Eevi Korhonen, senior narrative designer for Housemarque, has spoke at length about the difficulty in developing Returnal‘s complex storyline, which unfolds in non-linear fashion throughout the course of the game.
Here’s what he had to say during a chat with VGC:
It was a tightrope walk. My boss Greg Louden, the narrative director, and I tried to ensure that both sides were included. So I was more ‘let’s make it more mysterious, let’s let the player puzzle it out with the community while Greg was kind of like ‘Okay, but we have to make sure that they understand some of this story.
As mentioned, Returnal’s story is delivered in a non-linear fashion, with quick flashes of narrative drip-feeding the player often out of sequence, making it difficult to put everything together.
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It’s hard to kind of see, even with all this priming, until it’s actually in the game, how is it pacing? How is it looking together with all the other elements? So up until the last moment, we’re still cutting, we’re still editing, and then tweaking the wording and making things a bit clearer.
Interestingly, there seems to be one last secret that players have yet to discover, after fans on Reddit made a huge effort to uncover every last snippet of story in Returnal.
I’ve been stalking our subreddit, and there have been wonderful little discoveries… there is something I’m still hoping that they will discover about the Tower Sisyphus. It’s not as much of a secret, more like a nice philosophical reference to the name.
Returnal was released exclusively for the PS5 in April 2021, and you can read our full review here.