Roguelikes and bulletstorms are nothing new to the world of gaming, especially recently - titles such as Hollow Knight, Dead Cells, and Hades have made huge strides, not only in the indie scene, but for mainstream gaming as well. The worst thing you can hear, then, is that I was never really a fan of these types of titles (audible sounds of the world collapsing), and I know what you’re thinking - then why would he be good to review Returnal? Well, I was actually the best person - here is why.
Note: This review is spoiler-free.
Returnal crept under the radar like a covert spy, lurking in the background waiting for the perfect time to execute the Grand Plan. Except, this wasn’t a small scale incursion to subtly bring about regime change, it was a nuclear missile that shook everything as we know to its core. Rather than poison a wine cup, or a silent strike in a dark room, it ripped its trench coats open, dual-wielding Tommy guns, like a scene straight out of The Godfather.
Returnal is a roguelike bulletstorm in a sci-fi wrapper, but with a slight twist that we haven’t really seen before - it's in a third-person perspective rather than top-down or isometric view that we traditionally see, or even as a 2D platformer. This perspective change may not sound like a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but it's still a refreshing change of pace to have something familiar displayed in a new way. It brings roguelike bulletstorms into modern day gaming, where traditional viewpoints are first or third-person. This is by no means an attempt to criticize those who like top-down, isometrics, or 2D platforming but rather the opposite; a way for those who don't enjoy those perspectives to embrace roguelike titles.
Returnal, as with other roguelikes, features a repetitive gameplay loop, whereby you have a set spawn point, which is where you start your “run” and each time you die, you return to that spawn point. In the process, you lose all the items you picked up in your run, including weapons, enhancements, and currency, aside from a select few permanent components. From this spawn point, you venture out once again to tackle the world once more, only, it's not what it was before.
The idea is to progress further and further each time, eventually making permanent progress, and retrying when you fail...
If you manage to master [verticality in combat], you will be a wisp of wind leaving nothing but scorched entrails in your wake.
Housemarque’s ability to make a world that feels both full and immensely devoid of life is just magnificent...
Loves games with deep character development and a rich storyline. Also, shooty-shooties. Loathes microtransactions. Likes to use sarcasm and metaphors.
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