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    Returnal

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

    A roguelike third-person shooter from Housemarque.

    This game is something special; or- anyone else got that PS+ Extra?

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    mellotronrules

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    throughout the course of Game Pass' brief existence i've been entertained by the occasional resurgence of long-released games and the consequent 'yo, this game is GOOD gang!' threads that pop up.

    i suppose this is my version of that.

    back in june i decided to give that Extra a shot (it was a $17 differential on my current PS+ sub so i figured what the hell) and my first foray was Returnal- and maaaaaaaan this game was a pleasant surprise! i'm not huge on the rogue-like/light construction for games (i got credits in Dead Cells and Hades 1x each- tremendous gameplay and fun, but i was there for the art and found the narratives personally lackluster).

    but no one told me Returnal is A N N I H I L A T I O N: The Game. that's a joke- but as a fan of abstract storytelling and sci fi as a vehicle for exploring personal trauma- i fuggin loved this thing. i found everything from the cutscene editing to the boss art- even the lack of formal title screen- all fully supported the overarching concept of this thing. i'm not sure i've ever played a big-budget game that trusted the player with such a fractured story (and while a positive for me, i know there are those in equal measure that legitimately think Returnal's storytelling is poorly done).

    but holy shit that Hyperion fight...THE OTHER THING NO ONE TOLD ME- HAXAN CLOAK DID THE SOUNDTRACK. tremendous sound design, top to bottom.

    ...you might note- i've said nothing of gameplay, and if that is your first focus you had better tolerate bullet hell and multiple deaths. but it does seem fair, and the movement feels great.

    also- for those that were invested but haven't played since the spring update- i'd say 100% go for it. i found the additional narrative content compelling, and the tower itself is a decent distillation of the best parts of the combat (feels frenetic in an almost Doom 2016 kinda way).

    i haven't played any other Housemarque games- but this has me stoked on future output!

    anyone else dived in on Returnal since the PS+ revamp?

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    tartyron

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    #2  Edited By tartyron

    This was the primary reason I went ahead and upgraded to premium. Returnal was intriguing to me from the start but I only got a PS5 in January, and by then I had already spoiled myself on the story from videos. But, when the PS+ revamp happened, it was less than the list price to buy Returnal outright, so I went ahead to tried it and god damn, this game is singlehandedly responsible for my losing a lot of weight (no joke, I had another thread on here about playing roguelikes on an exercise bike.) The gameplay, while very very frustrating at times, it super tight and a blast to run through when you get into the flow-state, especially when you are also pedaling vigorously and literally sweating. I cannot recommend it enough, other than to say you need to understand you will fail at it a hell of a lot.

    I think I can safely say it's my personal best PS5 game. It's the one that justified buying it the most.

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    KillEm_Dafoe

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    This game is fucking incredible and I feel like GB really, really undersold it when it came out. The gameplay alone is absolutely sublime. To be honest, I didn't have much of a clue what was happening in the story as I played it and didn't pay a lot of attention to it because of how esoteric it was. I also didn't bother to get the true ending or get all of the collectibles, but I still put in a good 50 hours into it.

    The big update being free got me back into it for awhile, too. The tower is a brilliantly simple addition. If only the co-op was extended to that mode.

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    Nodima

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    #4  Edited By Nodima

    The entire Hyperion level is a new frontier for sound design. The whole level has a weird feeling to it already thanks to how it mirrors the first world, but once you start getting the bigger picture and realize what they’re doing with the sound effects and background music, and how it all culminates in that introduction cutscene…truly exceptional craftsmanship.

    As for certain critics underselling it at launch…I personally was terrible at the first level for months, took almost as long to clear the third level…and then the weapons really start opening up and the perks start to cascade on top of each other in total power fantasy fashion. It really is a game that gives this upfront impression that all it wants to do is break you…until suddenly, it’s just this hilariously hectic shooting gallery. I think I only needed three runs total to beat the 6th level, and I was pretty good at doing all the optional stuff and beating it all in one go afterward.

    I really need to come back and play The Tower, I never got to it. Plus I only needed I think one more artifact to Platinum the game and that update also stealthily improved the RNG on those to basically guarantee them.

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    glots

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    I played Returnal before it was cool!

    I hope that a lot more people will give it a try, now that it’s on Premium, because the genre and price (and lack of save function) probably scared off some people at launch. It was my GOTY pick last year and really made me excited for what Housemarque does next.

    My return to it was short-lived though, because the Tower kicked my ass with it’s difficulty.

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    ThePanzini

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    Returnal is the best game on PS5 atm, the drama around the lacking save option was such a red herring.

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    TheRealTurk

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    Different strokes for different folks, I guess. I bounced off hard initially and then tried to pick it up again maybe a month ago after the Tower or whatever was released. Same thing. More content is great, but none of it fixed the underlying issues with the game.

    I won't disagree that the gameplay feels really good moment-to-moment, but Returnal was easily one of, if not the, worst rogue-likes I have ever played. Good rogue-likes live and die according to the player's relationship with risk. Good ones will encourage players to take risks while also making getting a bad series of roles fun because of how quickly and comically a run can go bad.

    However in Returnal, the player's relationship with risk is that they should never, ever take one because the outcomes for doing so are almost exclusively negative. A lot of this is the generally poor balance of the buffs and debuffs. While it's nothing new to have to think about tradeoffs in a rogue-like, in Returnal, the debuffs you can get are almost always run-killing while the buffs all feel extremely inconsequential.

    I played about 12 hours before dropping off and I don't think I had a single instance where I felt like a debuff I was picking up was worth the benefit. It was always something like "Money stays on the ground for .25 seconds longer . . . but you can no longer heal" or "Weapon proficiency increases infinitesimally faster . . . but your dash has twice the cooldown." It was all buffs that absolutely do not matter in the long run paired with bad things that usually killed a run.

    Combine that with the fact that the runs are just too damn long and you end up in a situation where you are actively discouraged from taking any risks at all. In Rogue Legacy, I don't mind trying goofy things and getting screwed because a run is maybe 15-20 minutes and then you're right back in. In Returnal, getting screwed can mean losing more than two hours of progress. Where's the fun in that?

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    ghost_cat

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    @mellotronrules: Wait, Bobby Krlic did the soundtrack? Now I gotta check it out. Love his work, and I still throw the Excavation vinyl on the record player every now and then (great album).

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    Yee1992

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    #9  Edited By Yee1992

    My 2021 GOTY and might well be the best PS5 game atm, Metroidvania + Alien + Housemarque. I paid 70 bucks at launch and have 0 regrets, however this game is not for everyone so the fact that you can try it for free is pretty cool.

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    owl_cave

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    Returnal absolutely rules and I can't believe I played thru 50+ hours of it without knowing Haxan Cloak did the soundtrack, haha. Explains why it was so damn good/haunting.

    Getting all the endings was challenging, but I can honestly say Phrike (first boss) gave me the most trouble and after that everything just kind of fell into place.

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