTES, which is very exciting.
  • Completed the game (Act 2). With pounding heart and bated breath (and really, really wanting to go to the bathroom), I went into the depths for the first time and beat Ophion on my first attempt. Now I understand all the cutscenes, but I'm still not sure what happened. Need to complete Act 3, I guess.
  • I got the first Sunface Fragment from Overgrown Ruins.
  • 2021-05-31
  • Got the Past the Ruins trophy. - Finished the survey of Overgrown Ruins. I think this is determined by finding all the Scout Logs.
  • 2021-06-13
  • I found the Sunface Fragments in Biome 3, 4, and 5 tonight. Only missing the Abyssal Scar one now, but I get smoked every time I enter this level, I need to be very careful.
  • 2021-06-14
  • Trophy shopping list:
    • Finish Crimson Wastes survey
    • Finish Derelict Citadel survey
    • Finish Echoing Ruins survey
    • Finish Fractured Wastes survey
    • Finish Abyssal Scar surver
    • 'White Shadow' for finishing Act 3 and 'Sins of the Mother', which both should happen after finding all Sunface Fragments and entering the House one last time
    After that, I should have 'Helios', the Platinum trophy.
  • 2021-06-19
  • Got the Sins of the Mother trophy. - We found the final Sunface Fragment in the Abyss, and went back to the house. In the basement there was a wheelchair, and Selene seems to imply that she was afraid of her mother, even though she was crippled after the accident. The artifact you find after this sequence is a melted globe. I think Selene burnt down the house, possibly with her mother inside.
  • 2021-06-20
  • I now have a Car Key, and I think I'm supposed to beat the final boss again. I had an amazing run through levels 4-5, and then my PS5 hard crashed and turned itself off. It was a little heartbreaking after playing for hours. I guess I'll just try again.
  • 2021-06-21
  • I finished a few surveys, no I'm only missing Crimson Wastes, Derelict Citadel, Fractured Wastes, and Abyssal Scar.
  • 2021-06-22
  • Malu and I played for two hours, without even reaching the last level. I have to be more careful in the Fractured Wastes, I keep dying there.

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