Returnal: Four mysteries from the new story trailer answered

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Returnal: Four mysteries from the new story trailer answered

Housemarque teases the deeper mysteries waiting at the dark heart of its PS5 sci-fi action thriller.

Today, we are very proud to debut our new story trailer for Returnal with you all and reveal more information about the game’s story 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 feature to Housemarque games and we have a bold story to tell. Our goal with Returnal is to tell a mysterious, layered, and haunting story that – like our explosive action gameplay and roguelike twists – is something you discover, replay, and rethink on every play.

Our narrative direction and storytelling philosophy with Returnal is that the story should not compromise the gameplay. Instead it should rationalise, deepen, and blend with it. We’ve already touched upon the game’s combat systems, so in today’s blog post I’ll shed more light on some of Returnal’s mysteries and the challenges Selene faces from a narrative perspective . . First, make sure to watch our Story trailer below.

Returnal: Four mysteries from the new story trailer answered

1. An unauthorised recon mission gone wrong

Our story follows Selene, a Greek-American ASTRA deep space scout who is a complex and layered character that is driven to a fault, 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 crash lands in an alien forest. Here she discovers the ruins of an alien civilisation filled with statues, gates, xeno-tech, and alien corpses. But she’s not alone. The planet’s surface is teeming with hostile creatures that attack Selene on sight, as well as other threats left by the world’s former inhabitants

Across Atropos everything is hostile, alien or mysterious, leaving Selene to be one of our sole human elements. So it was important for us that our lead was a compelling, complex character that players would root for and want to understand better. I am very happy to share that Selene is voiced in a raw and 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 suit to be in stark contrast to the dark and outlandish world she’s stuck in. Bright and clean design is a canvas to show her journey on, and allows you to track her movement in both dark environments and bullet hell combat.


The ASTRA Scout Suit is an impressive piece of technology but it does not make Selene impervious to damage, nor do the fighting for her. We did not want the player to feel safe in a suit of armour but survive through skill and fast thinking.

2. How the world changes to challenge you

During her first scout, Selene scans xeno-tech, defends herself and finds useful resources, but eventually she succumbs to the elements and dies only to reawaken again in her ship’s cockpit moments before the crash. On leaving the crash site, she discovers the world has changed its layouts, making her journey to the “White Shadow” signal different on every cycle and rebirth. It’s an endless cycle where even death is no escape.

With Selene, players uncover this mystery together and have to fight through the hostile creatures, traps, hazards, and more hostile elements of Atropos. It is a story that you have to piece together with Selene and interpret through our environments, sound design and pure story elements. We show some of these environments in our story trailer and there’s even more unique environments and creatures to explore, understand, and overcome during Returnal.  


Each environment is a special location that has new creatures to encounter, more story to discover and much more. As you can see from the trailer, the Overgrown Ruins is a maze-like oppressive forest, filled with the remnants of the alien civilization that rearranges like a puzzle on every cycle,. In comparison, the Crimson Wastes is an open red desert with new hostile threats and story layers to uncover.

Every location on Atropos shuffles and changes on each death and rebirth, giving Selene and players a new challenge with every replay. Fortunately Selene is very resourceful and can utilise the xeno-tech to find shortcuts, while making permanent progress thanks to certain items that withstand the cycle. Other items also allow her to fight longer and harder with every cycle.


3. Relive other cycles that aren’t your own

During your journey through Atropos you discover the story of the alien civilization through a set of holographic statues, which are called Xeno-archives, and the disturbed writings found on Xenoglyphs, which tell the same story from another point of view. Xeno-archives are purely visual that need to be deciphered, whereas Xenoglyphs are written and need to be translated via language samples collected across Atropos. It is a new way to tell a story and we’re very excited for players to try to uncover the mysteries of this alien civilization.

As shown in our trailer, Selene also discovers her own scout corpses across Atropos. These corpses can feature projections of other players’ deaths (via our online systems), or Scout Audio Logs that are left behind by other versions of Selene, that she cannot remember recording. The projections show other players deaths in Returnal, at the conclusion of which you can decide to scavenge the remains for items or revenge their death, triggering events that are best discovered when you play. Story content from audio logs is handcrafted storytelling, whereas the projections are all created via other players’ deaths and found across all of the environments in Returnal.


4. Uncover a deeper mystery in first-person

Last but not least, as you noticed in our trailer, Selene also discovers a mysterious house that is strangely familiar. Returnal is primarily a third-person action experience, but Selene and players can also choose to go inside this house on Atropos in atmospheric first-person story sequences where she confronts strange and familiar events inside that you need to piece together…

So Returnal is not just a sci-fi action action thriller and roguelike. We also have a bold, dark cinematic story to tell. It is a mystery to decipher and replay, like our gameplay mechanics come every cycle. For me it’s a story about 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 30.

Stay well and stay safe all!

Learn more about Returnal

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  • Really want to try it out, but the 80€ price tag is too much for a new IP. Will likely get it on sale.

    • It’s not that bad. Nintendo is charging full price for Zelda SS. A 10 year old game mind you. I’d rather pay full price for something fresh instead of old, reheated food.

    • It never ceases to amaze me that when you provide honest feedback to a company you alwys have someone trying to white knight and simp for the organization. Happens every time. Well, I agree that the price for this game is way over priced. I will not be spending $69.99 for any games. NEVER gonna happen. I think these new prices are OUTRAGIOUS. Also I have never understood why digital games aren’t cheaper than retail. I’ve yet to hear a compelling argument about that, as well.

    • Agreed. Game might be interesting to try out but it doesn’t look like a AAA title that costs $70(US). That’s not to say it’ll be a bad game, just that it’s overpriced.

    • I’m in the same boat, but this goes for any game priced at £70/€80 (roughly 95USD). The discrepancy between US pricing and UK/EU pricing is disgusting.

      I’ll pick this up when I can get it for a more ‘correct’ price of £50 or below.

    • Returnal is my most anticipated game on PS5. It looks fantastic.

      To those lamenting a full next gen price, I will remind you that Housemarque doesn’t ship bad games. If any developer deserves to be trusted to deliver a quality product it’s them. Super Stardust, Outland, Dead Nation, Alienation, RESOGUN, Nex Machina, and so on. At a time when ppl are happy to pay full price to unproven developers and buggy messes, we owe it to the devs who have built credibility over the decades. Insomniac, Housemarque, Blue Point and such. I will happily spend 69.99 on one of my all-time favorite team’s first AAA and next gen exclusive. No MTX, no cut content, just a firm price from a proven commodity. It’s a steep price unless it’s a true next gen game from a trustworthy team. Same goes for Blue Point and Demon’s Souls. Ppl criticized the price of DeS and it turned out to be the highest rated Souls game of all-time and an authentic next gen experience.

      Demon’s Souls, Returnal, and R&C are all attacked for their $70 tag, but they are also full next gen exclusives via trusted crews. I’ll spend $10 more for 1 second load times, DualSense implementation, and high end experiences from the industry’s best. And so should you. At a time when every white washed Ubisoft game launches with a $100 version just to get the real edition or when games like Avengers make u pay for every character and Cyberpunk sells 25 million copies in six months with a game that doesn’t work ppl are afraid of a $10 spike on industry leading games without the prevalent money gouging tricks of their constituents. I’ll take $10 more up front rather than cut content, unfinished builds, and egregious mtx on last gen experiences.

  • I would need an Easy mode in order to get this game.

  • There is a persistent rumor out there that Returnal is secretly the Silent Hill(s) reboot project everyone keeps talking about. One look at that house, with a first-person perspective no less (hello P.T.!), is enough to make me at least a partial believer lol

    • Wow… that got me thinking that Housemarque gameplay with Kojima storytelling really would be a match made in heaven. Maybe they should hire a Japanese horror writer to assist on the sequel.

    • …what? People think a sci fi shooter that we’ve been seeing footage of for a good year or so now is secretly a rumored silent hill game that hasn’t even been announced because it probably doesn’t even exist? It’s not even a Konami game. What’s wrong with people?

    • That seems right, yeah. After all, PT is the first, and only game to take place in a house in the first person. No other game has done that.

    • Kojima didn’t really have anything to do with the actual SH series…

    • I may be late to comment but the moment I saw the inside of the house it instantly reminded me of PT.Quite interesting these rumors.

  • Day 1 for me. Can’t wait to play it next month team

    • Agreed. Housemarque is the most underappreciated dev in the business. It’s shameful how little ppl support them and their industry leading arcade titles.

      I feel as though HM has earned our trust and I will happily purchase this game, but I do believe that Sony has doomed the project by out pricing it for most commoners. Ppl already don’t support Housemarque with games like Nex Machina scoring a near 90 Metacritic at $20 and now Sony has put a bullseye on this team. The media has taken a stand against the price increase and Returnal is their whipping boy without having even released. I guarantee the game won’t receive the scores it will likely deserve due to this media crusade against a $70 msrp. Destruction All-Stars was killed for a price point that it never even launched with. It’s a shame. Hopefully I’m wrong and Returnal the success that allows Sony sign the talented Fins.

  • That trailer looks amazing! Should they get the shot at a sequel, I think Housemarque should look to Resident Evil for ways to build its world and lore. One thing about Resident Evil is that they found that pairing sadistic human enemies with monsters was a winning formula. We love weird personalities and crazy villains. With what I’ve seen of the first game, it seems perfectly positioned to go in a similar direction, story-wise.

  • No wonder it’s impossible for the normal person to buy a PS5 when a certain, well-known, high street chain has 53 available at £700.
    I am not UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES prepared to pay that sort of money for something which should retail at £449.99 brand new

  • Looks like a third person version of their previous game alienation, no bad thing like the gameplay looking forward to this.

  • There’s a pendulum swinging between average letdown and unexpected amazement. The more I hear about this game, the more I want it to work and whole heartily hope for that next great experience.

    • The best way is just not to get overhyped about it. You can still have lots of fun with games that have middling reveiws. I hope Returnal succceeds, but I’ll be getting it regardless. Hey, at leat it can’t be worse that Cyberpunk.

    • One of my favorite PS2 games got 4/10s from basically everyone in the west (mostly for “being too hard”). It still went on to be one of the biggest selling video game series of all time however.

      Reviews are a bit pointless in general. People like completely different things. (for example I hate those games which are mostly big long boring unskippable cutscenes of people talking about sad crap, but loads of “10/10” “GOTY” games have that because people really love sad long boring unskippable cutscenes by really slow talking “famous” voice actors who are all in love with their own voices. Because thats what a game needs. Not you doing stuff or having fun.).

      What most games really need is a demo…

  • Looks sweet! Still cant get my hands on a PS5 but ill 100% buy this once I get one

  • The more I see and hear of this game, the more I want it. Day 1 for me.

  • This blog post definitely makes me more interested in this game. What Returnal really needs is a 15-20 minute State of Play of UNCUT footage. That way we can really see what we’re going to be doing. Reading is one thing, but seeing would really push this game forward. While talking about it more helps, it’s still hard to justify a full price purchase for this game. You’re asking for $70, but right now it’s bopping around between $40 and $50 (for me anyway). Hopefully we see more in the next month!

  • For those complaining about the price do note that this was inevitable. Prices on items change all the time. Gamers are asking for 4k 60fps or 1080 eventually 1440p 120hz and with amazing textures and partical effects. That’s all crazy expensive. We as consumers have a choice about what we buy and when we buy and people are amazing at doing that but rarely does any one understand why it’s priced the why it is. Be thankful that you can still download or physically own this game. Eventually everything will be subscriptions the way we’re going, especially for those complaining about games being $70. Wait long enough and all games go on sales.
    For now I’ll support this price tag if the games are good, if anything to keep us away from subscriptions, DRMs, Micro transactions ,or everything being F2P as long as possible.

    I am really looking forward to this game though. Thanks for the info.

  • Alienation meet Binding of Isaac meet Dark Souls!

  • Returnal looks incredible. Demon’s Souls, Returnal, R&C all worth the price of admission in my opinion. At least DeS was undeniably spectacular and Housemarque and Insomniac are too trustworthy to deny. PS5 is delivering in real time. The first 12 months of the system’s lifecycle will see exclusives like Miles Morales, Demon’s Souls, Sackboy, Astro’s Playroom, Returnal, R&C, Kena, Horizon, and possibly God of War among others. Sony earning that next gen 👑 by delivering results, not empty promises.

  • If the aliens are xeno does this mean it’s in the same universe of Alienation?…that’s at least interesting.

    • Oh yes this trailer is awesome…been a while since a trailer got me replaying it over and over again.And I guess that death of other playas thing will be kinda like the interactions with other playas on Death Stranding.

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