Returnal is poised to be one of the top PlayStation 5 (PS5) exclusives this year, and now a new story trailer has provided some fresh details about the intriguing game.
From Finnish developer Housemarque, known for previous PlayStation titles Resogun and Nex Machina, the game is a sci-fi action thriller/horror PS5 game that “combines explosive action, roguelike elements, and cinematic storytelling,” says narrative designer Greg Louden on the PlayStation Blog.
So what does that mean?
The PS5 game sees you play as Selene, a Greek-American ASTRA deep space scout, who travels to the planet Atropos following the “White Shadow” broadcast signal. She crash lands and discovers the remnants of an alien civilisation on a planet teeming with hostile life.
During her first scout, Selene dies but later wakes up before the crash to find the world has changed its layout. Each death in the game causes the world to shift in an endless cycle of rebirth. Think Hades but with more aliens and fewer greek gods.
What makes this concept even more intriguing is that Selene will discover her own corpses across Atropos from failed runs. These corpses will contain either Scout Audio Logs from other versions of Selene to deepen the story, or projections of other player deaths online (a bit like Demon’s Souls). Player deaths can then be revenged to trigger further story elements.
The PS5 story trailer also includes a mysterious house that Selene explores in first-person. It’s here that she will piece together the puzzle pieces of the broader narrative.
“Our narrative direction and storytelling philosophy with Returnal is that the story should not compromise the gameplay,” says Louden. “Instead it should rationalise, deepen, and blend with it.
“Returnal is not just a sci-fi action action thriller and roguelike. We also have a bold, dark cinematic story to tell. It is a mystery to decipher and replay, like our gameplay mechanics come every cycle. For me it’s a story about self-discovery, progress and breaking the cycles we put ourselves in.”
Speaking of gameplay, Returnal is a third-person PS5 shooter reminiscent of the developer’s previous arcade-style games. Selene can use a variety of weapon types with additional unlockable traits to make short work of the alien inhabitants.
Returnal, however, will have a much stronger emphasis on storytelling than previous games – the trailer certainly delivers the cinematic storytelling Louden mentions.
Returnal is due out next month on 30 April, exclusive to PS5.