Returnal is a PS5 exclusive third-person shooter from Finnish developer Housemarque. It's a fast-paced, challenging run n' gunner with rogue-lite elements, and we love it, awarding it a 9/10 in our review.
In this Returnal guide, we will be going over everything in the game. We'll explain how to earn all Trophies and how to get the Platinum. We'll also outline the basics on all the weapons and items, tell you about all the bosses and how to beat them, and offer some general tips and tricks for beginners. We have guides with lots of advice on how to not die, what you lose when you die, and how to unlock the daily challenge mode.
Note: There may be light spoilers in the below text and related guides.
Returnal Guide: Ascension Update - Co-Op and Tower of Sisyphus
Returnal's Ascension update is a major expansion that adds two new ways to play: online co-op and the Tower of Sisyphus, an endless mode. Below, we have guides on these new additions.
If you're looking for some help on how to get started with online co-op in Returnal, we have a page all about it right here:
Tower of Sisyphus
The Tower of Sisyphus is Returnal's endless mode, offering a score-chasing arcade experience as you ascend the tower. For more information about this mode, check the below:
Returnal Guide: All Weapons, Alt-Fires, and Weapon Traits
In Returnal, there are a handful of base weapons you'll discover throughout the experience. However, these weapons will come with randomised alt-fires and traits that vary things up. Below, we've listed all the weapons, as well as possible alt-fires and weapon traits you might find.
All Weapons in Returnal
Returnal has 10 base weapons, each with a different range, rate of fire, and more. Note: We've listed the initial locations of where we found them during our time with the game. Due to the random nature of the game's structure, you might find the various weapons in different places.
Modified Sidearm SD-M8
|Modified Sidearm SD-M8||This is a pistol, and is the first weapon you'll find in Returnal. It's also the weapon with which you begin every run. You can fire off rounds one at a time, or hold down the trigger for steady but slow continual fire.||First found during the tutorial.|
|Tachyomatic Carbine||This is an alien weapon, but its function is equivalent to an assault rifle. It's fully automatic, meaning you can hold down the trigger for a constant stream of rounds at a decent rate.||First found early in Overgrown Ruins.|
|Spitmaw Blaster||Another alien weapon, this weapon is similar to a shotgun. It's most effective at close range with its wide spread.||First found in Overgrown Ruins.|
|Hollowseeker||This is another machine gun type weapon, but it has a much higher rate of fire than the Tachyomatic Carbine.||First found in Crimson Wastes.|
|Thermogenic Launcher||Essentially a rocket launcher. It fires three rockets at once. Powerful but slow, and only three shots before it needs to cool down.||First found in Derelict Citadel.|
|Rotgland Lobber||This is an alien weapon that fires blobs of acid. The longer you hold down the trigger, the further the shots will travel. The acid will continue to damage enemies over time.||First found in Overgrown Ruins after receiving the Icarian Grapnel.|
|Electropylon Driver||This weapon sends out pylons that attach to surfaces or enemies. Energy passes between pylons, dealing damage within their range. After a short while the pylons disappear.||First found in Echoing Ruins.|
|Dreadbound||A unique gun that fires a few shards which return to it, like a boomerang. There's no Overload opportunity with this weapon, but the closer you are to your target, the more quickly you can fire the rounds off.||First found in Fractured Wastes.|
|Pyroshell Caster||This powerful gun fires projectiles that stick to enemies and explode after a second.||First found in Abyssal Scar.|
|Coilspine Shredder||Another alien weapon, this is a gun that fires discs that bounce off enemies and surfaces. It's a charge weapon — the longer you hold the trigger, the more powerful the shots.||First found in Echoing Ruins after receiving the Delphic Visor.|
|Atropian Blade||This is one of the game's permanent items that stays with you for every run once you've found it. Mapped to Square, this sword weapon provides you with a powerful melee strike.||First found early in Overgrown Ruins.|
All Weapon Alt-Fires in Returnal
All the above weapons (aside from the Atropian Blade) will have an alt-fire. These are powerful special attacks that charge over time, and can appear in combination with any of the guns in the game. Below is a list of all 10 alt-fires. It's worth mentioning that you can level these up to make them even more powerful.
- Blast Shell: An explosive that detonates on impact.
- Doombringer: A large energy ball that damages anything on its path and detonates on impact. Charge to unleash a more powerful shot.
- Horizontal Barrage: A volley of projectiles fired in a horizontal pattern.
- Killsight: A single-shot that zooms in to deal extra damage to weak spots.
- Proximity Mine: An explosive that detonates when hostiles get close to it.
- Shockstream: A continual stream of electricity.
- Tendrilpod: An attachable pod that bursts into damaging tendrils.
- Trackerswarm: A volley of insectoids that home in on the targeted hostile.
- Vertical Barrage: A volley of projectiles fired in a vertical pattern.
- Voidbeam: A long, continuous beam that deals increasing damage if kept on a single target.
Each weapon (aside from the Atropian Blade) can have a number of Traits. These Traits grant guns additional effects that make them more powerful in combat. As your weapon proficiency increases, the more Traits future weapons you find may have. When you discover a new Trait on a weapon, it will be locked until you've killed enough enemies. After this, the Trait will become active, and can be found randomly on any subsequent weapons. You can also find higher levels of Traits as your proficiency goes up. Traits stack together, resulting in all kinds of interesting combinations. There are 90 Traits to be discovered. Here are the ones we've found so far:
|Modified Sidearm SD-M8||
Returnal Guide: Resources, Items, Parasites, Artefacts, and More
There is a huge variety of items and resources in Returnal that can augment each run with a wide range of beneficial and detrimental effects. Below, we're going to talk through some of the game's items and systems you should know about.
Silphium and Resin
Silphium is your basic health replenishment item. It restores a bit of your health bar — or suit integrity. If your health is full, Silphium becomes Silphium Resin. Resin items go towards increasing the size of your health bar. In other words, always pick up health items when you can, as they'll either restore some HP or help increase your maximum health.
Obolites are one of Returnal's currencies. You'll gather hundreds of these in a run, either from defeated enemies or yellow crystals in the environment. Obolites do not persist between runs, so use them while you can. They can be exchanged at Fabricators for useful items.
Ether is another currency. The difference between it and Obolites is that Ether stays with you between runs. It's rarer than Obolites, but can be used for various things, like activating certain technology, cleansing Malignant items (see below), or unlocking new items at Cthonos (see below).
As you might expect, Keys unlock things. In each run, you'll come across locked doors or chests that require an Atropian Key to open. There are also special Keys needed to access new biomes.
Calibrators are a type of Artefact (see below) but are found fairly commonly. These items increase your weapon proficiency, which in turn increases the strength of any weapons you find.
Artefacts are special items that grant you all kinds of beneficial effects and stat boots. Once collected, these will stay in effect for the duration of your run. Some examples include Obolite Extractor, which means enemies drop more Obolites on death, or Adrenaline Enhancer, which makes it so you can take an additional hit before your adrenaline level resets.
Sometimes, items and chests can be Malignant. This means that there's a chance that the item in question has a chance to cause a suit malfunction. Malignance can be cleansed if you have enough Ether, which removes the risk.
Parasites are living organisms that you'll find as you progress through the game. When equipped, they will have both a positive and a negative impact on you. For example, a Parasite might make enemies drop better items, but simultaneously make it so picking up items damages you. Before you equip a Parasite, you can see these effects and decide if you want to risk it. You can equip multiple Parasites at once.
Cthonos is a living spire that resides in the crash site area. Once it has become active (pretty early in the game), you can spend some Ether and Cthonos will present you with a brand new item or artefact. This lets you take it into your next run, and it also adds the new item to the overall selection, meaning it could appear at random in subsequent runs.
Returnal Guide: Adrenaline Level, Overload, Stats, Permanent Upgrades, and More
There's plenty more to go over in Returnal, with lots of stats and game mechanics to explore. Below, we're going to outline these.
Your adrenaline level is a sort of combo meter (we've circled it in the above image). Every time you kill three enemies without being damaged yourself, your adrenaline level will increase, to a maximum level of 5. If you're hit, your adrenaline level is reset to 0. Each level brings with it some neat benefits, like a larger window for Overloads, the ability to see enemies through walls, and more.
The Overload mechanic is similar to an active reload. If you deplete your weapon's energy, it will need a second to cool down. When this happens, a meter will appear in the middle of the screen. The meter will run from left to right, and in the middle is a small window — if you hit R2 while it's in this range (the meter turns yellow), the cooldown will end and you'll have performed an Overload.
If you fail an Overload by hitting R2 too early or too late, the cooldown will take slightly longer.
There are a few stats that will be affected as you obtain items, artefacts, and more in each run. They're relatively self-explanatory, but let's go through each of them quickly.
- Weapon Damage: The amount of damage your current weapon deals out.
- Protection: Your defence stat. Lower protection means you take more damage, and so on.
- Proficiency Rate: The level at which your weapon proficiency meter builds.
- Repair Efficiency: How effective healing items are.
- Alt-Fire Cooldown: How long it takes your weapon's alt-fire to recharge.
When you die in Returnal, you lose most of the material goods you've obtained. However, there are some items and equipment that will stay with you once you've obtained them. Here's everything you'll have by the end:
- Atropian Weapon Charger: Allows you to use the alt-fire modes on weapons.
- Hermetic Transmitter: Allows you to use Translocators to quickly move around the map.
- Icarian Grapnel: A hookshot that lets you grapple up to elevated platforms and across large gaps.
- Atropian Blade: A melee weapon to deal damage to enemies and cut down red vines and other things in the environment.
- Hadal Ballasts: Devices attached to Selene's legs that allow her to explore underwater areas.
- Delphic Visor: These clip onto Selene's helmet, and allow her to see previously invisible orbs. When shot, these orbs reveal hidden platforms.
- Promethean Insulators: These arm pieces allow you to walk through the glowing red pools unharmed.
- House Key: A key used to enter the mysterious House that appears from time to time.
- Crimson Key: Opens the Crimson Gateway, allowing access to the Crimson Wastes biome.
- Fractured Key: Opens the Fractured Gateway, allowing access to the Fractured Wastes biome.
- Sunface Fragments: You will eventually need to collect these.
- Poppies: You will collect these when you play the Tower of Sisyphus mode.
Fabricators are essentially shops in Returnal. You can find them as just one on their own, or in a group, like in the image above. They provide you with stat boosts, consumable items, and artefacts in exchange for the Obolites you've collected.
Xeno-archives are large rooms full of blue particles. As you approach the particles, they'll come together to reveal 3D imagery of the ancient alien race that once occupied the planet. They provide a little more narrative context, and you'll want to find them if you're looking to complete the Trophy list.
Xenoglyphs and Ciphers
Xenoglyphs are stone tablets inscribed with alien symbols. You can scan them to attempt to translate them, but you won't get too far without Ciphers. Xenoglyph Ciphers are glowing red symbols that can be found in certain areas, so keep your eyes peeled for these as you explore.
Reconstructors are powerful devices that will record your progress through a run, and bring you back from the dead, allowing you to continue. It's one of the only ways to get a second chance, making them very valuable when you find them. The catch is that you will need 6 Ether in order to activate a Reconstructor.
Items Locked Behind Gates
If you come across an item or a chest that's locked behind a gate (above left), don't fret. You can easily open the gate and get to the goodies inside. All you need to do is look for a switch (above right) and shoot it. This will raise the gate and hey presto.
Every now and then you might see these yellow orbs. If you walk up to one, the floor will break away and you'll fall into a secret area. These can be very beneficial, but could also pit you against some enemies. Like many other aspects of Returnal, these areas are a bit of a gamble, although they mostly pay off in the end.
These golden enemies will run from you and will eventually burrow away, but don't let them! Attack and kill them, as they release lots of Obolites for you to gather. They might even spawn in the crash site area.
If you come across a wall as pictured above, don't just walk by; these are breakable. Using your melee attack, you can break down this fragile wall and reveal a hidden area, which may contain some useful items.
Returnal Guide: Trophies, Bosses, and FAQs
Below, we've gathered some of our other Returnal guides to help you get the best out of the game. Whether you're looking to earn all the Trophies or want some advice for the boss fights, take a look below for some helpful hints:
- Returnal: All Trophies and How to Get the Platinum
- Returnal: All Bosses and How to Beat Them
- Returnal: How to Not Die
- Returnal: How to Unlock Daily Challenge Mode
- Returnal: How to Get Into the House
- Returnal: What Do You Lose When You Die?
- Returnal: Do You Have to Fight the Bosses More Than Once?
- Returnal: How Long Does It Take to Beat?
- Returnal: How Many Biomes Are There?
- Returnal: Can You Save and Quit?
- Returnal: Can You Get Back to Earlier Levels?
- Returnal: How to Break Yellow Barriers
- Returnal: Where to Find All Sunface Fragments
- Returnal: How to Complete Biome Surveys
Returnal Guide: Tips and Tricks for Beginners
Returnal can be quite a challenging experience, and it can be a little intimidating for new players. In this section of our Returnal guide, we've outlined some general tips and advice to help you in the early game as you adjust to its fast-paced gameplay. If you're looking for even more advice on how to not die, follow the link.
Stay on the Move
In combat scenarios, there's very little reason to stay in one place. Returnal gives you a fast sprint and a powerful dash ability — use them! They are invaluable in fights with multiple enemies. All those neon-coloured projectiles will struggle to hit such a fast moving target, so use Selene's agility and keep moving.
Keep Up the Offence
While you should stay on the move, you should also keep applying pressure to any hostiles. Returnal is a game you should play aggressively, because otherwise you can be overwhelmed by the sheer number of enemies and projectiles onscreen. Clear enemies as efficiently as you can to stay on top.
You're going to die a lot in Returnal, especially early on. While you're getting used to how the game operates, it's worth your while to experiment. Equip Parasites, try new weapons, explore all the side paths. You might as well soak everything in and try it all out, because there's a lot to see and you're going to be tackling this game for a while. Progress is great, but take some of the runs as opportunities to experiment.
Take Chances with Malignant Items
Some chests and items you'll find in the game are Malignant, which basically means that, if you pick them up, there's a chance your suit will suffer a malfunction. However, that doesn't mean they should be completely disregarded. The odds of you getting a malfunction are outlined before you decide, but it's a percentage chance; even if it says the chance of malfunction is Very High, you might still get away Scott-free. It's a calculated risk. On a related note...
Malfunctions Aren't That Bad
It's worth mentioning that malfunctions aren't the end of the world. Sure, they negatively impact your stats or abilities, but they're temporary. You can get rid of malfunctions by completing fairly simple tasks, such as collecting Obolites, dispatching enemies, or opening chests. It might be that you only have a malfunction for a few minutes, making the gamble worth it in the end.
There Are Benefits to Playing Online
If you play the game with online enabled, you'll get to enjoy some additional features that won't appear if you stay disconnected. When you're online, you'll of course be able to compete in the leaderboards of the Daily Challenge mode, but there's more to it than that.
With online features turned on, you might see projections of other players during a run through the game. These will show you the last moments of another player's death. At this point, a couple of things can happen. Their corpse could reanimate and turn into a tentacle monster you need to deal with. Alternatively, you may be given the option to either scavenge the body for loot, which costs Ether, or you can avenge them. If you do this, a tough enemy will spawn that you have to fight. Win this battle and you'll get some valuable stuff. What's more, the game will notify you while you're at the crash site when another player successfully avenges you, and you'll get a little reward to take into your next run.
That about wraps up our Returnal guide. We hope this helps you on your perilous journey through Atropos, gather all the Trophies, and ultimately beat the game. Have you been enjoying Returnal on PS5? Share your own tips, tricks, and advice in the comments section below.