Returnal: A Masterpiece Roguelike

In recent years Roguelike games have become one of my favorite genres in video games. They task you with completing the game with just one life which is almost impossible. Once you die you lose everything and the whole game begins again. Thankfully they are not designed to mentally torture you, but instead challenge you to keep learning about the game and increase your skills so you are better prepared. They do this through a series of challenges, upgrades, weapons, and stat enhancements for each run, or in the case of Returnal, each cycle. The developer Housemarque, have created a masterful roguelike game with a rich story and strong protagonist finely woven together in combination with fun and chaotic game play. The end result is Returnal, an immersive thriller action experience that feels almost like a blockbuster movie.

The more you play Returnal, the more you discover the genius talent that was put into the game. It begins with the protagonist Selene, who has crash landed on foreign planet and is trapped in a time loop where each time she is killed while exploring, she is forced to relive the crash she survived and begin the cycle again. Initially this sounds silly or repetitive, however each time she comes back she grows stronger. As the player, you get to keep all permanent unlocks and key items that now make you more prepared for the next cycle. All of these elements work in combination with the fact that roguelike games are procedurally generated each time you start over. To make things more interesting as the world changes, you continue to discover new sections of each level and new biomes as well. At times you can even find previous versions of Selene throughout the world which leaves you feeling strange as you discover she’s been doing this for a long time.

Playing Returnal has brought me to a mental happy place. It reminds me a lot of the game Dead Cells which is another rogue like that I absolutely loved and managed to finish. The game is always giving you new places to explore, new upgrades, and new story developments the further you make it in each cycle. Not to mention the stunning darkened and hollow environments. It all works together to make the player feel immersed, curious, and uneasy simultaneously, especially because you don’t know what could be waiting for you in the next area. The ultimate goal here is to actually find a way to break the cycle and end the time loop so that Selene can escape, however, she continues to dig deeper into her own mind each time she tries, which may suggest all of this chaos could all just be in her head. Until I reach the end though, this is just a theory as to what is actually happening to her. For now I am super excited to be playing the game and I can’t wait to see its conclusion.

Hopefully soon I will put out another post about Returnal. I would like to put together a small guide to help new players get comfortable with the concept of these kinds of games since they are not for everyone. Today is a double post day so please feel free to check out my other Beat Saber post as well. As always thank you so much for reading, I hope you enjoyed the posts. Have a great week!

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