Beginner’s Guide to Return – Polygon


If you want to uncover the spooky mystery of space in the heart of Return, prepare to die. A lot. While it may seem ruthless at first, your many deaths become the experience that takes you deeper into its history and deeper into Atropos. We will do our best to make it happen dying easier learning process.

of the polygon Return The Beginner’s Guide is packed with our top tips, designed to help you survive and thrive. We will help you understand the cycle of this roguelike shooter while going through the randomly generated maps of the game. We will also explain how to use some Returnscarce resources and select the right weapons to survive.


Learn the cycle

Return is a roguelike, bullet-hell action game. This means you’ll jump and dodge your way through dozens of projectiles, hoping to get deeper into the game’s randomly generated levels.

Every time you die you lose (almost) everything you won and start from square one. You start the cycle again, going through the same general area over and over again as you make your way through. However, the layout of the map, the enemies that populate each area, and the items you encounter change. Ideally, you do a little better each time.

This is Return‘s cycle.

The cycle is the main gameplay loop
Image: Housemarque / Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon

At first it can seem intimidating and even tedious. As you become more familiar with the game and meet the boss of the area, Phrike, you will certainly gain a better understanding of how Return works. Eventually, you’ll browse this area looking for shortcuts that will give you faster access to other biomes.

Expect death, but don’t be discouraged

Every new area and every new boss follows the same flow: a pile of deaths, which ultimately leads to familiarity and mastery. In some descents, you will go further than ever. Other times – maybe even the very next time – your runs will end faster than you think.

This is life (and death) in Return.

Going further requires finesse on your part, but also a lot of luck. Sometimes the right items and weapons line up to give you a stellar run. Sometimes you die within the first few minutes. Do not be discouraged.

Understanding the map, starting with the doors

Since each series of Return is randomly generated, there is no way to offer a traditional walkthrough with detailed maps and directions. But if you want to survive, learn to read your map, even if it changes every time.

When you start a new race, Return creates a procedurally generated map, from dozens of different room layouts, items, equipment, and possible enemies. No two races will be the same. Even if you encounter the same pieces during a race, the items and enemies inside will be different. However, if you know what to look out for in each race, you’ll be able to navigate the rooms with more determination and ease.

The first thing to understand is the types of doors that connect each room. Knowing the difference will help you navigate each biome.

Types of doors in Returnal

This image shows several types of doors
Image: Housemarque / Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon

All doors are well lit before entering. Once you go through a door they turn gray. Here are the different types of doors you will come across:

  • Light blue rectangular doors leads to your main path through a biome. Next the orange goal marker, these doors will lead you to a boss room. After defeating a boss, following the objective marker will take you through doors that lead to a portal to the next biome.
  • Dark blue triangular doors lead to side paths or optional rooms. These areas usually contain items, equipment, or small puzzles that have good rewards. Sometimes these doors are locked and require a key. You can find useful terminals like the Reconstructor behind doors like these.
  • Doors with a broken circle above them are portals. These take you to other biomes. You will get the Crimson Key after defeating the game’s first boss, Phrike. This will help you open the crimson door that leads to the second biome. After defeating the second boss, Ixion, you will find a portal to the third biome in the first area of ​​the game. And you can reach it with the grappling hook.
  • Yellow doors with a star above them are optional challenge rooms called Containment doors. Entering these areas will lock you in and you will have to face multiple waves of enemies. Survive and you’ll receive an Obolite Charge, which you can use to craft or trade in an Obolite Depot. The final boss of the Last Wave also drops a weapon.

Parasites are the most reliable risk / reward system

There are several risk / reward systems in Return, and not all of them are worth it. Use the parasite system, which unlike most risks and rewards in the game, lets you see the trade-off you’re making before using them.

Parasites are creatures that give you a buff and a penalty. For example, one of them can start healing you when your health is low, but your melee attacks can also deal half the damage.

A parasite information screen in Returnal

This screen shows how a parasite is helping and harming me
Image: Housemarque / Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon

If you’re lucky, you might end up finding several that can lead to a good race with manageable penalties. You may also occasionally find stations that eliminate pests, which is useful if you find that your pests are doing more harm than they are helping. Be aware that if you use a station like the Reconstructor, which can bring you back to life, you will respawn without your parasites.

Spend the ether intelligently

Every time you die in Return, you restart your journey and lose everything you accumulated in the race before – except for a resource called ether, one of the few things that persists between executions.

Ether is a scarce resource with many uses, which means you should consider how best to spend Ether. Your options include:

  • The Cthonos, which allows you to unlock new artifacts and items.

  • A Reconstructor, which allows you to create a spawn point (which is especially useful when you’re having a good run).
  • An obolite repository, where you can earn more obolite and purchase items that extend your run.
  • You can also choose to spend Ether on cleaning smart items, but in our experience the tradeoff is not worth the cost.

Find the best weapon for you

While you play Return, you will have access to new weapons. While you always have a modest handgun at the start of each race, you will discover new weapons like a shotgun, rocket launcher, and more.

A key aspect of the power of your weapons is skill level. You can improve this stat in two ways: by using your weapons more and by finding calibrators. The higher your skill level, the more powerful weapons you will find. To survive Return, you need to balance familiarity with weapons and mastery of the weapon.

Regardless of how well you perform, your weapons benefit from a huge skill boost at the start of each biome. This means that the weapons you find in new biomes will automatically be more powerful than the ones you enter the biome with. Knowing this, you might be encouraged to choose the next strongest weapon you find to face the dangers of a new biome. Our experience has shown us that personal familiarity with weapons often trumps a more powerful weapon.

A gun information screen in Returnal

This gun as Lv. 5 skill
Image: Housemarque / Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon

For example, we had some of the best runs with an assault rifle that we had quite early in the run. We stumbled upon more powerful weapons, but we also learned that the weapon that helps us fight more confidently is the better choice, even if a weapon is definitely more powerful.

In your first hours of Return, find out which guns you prefer. From there, focus on using these weapons during your runs. We’ve learned that different guns force us to play differently, which can make difficult encounters like boss fights drastically different depending on the weapon we use.

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