Returnal - What the hell just happened? [Spoilers]
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  • Here’s a thread for folk to piece together to narrative of Returnal.

    As a few of us have seen the credits now, I think it would be good to get some views on what actually happened.

    Obviously, it stands to reason there will be open spoilers in this thread. If you haven’t finished the game, or want to play it one day, maybe this isn’t the thread for you.
  • So here’s my thoughts...

    Going to get a bit Rumsfeld here and talk about the known knowns, and the known unknowns.

    First up - there was absolutely a car crash, the question is whether there was one or two? If there was one, it was Selene and her child, if there was two, Selene was the child in the first.

    The game goes quite heavy on Selene’s dislike for her mother and the use of Don’t Fear The Reaper - a song from 1976 - makes me think there was two crashes. In the first, Selene’s mother lost her hope of being an astronaut, in the second Selene lost her child.

    Next up is the question as to whether the game takes place in space at all, or whether it is some kind of framing for Selene’s grief?

    Personally, I think Selene did eventually make it to space and that Atropos is some kind of living planet that had a hold on her.

    In the game, Selene manages to escape once, but after living her life and dying of natural causes, is returned to the planet. I don’t think that transition from
    Act 1 to 2 makes sense if Selene wasn’t on the planet - the overgrown wastes looking like that given the time that’s elapsed.

    Then there’s the slightly more confusing elements - did Selene shoot down her own ship in one scene? Was there some kind of parallel timeline stuff that meant Selene caused the car crash?

    Feel free to share your thoughts.
  • b0r1s
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    Err think you’ve covered it all!

    One thought is that this is all a bit Jacobs Ladder. It could all be in Selene’s head/soul as she is dying in the car. Her last thoughts were reaching to her dying daughter with Otto the octopus who then causes her to form images of horrific octopi in her path through purgatory.

    That scene of her living her life was just another thread of spiritual development she needs. If you recall she keeps saying the inhabitants of the planet ascended. Her mind/soul could be conflating the religious ascension stories and mapping that onto some weird alien planet because that is where she has always wanted to go.

    Who the astronaut is on the bridge is an I don’t know and not sure if it matters.
  • b0r1s
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    I’ve not read up on the ending yet. Hopefully Housemarque leave it vague for people to speculate.
  • I don't know what it is and don't really need to know.

    I feel like the whole thing is about Selene trying to find reason in the unreasonable, until she finally accepts it for what it is. Same for us - it's always about objectives, failure, achievement, until there's nothing left to do, and we realise that the loop is all there is.

    I think it works so well because of course we know what type of game it is from the start, and know that it can never end, and yet we play it as if it can be finished, as if the story can end and provide solutions. And Selene deep down knows all along too, but the realisation only comes to her with each piece of 'progress'.

    There's a really deep existential horror about it as well. Just that idea of eternity, with nothing but this loop, where death never matters.
  • Atropos of nothing...
    Come with g if you want to live...
  • Yeah, I'm not necessarily one for unpicking stories and worlds that I like - even my faves Ico / SotC and TLG...I don't do that or care about The Lore

    But, I think there's enough explicitly stated here, and enough left vague, that i'm happy to just kinda wonder aloud and ramble a bit about it. 

    So, the car crashes. Yeah, probs 2, I'd imagine, or at least 2 accidents of some type. It's implied early that the mum suffered an injury to her back in the crash and that's what denied her the opportunity to go to space. The 2nd crash, obviously, was her as a mum with the kid. 

    That whole mid-game section after completing biome 3 really threw me off - seeing the PS5 in the game and Returnal on the TV screen, that genuinely made my head spin for a bit and I was wondering where the hell they were going with this. I was genuinely worried they were gonna fuck it up, butthe rest of that scene - eating with the astronaut and telling the story, was so fucking creepy I was quickly back onboard. 

    Don't know how many audio logs you have all found, but I found one yesterday where Seline describes coming across a version of herself that was still alive, and then "having to" kill it. This kinda ties in with stuff Syph mentioned - her maybe shooting down her own ship. She's working with herself across iterations, but more than once it seems as if she diverges from herself and even fights with herself. Versions of her seem almost zealous in the way they describe ascension, others seem wrapped in the deepest, darkest depression. Whatever the "truth" here is - and i'm not sure there even is one - Seline is one of the collest fucking characters I've played as in a long time. 

    I also got to thinking about memory. She discovers herself in the beginning, so there's (assuming that version is a past one) clearly memory loss. But she also seems to retain memories from run to run. The piano, 8:36, the astronaut - all those memories are there from the start or early on, but they're also muddied and as the game goes on it seems relatively clear that it's less a wizard stole them and more that she's repressing them hard. 

    The presence of the car there right before the final boss leads me to believe this is more a mental journey, than a real thing, per se, even if there really is a planet that brings all this to the surface. I'm sure that the car is not really there, that's 100% her, but that's not to say she's not on a real planet that has the abilitiy to mainfest stuff like this due to whatever happened in the past with ascension and severing. 

    No idea where I sit on the mid-section back on Earth bit, and I haven't seen the secret ending. Am also aware that all the above is kinda rambly and all over the place. That's more me trying to remember everything that happened and trying not to contradict myself. Will likely have more thoughts soon. Will also work towards a full completion because I fucking love this game. 
  • There's also all the Greek mythology to unpick, of course. Atropos, Selene, Helios etc. are all Greek gods or goddesses.
  • JonB wrote:
    There's also all the Greek mythology to unpick, of course. Atropos, Selene, Helios etc. are all Greek gods or goddesses.

    Yeah, there’s some interesting stuff in that:

    Theia: Her brother/consort is Hyperion, a Titan and god of the sun, and together they are the parents of Helios (the Sun), Selene (the Moon), and Eos (the Dawn)

    Atropos: Goddesses of fate and destiny

    Phrike: Is the spirit of horror in Greek mythology. Her name literally means "tremor, shivering" (i. e. from fear, horror). The term "Phrike" (personified or not) is widely used in tragedy

    When you look at the game with those names in mind, it could give you a different reading.

    Helios was Theia’s son and was the one in the back of the car. He died and that was his fate. I think it’s interesting that the ship was also called Helios and when you walk away from it, it says Helios Abandoned each time.

    Theia was at the time pregnant with Selene (the third ending shows what looks like a wheelchair bound pregnant being). Maybe that’s why she resents her mother - a combination of her being disabled and mourning her son?

    Hyperion, the boss at the organ, was a manifestation of Selene’s father - hence the music being a bit of Dad rock.

    Even with the above, my reading is that it did take place in space. Ixion was a boss and that implies he was the local ruler (as in the beings) Likewise, with Orphion being the final boss, that implies he was the overall ruler of the planet
    Itself.

    Maybe, like JonB said, we don’t need to know, or maybe it’s not possible to know what really happened, as there’s too many variables or contradictions.

    I still think it’s fun to trying unpick it though.

  • Yeah, i think it's fun to unpick here too, tbh. And when you write a story like this you can make it as vague as you want - often these open-ended stories are more interestng than one that is all neatly tied up. 

    I'm actually not super knowledgeable on the Greek side of this, so may have to do some reading up there.
  • Oh, and a quick Q in this thread as we all would have finished it - weapon of choice? See a lot of people plumping for stuff like the Pylon or Lobber, but for me it's hard to look past the Hollowseeker. Love that gun something fierce.
  • b0r1s
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    Yep Hollowseeker by a long shot - with waves Level 2 and serrated ammo, not just the effectiveness, but the feel of firing it. Though it isn't too hot against the robots. If in biome 3 I find it best to switch to Pylon or Themogenic launcher.

    Also did the final boss using Pylon as it was the best of a bad bunch. Tried the Lobber once and I was like nope. Also the one that fires 3 shots and you have to wait for the bullets to come back to you. Tried that in biome 6 and it fucks you as the scale of the environment is so big you are stuck waiting if you miss shots.
  • Pylon all the way.
  • b0r1s wrote:
    Yep Hollowseeker by a long shot - with waves Level 2 and serrated ammo, not just the effectiveness, but the feel of firing it. Though it isn't too hot against the robots. If in biome 3 I find it best to switch to Pylon or Themogenic launcher. Also did the final boss using Pylon as it was the best of a bad bunch. Tried the Lobber once and I was like nope. Also the one that fires 3 shots and you have to wait for the bullets to come back to you. Tried that in biome 6 and it fucks you as the scale of the environment is so big you are stuck waiting if you miss shots.

    Yeah, it's Biomes 3 and 5 with the robots that I find the toughest, and that may well be linked to my gun preferences. 

    Serrated deffo the way to go, for me, and the Portal laser trait was also really useful in biome 6 when visibility wasn't great and you get a lot of those low health octos spawning. 

    Might have to give Pylon another look, though, if you're both recc-ing it. Imagine Pylon was ok for final boss as it's mostly pretty static. Does it do damage over time against the multiple weak points? Or did you still have to shoot them one at a time?
  • b0r1s
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    Yeah you ping em around all the bosses weak points and he just keeps taking damage while you run around. I had one that had nearly max pylon duration.

    There are two versions of the pylon I don't like. the one that fires all your ammo with each shot creating a big grid of pylons and one that only has 2 ammo. Too much reloading or waiting.

    Also the Thermogenic Launcher, once you get full auto, is fun. Got one with thermite rounds, so like serrated it does damage over time, great for those adrenal beasts and orbs in biome 6.
  • Yeah, I often found the weapons that had 2/3 shot mags more effort than they were worth. Lose a lot of damage if you miss, and some of the reload faff on them was too much - and then, as i'd have to focus more on overloads and shot position, i'd end up getting hit more often as I wasn't paying as much attention to my surroundings. 

    Thankfully the Hollowseeker had nice big magazine so you could spray and pray a lot of the time. Not that I wasn't aiming, of course, just that I wasn't having to take my eyes off of enemies and incoming projectiles.
  • It depends a lot on perks and level distribution though, doesn't it? Any weapon can be great with the right attributes, including the pistol.

    I was going for full-auto launcher when I finished the game and it got me through biome 6 pretty easily. But I found it less useful in some other areas - it's reload time is very slow.
  • b0r1s
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    I dunno. I think there are some duffers in there that don’t really have a use unless you know you’ve left an alternate nearby. Unless of course I’ve not powered em up. But the lobber and the one with the return shots don’t seem great in any use case because you are usually presented with multiple enemies having a low ammo supply is very risky and not worth it imo.
  • Yeah, can't see myself every opting for a shotty or lobber at any point, regardless of what perks are being rolled.

    And while I know that there's multiple good guns, I was asking more along the lines of a personal preference. Like if you were offered 2 guns with "equal" perks, is there a gun you would often gravitate towards?

    I've ditched Hollowseekers before, when they're been outpowered and outlevelled by other guns, of course. But I also know that I'll pick a semi-decent Hollowseeker over pretty much anything else that gets offered.
  • b0r1s
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    Yep Hollowseeker for me followed by Pylon. Also obviously like a good carbine as that got me through a lot of the early game.
  • b0r1s for sure my Returnal hommie.
  • Hollowseeker for life. I like Carbine too. Don’t think I used much of the rest!

    Will have to check Pylon. Checked it, didn’t like it, never picked it again. 

    Also, I have no idea what just happened. 

    Also also, GIVE ME MY MISSING TROPHIES HOUSEMARQUE! I didn’t get one for max proficiency, beating Orphion, or beating the game (if there is one). I have to do it again to get them. :(  I may be missing other hidden trophies.
    I am a FREE. I am not MAN. A NUMBER.
  • I remember one of my boss trophies didn’t pop until I went back and did it again (think it was the second one). Maybe try doing an early on again and see what happens.

    Congratulations on finishing the game though.
  • I wrote an opinion piece about this for Gamesradar. About how it kind of needs a save system, but also I really like the way it works without one, because of the way it gets you to confront mortality and eternity.

    https://www.gamesradar.com/uk/returnal-doesnt-need-a-save-system-it-needs-you-to-embrace-mortality/
  • Will give it a read. But all it needed was a temp save option like you get on some Mario games. As soon as you restart the temp save file it vanishes. So there’s no reloading saves to retry a bit you died on etc.
    I am a FREE. I am not MAN. A NUMBER.
  • cockbeard
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    Call me a dumbass, because I've not played the game nor any modern console, but isn't that exactly what the new "sleep" mode stuff does by default. So Housemarque expected it to be handled by the hardware????
    "I spent years thinking Yorke was legit Downs-ish disabled and could only achieve lucidity through song" - Mr B
  • The issue is that the sleep mode works perfectly well until a new patch comes out, and the console downloads and installs it automatically, losing your progress.

    Also, you’re not a dumbass
  • cockbeard
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    Ahhh, that's a shitter then
    "I spent years thinking Yorke was legit Downs-ish disabled and could only achieve lucidity through song" - Mr B
  • I find the game really odd. It sort of embraces a rogue structure but the Lego form it uses means the levels are mostly the same and the challenges within them repeat a lot
  • Sleep mode is also fine until you actually want to play a different game mid-run.
    I am a FREE. I am not MAN. A NUMBER.
  • hylian_elf wrote:
    Will give it a read. But all it needed was a temp save option like you get on some Mario games. As soon as you restart the temp save file it vanishes. So there’s no reloading saves to retry a bit you died on etc.
    Yeah, I'm arguing against even that. Sort of.

    I mean, I know it's important, but not having any kind of save is also important to what the game is trying to do.
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