Returnal is a brutal game. If you’ve spent any time in Housemarque’s latest roguelike, you’ve probably experienced this firsthand. Getting through a single run of Returnal, let alone the entire game, can be a challenge that even experienced Dark Souls players will struggle with. But there are some techniques that can make your early hours in the game far more tolerable and even — dare we say it — enjoyable. To help you get started in this alien world, keep the following Returnal beginner’s tips and tricks in mind.
Returnal Beginner’s Guide
1. Embrace Death
The first step to not dying in Returnal is acknowledging that you’re going to die.
At its core, Returnal is a roguelike. It’s designed for the player to die multiple times before achieving their goal. You may find yourself dying multiple times in rapid succession, or only dying sporadically. Don’t let yourself be discouraged either way. There’s a fair amount of luck that goes into each run, and eventually the right combination of items will come your way.
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2. Ether Is Hard To Come By — Spend It Wisely
You lose nearly everything each time you die in Returnal. The only consistent pickup that carries over between runs is the elusive Ether resource. There are a few ways to spend your Ether, but some are definitely better than others.
- Cthonos: At the beginning of a run, you’ll come across an obelisk called the Cthonos. Depositing some Ether into it will pop out either an artifact, which gives you a buff for the entire run, or a consumable — an item that can be used once during combat. Dumping your ether into the Cthonos during your early runs can make your later runs far better, as unlocking an artifact through it also makes it appear in the map as a normal pickup.
- Reconstructor: The reconstructor allows you to create a single-use respawn point. This can be especially useful if you’re having a stellar run but want an extra level of insurance. It may not be worth putting your precious Ether into the reconstructor during your early runs though. Instead, wait until you’ve unlocked a fair deal of the game’s artifacts first.
- Obolite Repository: Obolite is the main currency in Returnal. It doesn’t carry over between runs, so be sure to use it while you have it. The repository allows you to fabricate new equipment for a set amount of Obolite. But if you’ve found yourself running low on the resource, the repository also allows you to exchange Ether for Obolite. Consequently, if you’re low on Ether you can farm up Obolite on a few runs and exchange it for ether at the repository.
- Malignant Objects: You may come across chests or other objects in runs that have shrouds of malignancy around them. If you open the chest without cleansing it first, your character will be liable to a negative status effect for the remainder of that run. The cost of cleansing these chests? A bunch of Ether. Considering these chests don’t always have the best items in them — and that you can fabricate new gear at repositories without putting down any Ether — it’s not typically worth the Ether to cleanse these objects.
3. Learn The Map And How It Generates
Each run in Returnal is procedurally generated, meaning the map is going to look different after a death. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some key similarities between them. A variety of doors will be present in every run, each leading to specific areas. It’s important to memorize which doors lead where so that you’re not constantly backtracking.
- Blue Rectangle Doors: These doors typically lead to your main objective in each biome, which is usually the boss room. For your first Returnal run, the blue rectangle door will have an orange marker over it and lead to the Phrike boss. Once you take down the Phrike, the orange marker will switch to a different door.
- Greyed-Out Doors With Circles Above Them: These doors lead to new biomes, and can only be unlocked once you’ve defeated an area’s boss.
- Yellow Doors With Stars: These are optional challenge rooms that lock the player inside. You’ll need to defeat a number of waves of enemies before being allowed back out, but there are handsome rewards in the form of Obolite and weapons.
- Blue Triangle Doors: These rooms are also optional but present far less of a challenge. They typically have loot or small puzzles behind them and are worth checking out consistently. They also sometimes house reconstructors inside them.
4. Don’t give up
Look: Returnal is hard in a very unfair way. But with the right combination of items, it can be an experience like no other. Find a type of weapon that works for you, play it safe, and you’ll eventually come out on top. Just don’t let your hundreds of deaths get in between you and getting off Atropos.
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Nicolas Perez is a journalist who has played way too much Civilization 5. He’s rambling on Twitter @Nic_Perez_.