Just in case you missed it, Returnal has finally launched. Housemarque's shooter roguelike title is one of the first next-gen exclusives to release in 2021. Due to its tight gunplay, smooth movement, and challenging but satisfying gameplay with a clever story, Returnal has received its fair share of praise. Critics, in particular, are loving how Returnal takes full advantage of the PlayStation 5's technical capabilities.
Unfortunately, Returnal isn't beloved everywhere. In fact, there is a growing number of fans who are review bombing Returnal.
Why Are Gamers Review Bombing Returnal?
Before anything else, let's talk about what review bombing is and how it happens.
"Review bombing" refers to a process when a group of people flood a game with negative reviews on user review / aggregation sites, most notably Metacritic. Often, this is done by players who are dissatisfied with how a particular game plays or they disagree with whatever actions the game's developers or publishers did recently. This results in a game's cumulative score going down significantly, which can have both immediate and long-term effects on a game's sales.
With that said, gamers are review bombing Returnal due to two primary reasons: it costs $70 and it's far too difficult.
The latter is arguably the weirdest reason to review bomb Returnal. Housemarque has never been shy to let players know that Returnal won't be a walk in the park. Besides, the fact that Returnal is basically an indie roguelike title wrapped in a AAA skin already implies that the game will come with the same level of punishing difficulty that games within the same genre have.
Then again, it's not like Returnal is perfect either. There are valid criticisms towards Returnal. In particular, the potentially game-breaking bugs can sometimes force players to start all over again. Speaking of, another reason why some gamers are review bombing Returnal is that the game lacks a conventional save system.
Unlike other games, including roguelikes, Returnal only saves a player's progress whenever they die and start over or complete an entire biome. This means that should you die while fighting against the boss of a particular biome, you'll have to start all over again. If it's any consolation, the lack of a means of saving progress in the middle of a cycle is something that Housemarque has hinted at addressing soon.
Does Returnal Deserve All the Negative Reviews?
Definitely not. While we're all entitled to our own opinion, simply blasting a game for the sole reason that you find it too difficult is absurd, to say the least. Housemarque has always intended the game to be challenging. Lowering the difficulty intentionally would mean demeaning their efforts to creating the experience that Returnal is capable of providing.
If we were to speculate though, the negative reception to Returnal by some gamers isn't necessarily because of the game itself nor the price. Rather, it's because of the lack of next-gen exclusives.
At the moment, the only PS5 exclusives available to play are Demon's Souls, Godfall, Destruction AllStars, and Returnal. This is a very short list of titles. This means that players who are looking for a true PS5 exclusive might be tempted to spend money on something like Returnal even though it is the kind of game that is typically not right up their alley, or so to speak.
Ultimately, Housemarque shouldn't feel too worried. The influx of negative reviews isn't enough to affect the overwhelming number of positive reviews. While we do agree that Returnal is not a perfect game, it's far from bad either. In fact, it's one of the better roguelikes to release in years. Returnal is right up there alongside the likes of Hades.