A beginner’s guide to Returnal: dominating the first biome

Returnal is as addictive as it can be frustrating. To help, we’ve compiled a short Returnal guide to get you off to a strong start. We’re good like that.

A Returnal guide is an interesting prospect. A walkthrough is of little use because the game’s randomly generated levels change after each player death, and this randomisation means the chances of two players’ runs being analogous are miniscule.

So while I may have come across a fantastic health-regenerating parasite in the first 15 minutes of my run, which propelled me to grand success and revelation, there is no guarantee that you will. Meaning that you, almost certainly, are doomed. Sorry, friend.

Just joking – if you care to glance through my PlayStation 5 recordings you’ll find me plummeting to my death, getting devoured by big beasties, and collapsing in a storm of what looks like globs of highlighter fluid. It’s all in a days work for a games journalist as talented as I.

I digress. For our preliminary Returnal guide we thought it best to focus on a few broad strategies, habits, and behaviours that will give players a good shot at success.

These hints should help extend your runs, and might in the long run save your controller from a horrible, angsty case of death by wall.

returnal combat
Screenshot: Returnal / Housemarque

Take your time. Particularly in the Overgrown Ruins (biome one)

The most important thing our Returnal guide will teach you is the importance of remaining calm. Try and rush through the first biome? That’s a death. Try and take on the boss with only one level of weapon proficiency? Welcome to the afterlife. You get the idea.

Just because you come across a golden door, doesn’t mean you should go through it. Make strategic decisions that will result in Selene getting stronger, and only take risks that truly appear worth it.

This philosophy is very important once you unlock the second biome. It is tempting to try to rush back to a new area that you haven’t seen much of, but unless you have incredible reflexes and ability, you will be rushing to a premature demise.

If you are sticking with our Returnal guide, you should be sticking to the Overgrown Ruins until you have some decent upgrades and gear.

returnal guide
Screenshot: Returnal / Housemarque

Replenish your health in the spaceship

You can rest in Selene’s crashed spaceship, and doing so replenishes your integrity (health). This is really useful in the starting area because of the way health drops work in Returnal; health items will restore your current health if you are wounded, but contribute towards upgrading your health capacity if you are uninjured.

You can exploit/abuse this mechanic by healing in the spaceship (use the teleporters to save time) before picking up health items. If you do this in the first biome you will find that by the time you reach the more challenging obstacles (hello, Mr. Phrike), you will stand a better chance.

returnal ship
Screenshot: Returnal / Housemarque

Pick up the parasites

Our Returnal guide simply isn’t big enough to weigh up the pros and cons of individual parasites. However in general they should be trusted, as the benefits they offer almost always outweigh their negatives.

That said, use your head; if there is an obvious lack of synchronicity between your gear and a parasite, then leave it be. If you have five Atropian keys, the parasite that damages you for using keys may be somewhat self-defeating.

This advice regarding picking things up extends past parasites too. Make sure to thoroughly search each area before leaving it, as the difference between success and failure is more often than not related to how well prepared you are.

alien glyph
Screenshot: Returnal / Housemarque

Everything is a risk, so be calculated about it

If you already have loads of Obolites (currency) then it doesn’t make sense to risk a suit malfunction gaining more.

Stay away from the malignant chunk, especially if you already have a number of active malfunctions. It isn’t so much that any action is right or wrong, but rather that the context of the decision determines whether it is or isn’t.

Watch our Returnal guide

If you are still struggling with Returnal, I recommend watching our video guide. It’s a laid back stroll through the opening biome that identifies and explains pretty much everything you will come across.

It’s light on spoilers and heavy with valuable information. Check it out just below.

Facing Phrike

Once you’ve mastered the first biome you will eventually find yourself face-to-face with Returnal‘s first boss. Phrike is definitely a step up in terms of difficulty, and is likely responsible for many players ultimately giving up on the game. Don’t give her that satisfaction – check out our guide to beating Phrike.

And remember to have fun because, to quote Bob Dylan, death is not the end.

Stay tuned for future Returnal guides and updates, as we won’t be putting this one down any time soon. May your next cycle be your best cycle!