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Returnal (PS5, developed by Housemarque) - Information Thread, update: two new gameplay trailers (19 March 2021)


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Big in 2021: Inside Housemarque's attempt to build the next generation of roguelike shooters with this new PS5 exclusive

 

 

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Returnal shouldn't exist. In 2017, Housemarque CEO Ilari Kuittinen declared that "arcade is dead". He explained that "Nex Machina and Matterfall will be the last of their kind coming out of our studio", with lacklustre sales pushing the studio to reexamine its direction. Arcade coin-op inspired titles like Super Stardust Delta, Resogun, and Alienation were Housemarque's past, and multiplayer experiences focused on strong, robust communities were its future. That is, until Sony decided to insert another coin to continue playing. 

 

How the story works:

 

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Returnal will be the first game out of Housemarque backed by a full narrative team. While the studio's previous games have included story elements to ground the gameplay systems and frame its bullet-hell action, it has never made a large commitment to tell a story. Returnal begins with a tragedy playing on repeat: a crash, an attack, your death; a crash, an attack, your death—

 

"Returnal's dark sci-fi time loop setup is so exciting narratively for us because Selene, our deep space scout repeating the crash, allows us to add lots of hidden layers narratively that are uncovered through repetition," says Louden. "The cyclical nature of the narrative design means the more you push forward, the more you discover Selene. What does the cycle do to someone? What is the planet's history? Why are things beyond Selene's comprehension appearing here?"

 

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Selene is cursed to relive her first moments on the alien planet of Atropos every time she succumbs to its horrors. You'll examine the ancient civilisation through which you wade for answers, haunted by the echoes of its past and the fragmentation of your memory the deeper you push into a constantly evolving and decaying terrain. Krueger notes that "the shifting, procedural world is something that's also recognised by our story, and is a central element of Selene's nightmarish predicament and her slow descent into madness."

 

Gameplay progression:

 

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Death will greet you frequently in Returnal. This cycle has implications on everything in the game. From the way the narrative unfurls to your growing expertise at navigating environments as they bleed bullets, and how you progress and push deeper into Atropos. "Our goal has been to create an expansive world, and a progression system that the more you play, the more the game opens up to you," Krueger explains. "We've worked hard to find a balance between the high-stakes permadeath gameplay of good roguelikes (and arcade games) where you feel a strong commitment in your run, while also providing a satisfying feeling of progression to reward you for your time investment." 

 

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You'll keep hold of your logs and language samples upon rebirth, and your ship's database will continue defragmenting over time as you push for progression, "so the more you cycle, the more layers to be found here too," Louden teases. What of mission-critical items and equipment to help you survive the horror of the planet? Krueger says that by exploring and experimenting you'll begin to unlock permanent upgrades and new abilities, all of which will not only let you push deeper into the maw of death, but uncover new layers to environments you've already explored. 

 

"You'll gain access to previously inaccessible areas, discover new items and secrets, piece together new parts for our story, and gain new advantages in combat. Multiple weapons and items will also become unlocked as you discover them in the world," he says. "Ultimately, though, the biggest resource that will carry over between sessions is the player's skill. Mastering our systems and techniques and learning the secrets of Atropos will give you an advantage in subsequent runs. The random nature of the game means that some things will always be dictated by luck, but there will always be room to improve and overcome the challenges of Returnal through player skill alone."

 

Exploration:

 

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The planet isn't the only element of the game that changes with every cycle, as you'll also need to contend with a shifting arsenal of weapons and items. Housemarque is heavily invested in the switch to third-person action, highlighting the verticality in its level design and an expanded move set as key elements of the experience. This includes the ability to utilise a grappling hook to quickly navigate areas, vault ledges while under fire, and traverse the environments with bursts of kinetic energy. "There is a plethora of weapons, items, systems and strange alien technology to discover and experiment with. We have a lot of exploration and traversal gameplay as well, and we want to constantly encourage – and reward – players' curiosity," says Krueger. 

 

 

This all sounds fantastic. Their gameplay is always aces, and this kind of roguelike is the kind I like -- something like Dead Cells, where you start over but you're permanently upgrading things time and again the more you try.

 

I cannot wait for this game.

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16 minutes ago, SimpleG said:

You say that like it’s a bad thing.

While I enjoyed the short amount of time I put in RoR2 I generally do not like roguelikes. The amount of times I can run through the same content is far less than most people. 

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3 hours ago, SaysWho? said:

Have you played Dead Cells?

No, not yet. I hear good things about it, but same issue. I have a hard time committing money to something I know I'll probably put down a short time later.

Gunfire Reborn is probably the most time I've put into a roguelike at around 30 hours.

Everything else is probably under 5 hours, including the much loved Hades.

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1 minute ago, Nokt said:

No, not yet. I hear good things about it, but same issue. I have a hard time committing money to something I know I'll probably put down a short time later.

Gunfire Reborn is probably the most time I've put into a roguelike at around 30 hours.

Everything else is probably under 5 hours, including the much loved Hades.

 

I haven't played Hades yet, but I do have a similar opinion to yours about roguelikes. I played Rogue Legacy, and I had fun, but losing everything and getting different stats or perks instead of what I originally had was never that exciting for me.

 

However, I loved Dead Cells, and some of the things I loved about it seem similar to what they're saying about Returnal and what I've heard about Hades. Basically, yes, you don't have the stuff you received during your playthrough, but in Dead Cells, there were separate upgrades that remained the same for each playthrough. That would allow you to start with better weapons, find better stuff, upgrade the difficulty, and permanently upgrade your stats and abilities. So even though I "started over," I felt like I was going somewhere, both with the upgrades I accumulated and due to getting good, and I was going through a different level design.

 

So I ended up with, like, 70+ hours or something on it, and I would usually avoid those games. Add Housemarque's arcade gameplay, and I'm there Day 1. :-O 

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3 hours ago, SaysWho? said:

I haven't played Hades yet, but I do have a similar opinion to yours about roguelikes. I played Rogue Legacy, and I had fun, but losing everything and getting different stats or perks instead of what I originally had was never that exciting for me.

 

However, I loved Dead Cells, and some of the things I loved about it seem similar to what they're saying about Returnal and what I've heard about Hades. Basically, yes, you don't have the stuff you received during your playthrough, but in Dead Cells, there were separate upgrades that remained the same for each playthrough. That would allow you to start with better weapons, find better stuff, upgrade the difficulty, and permanently upgrade your stats and abilities. So even though I "started over," I felt like I was going somewhere, both with the upgrades I accumulated and due to getting good, and I was going through a different level design.

 

So I ended up with, like, 70+ hours or something on it, and I would usually avoid those games. Add Housemarque's arcade gameplay, and I'm there Day 1. :-O 

I'll add it to my wishlist on steam and when they have a good sale on it I'll pick it up.

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