You'll love it if:
- You like rogue-likes.
- You want a fast paced action game with high stakes.
- High difficulty and overcoming challenges is your thing.
Not for you if:
- You want an easy going experience.
- Want an easy to understand story.
Returnal has been on my radar ever since I saw it release back in 2021. Finally, I bring you the Returnal PC review. I do currently own a PS5 but it has been almost two years since the release of Returnal and I honestly forgot about it. Sony has such an excellent line-up for Playstation with it’s exclusives. I prioritized Ghosts of Tsushima, God of War and Bloodbourne as my first purchases. Yes they are still in my backlog pile and highly on top of my must play list. But right now I’m happy to dive into the marvellous Returnal for this Returnal PC review.
This Returnal PC review will touch on what Returnal is but mostly how good the PC port is. The TL;DR of this TL;DR basically is Returnal = Good, but at a console price point. There has gone a ton of work in making Returnal a good PC port. From extended option settings to an internal benchmark and optimization for the PC platform that has a broader hardware spectrum. If you want a sci-fi rogue like that is hard but rewarding with multiplayer options and astonishing visuals then Returnal is a must buy for you. Find out why below.
Returnal PC review – Returnal raises the bar for PC ports
We have been blessed with the opportunity to review some of Sony’s earlier ports like God of War and Spiderman: Miles Morales. And Returnal really does not disappoint when it comes to performance, adaptation to the PC platform and pushing the limits of your machine.
What is Returnal?
For those of you that missed the release in 2021 I’ll explain what Returnal is about and what it aims to be as a game. For starters I have an unhealthy relationship with rogue-likes and ultra-hard games. I’m not good at them, I lack patience and I’m too stubborn to quit. Some examples of my stubbornness are as follows: Elden Ring and Curse of the Dead Gods. Are you a donkey like me and want to be punished by a tentacle daddy on an alien planet? Just buy the game and stop reading this review.
The story or should I say puzzle of Returnal
No worries, spoiler free as always for those of you that are curious to explore Atropos and its mysteries at their own pace. Returnal starts off with a short cutscene where we meet our protagonist, Selene. She’s flying her ship in pursuit of a signal called white shadow, why? She’s drawn to it and goes against orders of the ASTRA corporation to find out. The ship crashes and she crawls out in an alien-like forest, alive but stranded.
You set out to explore the forest and along the way find a human-like corpse. Coincidentally that corpse was carrying a side-arm, or should I say… your side-arm. The name on the helmet even matches yours. Slightly shook Selene continues on. Eventually some big nasty beast with tentacles was hungry and the only source of protein is you. You die, after all the pistol was kinda small.
After dying the same cutscene you saw when starting the game plays anew, but only fragments flash by at a sped up rate. Baam! You are back on the floor of the forest alive and well, considering the circumstances. Each Returnal sequence you discover more sound logs and xenoglyphic cyphers that can decipher tablets that hold the story of Atropos. Each run lifts the veil a little bit more. Returnal is a game of mystery, even after the concluding credits I still ponder over what exactly has happened.
Sci-fi, Cthululian, fast paced, horror, bullet hell roguelike
At the core Returnal is a roguelike and a hard one at that. It doesn’t get much easier with each rerun because the permanent upgrades are hard to come by. They also don’t make you overpowered you so the early loops are always hard until you get a loadout going. Returnal has a fast pace that is excellently aided by the third person camera.
The enemies are agile, shoot patterns of energy projectiles and viciously swarm you at every turn. Dash, sprint and jump yourself out of harm’s way while blasting at alien creatures every change you get. The difficulty and intense fights where enough to make hours fly by as I was working on this Returnal PC review.
To increase the difficulty each death shifts the map around. You never play the same sequence of rooms or areas in the same order. The final boss battle for a biome could be right after you start or twelve areas down the run. This doesn’t mean that you have to fight the boss then and there as there is a second door that allows you to explore and build first. Furthermore each biome has a different set of enemies with different attack patterns and weaknesses. You have to stay flexible and aware. Adapt or die. I took a lot of punishment for this review and I’m glad I did.
Rogue-likes usually are torment made for one. Returnal has the option, through a time shifting portal sphere thing, to have a different form of yourself join “you”. Or you could join another “you” and struggle to conquer the planet of Atropos together. For a gameplay mechanic that is optional, I do recommend it if you get stuck in a new biome or boss. Having an extra person means that death is just a form of Down-But-Not-Out as your partner can revive you. That way you can at least get a couple of shots in before dying again. The revive starts you off with very little HP. Queuing times do take a while even after release, when I tested and wrote my Returnal review.
Returnal PC review – How does Returnal run on PC?
For my Returnal PC review I tested Returnal on and RTX3080 with an i5 10600K and 32GB of Ram. I ran Returnal at 1440p resolution without ray tracing and everything maxed out. It ran beautifully between 80 and 110 fps except for some areas with a lot of laser activity. Then it took a dive to 50fps but after leaving that area all was fine again. I briefly tried raytracing but the impact on performance is just not worth it. Returnal is about fast paced action and decision making where every frame counts. In order to set up Returnal to your liking you can use the internal benchmark tool to get Returnal running as smooth as butter for your personal setup.
Returnal PC review – Steamdeck
While unverified at the time of writing this Returnal PC review. I did try my chances to get Returnal running on the Steamdeck. And, I actually played a run. Downside is that Returnal is a really heavy game to run and the settings are saved in the cloud. So the first time I played all my maxed out pc settings carried over. After a good thirty minutes of tweaking and doing a benchmark to see if I hit a decent spot it felt OK enough.
Still, having my Steamdeck locked at 40fps and the smaller resolution of the screen come with some issues. As I mentioned earlier Returnal is a fast paced game where frames matter and mean the difference between life or death. The smaller screen and resolution made the mini-map very hard to read at times. Especially when there are a lot of icons on it. Does the Steamdeck count as a PC review? Well to me it did for this Returnal PC review, because it was able to carry such an intense game.
PS5 dual sense in the Returnal PC review
A very nice added feature to this Returnal PC port is that Returnal features full PS5 Dual Sense controller support. This means full adaptive triggers and vibrations, I didn’t pay attention to the speaker because I play all my reviews with a headset for full focus. But after I tried out this feature. I played the rest of the time for this Returnal PC review because it felt more natural. While playing with mouse and keyboard my snaps and shots to vulnerable spots were more on point. But dashing, jumping and melee just felt so much better with the controller. Oh, and the adaptive triggers are just amazing, fully pulling the left trigger activates your alt-fire and you can feel that feedback and threshold so clearly.
Returnal PC review conclusion
Returnal is an amazing game and very good rogue-like. It was when it released and it still is now, the visuals, sound and gameplay held up supremely over the years and are still relevant. The story is so mysterious and intriguing that it really pushes you to die and try until you get that next clue or biome. On top of this Returnal runs like it was built for PC. Yes the price is steep for a PC game but with all the effort that has gone into Returnal… To me it’s worth it. So if you like rogue-likes, sci-fi, difficult gameplay and a mysterious story.
Buy Returnal for PC here.
Thank you Playstation Greece for the chance to write this Returnal PC review.