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Tips and Tricks – Returnal Wiki Guide

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Welcome to the Tips and Tricks page of the official IGN Wiki Guide and Walkthrough for Returnal on PlayStation 5. Returnal is a rogue-lite-like game set on the mysterious and always-changing planet of Atropos. It’s a difficult game where each run is never the same as the one before it and whether you’re a rogue-lite veteran or someone new to the genre, there’s a learning curve on Atropos.

54 Tips and Tricks to Help You Survive Atropos in Returnal

We’ve compiled some Tips and Tricks to make that tackling that curve just a tad easier. Please click or tap the links below to jump to different sections of our Returnal Tips and Tricks:

Stuck on a specific a biome? Be sure to check out our Returnal Walkthrough Guide and if you find yourself struggling to defeat a boss, IGN’s complete Bosses Guide has you covered.

General Tips and Tricks

  • Die! Seriously, die and don’t feel bad about doing it. Much of the game’s story is told in the flashbacks and quick cutscenes that play in between dying and your next run.
  • Practice dashing in your first few runs: Dashing is so, so, so important in Returnal. It’s a move that can make or break a run because messing up one dash in the middle of some serious otherwise-high-damage attacks can end with you dead. You’ll want to become a dashing pro as quickly as possible.
  • Dashing has a brief cooldown: in the heat of battle, it’s easy to get caught up mashing the dash button over and over but there’s a brief cooldown in between dashes and it’s important to learn the timing.
  • There is a brief window of invincibility when dashing — an extremely important tactic to surviving Atropos is taking advantage of the invincibility granted when dashing. While dashing, you can’t take damage so dash through enemy melee attacks, ranged attacks, and more.

  • Stop and feel the rain when you begin the game. Seriously. The DualSense’s haptic feedback really shines in Returnal in a lot of ways and the first time you’ll likely feel that is the game’s rain, which is heavily present in Returnal’s first biome, the Overgrown Ruins.
  • Take some time to get used to the speed of Returnal when you first begin: Returnal is an extremely fast-paced game. Selene’s standard movement speed is as fast as some games’ running speed and her running speed (press L3 to run) is even faster. Aiming while running around — not to mention dashing — can be quite jarring at first so take some time to get used to how this works.
  • Most items are not permanent — if something’s description sounds non-permanent (increases integrity by X percent) or if its item type sounds non-permanent (think “Consumables”), there’s a good chance it’s not permanent. When you die, you’ll no longer have it so don’t fret over using it.

  • On that same note, some items are permanent. If an item’s description sounds permanent, it probably is. To make sure, head to IGN’s Which Items in Returnal Are Permanent? to confirm your suspicions.
  • Going through house sequences in the game unlock special memento-like items. What the game doesn’t tell you is that these items are actually super helpful. For example, completing the first house sequence unlocks the Astronaut Figurine and if you die with this in your inventory, you’ll immediately be brought to life in the exact area you died. Other items increase weapon damage when integrity is low or full. Search for Artifact to learn more.
  • The memento-like items described above that are found after completing the house sequences in Returnal are one-time use only.

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  • There is no saving in Returnal: if you’re in the middle of a great run, but have to leave or do something else, you can’t save your progress. However, you can put your PlayStation 5 into Rest Mode so that the next time you boot the console up, it’ll bring you right back to where you left off.
  • Integrity and Health are two different things: Resin restores health, as indicated by your green health bar going up upon use, while Silphium restores suit integrity, which can be gauged by the three green bars on the left of the health bar. Both Silphium and Resin appear green on the ground.
  • If an item is glowing purple, it’s probably malignant: this means that the item has a chance to induce a suit malfunction on you which often translates to a negative effect such as “Obolites disappear 1.5 seconds faster.”
  • Pay attention to the malfunction probability with Malignant containers and items: every Malignant container and item has a malfunction probability and that can be viewed under the description of the item when it’s floating as a hologram. The higher the probability, the more likely you are to receive a malfunction for opening the container or picking up the item.

Combat Tips and Tricks

  • After finding the Atropian Weapon Charger in the Overgrown Ruins, practice using your pistol’s standard weapon fire and alt-fire mode.
  • Alt-Fire Mode: In order to use the alt-fire mode of your weapon, you must pull L2 all the way down, or at least past the trigger’s halfway point. You’ll feel the trigger “unlock,” as it were, and you’ll see the reticle on screen change to reflect the alt-fire firing mode.
  • Standard Fire Mode: In order to use the standard fire of your weapon, you must either fire from the hip by pressing R2 without pressing L2 or by pulling L2 down about halfway — when you feel the trigger lock, that’s as far as you can go before activating the weapon’s alt-fire mode.
  • Give the enemies some time to attack when you first begin Returnal — it’s easy to immediately attack an enemy on sight, but doing so will often trigger an animation from them that prevents them from attacking. Give yourself some time to view what an enemy’s attack looks like because you won’t have time to do this when you’re being slammed with multiple enemies on screen later in the first biome.

  • Search for the Atropian Blade in the first biome: this is the game’s melee and when you find this blade, you’ll unlock it permanently. It’s necessary to advance through the game’s first biome and it’s necessary to destroy walls that are often blocking you from getting items like Silphium pickups and more.
  • Ignore enemies with red shields around them if you don’t yet have the Atropian Blade: you won’t be able to destroy them.
  • Give each of the weapons you find in the first biome of Returnal, the Overgrown Ruins, a spin. There is no set weapon that’s better than the rest — it all depends on how proficient you are at using a weapon and you won’t be able to figure that out until you give each weapon a good try.
  • You need an Atropian Blade to melee enemies. If you’re playing the game and wondering why none of the buttons are making Selene perform a melee attack, it’s because you don’t yet have the Atropian Blade melee weapon.
  • The Atropian Blade has a cooldown: don’t expect to be able to swipe this very-lightsaber-esque blade over and over again. It has a brief cooldown and it’s important to learn the timing of it so that you don’t find yourself pressing Square over and over again wondering why the blade isn’t working.

  • The pistol you have at the start of every run is actually automatic — just hold down R2 and the pistol will fire all of its bullets automatically. 
  • When trying to determine where best to shoot an enemy, look for something that glows — many enemies have weak spots near or on their heads. These weak spots often glow red, orange, or blue so look for that glow before shooting.
  • Most enemies have a close-range attack and a long-range attack: It’s easy to write off an enemy as strictly a long-range enemy, but if you let them get too close to you, there’s a good chance you’ll learn they also have a short-range attack too so be cautious of that.
  • Some enemies in Returnal can teleport so keep an eye out for that and watch for where they teleport too. Sometimes it can be across the room and sometimes it can be right behind you. Always be prepared.
  • There isn’t a single set gun better than the rest — some guns work better for players, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best. Practice using each gun to get a feel for what works best for you. We recommend the Spitmaw Blaster a try because that’s one of our personal favorites.

  • Just because a weapon has a higher level doesn’t mean you should switch to it: if you’re using a Level 1 Spitmaw Blaster and come across a Level 2 pistol, it’s not always a sure thing that you should switch to the pistol. While the pistol will have better attributes, if you’re better with the Spitmaw Blaster (versus the pistol), it might be smarter to stick with the gun you’re better at using as that benefit might outweigh the better stats on the other weapon.
  • A great way to practice fighting against enemies is by playing the Daily Challenge each day: once inside your ship, interact with the computer to by the Ship Log to find the Daily Challenge section. This is great for challenging friends, but it’s also great for practice against enemies as this mode is essentially a quick run through a biome against an onslaught of enemies.
  • Assume everything is hostile…because it probably is: you’re on an alien planet and the creatures and animals there are not happy about it. If you see an alien animal or creature, or even a liquid substance or spotlight roaming about, assume it’s hostile because there’s a good chance that it will hurt you.

Exploration Tips and Tricks

  • Look for the Atropian Weapon Charger equipment piece when you begin the game. This is a permanent equipment piece that unlocks the Alt-Fire mode for every weapon you have on your person and every weapon you pick up in the future.
  • Get familiar with the game’s many items and item icons on the mini-map when you begin the game. Returnal can get frantic quite fast and in those moments, you’re likely going to be running around looking for Resin to increase your health or a consumable. Knowing exactly where that item you need is on the minimap will make things much easier.
  • Observe the game’s map when you first begin: press the large touch button on the DualSense to pull up the map. Look at what the map looks like and figure out how that translates to the minimap. You should also try and memorize each of the minimap symbols (which are also present on the map) — it’s important to know that teal rectangular “door” symbols mark golden path doors while purple triangular “door” symbols mark optional areas.
  • Explore every nook and cranny of the first biome. Doing so will introduce you to how the game’s biomes work and how they’re laid out. It’ll also demonstrate to you how critical it is to explore every room in a biome at first. Many important items can be found in those rooms.

  • Explore your ship after you die a couple of times — eventually, after you die a couple of times, you’ll be in your ship with a first-person view. Check out your ship’s log, ignore the open hole on the left (this starts your next run), and give the Daily Challenges section a look when you unlock that.
  • Look for anything and everything on the ground glowing purple: this is more than likely an Atropian Key (assuming it’s not a malignant or spoiled item), which is a key used to unlock red locked doors scattered throughout the first biome in the game.
  • Read any and every entry in your personal log. There are a ton of items and enemies in Returnal and you’ll want to familiarize yourself with each of them. The best way to do that (other than reading IGN’s Returnal Wiki Guide and Walkthrough), is by reading the entries in yoru log.
  • Check out the Cthonos pillar by the ship after dying. The small circle on the front of it will glow white. When it does, interact with it.
  • Don’t stress out over Datacubes when you first begin the game: you’ll pick these up during your first few runs in Returnal and you might find yourself confused with what they do. That’s ok because you won’t learn more about them until after beating the first boss.
  • Reconstructors are one-time use resurrection points. If you use a Reconstructor in the game, it will seem like it did nothing. A quick cutscene plays and that’s it. However, once you die, you’ll realize that instead of starting your next run at your ship, you’ll start your run at the Reconstructor. This is extremely helpful, but it can only be used once so use it wisely. To use it again, you’ll need to reactivate it with six Ether.

  • You cannot open the houses in Returnal without first finding the House Key. If you’re like us, we stumbled upon the first home in the game without having found the House Key. We tried to enter the house, but couldn’t get in…that is until we found the House Key in a different section of the first biome in Returnal.
  • You can complete house sequences in a single biome multiple times: after completing a house sequence in a biome, you might think you don’t need to explore said house again when you see it on another run. That’s not the case and in fact, we encourage you to roam through the house every chance you can because what happens inside is often different each run.
  • Ether is a collectable resource in Returnal and you can carry a maximum of 30 Ether. You might consider hoarding this resource, and that’s totally ok to do, but don’t hoard too much of them because after 30, you’ll still be able to pick Ether up but you won’t increase your total Ether collected. It just disappears into the…ether (we’re sorry).
  • There is a shop and while it doesn’t exactly look like one, it’s there. It’s the half-circle of pillars you’ll come across that glow with item holograms when you get close to it.

  • The shop is always located in the first biome of Returnal, the Overgrown Ruins.
  • Translocators are the game’s version of Fast Traveling. You can teleport from translocator to translocator, all over the biome you’re in, although you can only teleport to translocators you’ve been to already.
  • Obolites can be found strewn about biomes or by destroying Obolite Chunks, but they can also be found in plants or within the statues that have yellow glowing eyes.
  • Parasites can be found strewn about biomes laying around, but they can also be found inside the purple plants found throughout the game.
  • If you fall through something akin to a trap door, you’ll end up in a room where your minimap doesn’t work. Don’t sweat though — these rooms are usually a good thing. Instead, get ready to run around because you’ve likely dropped into a room full of Obolites. Run around and grab as many as you can before they disappear. Other rooms have hostile lasers that must be dashed through, or multiple containers to open, or, if you’re unlucky, a difficult enemy to take down.

  • Water and otherwise mysterious-looking liquid is not your friend — you’re free to test it yourself, but throwing Selene into the liquid of Atropos will more than likely see her take damage.
  • Remember where items you don’t need are located: there will be many of instances where you come across a consumable, parasite, Silphium, or something else you don’t want at the moment. You should leave said item there and remember where it’s located so that later on, should you need it, you can use a translocator to return to it.
  • Red = bad. You’ll probably learn this the hard way like we did, but if something is red, it can probably damage you. The exception is the red locked circular doors. Those are red because they’re locked, but lasers that are red, or even turrets that are red, will damage you.
  • Green = good. If you see something that’s green, there’s a good chance that it is something helpful like Health or Integrity. If you see green, go see what it is because there’s a good chance it’s something you want or something helpful.

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