PS5's Returnal Aims To Capture The Horror Of Being Trapped In A Time Loop

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Housemarque’s Returnal is a new roguelike that leans into the developer’s pedigree for arcade-style shooters, yet it also has something to say about the effects of being trapped in isolation and in a perpetual cycle. Following an emergency landing on the planet Atropos, the game’s protagonist Selene finds herself stranded on a planet filled with ancient ruins and hostile monsters. After meeting her seemingly inevitable end, she re-awakens shortly after the crash, retaining memories of her past attempt at survival. Selene is forced to relive the day again and again until she can uncover why she’s trapped in a time loop, and why the strange world seems to have a growing attachment to its new visitor.

Ahead of its April 30 launch, I had the chance to view an extended preview of the game in action and also spoke with game director Harry Krueger and narrative director Gregory Louden about Returnal’s scope. During the preview, I noticed that Returnal adds a Metroid-style sense of action and exploration to its time-looping roguelike structure. I was surprised to see that the game uses its conceit to showcase Selene’s unsettling descent into a mysterious, sentient world that always seems to be two steps ahead of her.

Enter The Void

The roguelike sub-genre has seen a significant surge in recent years, and 2020’s Hades was a breakthrough that demonstrated that a meaningful and poignant story with a personable cast of characters can have an impact within a structure that is inherently random. Returnal operates in the same territory as Hades, and with each run, Selene not only expands her powers and knowledge of the planet Atropos, but it in turn reveals more about the protagonist’s past, even forcing her to confront visions and constructs that evoke memories of what she left behind before her arrival.

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Source: Game Spot Mashup