Box art - Returnal

Is Returnal an open world or linear game?

Returnal is a unique and somewhat mysterious game that most players have a lot of questions about. Namely, is Returnal open world? If not, is it a linear experience? Here’s the lowdown on the free-roaming sandbox structure of Housemarque’s PS5 exclusive.

Is Returnal open world or linear?

Is Returnal open world?

Returnal consists of several randomized open areas that players are free to roam. Returnal is not an open world in the conventional sense, but it is a roguelike with an open-ended world structure.

Metroidvania fans will instantly understand the structure of Returnal. Certain areas are inaccessible — behind red barriers and underwater, for instance — and players need to find specific items to bypass these obstacles. With the items in hand, a variety of optional side areas open up alongside the next leg of the critical path.

Users are free to just follow the main objective marker if they so choose. Returnal also features a wealth of side areas containing valuable items and equipment for those seeking to explore, however. Players that treat Returnal as a sandbox can even place themselves at an advantage. Taking the time to fully explore open areas increases the chance of finding powerful upgrades and killing enough enemies to boost the Weapon Proficiency stat.

On the other hand, exploration can also land users in hot water. Some locations enter lockdown when the player arrives, forcing a confrontation with challenging enemies in a confined arena. These locales aren’t consistently telegraphed, though always be careful of entering the especially risky gold doors.

Defining Returnal is somewhat of a challenge, as, in many ways, it’s a rule unto itself. In fact, GameRevolution would go so far as to call the game “revolutionary.” Even accounting for its uniqueness, it’s possible to say definitively that Returnal is not linear.

Long-term fans of developer Housemarque will want to keep an eye out for this Resogun Easter egg while playing.