Returnal (PC Version) Review: An Absolute Mind-Wreck Game You Need To Play

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Returnal (PC Version) Review
Returnal (PC Version) Review

Who doesn’t love a well-built game with some great plotlines and equally astounding graphics? As a PC owner who eagerly awaits any PS4/PS5/Xbox release on PC, this was exciting news. The fan favorite and BAFTA Best Game Award winner, Returnal, had already captivated a lot of PS5 players upon its release back in April 2021, but now, it is accessible to all the keyboard users out there to enjoy the surreal time loop as the main character, Selene.

Now, if you are unaware of what the game holds, let’s say it is nothing less than going through a few levels of purgatory itself. It is not a casual game; that is one thing to remember. It is absolutely not for players who do not enjoy roguelike third-person shooting games or players expecting heavy rewards throughout the plotline.

However, this leaves more room for you to experience an adrenaline rush with the fast-paced scenario and repeat the cycle until you have proven yourself worthy enough to beat the game itself. The game was originally designed and developed by Housemarque, which is a Finnish video game developing company.

Sony Entertainment published Returnal on the PlayStation platform, and the key concept artists include programmers Ari Arnbjörnsson and Markku Velinen, artists Ville Kinnunen and Suvi Jarvinen, writers Gregory Louden and Luke Maulding, and composer Bobby Krlic.

I am not a fan of roguelike games, but I do quite enjoy some interesting plotlines, including in Bloodborne, Resident Evil, Genshin Impact, and Detroit: Become Human, to name a few. So, this game naturally caught my attention for its vivid graphics, insane gameplay, and alien boss fights.

A Short Synopsis of Returnal

Summarizing the game, it begins with you taking up the role of an astronaut named Selene Vassos, who happens to crash onto a planet named Atropos to search for a mysterious signal called “White Shadow.” Upon abandoning your spaceship, Helios, begin your journey to explore the seemingly desolated ruins of a planet with unknown fauna erupting from every corner and rooms to unlock whenever you pass through a closed gate.

With each exploration, you will see yourself combating flying blobs that resemble squids, wolf-like creatures, and monsters with splitting tentacles ready to attack you at any given instance. Through the entire walk of the game, you will be greeted with some new information on Selene, the extinct alien life on the planet, and a floating globe that the main character refers to as an “iORB” that resists any kind of attack delivered to it.

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As the game progresses, you will learn that every time, the main character, die, there is a reset in the time loop, and somehow the planet redesigns itself. So, if you die, you have to play the game all over again. Yes, that means right from the start, which sounds frustrating enough, right? Well, unless you are someone who does not want to give up and dedicate your 15 hours to the game for the final clause.

Then you will be absolutely thrilled. (It reminded me of Dormamu and the bargain.) Upon further exploration, you will find 20th-century architecture. Precisely, a house, and there you will find the keys to it and memories flooding your brain—glimpses that you are unaware of and unable to piece together. So, what exactly does this mean?

Returnal PC Gameplay
A Still From Returnal (Credit: Playstation)

You will notice that with each death and each repetition, there is a physical manifestation of your movements and the spots where you will find your character’s dead body, which will inch you closer to the truth. One thing to keep in mind about this masterpiece of a game is that the planet will continue to age, but you will be trapped in a time loop. 

With every reset, you get to retain the skills you learned, but the exploration part is something you still need to figure out each time your character meets their end; be it by a hostile attack from the speculated creatures or if you fall to your demise in the endless abyss. There are six biomes to clear, which present you with various bosses, upgrades, health packages, and challenges.

With each step forward, you will be in a better position to face the planet and its never-ending haunt. And that will make your chances of surviving a bit better, but you should note that every failure is a result of your own actions. If you die, it is on you; if you live and survive, it is on you again. How you are supposed to make it a little less exhausting is to dive into the loop and make the most of it.

Returnal: PC Specifications and Performance

When it comes to the PC requirements for this game, it is a demanding game, to say the least. Of course, you wouldn’t want to play this game that requires extensive visuals and details to be viewed in pixels or experience abrupt lags while you shoot an enemy down.

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You would need a minimum of 60GB of SSD storage, a 16GB RAM requirement, and a 64-bit OS, and if you play on low settings (which, absolutely, will be a failed experience for any PC user), then a GTX 1080 or Radeon RX 580 with a processor of Ryzen 5 1500X or i5-6400 will do the job.

Well, my gaming laptop is not a knight in shining armor with such beastly performance, a GPU, or a processor. But, with my AMD Ryzen 5 and 8 GB of RAM, it gives quite an experience at 720p/60 FPS settings. So, it is inexplicable how the developers have made this game suit all kinds of PCs and gaming laptops. Worth the four years of pushing past the limits.

Users with older graphics cards will have issues operating the game in 4K, which I would say is the best experience for any PC player, but 1080p resolution will give you the same experience, only with a little less to expect. But, if you are a player with the latest processors and GPUs, like RTX 30 and above, then worry not! It’s the ideal situation for you to enjoy a visual feast with no lags or frame rate drops. 

When your screen is flooded with enemies and their colorful attacks, you can expect a slight frame drop. If you have a well-built PC, then the game will recommend that you play it at “Epic” settings, which will provide you with a resolution of 3440 x 1440.

A great feature of the game that I noticed is that it provides you with numerous options to customize your in-game experience. For improved frame rate quality, this includes Nvidia’s DLSS, NIS, and AMD’s FSR. Beyond this, you can adjust every aspect of the lighting, the environment, and the post-processing settings.

You also have the option of having the FPS, CPU, GPU, temperatures, and RAM consumption all displayed live on the screen as you continue playing the game. I have to admit. The developers did a splendid job at perfecting every aspect of this survival battle, including the key bindings and quick aiming using your keyboard.

If you are someone who switched from PS5 to PC, then it might take you some time to adjust to the different triggers and movements. Again, you do have the option to jack in your controller and take over the game with the haptic playstyle.

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If you’re playing with your DualSense, you’ll notice that pressing L2 halfway will activate quick-aiming, and pressing it all the way down will activate alternative fight mode, which will help you deal with close-range battles. This is quite thoughtful of a gaming company that focuses on only PlayStation games.

Returnal also doesn’t fail in giving that cinematic experience to viewers with different aspect ratios, such as 21:9 and 32:9 monitors, which can be easily accessed in the settings menu to accustom the players according to their liking.

Returnal: PC Version Review

Alien Battle : Returnal PC Version
Still from Returnal Combat. (Credit: Playstation)

Overall, I would say the performance of this game on PC is nothing less than a grand venture, with the developers doing the perfect job of delivering nothing but the best to their PC clients as well. You, as a player, would be thrilled to experience three different endings to the game and understand why this roguelike is known to be one of the hardest games out there.

It is absolutely not for the faint of heart, someone who is easily triggered, or someone who expects too many rewards. The game itself is a constant battle; you die, you resurrect, and you go through the pits of an unknown civilization all over again. As it is a fast-paced game, you can expect to complete the entire walkthrough within the span of 15 hours alone.

So, if you are a casual player, this game is definitely not for you. Perhaps you can even throw out the concept of levels of difficulty since it starts off on the hardest setting. That only explains that it is going to be a little tricky for newbies to understand the mechanism and how to not be stuck in the loop for hours to come.

Final Verdict

For $60, it is an absolute mind-wreck of a game that will leave you satisfied with the game mechanics, game lore, and wondrous graphics. I would definitely say that the PC version is something that should be on your computer, for it is worth the money and time you put into it. The only thing I would suggest is that you make sure you are someone who wants to invest in this game, as it is challenging to play.

Our Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐(4/5)

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By Pratyusha Rana

Pratyusha is an undergraduate in Biotechnology with a year of experience in Content Writing. She lives in Mumbai, Maharashtra, and loves to binge-watch shows, play video games, and crochet in her free time. Her writing niche focuses on anime, movies, TV series, and gaming for Otakukart. Reach out to her her email:

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