Players will notice underwater areas early on in Returnal. Unfortunately, Selene has a penchant for drowning if she touches water. However, on the minimap, it shows items below the depths, so one would think that Selene would be able to swim at some point. We’ll detail how to get the underwater suit upgrade below.
Warning: Some spoilers below!
How to upgrade the suit to go underwater in Returnal
Players who have seen the underwater area in the Overgrown Ruins and think they’ll soon be able to swim down there are going to be disappointed. Selene doesn’t get the ability to dive into the water without drowning (and losing a bit of health) until around 2/3 of the way through the game.
The item that allows Selene to explore underwater is found in the game’s fifth biome, the Fractured Wastes. Obtaining the Hadal Ballasts is the main objective of this area, and they’re required to continue the story and proceed to the next biome.
To get the Hadal Ballasts, players will have to fight their way through the Fractured Wastes to obtain the three Hadal Keys needed to open the Hadal Vault. Once inside, this upgrade is found on the corpse of a dead alien. Fortunately, there’s no surprise attack when Selene takes them, and players can proceed to jump into the whirlpool just outside the vault to move on to the next area.
Unfortunately, Selene never really learns how to swim in her suit. Instead, the Hadal Ballasts just make her sink to the bottom of a body of water. It’s not really explained why she couldn’t enter the water without them, but they allow her to walk along the bottom of a watery area.
Once players have obtained the Hadal Ballasts, they can enter any water without fear. There are relatively few areas with water aside from the sixth biome, the Abyssal Scar. However, both the Overgrown Ruins and the Echoing Ruins can spawn a room with a pool that contains a valuable item.