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Returnal players debate if the game needs a save feature

Sony’s PS5 exclusive doesn’t feature a traditional save system

A bullet hell boss battle in Returnal Image: Housemarque/Sony Interactive Entertainment

Returnal is a difficult roguelike that demands plenty of patience. Each death in the game brings players back to where the story began. All of their forward progress and items are scrapped, and players have to restart their quest from square one. While some permanent items are saved between playthroughs to help in future runs, little else is saved. In fact, Returnal doesn’t feature any checkpoints or traditional save options.

This lack of a traditional save feature has caused some players to wonder if the game could use a way to save mid-run and continue their progress later. In our experience, some Returnal runs can last several hours and a single misstep will erase all progress.

For busy players, or those who share their PlayStation 5 with others in their household, they may not have the option to play for hours-long stretches. Players can put their PlayStation 5 to rest if they are in the middle of a playthrough, but that isn’t a surefire way to halt progress for later. (The game’s developer actually suggests that players put their PS5 in rest mode to retain their progress.)

Other players, however, argue that a traditional save system would go against Returnal’s game design. And some players are debating it (or fighting about it) in a war of downvotes on the game’s subreddit.

Housemarque, the developers of Returnal, has indicated that it’s listening to fans’ requests. While there’s no word on whether a save feature will be added at some point, the studio seems aware of some players’ frustrations.

For players familiar with roguelikes — a very popular genre that includes hits like Hades, Dead Cells, Spelunky, and The Binding of Isaac — a lack of save features isn’t uncommon. In fact, at the very beginning of Returnal, a pop-up message appears that clearly explains the cycle of the game.

A text description of the cycle in Returnal
The game’s loop is clearly explained from the beginning
Image: Housemarque/Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon

While the repeated deaths players will encounter in Returnal are opportunities to become more skillful at the game, the lack of being able to save progress can hinder the experience for some. There’s a lot to learn about the game in the opening hours, much of which the game doesn’t even tell you about.

The closest feature that resembles a save point in Returnal is a terminal called the Reconstructor. Players can spend a rare resource called ether to access this terminal. Upon death, players will respawn at the Reconstructor, rather than the beginning of the game. However, ether is a rare resource and it isn’t always guaranteed that players will run across this terminal in their playthroughs.

Until Housemarque adds a save feature, you might want to check out Polygon’s Returnal guides for some tips on how to survive.

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