Box art - Returnal

What is the Returnal Simulation Mode?

A Returnal level select feature would be invaluable for for people who want to go back and revisit earlier levels. It’s even necessary to unlock the game’s third act and grab certain gear. Here’s how to go back to earlier levels in Returnal through the Simulation Mode.

How to change the Returnal Simulation Mode

Is there a Returnal level select option?

The Returnal Simulation Mode is a fancy term for level select or, more specifically, the three chunks of levels the player plays on. The first Simulation Mode is the first trio of levels (Overgrown Ruins, Crimson Wastes, and Derelict Citadel) and the other Simulation mode is the second set of levels (Echoing Ruins, Fractured Wastes, and Abyssal Scar).

It does not have a traditional level select feature and players cannot specifically jump to any of the six biomes whenever they want after they have unlocked them. However, it is possible to jump to the first biome, Overgrown Ruins, to the fourth biome, Echoing Ruins, and vice versa once the fourth biome has been unlocked.

To go back to earlier levels, players have to go back to the ship, Helios. Climb inside and there will be a door to the left of one of the computers, as shown in the above picture.

Is there a Returnal level select option?

There is a void-like area in that room with an odd alien machine in it. Go up to it and hold Triangle to interact with it.

A short cutscene will play as the game loads the opposite biome. Exit Helios and the new biome will be there to run through. Doing this in the middle of a run is possible, but it will forfeit all gear and essentially make the player start a new run.

How to go back to the first level in Returnal

While it isn’t possible to start on another biome, players can still jump to the later two biomes in a given half through portals without needing to kill the bosses or unlock any doors again. These portals open up once the boss of the preceding area has been wiped out. For example, killing Ixion, the boss of the second biome, will let players grapple right to the third biome straight from the first biome. It’s not recommended to do this since players will likely be underpowered for these tougher areas of the game, but it is still possible. For more general tips, check out our tip guide every newer player should know.