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A Brutal, Yet Rewarding Journey Through Time and Space – Returnal Review

Image: Housemarque

Returnal, developed by Housemarque and released in 2021, is a third-person roguelike action game with a sci-fi setting, exclusively available on the PlayStation 5. Players assume the role of Selene, a space pilot who crash-lands on the mysterious planet Atropos, only to discover that she is trapped in an endless cycle of death and rebirth. As a fan of challenging gameplay and immersive narratives, I'm excited to share my review of Returnal.

Story (8/10) Returnal's narrative is an intriguing blend of psychological horror and science fiction, as players unravel the mysteries of Atropos and Selene's past. The story unfolds through environmental storytelling, audio logs, and cryptic alien messages, creating a sense of isolation and desperation that permeates the game. The game's writing is atmospheric and thought-provoking, leaving players with questions and theories as they progress through each cycle. While the narrative may not be as straightforward or accessible as some players might prefer, the enigmatic storytelling contributes to the overall atmosphere and tone of the game.

Gameplay (9/10) Returnal's gameplay features a mix of fast-paced third-person shooting, exploration, and roguelike elements. Players navigate the procedurally generated environments of Atropos, battling hostile alien creatures, and collecting various weapons, upgrades, and artifacts to aid in their survival.

The game's combat is intense and satisfying, with responsive controls, a variety of weapons and abilities, and challenging enemy encounters that demand quick reflexes and adaptability. The roguelike structure of Returnal means that each death resets the player's progress, requiring them to adapt and learn from each run. Returnal's difficulty may be off-putting for some players, as the game's punishing nature and lack of checkpoints can lead to frustration. However, for players who enjoy a challenging experience, the game's difficulty only enhances its sense of accomplishment and reward.

Graphics and Sound (10/10) Returnal takes full advantage of the PlayStation 5's capabilities, boasting stunning visuals and atmospheric environments. The game's lighting, particle effects, and character models are meticulously rendered, creating a truly immersive experience.

The game's sound design is equally impressive, with a haunting and atmospheric soundtrack composed by Bobby Krlic that perfectly captures the game's mood and setting. The 3D audio support on the PlayStation 5 further enhances the game's immersive qualities, providing a sense of spatial awareness during combat and exploration.

Performance and Optimization (8/10) Returnal generally runs smoothly on the PlayStation 5, with stable performance and minimal technical issues. However, players may experience occasional frame rate drops or visual glitches, particularly during intense action sequences. Housemarque has released several patches to address these issues, resulting in a more polished experience.

Content and Replayability (9/10) Returnal offers a wealth of content for players to explore, with a variety of biomes, enemies, and secrets to discover. The game's procedurally generated nature and roguelike structure ensure that each run feels unique and challenging, providing ample replayability for players who enjoy the game's difficulty and mechanics.

In conclusion Returnal is a visually stunning and challenging action game that delivers a unique blend of roguelike elements, fast-paced combat, and atmospheric storytelling. While the game's difficulty may not appeal to everyone, its sense of reward and accomplishment, combined with its immersive narrative and stunning visuals, make it a standout title on the PlayStation 5.

Overall Score: 8.5/10


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