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    Returnal

    Game » consists of 4 releases. Released Apr 30, 2021

    A roguelike third-person shooter from Housemarque.

    Returnal Eight Months Later

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    lapsariangiraff

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    Edited By lapsariangiraff
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    When Returnal first came out in April this year -- and what a year -- I knew I was going to absolutely adore it. Everything about the look and sound, cribbing from such distinct sci-fi horror sources as Edge of Tomorrow, Prometheus, and Annihilation, just worked for me, in a way that made me rather annoyed that I didn't have a Playstation 5 to actually play it on.

    And yet, the initial reaction seemed somewhat -- muted. To be clear, I'm not talking about a lack of coverage, oh no, one of the first true PS5 exclusives coming out in the middle of a bone-dry release drought meant everyone was talking about it, but the things most outlets and players had to say were... mixed. Like me, they were digging the style, but the actual gameplay was much more divisive. If I had a dime for every piece or blog or tweet I read around the time that said something to the effect of, "Returnal looks great and is a lot of fun to play, but it's punishingly difficult and the roguelike elements are dull," I'd probably be pretty close to having the $70 to pay for it.

    I'm sure there's a larger conversation that could be had about this -- PS5 games continue to stir controversy simply by existing at the $70 price point. A AAA full-price roguelike is already a lot for some people to swallow, but one of the first AAA console exclusives at SEVENTY DOLLARS? O o f. And so, the initial reactions of a lot of people seemed to have the game caught in a Catch-22: either it was too content-light and repetitive to justify its $70 price tag, OR it was so excruciatingly difficult that no one in their right mind would ever finish it unless they enjoyed grinding a lot, OR, worst case, both.

    So, not wanting to do the terminally online thing of "throwing myself in to defend the vague conception of a game I think I might enjoy against people who, you know, have actually played it" I simply kept quiet and marked the game off as, "you know what, I'm pretty sure I'm going to love this if I ever actually play it" in my head.

    8 months later, PS5 in hand, I'm happy to report -- yeah, I love Returnal. But I'm not going to talk about what everyone already knows, that is, that it looks amazing and plays great -- yes, it does. Instead, I'm going to talk about the more controversial elements of the game and explore how they ended up mostly working for me.

    Some Caveats

    That being said, I'm going to clear something up right away, and that's that the Returnal of December 2021 is a very different beast from the Returnal of April 2021. Specifically, that it now has an actual "Suspend Run" feature that doesn't ask you to rely on the fickle PS5 rest mode to keep progress during runs. So yeah, up-front, I had a better experience than a lot of people because of this, and the lack of this feature at launch is downright inexcusable. It'd be one thing if this was a Hades or Dead Cells where runs last about 30 minutes to an hour, but no, Returnal runs go on for AGES, they're more Binding of Isaac length than anything, with lots of backtracking and such. Once you know what you're doing, you can finish a run in about an hour or an hour and a half, but on your first time? It's not an exaggeration to say it could go, 4, 5, 6 hours. That's a lot to ask for in one sitting. So already I'm having a better time than a lot of folks did at launch.

    The other caveat is more simple: everything about the gameplay and feel is right up my alley, in a way where this was always going to be a stacked deck for my enjoyment. I love fast-paced, hectic games that are difficult (see, Super Hexagon, Devil Daggers, Ikaruga, Doom on higher difficulties, etc.) and make my reptile brain take over, so I didn't have nearly the same "wait what?" reaction to the bullet-hell inspirations.

    With this all in mind, let's dive in earnest, with perhaps the most incendiary point up-front:

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    What Makes a Game Difficult?

    I beat the game in about 14 hours with only 9 deaths, and on my very second run I got to the fifth biome. I spent a lot of time learning enemy patterns in the fifth biome, because there are these flying robot guys who are absolute fuckers to fight alongside some of the first enemies who have projectiles you can't dash through, but the first run I beat the fifth biome on was also the run where I beat the game (there are six environments overall). And so, when I recall my time with Returnal, the word "breezy" comes to mind, which is not at all the common experience.

    Why this disparity? Well part of it may be just, the luck of a run. I don't recall any particularly busted items on that trailblazing second run, but I did keep my health up pretty regularly with the "2% of damage dealt is converted to health per each adrenaline level" ability. But of course, even that requires you to keep a consistent adrenaline level, which means not getting hit while killing at least 3 enemies, and it's absolutely useless in boss fights if you get hit once, so that didn't feel particularly unfair.

    But overall, I have to say this game is a lot easier than I expected from all the chatter. Each biome has a "Reconstructor" that gives you, essentially, an extra life in each level for the low cost of 6 Ether. This isn't to mention the extra life artifacts and parasites you can find. On one run I had, essentially, four lives, and this wasn't even playing Optimally either, this was picking up any old weapon to grind new Traits in the last area of the game. Once you finish an area, it's very easy to just run to the warp to the next zone on subsequent runs, and they don't require you to fight bosses again. And those bosses? I beat each one on my first try. They're a lot of fun, they're incredible to look at, and the bullet hell/phases make it feel like a struggle, but they're pretty simple patterns.

    So yes, Returnal is difficult, but there's not too much "Bullshit" in the game that makes it feel slanted against the player. I think players are responding to something else that I'll get into in a moment.The only examples of truly egregious/rotten moments I can think of from my time with it were: one time watching a friend play, they jumped into a side room they shouldn't have been able to access yet -- essentially, a room with the floor as lava before they got the upgrade that let them walk through it without being hurt -- and the game's hit reactions kept throwing him further back from the exit, creating an essential death trap that ruined an otherwise fantastic run. That was bullshit. Or the time I dropped into an enemy arena, and two huge enemies spawned right next to me and hit me before Selene's "I have dropped a large distance" landing animation finished playing. I survived, but that was a feelbad moment. Plus, some attacks have heavy knockdowns that can put you in rough spots as you're standing up. What people might be responding to, though, is...

    Returnal is a Swingy-Ass Game

    And by that I mean most of the core gameplay, like you'd expect from Housemarque's arcade shooter background, is incredibly momentum based, and this can be exhilarating and heartbreaking in equal measure. That adrenaline system I mentioned earlier? It's essentially a combo meter -- get lots of kills without getting hit, and you start getting significant bonuses. Such significant bonuses, in fact, that it begins to feel like they're not a reward or bonus, but a necessary part of the game, and not having them is a punishment rather than the status quo. The rewards are, "Increased Weapon Proficiency," as in, the stat that dictates how good the weapons you find are. Okay, that's essential. "Increased Melee Damage," eh. "Seeing enemies through walls" YEP that helps. "Increased Reload Window" -- so Returnal operates with an active reload mechanic for guns, but unlike a Gears of War where you have plenty of time to focus on the reload, you tend to do this while you're dashing through a swarm of bullets or running from a charging enemy. So it's pretty stressful, but the rewards for getting it right give you extra and more damaging bullets, so -- that also begins to feel Essential. And finally, for getting to level 5 adrenaline, you get +50% of all currency found in the environment or dropped by enemies, plus a one-time shield that absorbs a hit for free. That is HUGE. And getting those bonuses is the difference between being able to afford an item in the shop or several, because the prices are rather steep -- we're talking 350 for a lot of items, 150 or 200 if it's cheaper. So when you don't get adrenaline? Or it's a particularly difficult run? You don't just feel out of a flow state, you feel starved out of parts of the economy.

    The result is a game with hard swings at any point which make it engaging, but also potentially stressful. Fights can go from hopeless to cakewalk or back in the span of just a few seconds. But what I really enjoy about this setup?

    The environments in the game are all varied and look rather distinct from one another. Biome 5 and 6 especially.
    The environments in the game are all varied and look rather distinct from one another. Biome 5 and 6 especially.

    Returnal Depends on the Player's Mastery of the Mechanics to Progress

    Roguelikes have evolved in an interesting way this past decade or so. When the Rogue renaissance first started picking up in earnest with Binding of Isaac and FTL, these games leaned heavily into the player's own skill and adaptability being the main driver of progression. For example, when you start a new run in Isaac or FTL, the only difference is your knowledge of the game's items, and hopefully, your skill in the gameplay. Isaac especially is all about "what does that pill do? Oh, it sucks, great," and then knowing not to pick it up on a future run. FTL has different ships that unlock over time, and Isaac allows you to unlock new characters, but these are each just variations on the core gameplay, and no one ship or character is going to just make the game easier. Risk of Rain 2 is similar, the only progression being new characters and items.

    Contrast this with the contemporary etiquette for roguelikes with examples like Dead Cells, Hades, and Rogue Legacy, which allow you to carry permanent upgrades from run to run -- health, damage, etc. This has the positive effect of making players feel like they have something to work toward -- even the most botched run gives them X amount of experience or gold or whatever toward unlocking the next permanent upgrade that'll make their future runs just a little bit easier. It makes sense, and given the universal acclaim for these games, it obviously works and resonates with players. But here's the thing, and this may be the hottest take in this essay:

    I really, really don't like this.

    I've beaten Dead Cells and Hades, and while I acknowledge that both of them, Hades especially, are objectively amazing games -- Hades' art, story, gameplay are all (chef's kiss) -- this progression system kind of encourages some of the most boring play patterns possible. It encourages grinding to make future runs easier. It reminds me of early days Dark Souls advice to grind with the Drake Sword to buff your stats -- yes, that technically works, and yes, it makes the game easier, but is that actually any fun? No! The answer is absolutely not. (It might not surprise you at this point that Sekiro is one of my favorite From games, simply for that precision of focus and discouragement from boring play.)

    So when I'm beating Hades for the tenth time to get the actual ending, if not the truest true ending, I don't actually feel accomplished, I feel like I put in the minimum number of hours to make the experience easier for me. Genuinely, I have no clue how much better at the game I got, I just know my health bar is bigger and I have more lives. And it's not like Hades doesn't have that high skill ceiling -- speedruns of that game are amazing and the builds can get really wild and fun -- but it's just the main storyline never really asks you to engage with that as much as I'd like.

    Enter Returnal, which transfers nothing between runs but potential new items to find and new routes and Metroid-esque abilities. That's it. The abilities unlock additional loot in each area, so you do get a benefit, but are still asked to engage with the game mechanics to the fullest. By the end of Returnal, you will be better at the core mechanics, to the point that when I retried the first area, I sped through the first three levels in about an hour and not feeling in danger once. It's a very rewarding curve.

    Of course, this also has the flipside: if you do not get to a certain level of proficiency with the mechanics you will not have an easy time progressing. And this is what I think everyone responded to so vehemently when it came out -- they were expecting the Hades style of progression, and instead found something much more akin to Binding of Isaac.

    The one thing I'll potentially call a misstep is the fact that Returnal has such an upfront story component -- something that makes players want to see your game through -- but then gating it behind such a gameplay-centric progression system. Hades might not be my favorite as a game, but it makes total sense why they made it so easy to engage with --- they knew players would want to see it through! And I think Returnal is a little cruel for not even giving people the option, or an "Easy Mode Toggle," or anything like that.

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    Returnal is a Good Roguelike

    Something else that surprised me was how well the roguelike mechanics worked for me. Especially in the early game, a lot of the items, weapons, and bonuses feel kind of samey, but once you unlock stuff in the later games some very specialized builds can come about. Melee builds, adrenaline builds, lifegain builds, shield-heavy builds, these are all doable and change your playstyle a fair bit. Plus, the ways you can synergize between parasites and abilities is really neat -- for example, some parasites give you substantial bonuses but increase your Alt-Fire cooldown. This is usually a bad thing, but some abilities give you +10% armor when your alt-fire is on cooldown. So these two go very well together, and I think all of Returnal's abilities are very intelligently set up like this. I think the closest comparison to an RPG I could make is Borderlands -- the upgrades appear very dry and statistical, but they can result in some fun, broken builds. But if you're expecting any crazy upgrades like Risk of Rain, you'll be disappointed.

    Another surprise is there's more weapon variety than I was led to believe at first. The pistol and assault rifle feel pretty similar, but there's some big changes to both that can happen that change the feel quite a bit. (High Caliber fires slow and heavy rounds, where Rising Pitch makes the assault rifle feel more like a rapid fire LMG.) Aside from those, late game guns get more interesting. My favorite is the Electropylon Driver, which shoots out pylons that create webs of electricity around them -- this lets you shoot enemies offensively and put down traps near yourself defensively, but it's also a genuinely viable and powerful weapon.

    The Story...

    ...is fine. The world and feel and tone are incredibly promising, and there are some creepy atmospheric sequences, but the actual resolution and payoff is underwhelming. I don't want to spend all this time learning about a cool, creepy alien planet only to learn it was all a fever dream. Seriously, I thought writers were past this!

    I Don't Know How to Wrap This Up

    So yeah! This is a little more scattershot than the stuff I usually write up on here, but I just finished the game and truly loved my time with it, so I wanted to get this all out there while my opinions were still fresh. I totally get why some people bounced off of it so hard, but I think a fair bit of that had to do with the nonexistent save system. If you're interested, I say check it out! But maybe on a sale, because $70 is a lot.

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    AV_Gamer

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    Returnal grew on me after a while. One of the best games on the year. I haven't beaten it yet, but I'm enjoying myself during each run, especially when I make it further than I did before. If you want a mix between Metroid, Dark Souls, and cutting edge graphics and sound, you'll want to play this game.

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    Justin258

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    So... here's a hot take on this bit.

    Of course, this also has the flipside: if you do not get to a certain level of proficiency with the mechanics you will not have an easy time progressing. And this is what I think everyone responded to so vehemently when it came out -- they were expecting the Hades style of progression, and instead found something much more akin to Binding of Isaac.

    Between your post here, the direction this thread took, and the divisive reaction to Doom Eternal, I think a lot of this comes from two different types of gamers existing - those who are interested in getting better at the games they enjoy, and those who could not care less how much better they are at the end of the game than the beginning and are instead looking for something else entirely.

    Is there a good takeaway from this? I don't know, other than perhaps developers should start making it clear how difficult their game is meant to be in advertising and store page descriptions (preferably in a less aggressive way than "PREPARE TO DIE") and it's generally a good idea to know what kind of challenge you want out of video games and whether the game you're about to buy offers that kind of challenge.

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    csl316

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    Returnal's awesome, I loved my time with it. But once I beat it, I haven't gone back. The runs are just a bit too long to make it a frequent game to come back to, unlike 30 minutes in Spelunky or something.

    But yeah, it's damn good and might even be my GOTY.

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    AtheistPreacher

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    I enjoyed my time with Returnal, and I did end up beating it and getting the "true" ending with the car keys etc. But as much as I liked it, I didn't enjoy it so much that I wanted to keep going afterwards.

    Part of the reason for that is that I'm pretty much the polar opposite of you when it comes to those roguelite elements, i.e. permanent upgrades of some kind. E.g., I've really been enjoying Rogue Legacy 2 a whole bunch, which is so much about building up your castle and equipment. I've just always loved watching my characters grow stronger in games, and in some ways I find that more satisfying than "beating" the game, which often happens much quicker than maxing out your character's power, however a game might define that.

    So when I beat the game, I asked myself, "Okay, I've beaten it, do I want to do another run just for the sake of doing another run?" And the easy answer was: not so much. If there was some significant bit of progression to work toward, then maybe. But without that sort of hook I was ready to move on to something else.

    FWIW, there's one bit of permanent progression in Returnal that you didn't mention: trait unlocks on guns. It really does help to have level 3 unlocked on some of them, and those unlocks persist between runs. But it wasn't something I was prepared to sit around grinding out.

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    bigsocrates

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    @justin258: I think you misunderstand what's going on in that thread, and of course dividing gamers into "two different kinds" is always going to oversimplify because most people have a lot of different reasons that they play games. Even very mechanically focused gamers can often appreciate a great soundtrack or visual style, and even people who are looking for novelty and great stories can enjoy polished mechanics. It's more about where the emphasis is placed than some kind of stark divide, and there's obviously a continuum, with most people having a mix of different motivations.

    I'm in large part a novelty gamer. I like seeing new worlds and ideas and then moving on. It's rare I want to spend a very long time with a game unless it's constantly throwing out new ideas or at the very least has a compelling story. My general thought on building skill in a game is that I'd rather invest the time getting better at things that matter in the real world rather than spending real effort for virtual gain.

    That's not to say I hate all roguelikes or difficult games. I really enjoyed Enter the Gungeon and have gone so far as killing some pasts in it, which involved learning the game decently well. I really love Monster Train and got good enough to do highest covenant clears with every clan in the game, which are 1% achievements on XBL (not to say that they're super hard; they're not, but just that my interest and commitment to that game was way way above average.) There are lots of other examples. If a game is balanced right for me and does other things well I can enjoy putting in the time to get decent at it (though I have never had interest in speed runs or trying to reach 'skill ceilings')

    Different people respond to different things in different games to different degrees.

    All that being said I did play Returnal and I didn't love it. I respected it (mostly) and I enjoyed some things about it; enough to put about a dozen hours in, but ultimately I fell off. I will say that a large part of that was probably due to the run length issue and playing it with no way to actually suspend runs, and another part had to do with health issues that prevented me from reliably playing at the level it demanded (migraines; not caused by the game) but I did fall off it before finishing. I will probably go back at some point. Maybe next month.

    My main issue with Returnal is not the difficulty, though I don't love that, or even the Roguelike structure (though I'd have preferred a straight action game) but just how hostile that it feels to the player in basically every respect. It's not a pleasant world to inhabit, especially the first biome, which has a very irritating sonic palette in addition to being visually quite hostile. I don't enjoy Selene's various animations when she uses alien machinery and it hurts her, I don't find the horror themed story pleasant etc... It's just not my vibe. None of it. As I said I respect it because I think it nails what it's going for aesthetically and I think it merges pretty well with the gameplay on offer, but it's just not what I like.

    I think where the hostility went too far in Returnal was the incredibly long runs and lack of mid-run saves. Housemarque was pretty hostile to the idea of mid-run saves at first (showing their inflexibility in an area where they were demanding that gamers do stuff that they often couldn't in terms of time commitment) but they relented on that. The length of run issue was compounded by the lack of mid-run saves but is its own issue, and there it's not necessarily that Housemarque was wrong (as they were regarding mid-run saves) but that if you're not very good at the game it is extremely punishing. In order to collect the equipment you need to really make progress you need to clear earlier biomes before pushing on, but this can take a very long time (even getting to shortcuts can take a very long time) so if you're not great at the game you often end up spending a lot of time just rehashing stuff you've done before and know how to do well for a brief shot at improving or learning a new area. That's not inherently bad design but it doesn't mesh with how I, and a lot of people, play and enjoy games. The game's relatively low completion rate reflects this.

    I think the biggest problem with Returnal is that Housemarque made a niche game and Sony tried to market it like a tentpole release for a broad audience, turning off a lot of people who tried it.

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    lapsariangiraff

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    @bigsocrates: I will say, without trying to spoil much, the game isn't nearly as long or as much of a slog as you'd think due to a mid-game event, where it really is about getting through 3 environments at a time rather than all 6. I think for you, as a self-described novelty guy, the new environments would be cool to see and the bosses are neat, but there's very little else other than enjoying the core mechanics. So I wouldn't go back to it just 'cuz, you've probably seen everything you need to.

    That being said, and this won't surprise you in the slightest, I absolutely adore how hostile everything about Returnal's tone is. I agree the lack of a mid run save and the length of the runs went too far, but everything from the sound of it to the visual aesthetic, to the weird upgrade animations -- guh. Love it. It's all disconcerting and uneasy, I wouldn't necessarily go for "irritating," but to each their own. But I think so many games are kind of tofu in terms of their tone -- for every genuinely joyous experience like Forza Horizon or Unpacked or Pikuniku, there's about a few dozen that just hit this really bland middle because the devs are afraid of turning off a section of the audience. The result is a lot of "here's this milquetoast main character who makes lots of quips but also there are like one or two horrific events to show JUST HOW REAL THIS WORLD CAN BE," ha.

    So a game with these sorts of references, and with such an uncompromising tone, as a horror lover myself, just really hits for me.

    @atheistpreacher: Yeah, that's the downside of the longer runs, I haven't felt much need to return to it after beating it either.

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    Nodima

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    @lapsariangiraff: Returnal has definitely joined Horizon and Death Stranding as recent games that get audio feedback perfectly for me. It has this grimy, chunky feedback to it that’s so good.

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    bigsocrates

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    @lapsariangiraff: You can't gatekeep Returnal from me. I own a copy and a PS5 and you're not the boss of me. I'm gonna beat Returnal. I'm going to beat Returnal and I'm going to say that Cyberpunk 2077 is better than it and you won't stop me. It'll keep you up at night. You'll be tossing and turning in your bed thinking "this guy I don't know said Cyberpunk 2077 is better than RETURNAL! How can such monsters exist?"

    Seriously though, I always intended to go back to Returnal at some point. The shooting is pretty good (though I don't love any of the weapons and I wish there were more interesting modifiers and maybe some more customization) and while I really dislike the first biome's aesthetics the second and third were much more appealing for me so I would like to see the others. I do find the sounds in the first biome irritating because the beeps and clicks remind me of like the sounds of a hospital ward, but again the second and third biome don't have that issue for me.

    I agree that Returnal has a much more cohesive aesthetic than most games. I think many games don't even realize they have a particular aesthetic. They just sort of try to look or seem 'cool.' And they certainly aren't cohesive. As I said, I respect what Housemarque was going for (with a few exceptions) but it's never really going to hit home for me personally because I'm not a big fan of horror or this kind of cold and distant sci fi. Give me something with some warmth and humanity to it like the Psychonauts universe any day.

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    Nodima

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    As someone who finally had a pretty good set of circumstances break his way and finally cleared the third biome, let me just say: the hype surrounding the Electropylon weapon is entirely justified, especially if you're pretty awful at this game like me. I made my way to the fourth boss on my first run through the Ruins and had it down to just a sliver of health that I probably could've wiped on my first try if I'd been at all familiar with its patterns in the first phase. And this is coming from someone with 41 deaths over 20 hours of playtime.

    Those pylons are like a get out of jail free card and almost feels like Housemarque grinning towards people like me and saying, "Alright, go have yourself some chaotic fun. You earned it."

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    Topcyclist

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    Cant get a ps5, as someone who played it does it really need to be on ps5 or was that a marketing thing. I wish i could give it a try. I think it woud sell better on ps4. For all the talk of xbox sucking they really are taking it to the knee just to say fine just game, buy giving everyone a chance to play their games. I understand why PS5 wouldnt though.

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    Nodima

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    @topcyclist: I'd say without question. Two things would immediately be worse about this game:

    First, I highly doubt it would run at even a locked 30fps at this fidelity and speed of movement, let alone the locked 60 it's at on PS5. I'm no 60fps true believer but this is one game that would be made much, much harder in a very unfair way if it ever dipped in performance at all.

    Second, a big part of its appeal is that the load times are essentially immediate at all times. You die, a cutscene plays that you can skip with a two second press of a button (if you want) and you're immediately back in the game. If you played Bloodborne at launch (or even honestly ever) think of this game as the anti-Bloodborne. Especially considering how long the runs can be when you're trying to crack the third biome, that snappy action is a big incentive to turning one run into two.

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    Junpei

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    It's been on my list to return to for quite some time. Got it not too long after launch and made it to the second biome on my second run (also dies to a floor is lava room like stun locked me essentially). Didn't find it to be too difficult then, but it definitely does reward skillful play due to the Adrenaline system.

    That said, I thought I recalled that there have been difficulty tweaks in addition to the mid-run save feature. I'm curious to see if going back I find the first biome to feel easier even though I haven't played it in at least half a year.

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    Ginormous76

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    @lapsariangiraff:
    I think you basically hit the biggest dividing line with this, "Contrast this with the contemporary etiquette for roguelikes with examples likeDead Cells, Hades, andRogue Legacy,which allow you to carry permanent upgrades from run to run --"

    On my second run, I made it to biome 3 before dying. This run was 2-3 hours. After that, I learned if you jump to biome 3, the weapon you pick up is the appropriate level, but you don't get any health upgrades. When I learned you basically have to grind each biome on every run or you don't really stand a chance, I had to quit. I couldn't deal with that. Knowing that I basically had to play 1-2 hours to stand a chance, I was done. For you, this worked and you liked it. I wanted to see where the story went, but I couldn't deal. Shoot, if they added an option like Hades's god mode (which was an option you had to manually turn on), I think I would go back. Or something to let people like me who are not going to grind every run actually finish (there are other ways to do it).

    Well written.

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    lapsariangiraff

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    @ginormous76: For sure, the run length can get to be a lot. I will say, slight spoilers, three biomes is the most you ever have to do in a row, as you essentially start from the 4th biome after beating the 3rd. So it's not AS savage as it initially appears.

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    lapsariangiraff

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    #15  Edited By lapsariangiraff

    @nodima: The electropylon driver is great, I honestly just wish there were more weapons along those lines! I miss shooters trying to have unique weapons. The audio feedback on everything is fantastic.

    @bigsocrates A different opinion on not one but two games -- MONSTROUS! In all seriousness there are games I'd throw down over... Returnal probably isn't one of them lol.

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    Nodima

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    @ginormous76: For sure, the run length can get to be a lot. I will say, slight spoilers, three biomes is the most you ever have to do in a row, as you essentially start from the 4th biome after beating the 3rd. So it's not AS savage as it initially appears.

    To add to this, that first area becomes relatively condensed despite being more obviously mandatory and the progression in general becomes much more, I guess I'd say desperate to match the themes of the story. I've hit another wall and I'm struggling mightily with it but my weapons are also slowly developing some pretty broken looking abilities that I'm sure I'll find the use case for shortly.

    I think if the people that've hit a really specific wall in this game could find the time/energy to break through it, they'll find a pretty exciting set of rewards for that. But I also freely admit I hit a good string of luck when I finally got to Nemesis with a fighting chance.

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    tartyron

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    Legitimate question: I have finally got a PS5 shipping to me this weekend. A few months ago, I watched all of Returnals cutscenes because it’s story intrigued me, and I liked what I saw. Would the gameplay itself be good enough for me to go ahead and buy a copy and actually play through it having already seen the whole story and endings?

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    tartyron

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    Honest question: I have finally got a PS5 shipping to me this weekend. A few months ago, I watched all of Returnals cutscenes because it’s story intrigued me, and I liked what I saw. Would the gameplay itself be good enough for me to go ahead and buy a copy and actually play through it having already seen the whole story and endings?

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    theonewhoplays

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    I haven't bought this yet because apart from Hades I've never felt the need to replay a rogue-like after beating it and the game has a high price. I dropped Deathloop the second I finished it because I couldn't think of a single reason to keep playing (which was fine since I bought it for half price). Does Returnal give you any incentive to keep going? Hades was just perfect for me with 20-50 min runs, lots of variation, and almost always some new dialogue after each attempt.

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    @theonewhoplays: Returnal is not great at encouraging playthroughs after completing it. There is a "true" ending that has you go for a specific item in each biome, but after you do that, you're pretty much done aside from achievement hunting and daily challenges.

    @tartyron: So... I'm torn. The gameplay in Returnal is fantastic. The movement is very fluid, you get great feedback from shooting enemies, both from just the weapons themselves and the sound effects on hit, and it's incredibly engaging in a reptile-brain "I'm just surviving on pure muscle memory and instinct right now" way.

    BUT. How much of that feeling is worth $70 is entirely up to you. Without the story hooks or the basic curiosity of "what's the next environment?" you're really just playing it for the sheer challenge of the progression and the moment to moment shooting. And given that most people bounce off the game due to that progression... I truly do not know whether to recommend it on the gameplay alone. (I'm reminded a bit of Call of Duty multiplayer -- some people can just play CoD for hundreds of hours and never get tired of doing the same things over and over because the shooting is just that good. Whereas I lose my appetite about a few dozen hours in. Returnal, similarly, sounds like it'll live or die for you on how much you dig the game feel, and if you're the kind of player who only needs that.)

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    #22  Edited By tartyron

    @lapsariangiraff: so, I might still be the right tube to pay for it. My love of FromSoftware SoulsBorne games is almost purely gameplay, especially sekiro. Those games have intriguing setting and story too, but I enjoy them for the pure joy of hitting the button at the right time and continually getting better at that timing as I go, Sekiro’s parry being one of the most badass I’ve ever felt in 3 decades of gaming. With that, would you still be split, or would that move your recommendation one way or the other?

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    theonewhoplays

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    @lapsariangiraff: Thanks! I've never been much of an arcade guy who plats just to get better. If I'm having fun I will go for a Platinum or maybe the highest difficulty, but when the challenge is done I would need some story hook to keep going. I love Hades but after I got the Platinum and finished the story and sidequests I couldn't justify another run (except I did complete a run with the 'make bosses harder' option which was fun).

    The fact that Returnal's runs are so long is also a strike against it. The new save option is the only reason I'm actually considering it. It does seem neat but the only game I would normally buy for that price would be something like FF7 Remake part 2, something I really look forward to.

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    tartyron

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    @lapsariangiraff: so, I might still be the right demographic to pay for it. My love of FromSoftware SoulsBorne games is almost purely gameplay, especially sekiro. Those games have intriguing setting and story too, but I enjoy them for the pure joy of hitting the button at the right time and continually getting better at that timing as I go, Sekiro’s parry being the of the most bass ads I’ve ever felt in 3 decades of gaming. With that, would you still be split, or would that move your recommendation one way or the other?

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    theonewhoplays

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    @lapsariangiraff: Thanks! I've never been much of an arcade guy who plats just to get better. If I'm having fun I will go for a Platinum or maybe the highest difficulty, but when the challenge is done I would need some story hook to keep going. I love Hades but after I got the Platinum and finished the story and sidequests I couldn't justify another run (except I did complete a run with the 'make bosses harder' option which was fun).

    The fact that Returnal's runs are so long is also a strike against it. The new save option is the only reason I'm actually considering it. It does seem neat but the only game I would normally buy for that price would be something like FF7 Remake part 2, something I really look forward to.

    The story of Returnal seems pretty interesting though so that might keep me interested until I beat it at least. The gameplay of Deathloop was pretty fun but its story and characters were severely weak and underwhelming, much worse than I was expecting.

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    lapsariangiraff

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    @tartyron: Fair! I love Sekiro very much for similar reasons. In that case, I’d lean more toward recommending it — that being said, know there is no single mechanic in Returnal that feels as badass as a perfectly timed parry, or Mikiri counter. It’s more like a general feeling when you get that no-damage-taken combo meter going, you’re dashing between projectiles, and feel “damn, I’m untouchable and I am *wrecking* these guys.”

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