Survival Guide to help you break the cycle in Returnal

Returnal is out today, and is finally the first true next-gen exclusive for the PlayStation 5 after a number of months of waiting. It offers very challenging roguelite gameplay that not everyone may appreciate, but it also rewards players with a superb experience that not many games can match.

Returnal is tough, but not impossible. In fact, the game is fair, and will make the players rely on skill (and some RNG) rather than overfarming for loot. The game offers a short tutorial, but you’ll have to figure out a lot of things on your own. That’s where we come in!

Here are some tips to help you as you make your first steps in a long journey across Atropos.

Patience is rewarded

Depending on your skill level, you may want to take things slow when playing Returnal. Instead of running into a map, take your time to creep your way in and survey the area first. Take small steps, because you’ll never know when enemies will suddenly appear to ambush you. Taking on 1 or 2 enemies is always better than taking on 4, so pick off each enemy one by one instead of alerting all enemies to your presence at the same time.

Risk is also rewarded, but be smart about it

returnal malignant resin

Returnal introduces “Malignant” items, which are variants of regular items but have a possibility of inflicting you with a malfunction, a negative handicap that you must endure until you meet certain objectives like “Kill X Hostiles” or “Open X Containers”.

If your aim is to simply explore the map or collect resources, then you can go ahead and acquire these malignant items and just deal with the malfunctions as you explore further. If your aim is to advance to the next biome and are on a serious boss run, think twice about opening these up, because some malfunctions may be tough to remove, instantly lessening your chances of survival.

If you have enough Ether, which is a valuable resource in the game, you can simply choose to “clean” these malignant items, making them safe to consume without any worries.

Use your Ether

Use it to clean malignant items or to exchange for obolites if you need an extra boost to your resources. Ether caps out at 30, so be sure to use it and not make any excess pick ups go to waste.

Master Overload as soon as you can


One of the most important things you will need to learn in Returnal is called “Overload”, which is basically an active reload system similar to other games. If you mess up, it will take you a longer time to fire your weapon again, and those wasted seconds could mean the difference between life and death. Learn the timings and be conscious about when your weapon will empty out their magazine so that you can prepare for the mechanic once available.

Pick up every health-related item, even at full health

returnal resin

You can never have too many health items, especially in Returnal. They will be colored green, and will be beneficial to you on your journey. There are Resins and Silphium, and the difference lies in what they can do for your HP bar.

Silphium is your HP potion, basically. It will refill your health when you are damaged. Resin, on the other hand, will require you to pick up multiples of the item to increase your overall health total. Anytime you see a green colored item, even at full health, the best course of action is to always pick these up when you can to further increase your total HP, giving you a better chance at survival.

The Astronaut is your best friend

returnal astronaut

Get used to dying, because you’ll be doing that a lot in Returnal. There are times that you’ll be so close to beating a boss that you die at the last minute, which is very frustrating. The Astronaut is an item that will allow you to revive yourself if your HP reaches zero, basically giving you an extra crack at the level or boss that you’re having a hard time on.

The Astronaut isn’t really a common item, nor is it cheap, so if by any chance you do encounter one of these, make sure to pick it up right away, because you’ll never know when you might need that extra life.

Some weapon traits are better than others, choose wisely

returnal weapon traits

Weapons you pick up in Returnal have “Traits” – basically additional abilities that can improve your firepower. Traits are random and come in many shapes and sizes, with some being better than others. For example, the “Hollowseeker” weapon is packs a ton of ammunition before you need to reload, and fires bullets like there’s no tomorrow, but has really low damage. A good trait to pair it with is called “Waves”, which makes the weapon fire an additional energy wave that damages enemies. If you’re lucky, you can pair it with an additional damage trait like “Serrated Edge”, which gives your bullets a damage over time effect. On higher levels, your weapon can have 4 traits, and if you get something like “Portal Beam” to the mix, then your DPS will simply shoot through the roof.

Each weapon has unique traits, so don’t be afraid to experiment and find out a combination that best suits your playstyle.

Learn to keep Adrenaline Level 5 at all times


This may be one of the tougher things to do in Returnal, especially with all of those bullets flying around. Every 3 enemies you kill will raise your adrenaline level by 1, giving you a much needed boost. At level 1, Overloading will be much easier, at level 3 your Melee attacks will deal more damage, and at the highest level (level 5) you can earn 50% more obolites (your money, basically) per enemy killed. Keeping your adrenaline level maxed at all times ensures you have enough money to buy the items or upgrades you need to take you further into the game.

There are artifacts that will grant an ability to lessen the kill requirement to 2 instead of 3, making you reach max adrenaline faster. There’s also a consumable item that immediately takes you to level 5.

If you’re lucky, you can pair adrenaline level 5 with an artifact that gives you a life steal percentage depending on your adrenaline level for maximum staying power.

Getting the level 5 perk of obolites +50% is also the only way you’re going to get to afford multiple upgrades later on in your run.

Manage your Parasites and Malfunctions well


Returnal has these things called “Parasites”, which gives you a buff at the expense of a negative effect, so you’ll have to play it smart. Depending on how you play the game, you may want to take advantage of these buffs while seeing to it that the negative effects that you are taking are not too much of an issue. For example, in the screenshot above, you’ll be getting HP regen when your HP is low, but the negative is that the chances of you getting a malfunction through malignant items will be higher. In this case, just don’t open any malignant items and you’ll basically have auto-regen for your whole run.

Juggling these buffs and debuffs will get a little harder as you progress in the game, especially since these are randomized. It will be up to you to figure out what you can live with and if the buff you’re taking is good enough to offset the debuff. Returnal is a game about managing risk vs reward, and you’re going to have to learn to do that here.

You don’t need to kill everything

This is pretty self-explanatory. In most rooms, you can simply just run past the enemies and proceed to your destination. This is especially important if you’re close to fighting the boss and you don’t want to accidentally waste any resources.

Some rooms in Returnal will have a lockdown in effect, which means that you’ll have to kill every enemy in the room before you can proceed. These lockdown rooms don’t appear too often, so take advantage of the situations where you can just run to reach the next room.
Of course, it goes without saying that by not killing the enemies, you won’t get the loot that comes with it, but sometimes you don’t really need the loot anymore especially when you’re near the boss. Play smart, and you’re sure to survive in Returnal.

Fight at your own terms

In Returnal, you can sometimes cheese the enemies to fighting the way you want them to. Fighting mobs all at the same time may look cool, but that’s a surefire way of taking a return trip to Helios in record time. In a room with a lot of enemies, you can lure them back to the entrance from where you came from and close the door. This way, you can wait until you reload or ready your alt-fire, then open the door and fire away again. Once you’re out of bullets, go back, close the door, and repeat. Some enemies can teleport to where you are, so be ready to face them, but most monsters will just stand near the door waiting for you to come close.

Also use the environment to your advantage, hiding behind pillars and trees to avoid the projectiles. When they are “reloading”, peek out and fire away.

There you have it, some tips to help you stay alive in the cruel world of Atropos. It’ll be tough, but you’ll soon be able to uncover the mystery or Returnal if you stick to our advice!

Returnal is now available for the PlayStation 5.

Leave a comment

Tooltip Text