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10 Things Returnal Borrows From Other Roguelite Games

Returnal is a PlayStation 5 exclusive title that falls into the "rogue-lite" category, a genre of games inspired by the groundbreaking 1980 computer game Rogue. Modern rouge-lites tend to forego the hardcore RPG trappings of the genre's namesake, however, in favor of more diverse gameplay structures, more in-depth combat mechanics, and more fleshed-out narratives.

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This is certainly the case with Returnal, as many—but not all—of the mechanics in the game can be found in prior rogue-lite releases. Returnal combines these mechanics with those that it introduces on its own to reach a nice balance of difficulty and familiarity.

10 Looping Cycles, Repeating Environments

From the get-go, Returnal presents its players with the idea that this isn't Selene's first romp through the mysterious planet, an observation she makes herself upon discovering one of her own corpses from a prior life. This is a classic concept leading all the way back to the original Rogue; death leads to the end of a run and is accompanied by a restart.

Furthermore, Returnal organizes its levels into the same number of areas, which are always played through in the same order. This is similar to how other rogue-lite games play out, wherein there exist several levels that the player will tread back through time and time again throughout their runs.

9 Trading Curses for Blessings

Similar to many of the best rogue-lite gamesReturnal contains items that can be extremely powerful, but they come with at a considerable cost. In Returnal, this takes the form of parasites and suit malfunctions.

Suit malfunctions have a small chance to occur when a player picks up malignant items in a run without utilizing ether. These are mini-challenges that the player takes on in exchange for receiving the aforementioned item. Parasites are less chance-based and instead offer the player a strict debuff for a simultaneous buff. The key to utilizing this mechanic is taking on buffs that outweigh risks, like reducing chances of suit malfunctions while finding more malignant items.

8 Upgrades that Persist Through Runs

Returnal features the same sort of permanent upgrade system that a game like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night employs when defeating a powerful monster in that taking down a boss will reward the player with a new piece of gear for the rest of their runs.

This usually ranges from an item that will allow the player to traverse new areas to a direct combat upgrade, but at least one of these upgrades is permanently missable. Returnal changes the nature of this system by rewarding these items without necessitating boss encounters.

7 A Form of a Hard-Mode

While Returnal does not feature the same type of "New-Game Plus" or hard mode that most rouge-lites feature, Returnal does include a mechanic in its second act that allows the game to go through an increase in challenge to the player.

After the player completes their first successful run through the game and defeats the "final" boss, they'll find themselves back on the planet after a good amount of time has passed in the universe. This starts the player off at 15 proficiency, making their weapons much stronger at the cost of harder enemies, bosses, and more treacherous areas to explore.

6 Daily Challenge Runs

Onboard the Heliosthe ship that Selene crashes onto the alien planet, the player can find two terminals. One of these terminals serves to track the player's various statistics throughout their runs in the game and to house some lore entries that are sent over to Selene presumably prior to her crash landing.

The other terminal allows the player to access the daily challenge run, which is a run through a given area in the game where the player is equipped with a pre-set loadout. The goal of these runs is to beat the area boss and score as highly as possible, similar to other rogue-lites and classic games like Sonic the Hedgehog.

5 A Base-Like Safe Area

Speaking of the Heliosthe area that the player wakes up in before the start of each run serves as a form of pseudo-hub where the player can view their run statistics, read lore, take a nap, and purchase new artifacts with ether for use in later runs.

This type of area has become a staple in modern rogue-lites and appears in a vast number of them. Most notably, this type of area is a very prominent feature of the roguelite Hades, which is, as per ScreenRant, one of the highest-selling games in the genre.

4 Randomized Weapons and Perks Per Run

Since death in Returnal is a hard restart, this means that the player loses all accumulated artifacts, health upgrades, and weapons upon a reset. Weapons in Returnal come with a randomized alt-fire capability and with random stats and perks. Sstats include attributes like base damage, while perks govern features like piercing bullets.

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At the start of a run, the player is equipped with the default handgun each time, but this handgun comes with an entirely random alt-fire and stats. This is quite similar to, say, Rogue Legacy, but much different than the weapon system in Hades that allows the player more choice.

3 Secret Areas Opened with Tools

Secret rooms have appeared in games since the release of Adventure on the Atari 2600, and they're commonly seen in massively popular games such as The Binding of Isaac and Rogue Legacy. Naturally, Returnal has more than a few secrets up its sleeves.

Returnal features these rooms in full force, hidden by cracks in walls the player must spot and shoot through in order to gather the loot inside. These rooms also typically contain audio recordings.

2 Cumulative Skill, and the Accompanied Rewards

As any player works their way through a rogue-lite, they begin to get a solid grasp on the outlined mechanics, gameplay loop, and general feel of the game's combat system. As such, the player begins to accumulate knowledge on the game that can translate directly to gameplay rewards.

From completing runs more often to the ability to perfectly craft and optimize a run based on acquired artifacts and buffs, the player begins to get a sense of mastery and achievement over time. While this sense of success is consistent across many games in the genre, it's especially prominent in Returnal, as gameplay relies on memorizing dodge patterns, bullet patterns, weapon effectiveness, preferred artifacts, and so on.

1 Lore Pick-Ups

As mentioned in previous entries, there are various audio logs that the player can find in Returnal that tell the tales of Selene's prior runs through the alien planet. These range from somewhat reproachful to downright hopeless and remain permanently unlocked after their retrieval.

This is becoming a more recent trend in rogue-lite games and exist in such recent titles as Moonlighter and Darkest DungeonSlay the Spire tends to take a combined approach to this, having flavor text for all relics and encounters in the game. This addition helps the player understand their place in the worlds of these games and helps to boost immersion.

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