A few days before its release, the spring exclusivity of the PS5 throngs our regions for an initiatory journey on the planet Atropos. Returnal, a 3D Rogue-Lite shooter developed by Housemarque studios and published by Sony, is it the first real surprise of this ninth generation of consoles?

Preview conditions

Before starting its test phases, the globelivemedia.com editorial staff was able to discover Returnal’s playful formula, and browse the first two biomes of the planet Atropos during a long session. The preview below thus focuses on the sensations of the game and the main gameplay loop. To learn more about the universe, the context, and the inspirations of Returnal, we invite you to read the previous preview: Preview of Returnal (February 2021).

Returnal Trailer

Returnal is both a psychological sci-fi thriller and a third-person shooter that takes on the structure of a particular genre… that of the Rogue-Lite. The TPS of Housemarque studios is not a linear adventure, on the contrary. The experiment is based on the concept of cycles, here time loops on the surface of the exoplanet Atropos. This unknown star changes in a procedural way with each premature death of the heroine who for some mysterious reason comes back to life in a certain way. Developers like to remember that their creation is demanding. Death in Returnal is just the beginning.

Survival of the fittest

Returnal could be an allegory of Darwinism. This theory formulated by Charles Darwin in 1859 tends to explain biological evolution by natural selection and vital competition. In other words, the survival of the fittest. Returnal is a practical application of this fundamental concept. To survive on the planet Atropos, astronaut Selene explores the environment, which, let us remember, changes structure after each death like a living puzzle, and discovers ruins and alien artifacts supposed to help him in his quest. Discovery, and therefore the learning that results from it, seems to be at the heart of a repetitive experience in essence, but knowing enough to renew itself to keep the players’ interest intact in each game.

Returnal: PS5 exclusivity sets the competition apart

This involves exploring the different biomes that make up a journey inspired by the main currents and works of science fiction in the broad sense, and gameplay capable of putting challenge lovers to the test. Exploration is an essential component of Selene’s survival as she unearths new weapons, various upgrades and other items that can facilitate her progress. The effectiveness of the weapons however depends on the loot hunted on the spot, itself linked to the number of enemies eliminated beforehand, as well as the mastery of said weapons by the avatar, which unlocks other attributes. The astronaut’s suit is no exception. Modifiers add active and / or passive skills respectively taking the form of modules and parasites, also scattered around the scenery.

Returnal: PS5 exclusivity sets the competition apart

Rogue-Lite obliges, Selene loses the fruits of her hard work between each cycle, except for the artifacts related to the narrative, and some permanent equipment that ignores death itself. Because the astronaut will die again and again. Death is an integral part of the experience, and no one can escape it for long. You even have to welcome it with open arms, otherwise you will experience a certain frustration. Returnal does not take players by the hand. He parachutes them unceremoniously onto an openly hostile planet. The clashes paradoxically force caution in the face of dynamic gameplay to the last degree that rarely forgives approximations. The clashes could be summed up in a succession of precise attacks, dodging in the right tempo, and learning the hard way of a varied bioluminescent bestiary. However, it would be to obscure this touch of randomness which skilfully distilled, transforms a cyclical redundancy into an exhilarating adventure.

Returnal: PS5 exclusivity sets the competition apart

The boss fights promise to be particularly tough with their different phases of intensification and their attacks as stylized as they are devastating. These singular sequences will probably be synonymous with multiple failures for Selene. Haptic feedback also helps make this trip to Atropos a tangible experience through simple sensory feedback that accentuates a deliberately energetic gameplay. The same goes for the work brought to the atmosphere, both visual and sound, which stands out from other science fiction-stamped productions. Special mention to the spatialization of the sound which pushes the knobs of the “realism”, certainly relative, which emerges from the planet Atropos.

Returnal Trailer

Our impressions

Returnal could well be the “PlayStation 5” exclusive not to be missed in 2021. The 3D Shooter from Housemarque and Sony stands out for its inspired SF universe, its nervous combats and its mastery of Rogue-Lite codes. Only a certain repetitiveness inherent in the very structure of the game could tarnish a formula that turns out to be very attractive after the first hours spent with Selene. Appointment is given on the planet Atropos on April 30, 2021. And we will be there!

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