Today we are very proud to launch our new trailer for Returnal with you all and reveal more information on the history of the game ahead of next month’s release. This PS5 exclusive combines explosive action, roguelike elements and cinematic storytelling to create a dark, sci-fi action thriller.
Storytelling is a big new thing in Housemarque games and we have a bold story to tell. Our goal with Returnal is to tell a mysterious, layered, haunting story that – like our explosive action gameplay and roguelike twists – is something you discover, replay, and rethink with every game.
Our storytelling direction and storytelling philosophy with Returnal is that the story should not compromise gameplay. Instead, it should streamline, deepen, and blend in with it. We’ve covered the game’s combat systems before, so in today’s blog post I’m going to shed more light on some of Returnal’s mysteries and the challenges that Selene faces from a narrative perspective. . First up, be sure to watch our story trailer below.
1. An unauthorized reconnaissance mission has gone wrong
Our story follows Selene, a Greek-American ASTRA Deep Space Scout who is a complex and layered character who is mistakenly driven, intelligent, and resourceful. For the first time in her career, she goes against orders to travel to the alien planet Atropos to follow the “White Shadow” broadcast signal. Upon arrival, she crashes into an alien forest. Here, she discovers the ruins of an alien civilization filled with statues, doors, xeno-tech, and alien corpses. But she is not alone. The planet’s surface is teeming with hostile creatures that attack Selene on sight, as well as other threats left behind by the ancient inhabitants of the world.
All across Atropos is hostile, alien, or mysterious, leaving Selene to be one of our only human elements. So it was important to us that our lead role was a complex and compelling character that players would like to understand better. I’m very happy to share that Selene is voiced in a raw, grounded performance by Jane Perry (recently Diana Burnwood in the Hitman Trilogy), while her visual appearance and facial capture is performed by Anne Beyer.
We wanted Selene’s costume to be in stark contrast to the dark, weird world she’s stuck in. A crisp, clear design is a canvas to show off his journey and allows you to follow his movements in dark environments and ball fights.
The ASTRA Scout suit is awesome tech, but it doesn’t make Selene impervious to damage, nor does fighting for her. We didn’t want the player to feel safe in armor, but to survive thanks to their skills and quick thinking.
2. How the world is changing to challenge you
During her first scout, Selene scans for xeno-tech, defends herself, and finds useful resources, but she eventually succumbs to the elements and only dies to wake up again in her ship’s cockpit moments before the crash. Upon leaving the crash site, she discovers that the world has changed its disposition, making her journey to the “White Shadow” signal different with each cycle and rebirth. It is an endless cycle where even death is no way out.
With Selene, players uncover this mystery together and must fight through the hostile creatures, traps, dangers, and more hostile elements of Atropos. It’s a story you have to piece together with Selene and interpret through our environments, sound design, and pure story elements. We show off some of these environments in our trailer, and there are even more unique environments and creatures to explore, understand, and overcome during Returnal.
Each environment is a special place that has new creatures to meet, more history to discover, and much more. As you can see in the trailer, the Overgrown Ruins are an oppressive, labyrinth-like forest filled with the remnants of alien civilization that rearranges like a puzzle with each cycle. By comparison, Crimson Wastes is an open red desert with new hostile threats and layers of history to uncover.
Every location on Atropos shuffles and changes with each death and rebirth, giving Selene and players a new challenge with each replay. Luckily, Selene is very resourceful and can use xeno-tech to find shortcuts, while still making permanent progress thanks to certain elements that resist the cycle. Other items also allow him to fight longer and harder with each cycle.
3. Relive other cycles that are not yours
As you travel through Atropos, you learn about the history of extraterrestrial civilization through a collection of holographic statues, called Xeno-archives, and the disturbed writings found on the Xenoglyphs, which tell the same story from another point. of view. Xeno-Archives are purely visual which must be deciphered, while Xenoglyphs are written and must be translated via language samples collected in Atropos. It’s a new way of telling a story and we’re very happy that players are trying to uncover the mysteries of this alien civilization.
As our trailer shows, Selene also discovers her own scout corpses across Atropos. These corpses may feature projections of other players’ deaths (via our online systems), or scout audio logs left behind by other versions of Selene, which she does not remember recording. Projections show the deaths of other players in Returnal, at the end of which you can decide to collect leftovers for items or avenge their deaths, triggering events that are best discovered as you play. The story content from the audio logs is hand-crafted narration, while the projections are all created by the deaths of other players and found in all of Returnal’s environments.
4. Uncover a Deeper Mystery in the First Person
Finally, as you noticed in our trailer, Selene also discovers a mysterious, eerily familiar house. Returnal is first and foremost a third-person action experience, but Selene and players can also choose to enter this home on Atropos in atmospheric first-person story sequences where she faces off against odd and familiar events at the interior you need to rebuild …
So Returnal isn’t just a sci-fi action thriller and roguelike. We also have a bold and dark cinematic story to tell. It’s a mystery to be deciphered and replayed, as our game mechanics come with each cycle. For me, it’s a story of self-discovery, progress and breaking the cycles we put ourselves in.
Thanks for reading and we can’t wait for you all to play Returnal on April 30th.
Stay well and stay safe everyone!
Learn more about Returnal