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Returnal is fantastic and you should play it

Read time in minutes: 4

The gift of life is small, fleeting, and marvelous. In Returnal you play as Selene, an astronaut that crashed on a planet named Atropos. She explores the planet a little bit and the local fauna attacks her. Selene tragically dies in the process, the credits start to roll, and you just ponder for a moment that Selene's gift of life was just terminated by an uncaring world. The credits speed up, the camera pulls back and

Selene wakes up at her crash site just like you did before.

She came back. She explores again and finds her decaying dead body with a recording next to it. She didn't remember making a recording, you didn't see Selene making a recording in-game. But it's there.

Selene plays the recording and you hear her voice. It was her. You are sure of it. She is sure of it.

She explores more. She dies. She comes back. She explores more. She dies. She comes back. She keeps coming back every time she dies.

hero image another-battle
Image generated by Ligne Claire -- 1girl, hoodie, pants, sword, portal, landscape, cyberpunk, space needle

Returnal is a science fiction philosophical roguelite third-person action-adventure game for the PlayStation 5 and PC. It is nearly flawless and is easily one of the best games I've played in recent memory.

Numa is delet
<Numa> You're just putting random words together at this point, there's no way any of that makes sense.
Cadey is coffee
<Cadey> Do you know of a better way to describe Returnal then?
Numa is thinking
<Numa> Good point. That's reasonable yeah.

Combat flows like a hot knife through alien butter. The enemies are all visually distinct with their own attack patterns, ideal strategies to take out, and weapons that are good against them. Combat flows more smoothly than Metal Gear Rising: Revengance, which is something I didn't even know was possible.

In the game Selene has one weapon and you can get better weapons by killing enemies to gain proficency. However, the weapons themselves can't be upgraded. You can upgrade various perks of the weapons, but not the weapon damage itself. You need to swap out for new weapons as you go along. To play Returnal is to be in a ballet of risk analysis as you swap through weapons, artifacts, parasites, and consumables on the fly; making sure you have what you need to take on the challenges being thrown at you next.

I could wax philosophical about this game all day, but I honestly believe that I should leave the rest for you to discover. This game is a 10/10 masterpiece. My only complaint is that I can't play it on my Steam Deck.

It's worth playing, but if you feel like a lot of the nuance and metaphor is going over your head, Returnal is a Hell of Our Own Creation by Jacob Geller is a fantastic overview of a lot of the finer points that you will miss at first. Be warned, there are spoilers.

I did have to turn the settings down on my PC to play this, but I also got a 4080 while I was playing this game. The 4080 does wonders for this game, but I can't quite max it out yet. Need to figure out why.

Overall, I wish there were more games like this. I can't wait to see what this studio makes next. Hopefully with Steam Deck support next time.

Mara is hacker
<Mara> Fun fact: this post was originally drafted on paper. What you're reading is the third draft of this post. The first draft is available below in case it's interesting to you.

the profile picture for cadey
Xe @cadey
M04 21 2023 02:11 (UTC)

On-paper draft of a post for the blog.

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This article was posted on M04 21 2023. Facts and circumstances may have changed since publication. Please contact me before jumping to conclusions if something seems wrong or unclear.

Series: reviews

Tags: steam ps5 masterpiece

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The art for Mara was drawn by Selicre.

The art for Cadey was drawn by ArtZora Studios.

Some of the art for Aoi was drawn by @Sandra_Thomas01.