10 Returnal Tips and Tricks for Beginners

If you want to know more about the story (or ending) of the recently released PlayStation 5-exclusive, Returnal, then you'll have to prepare yourself for a lot of death, and when we say a lot, we mean that in every sense of the word.

In a game where everything changes, Death is the only constant in Returnal.

Unforgiving, ruthless, and downright brutal, death is the only thing that's constant in Returnal. However, just like every other roguelike, your constant dying is also a crucial part of the game's story, as your accumulated experience and knowledge play a key role in helping you delve further into the mysterious story behind Atropos.

With that said, as much as death is part of the Returnal experience, too much death isn't good for you either.

Below, we've rounded up tips and tricks to help you enjoy Returnal a bit more.

Essential Returnal Tips and Tricks

Embrace the Death

Returnal expects you to die. A lot.

Because death is so integral to Returnal, let's just occasionally refer to it as one of the game's characters, and at the risk of sounding redundant, we'd like to remind you not to take every death in Returnal seriously. Instead of feeling frustrated, take every time you die in Returnal as a learning opportunity to find out more about what you can about the enemies that you encounter in Atropos.

Study the Cycle

Moments like these will remind you how important it is to learn the different attack patterns of enemies in Returnal.

"Roguelike" and "bullet-hell" are descriptions that indicate just how challenging a game is going to be once you play it.

In Returnal's case, it's one of the few AAA titles that don't cater to the majority and actually live up to its genre. The game will have you dashing, jumping, and dodging your way through more than a dozen projects at a time, some of which will put you near death even if you just get hit once. Given that the game gives you limited healing resources, that's something that you never want to happen.

Just in case the inevitable happens and that you die though, you'll lose everything that you gained except for a very few things and whatever you learned along the way.

True, the layout of the areas changes every time you start a cycle anew in Returnal, with different enemies populating the map each time, and new items, as well as weapons, for you to pick up. Ideally, you'll put the lessons that you've learned from your previous returns so that you can go at least a little further the next time around.

Never Get Discouraged

Yes. You definitely do have to keep going.

Returnal is a game that's all about perseverance - and luck. You're going to need tons of those.

The thing is, unlike other more conventional games, where you can finesse and outsmart your enemies, in Returnal, your skill and ability to get the most of what you have can only go so further, especially if the game doesn't give you much to work with.

So, try not to get discouraged and worry too much when you die early, especially if your previous run went a whole lot further.

Sometimes, you're close to finishing the game. Other times, you'll die within the first five minutes or so if not less. These things can and will happen in Returnal. Best that you learn to accept that fact and move on with your next run.

Learn How Doors Work in Returnal

Take note of the doors in Returnal if you want to die fewer times.

Because Returnal uses procedurally generated maps, no two runs will ever be the same in the game. However, there are some constants despite the inherent randomness of the game. In fact, knowing the types of doors connecting each room in Returnal is important. Knowing the difference between one color and another can help you get through the game's different biomes faster.

Here are the different door types in Returnal and what they mean:

  • Light blue and rectangular: These serve as your guide throughout a biome. If you're following the orange objective marker, these will lead to a boss room. After beating the boss, following the same marker will lead you through the same color and shape of the doors until you get to the next biome.
  • Dark blue and triangular: These are doors that lead to optional paths and rooms. Often, you'll find extra gear and items inside them. Others will require you to solve a puzzle first to earn yourself a reward. There'll be times when these doors will be locked behind a key as well, and occasionally, you'll find the Reconstructor inside these doors. So it's almost always worth checking them out to see what's inside.
  • Doors with a broken circle on top: These are the portals that will take you to other Biomes in Returnal.
  • Yellow doors with a star on top: For those who like even more of a challenge, feel free to enter through these Containment Gates. Be warned, once inside, you'll be locked in until you die or survive through multiple waves of enemies. Do it successfully and receive a lot of obolite, as well as a good weapon.
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Don't Forget to Aim Down the Sights

Firing from the hip might feel more natural in Returnal, but learning how to aim down your sights is just as important.

Initially, it might feel like a weird design choice for Housemarque to include the ability to aim down sights in a game with such an intense focus on constant movement. However, later on, and many runs later, you'll find that there's some benefit to be had for slowing down and taking your time to aim at enemy weak spots.

Yes. In case you didn't know, some enemies if not most of them have a weak spot. The only problem is that you can only see these weak spots if you aim down your weapon's sights.

Another reason to focus on these weak points isn't just because it lets you do more damage to them. It's also the best way to stagger boss-like enemies, which gives you even more chances of dishing out some serious pain. The best part? Because the enemies are staggered, they don't get a chance to fire back at you.

TLDR; take the time to aim and you'll spend less time dying.

Time Your Reloads Right

Timing your reloads right in Returnal can often mean the difference between life and death.

Coincidentally, the closest comparison to the active reload system of Returnal is Gears of War, which is an Xbox exclusive. Thankfully, it's not that complicated to use. It just takes time for you to get used to it.

In Returnal, each weapon and the different variations all have a different timing and active reload window. Now, this might seem like a lot, and it is. But, learning how to adjust to the dynamic timing window of each weapon you can wield in Return can improve your reload times by a second or so, which will come in handy in a game with such a fast pace like Returnal.

Take Advantage of the Parasites

The best thing about parasites in Returnal is that you always know what you are getting.

A game like Returnal is all about knowing how to weigh the rewards with the risks associated with each one. This includes the parasites, which give you a penalty and a buff. The only difference is that using the parasite lets you see the tradeoff before you take the plunge.

With any luck, you'll get yourself a parasite with penalties that are worth putting up with because of how good the buffs are. Besides, even if the trade-off is hefty, you'll get a chance to remove the parasites anyway.

Just be careful about using Reconstructors when you have a particularly useful parasite. Your parasites won't come back with you if you're using a station to respawn.

Charge Headfirst Into Danger

TLDR; as long as the shot's not purple, you can dash your way out of it.

Your first instinct in Returnal might be to dash away from danger. Don't do that. Dashing makes you invulnerable to attacks, allowing you to avoid otherwise lethal hits while putting you one step closer to your enemy.

Just be careful not to rely too much on dashing your way out of all attacks. Later on, certain projectiles (usually colored purple) can't be dashed through.

So long as you watch out for those undodgeable attacks, you should be good.

Don't Hesitate to Get Up Close and Personal

As a bonus, the melee weapon in Returnal looks badass.

Speaking of dashing your way towards danger, once you do get close to your enemy, don't forget to use your permanent melee attack.

The melee attack is one of your first rewards in Returnal and should be part of your arsenal of tricks. Not only does slicing up an enemy look cool, but it's also insanely powerful. Most enemies with at least half their health will die after just one attack. Meanwhile, bosses will still feel the pain of each slice, especially with your adrenaline level pumped so high.

Ignoring melee can also be your undoing against enemies that require you to hit them first with a melee attack before they become vulnerable.

Find Your Weapon

When given a choice between a more powerful weapon and one you're more familiar with, always choose the latter.

You'll find yourself having access to far more weapons that you'll never know what to do with once you start playing Returnal. This is especially true the more you progress, with each new biome dropping progressively more powerful weapons. However, while it's quite tempting to switch to and pick up the most powerful weapon that you can find, countless deaths have taught us that it's better to stick with the weapon that you know best than to pick up a stronger weapon.

Returnal is designed in such a way that the more confident and familiar you are with whatever it is that you have, the more likely you are to succeed.

We recommend spending your first few hours and a dozen deaths in Returnal trying to figure out which weapon suits your preferred weapon best. Although we have seen others find success switching weapons mid-run, we're much more confident recommending that you stick with the kind of gun that you feel most comfortable with.

Not to mention, the gunplay in Returnal is so nuanced and satisfying that, fighting enemies, especially bosses, can feel drastically different depending on which weapon you are wielding per encounter.

Ray Ampoloquio
Ray is based in the Philippines. He is a lifelong gamer and a PC hardware enthusiast. He builds and repairs laptops and computers for friends and family in his spare time. You can find Ray on Twitter.