Returnal is getting its first big DLC almost a year after release with the launch of the Ascension update. This patch brings two major features to the game: campaign co-op and an endless challenge mode. To commemorate the release, the lead game designer went in-depth on the co-op mode and the mechanics behind it.
How does co-op work in Returnal?
A big challenge the devs had when considering co-op for Returnal was keeping the same isolating and hostile atmosphere. Drop-in multiplayer would have broken immersion, so Housemarque went for an in-universe explanation for it, the Chronosis.
At the beginning of each biome, you can interact with the Chronosis to start co-op matchmaking. When a player has been found, a nameless ASTRA Scout will enter your game and can then accompany you on your run.
Progress tracking is unique in co-op mode as only the host player keeps the progress. However, the joining play gets to increase their Scout Rank, Weapon Traits, and Databank entries. So, joining another player’s game will be more appealing to those who have already completed their campaign and want to help other players make it through theirs.
In a PlayStation Blog, Lead Game Designer Trent Polack went into detail on how Housemarque balanced co-op. Initially, it was planned that players would have to sacrifice a portion of their health to revive a downed friend. However, in testing, played frequently ended up in a feedback loop where they were stuck at minimal health where one hit would kill them, and had to keep reviving each other over and over. So now, there is no cost to revive co-op partners except for time.
There’s still plenty of incentive to play Returnal solo, though. In multiplayer, the ship and house sections have been removed. So, to get the whole story, you’ll need to face the horrors of Atropos alone.
Returnal: Ascension is available today and is free to all players.
In other news, a Ubisoft showcase event is rumored to be in the works, and there’s a new The Witcher game in development.