In Returnal you play as Selene, an astronaut who finds herself stranded on the hostile alien world of Atropos. Over the course of her journey, Selene encounters many things she doesn't understand at first — which of course means that you probably won't understand them either.
Below we've rounded up some of the internet's most frequently asked questions about Returnal's systems, along with the answers to help you make the most of each and every run:
- What do Reconstructors do and is it worth using them?
- What do Reclaimers do and is it worth using them?
- What are Datacubes and how do I use them?
- How does Repair Efficiency work and how do I improve it?
- What's actually in the Cargo Bay and how do I get it?
What do Reconstructors do and is it worth using them?
Reconstructors are devices Selene finds while exploring the world of Atropos. Initially, all you have to go on is this obtuse description: "A xeno-device for accurate reconstruction of complex entities per environment." Understandably, you might want a bit more information before you decide whether to activate one.
If you choose to use the Reconstructor, Selene will step into the device. She'll part with an amount of her precious Ether, but will otherwise emerge seemingly unchanged.
However, the use of the Reconstructor will become apparent the next time Selene dies. Instead of respawning at the crash site, she'll revive at the site of the last Reconstructor she activated.
Effectively, the Reconstructor gives you a soft save point within a biome, allowing you to resume midway through a run rather than having to start again after you die. Furthermore, Selene will respawn at full health and with all malfunction effects and parasites removed, regardless of what her status was when she activated the Reconstructor.
Reconstructors are especially useful if you've made significant progress exploring a biome and want a little extra security against having to start from the top. Just be aware that each reconstruction is a one-time deal: once you've used up your special respawn for the run, your next death will send you all the way back to the crash site.
What do Reclaimers do and is it worth using them?
Reclaimers are devices in Returnal that promise to aid Selene in her fight for survival — but at a price. Specifically, their description reads: "A xeno-tech device for recycling materials. Output unknown." You'll also receive a warning that using the Reclaimer may cost you integrity.
Since suit integrity is basically Selene's health bar — and since Returnal is a rouge-like, so maintaining your health is very important — you might think twice before blithely agreeing to this exchange. So what exactly should you expect?
In short: using a reclaimer will give you a new artifact, but at the same time will deal a large amount of damage to Selene's suit. Basically, the in-story explanation is that Reclaimers recycle the suit's material into a useful new object.
Any shields you have applied won't protect you from the damage or even mitigate it at all; but you can heal in the usual ways after using a Reclaimer.
It's our advice that you should judge your use of Reclaimers on a case-by-case basis: depending on what healing items you currently have on you and how much damage you feel you can afford to take in your current run, weighed against the benefit of gaining a potentially very useful new artifact.
What are Datacubes and how do I use them?
Datacubes are rare items you'll uncover sporadically while exploring Returnal's six biomes. However, it may not be immediately obvious what you can actually do with them.
These special items in fact contain blueprints you can use to unlock new consumables and artifacts. There are 18 of these unlockables in total.
In order to access a Datacube's contents, you need to decode it in a Datacube Processor. The first one of these is found right after you defeat the game's first boss, so you need to complete that fight before you can begin decoding.
Upon decoding a Datacube, you'll get one of whatever new thing you've uncovered added to your inventory immediately. Even better, that type of item will also randomly spawn in chests and fabricators from your next run onwards.
There are six Datacube Processors in Returnal, one per biome. They're always located either just before or just after a boss arena, and unlike other rooms their locations are not procedurally generated, meaning that they're relatively easy to return to.
Finally, just be aware that you can only carry one Datacube in your inventory at a time. If you find more than one in a run, make a note of the new one's location and consider prioritising a trip to the nearest Datacube Processor so you can clear the inventory space for the new one.
How does Repair Efficiency work and how do I improve it?
As we've already covered, Selene's suit integrity is for all intents and purposes her health bar. Therefore, her Repair Efficiency governs how effectively she regenerates integrity every time she heals.
To put it simply: better Repair Efficiency means Selene gains more integrity from using healing items, resting aboard the Helios, and so on.
So, how do you go about improving your Repair Efficiency? There are a couple of ways you can increase it, although the ones we know about so far don't persist between runs.
Some Malignant Objects and Parasites offer a bonus to Repair Efficiency as part of the devil's bargain you get for equipping them. Malignant Objects can malfunction and produce a negative effect instead, while Parasites will always hit you with a negative effect alongside the positive one.
Furthermore, due to Returnal's procedurally generated design, there's not really an effective way to farm these items. However, if you do happen across one, it's well worth considering whether equipping one is worth the price. After all, in rogue-likes as in life, you need to be doing everything you can to improve and maintain your health.
What's actually in the Cargo Bay and how do I get it?
The Cargo Bay of the crashed Helios is sealed off behind an inviting red door that is nevertheless locked to you for most of the game. However, there's a cryptic message on the ship's computer that reads "Unidentified item in Cargo Bay. Removal recommended." So what's going on?
Some end-game spoilers ahead.
In order to unlock the Cargo Bay, you need to complete all six biomes in both timelines and defeat the game's final boss. After the credits roll, you'll be back in the Helios, where the Cargo Bay door will finally be unlocked.
Inside is a device that allows you to switch timelines between Act 1 and Act 2. This means you can go back to mop up any collectables you've missed, as well as giving you the opportunity to re-play some boss fights.
Finally, it seems like you can use the device to return to every biome and pick up all six Sunface Fragments in Act 3, which is what you need to do before you can see the game's secret (true) ending.