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The Most Inventive PS5 Shooter Gets An Unexpected Third-Anniversary Spinoff

Back in the loop.

key art from Returnal
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Three years after the launch of the PlayStation 5 exclusive Returnal, developer Housemarque revealed that it’s getting a graphic novel adaptation. And while that may not be the update fans of the roguelite shooter were hoping for, it’s at the very least a reminder that it may be time to...return to Returnal.

Returnal’s third anniversary was the occasion for Housemarque to announce Returnal: Fallen Asteria, a graphic novel coming from Dark Horse which is also getting an animated adaptation of its own. You can watch the animated version of the first issue now on YouTube, and the full graphic novel hits shelves on October 22. Returnal fans hungry for more from the game’s hostile sci-fi world also have an art book to look forward to, which is also set for release on October 22.

Returnal’s first animated comic book issue is available on YouTube now.

Even if none of that interests you, Returnal’s third anniversary is still a great excuse to return to the 2021 hit. Returnal launched early in the PS5’s life cycle, back when it was still nearly impossible to buy the console without keeping your eye on retail stock trackers and having lots of patience. Those who picked up their consoles later may have overlooked the game in favor of newer hits, but doing so means missing out on what remains one of the most inventive shooters on PS5.

For those who haven’t yet experienced Returnal’s charms, know that it’s a third-person shooter with deeply satisfying gameplay that’s made even more impressive by its clever use of the roguelite format. Returnal stars Selene, an astronaut who crash-lands on a distant planet while on a search to track down a mysterious signal she finds emanating from its surface. Once there, Selene makes the shocking discovery of her own corpse, finding that she’s now stuck in a time loop that resets each time she’s defeated by the planet’s hostile inhabitants.

Returnal is set on a hostile alien world with strange time-distorting powers.


Returnal feels incredible to play. It incorporates elements of bullet hell shooters, with enemies that fire countless projectiles in complicated patterns, making dodging attacks just as important as landing shots on enemies if you want to survive. With each loop, Selene discovers different weapons and powerups, meaning that no two runs are ever quite the same, as is the case with all good roguelite games. That means that on top of all the moment-to-moment shooter skill Returnal demands, learning how to adjust to randomness and create a character build that works for you is also crucial.

Character building gets more interesting as the game goes on. Along with familiar tools like grenades, Selene can equip herself with alien parasites that offer her power at the expense of serious drawbacks, like reducing her health or giving enemies dangerous new abilities. Juggling these tradeoffs is difficult, but in weakening one aspect of your character to improve another, it can also help you discover playstyles you never would have experimented with otherwise.

Returnal’s intense bullet hell gameplay got a co-op upgrade in 2022.


For most roguelite games, that mechanical complexity would be enough. But Returnal goes one step further, using the looping nature of the experience to tell a story about grief and trauma. Despite its somewhat slow start, Returnal eventually unfolds into a psychological mystery, as Selene is haunted by inexplicable images of Earth even on this faraway planet. It doesn’t go quite as far as Hades’ masterful use of repetition in telling its story, but figuring out its central mystery is just as much of a reason to keep playing as enjoying its combat, which is still rare for the genre.

Even if you played Returnal at launch, there may still be something new waiting for you now. Two years ago, the game added a new mode called the Tower of Sisyphus, an endless mode that challenges players to climb ever higher and reach the highest score they can before perishing. It also brings two-player online co-op to the base game, so you can share its brutal difficulty with a friend to keep you motivated.

Whether you’re diving back in for more punishing combat or checking out Returnal for the first time, it remains one of the definitive PS5 games three years later. Returnal’s new graphic novel adaptation is just icing on the cake for a game that makes its extreme difficulty well worth tackling.

Returnal is available now on PlayStation 5 and PC.

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