A comeback feat allowed me to enjoy one of the best of 2021
Whether or not you fall in love with a stimulating video game (and master it) often depends on how much free time you have. Some challenging games require precise hand-eye coordination, while others are so complex that they require careful planning and a deep understanding of their systems to figure out.
I am no stranger to overcome difficult games, as long as I have free time to understand them. In high school, I not only passed all Guitar Hero III song on expert, but I earned five stars on all of them – including Through the fire and the flames. In college, I won the Platinum Trophy in every Souls game on PlayStation, from Demon souls up to Dark Souls 3. It was a time when free time was plentiful.
What makes Returnal so difficult?
Fast forward to 2021, when free time is not as readily available. It was the year Return came out of. This is a roguelike shooter exclusive to PlayStation 5, known for its difficulty and developed by the studio Housemarque owned by Sony. In Return, you play as Selene, an astronaut stranded on a planet called Atropos. The planet is divided into several biomes, which are home to nasty creatures. It’s a third-person shooter, but the catch is you have to start over from the very first biome every time you die – and death happens frequently.
Each race randomly spawns a new stage layout, with different weapons, enemies, and items filling the biome. At the end of each biome is a deadly boss that will test your skills. There is also a constant underlying feeling of unease still present. There are no checkpoints (with a few exceptions here and there), and even if you die on the second biome, you have to start over at the start of the first, with very few of your items carried over.
It’s also a game that, just like Souls RPGs, is shrouded in mystery. Return don’t tell you much. Sure, it comes with some basic tutorials, but a lot of the appeal is in finding little tips that get you a little closer to the end. This means that a lot of trial and error will come into play which will take longer. Don’t know if you can swim? Jump in the water and find out? Not sure if a particular cliff will result in your death? Jump and pray.
Because of all this, it is difficult to progress in Return. I remember spending hours and hours on the first biome alone before finally reaching the boss and dying halfway through the fight. Getting this far into the game without showing anything because it’s demoralizing, which has caused me to abandon ship several times. Something about this game has always piqued my interest, but I have never been able to progress steadily. I convinced myself that I would never make it.
An excellent achievement
In October 2021, Return received a Update 2.0 which implemented a photo mode, as well as the ability to pause the game. Previously, there was no way to quit the game without having to start over in the first biome. If you closed the app in the middle of a race or your game crashed, the game was over. But with the new suspend feature, players can now create a temporary save point, exit the game, and pick up where they left off. If they die after that, it’s over, but at the very least. this allows them to play another game while waiting without having to start over in Return.
As soon as this update was announced, I have at once knew what I would be able to do. Since the suspend feature temporarily saves your game, I figured you would be able to download a file to a USB drive or the cloud to keep it forever. I was right.
You can basically use it to have a continuous backup which means you never have to start over from the beginning. Whenever I passed a difficult area – whether it was a difficult platform section or a difficult wave of enemies – I would create an ellipsis, download the latest one. Return save to the PlayStation cloud, then dive back. If I performed poorly on a particular section or died, I would just download the save and start over at the last ellipsis instead of the start of the first biome.
This, of course, is not how the game is meant to be played. You are Assumed to master the game to the point where you can adapt to any biome layout and any enemy encounter while also thinking quickly. The problem is that I – and many others – don’t have the time to devote to Return to play it that way. It’s a shame because the fundamental way it’s designed automatically ensures that a large chunk of players will never reach its end, or even its second zone.
When I tweeted In this regard, the response has been overwhelmingly positive, but a handful of players have criticized me for not playing the game “correctly”. While I can understand that this is an unorthodox way to play, I am not harming anyone by using the feat. It is not a competitive multiplayer game with clear winners and losers. It’s a solo adventure that’s meant to be over. The feat doesn’t make you invincible or change the gameplay – it just makes it easier for players with little free time to get through it.
Returnthe design of is respectable. I appreciate the roguelike formula and all its nuances. In college, I would have played this game the way it was intended and I would have loved it. But now, as someone who just doesn’t have the time or the energy to master a game like I could before, it’s nice to still be able to enjoy one of the best games of 2021. I prefer cheer up the game and still be able to play it instead of missing out on an incredible experience.
This is the thing about Return: Once it clicks, it’s one of the most memorable and satisfying games of recent years, with or without an achievement.