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dbarry_22's Video Game Reviews (219)

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Returnal 4/5
Dead Cells 4.5/5
Mario vs. Donkey Kong 4/5
Bloodstained: Ritual of... 4.5/5
Bloodstained: Ritual of... 4.5/5
Red Dead Redemption 2 4.5/5
Blaster Master Zero II 3.5/5
The Legend of Zelda: Li... 5/5
The Legend of Zelda: Li... 5/5
Golf Story 4/5
Tetris 99 3.5/5
Red Dead Redemption 4/5
Dragon Quest XI: Echoes... 4.5/5
Mega Man 11 4/5
Octopath Traveler 4.5/5
The Legend of Zelda: Sp... 3.5/5
Bloodstained: Curse of ... 4/5
Everybody's Golf 3.5/5
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe 4.5/5
Super Mario Galaxy 2 4.5/5
Castlevania: Portrait o... 4/5
Final Fantasy X / X-2 H... 4.5/5
Final Fantasy X / X-2 H... 4.5/5
Kirby's Dream Course 3.5/5
SteamWorld Dig 4/5

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Returnal   PlayStation 5 

A Beautiful Shooter with a Great Story    4/5 stars

Returnal brings you in with an enticing premise and solid game play but will frustrate most with its rogue-like elements and punishing enemies meaning this game is probably not for everyone.

After obtaining a PS5 several months after its release, I wanted to play a game that you could only get for that system. I've always been a fan of the sci-fi genre and recently played through Dead Cells and really enjoying it. So, I decided to give Returnal a try since it was a 3rd person shooter AAA rogue-like game set in space.

First let me start off by saying this game does a great job of introducing you to the advances of the PS5 system. Graphically its a beautiful game that gives you several different environments to show off it's abilities. The projectiles the enemies shoot have an electrical element that shines more than usual. Returnal also uses the adaptive triggers on the controller well. They programmed a significant resistance half way down when you press L2/R2 giving you the ability to use the same button for your normal fire and your secondary weapon. Since it's a rogue-like you want to get playing ASAP when you turn the system on and the drastically reduced load times definitely lets you make that happen.

The story is really a bit of a mystery from the get go. You play as the character Selene who crashes a spaceship on planet and is alone. Very quickly you discover human bodies along the way and they area all also Selene. The game embraces the idea that you are repeating playing the game over and over and uses it in the story. Why and how this happening is a mystery that you try and solve throughout the game. You'll get hints through flashbacks and memories of Selene as well as logs left behind by version of the character who died in a previous run. I won't go into any further details as it's better to not have any answers before you start the game but it's definitely a motivator to get to the end to see how it turns out.

When I say this game is a rogue-like I mean it. Every time you die you start at the beginning. The health upgrades and weapons you obtained in the previous run are gone. You're back at level one. You have to rediscover the map all over again. While all the rooms remain the same, they are in a different order so you don't really know what's behind the next door. Finding the boss of a level is no easy task because of this so it's not easy to rush your way back to where you left off on your last death. Fortunately though there are a few things that will follow you after each death. There are permanent upgrades, probably most notably a melee attack, that will follow after death. There is also a currency called Ether that you also don't lose which can be extremely helpful. Any new weapons you obtain along the way will start appearing randomly in any new runs. Also, there are artifacts you can unlock and once you do they will start appearing randomly with all the other artifacts in subsequent runs. These things will help you feel a sense of progression even after you die on a long run.

The game play is solid and comfortable. The character you control moves quickly and the play control is great. You can really sprint around fast which lets you move quickly through rooms which is nice when it's the 50th time you've seen a room. You can jump pretty far in this game which is nice. You can also dodge on the ground or midair giving you the ability to go through projectiles and not get damaged which is a must. The more enemies you kill in a row without dying, the higher the multiplier you can have and therefore the more obolites (money) you can stockpile to buy things like health upgrades and artifacts. It's a good thing the game play is so smooth because otherwise I'd think this game wouldn't be fun because it can be quite punishing.

In this game it's important to learn what enemies do and how to dodge their attacks and how's it best to defeat them. Sometimes it might be shooting them from afar, sometimes it might be to get up right next to them quickly and slash them with your sword to stun them, not one approach will work well with all enemies. It's the same with guns. While my favorite was probably the Hollowseeker, the guns will perform better on some enemies and worse on others. Some are more powerful and slower, some are quicker. Some are better at close range. It just depends. You can't just force your way through this game getting hit all the time. Avoiding damage is paramount. That may mean avoiding enemies all together at certain times. That means this game requires strategy.

That's probably what I liked most about this game. The strategy. Do you pick up that new weapon even though the secondary fire isn't something you like? Do you take the more power or do you want to stay with the quicker fire rate? Which artifact do you want to purchase? Do you want the astronaut that gives you a second chance if you die or do you want the item that gives you more melee attack damage? There are parasites in the game that you will give you a benefit in one aspect but will hurt you in another. One example might be that a parasite might let you level up your combo faster but you'll take damage on long falls. You have to decide whether it's worth it. All of these possibilities make each run a little bit unique which helps when you've died in the same level several times.

But, there is a level of frustration to this game which will probably prevent a lot of people from finishing it. First of all, a successful run in this game can take hours to finish and you can't save. You can put your PS5 into rest mode and come back to it later but I've heard lots of stories of PS5's crashing while in rest mode meaning the 2 hour run you had going is lost. Why the creators of this game didn't include a quick save feature I don't know but it sucks. These long runs makes the stakes that much higher when you get in a difficult situation and when you die you might not want to start up a new game any time soon. I know that happened to me. Also, it's likely at some point you'll hit some type of roadblock that will frustrate you immensely. This roadblock almost certainly will be a particular enemy. For me it was the first boss. I probably fought that guy at least 10 times and most of the time it took me an hour after starting the game over to get back to that point. This meant that the story that I was enjoying felt stagnate and it got harder and harder to get motivated to try it again. Fortunately for me after I beat that boss I really started to get a feel for the game, how to dodge and avoid damage and learning different ways to attack opponents. The game went more quickly after that and while I still died often I never really got stuck anywhere and I was able to progress more steadily.

Returnal looks and feels great and the story was really good too. But, since runs can take hours and there is no ability to quick save means that deaths can be extremely frustrating. Beating a boss and getting to a new level can be quite rewarding. Unfortunately if you really want to have success getting as many upgrades as possible is pretty much necessary meaning you can't rush your way through it so runs will take while. This game is a ton of fun but if you prefer frustration free experiences you probably want to avoid this one.

4/5

 

 


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