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Returnal guide: Malfunctions

One of the game’s many risk/reward systems

In Returnal, a malfunction is a negative status ailment inflicted when Selene interacts with malignant items, chests, and so forth.

Items and points of interest with malignancy generate a smoky purple haze. Nearing them prompts a warning overlay that displays the approximate likelihood that a malfunction will result. You can spend ether to purify the relevant target and eliminate that threat. However, as ether is relatively uncommon, you may prefer to simply risk the malfunction.

Malfunctions come in a wide range and may impact everything from your defense rating to your ability to equip new weapons. They can also scramble your map or reduce your Returnal integrity meter’s size. Typically, weaker malfunctions occur first, followed by a critical malfunction that has more severe impact.

The malfunction tutorial in Returnal
Weigh the risk of a malfunction when you can
Image: Housemarque/Sony Interactive Entertainment via Polygon

When a malfunction is in place, you can eliminate one or more with artifacts or a consumable item, or you can satisfy certain conditions to dispel the malfunction. Conditions vary but might include a chore such as defeating a certain number of foes with a melee attack, acquiring hundreds of obolite shards, or equipping parasites.

Multiple malfunctions, each with separate elimination requirements, can be in place at once. If you have especially bad luck, you may find that a single severe malfunction is enough to end your current cycle.

When a malfunction is in place, make every effort to remove it quickly. If you find an appropriate consumable item ahead of time, you might wish to keep it with you so that you can produce a malfunction or two and then quickly eliminate them with no ill effect.