How do you stay alive longer in Returnal? How can you keep your runs going for longer stretches? Returnal is inarguably a difficult game, and its structure means you will die frequently, and go at it again and again. While this is expected — it is a rogue-lite game after all — it can inevitably cause some frustration if you don't feel like you're making progress. So, how can you try to keep a run going for longer? As part of our Returnal guide, we're going to give you some tips and advice on staying alive on planet Atropos. If you're looking to know more about saving and quitting the game, see our guide — Returnal: Can You Save and Quit? Plus, we have a few more tips and tricks for beginners through the link.
Returnal: How to Not Die
Below, we've assembled some helpful tips and tricks to keep your Returnal runs last that little bit longer.
Practice Makes Perfect
Here's a classic one to start with: your runs in Returnal will get better and longer the more you play. As with any rogue-lite title, perseverance is required to make it further into the experience. Sometimes, you'll probably feel like you've hit a wall, where the game has become too tough for you. The truth is, you have everything you need to push past this hurdle.
Your greatest asset in Returnal is your own skill. Part of why games like this are so rewarding is that you really feel that you're improving over time. Similar to Dark Souls, you will die often, but you'll also learn with every attempt. Stay positive, stick with it, and eventually you will make it further and further through the game. Practice makes perfect.
Use Selene's Agile Move Set Liberally
Selene gets a bunch of permanent upgrades as you progress through Returnal, but don't concern yourself with that just yet. Think about her basic move set. Out of the gate, you have access to an extremely fast sprint on L3, a generous jump on X, and a life-saving dash ability on Circle.
These in combination are how you'll stay alive the longest in Returnal. It's easy to make shooting targets your priority, and of course, you'll need to fight back, but primarily you should be staying on the move and avoiding danger as much as possible.
Enemies can attack from any direction (a threat indicator around Selene's waist will tell you where from), so it's vitally important you get used to sprinting, jumping, and dashing to safety. In this game, there's little sense in standing still to tackle threats. Move, move, move.
Keep the Pressure On
You're not gonna like this, but in addition to staying on the move, we also advise that you keep on the offence. The two aren't as contradictory as they sound, though. Returnal is an intense, fast-paced game, and you need to match it. The enemies aren't going to let up, so fight fire with fire and rain death upon them at every opportunity.
Again, you should stay on the move to avoid those intimidating bullet hell patterns, but try to keep enemies in your crosshair, chipping away at them at all times. And don't forget your weapon's alt-fire mode; this powerful ability recharges over time, so don't feel like you have to save it for a boss. If you're overwhelmed or need to deal with a threat quickly, squeeze L2 all the way down and let the alt-fire fly. Additionally, after you've found the Atropian Blade, you can get a little more up close and personal with baddies; a lot of them will go down in a single blow from your melee attack.
Adrenaline Is Your Friend
Selene's adrenaline level goes up when you kill three enemies in a row without taking any damage. This scales up to level 5, and every successive level grants you a buff of some kind. There's no cooldown bringing that adrenaline level down; the only thing that resets it is taking a hit. The thing is, if you can reach level 5, it's actually much easier to stay there, because you're all powered up. If you can keep up the momentum and avoid taking damage, the game's adrenaline system is an extremely helpful perk. Also, if you do lose it, it doesn't take that long to get it back, and there's even a consumable item in the game that'll bring you to adrenaline level 5 instantly.
Overload Is Your Friend, Too
Put simply, Returnal's Overload mechanic is essentially an active reload system. Weapons have unlimited ammo, but if you empty their "clip", they'll overheat and need to cool down. This is when the Overload bar will appear in the middle of your screen. You should pay attention to it: as the bar fills from left to right, it will pass through a boxed section in the middle. When it does, the bar will turn yellow. If you press R2 during this window, the cooldown will finish early, and you'll be back in the fight. If you hit R2 too early or too late, the cooldown will take longer.
Overloads might take a bit of practice to nail every time, but doing so ensures you're spending more time shooting and less time, well, not shooting. Normally, the window for a successful Overload is quite small, but you can make it much larger by working up to adrenaline level 1. Kill three enemies in a row without getting hit, and the window for success becomes much wider.
Try Playing with Headphones for 3D Audio
Returnal is definitely one of the best examples of PS5's Tempest 3D audio engine in play. If you have a pair of compatible headphones (which is to say, almost any pair), you will hear the difference more or less straight away. The game sounds fine coming from your TV, but with a set of cans on your head, you're immersed in the world; you can hear rain falling around you, unsettling noises from the surrounding environment, and most importantly, you can hear baddies — wherever they might be.
A perfect example is Mycomorphs, those tall enemies that can teleport around the area. With 3D audio enabled, you can hear their alien screams from any direction; if they teleport behind you, you'll be able to tell, and can react accordingly. Playing with headphones could save your skin more than you think.
You Don't Have to Fight Everything
Here's an easy way to stay alive in Returnal: run away. If you enter a room and feel you're not equipped to handle it, most of the time you'll be able to sprint through a door and leave the enemies behind.
There are some caveats to this; occasionally, an area will be in Lockdown, which means you're trapped in that space until the enemies are dealt with. Secondly, there are plenty of benefits to engaging in combat, such as building your weapon proficiency and adrenaline levels. In other words, sometimes you shouldn't, or even can't, run away.
However, if you just want to get back to where you were, most of the time you can get through an area without worrying about all the baddies. Another time you might want to flee rather than fight is if you're doing well, know you're near a boss, and want to preserve your health and items for that instead.
Battles can be very beneficial, and we're not saying you should just sprint through absolutely everything. If fighting a batch of enemies is going to be more trouble than it's worth, or you're in an optional side route and things are getting too much, running away is a valid option.
Pick Up Every Health Item, Even at Full HP
Health items in Returnal come in the form of Silphium and Resin. Silphium will restore some of your lost HP, while Resin works towards increasing your max HP. The difference is that Silphium fills your health meter; Resin makes that health meter bigger.
Both types of item are marked on the mini map with a green plus symbol. Here's the thing: every single one of them is valuable. Silphium, which normally refills your HP, changes purpose when your health bar is full. When you're at full health, Silphium becomes a Resin item, meaning it will fill one of the three slots that go towards increasing your max HP. In other words, you should be picking up health items whether you've lost health or not, because you'll either be replenishing HP, or making your health bar bigger. Unless you can't reach a health pick-up, you should get every last one you can find.
Spend Your Obolites at Fabricators
Obolites are the yellow gem-like things that enemies drop on death, and you can find veins of the stuff in rocks around the environment. It's a currency that you can use at Fabricators to buy items, artefacts, and stat boosts. Our advice is to make sure you do that.
The thing is, Obolites do not come with you when you die. They don't carry over between runs. They're useless just burning a hole in your pocket, so make sure you spend them when you've saved some up. How does this help you prolong your runs? Well, using Fabricators to get buffs and useful items just makes you that little bit stronger. If you can spend some Obolites and increase your Protection (defence) stat, that's far more valuable than having them jangling about in your inventory. If you've enough Obolites for a consumable item you want, buy it! It'll give you that extra option in battle. Your runs will last longer if you use opportunities to spend Obolites, trust us. Don't be a hoarder.
Save Your Ether for Reconstructors
Reconstructors are very powerful devices in Returnal. These large, ominous-looking machines are incredibly useful — they will record your progress up to that point and, should you die, you will return at the Reconstructor, able to continue your run. It's a literal life saver.
However, making use of these doesn't come cheap, and there's no telling where or when they'll show up on the randomly generated maps. If and when you find one, they cost 6 Ether to use. Ether is a persistent currency that carries over between runs. If your main concern is keeping a run going as long as possible, you'll want to make use of Reconstructors, so hang on to your Ether and spend it at these devices. A second chance could be all you need to push forward that little bit more.
Certain Artefacts Can Resurrect You Where You Fall
If you can't afford to use a Reconstructor (or you just can't seem to find one), look out for certain artefacts. Artefacts are powerful items that give you passive stat buffs and boost your abilities. However, there are a couple that can bring you back from a fatal hit.
Artefacts such as the Astronaut Figurine mean that, if you're killed during a run, you'll instantly come back to life where you died with a full health bar. If you want to extend your runs in Returnal, equipping artefacts like these are well worth it. The trouble is that, because the game is randomly generated, there's no guarantee you're going to find one in a given run. That doesn't mean it's impossible to get them — far from it. With a bit of luck, one of these artefacts will appear in the environment or at the shop-like Fabricators.
Hopefully these tips have helped you to not die in Returnal. What's your longest run in the game so far? Give your own advice in the comments section below, and check out our Returnal guide for lots more info on the game.