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Returnal director says game's difficulty and narrative are inseparable

"There's this descent into madness that is happening purely because of the challenges she's facing."

Returnal director Harry Krueger has addressed the game's difficulty, saying it's integral to the narrative.

Interviewed by Kinda Funny Games, Krueger was asked by Greg Miller for his thoughts on the difficulty of Returnal and its impact on accessibility.

"I think we can always do more, could always add more support for different ways to play the game and different control methods and so on. I think when it comes to difficulty, I think it is a question of what kind of experience you are having with Returnal," said Krueger.

He explains that in Returnal, the story and gameplay are inseparable.

"The character, Selene, she is talking about dying over and over and how this is insurmountable odds, and she can't keep going on, and there's this descent into madness that is happening purely because of the challenges she's facing, and her challenges are the player's challenges as well.

"In many ways it feels like if you were allowed to just power through a boss without any challenge, or just go from A-B-C narrative points, it almost feels like that would create a bit of dissonance there where the game is telling you this is really challenging, and you've overcome these obstacles but in a way you haven't had that expected friction with the game that much. That's always going to be a difficult line to walk though to be fair."

Krueger also addressed the suspend-resume feature, saying it was "something on our radar before we launched, but due to time and our focus being elsewhere, we had to just pick our battles... We're really happy to be able to release the suspend and resume feature fairly soon after launch."

Returnal was praised by critics on its release, but criticised for its lack of accessibility options. Players were frustrated at not being able to exit a run midway through, until the suspend-resume feature was patched in.

The game recently won Best Game at the BAFTA Game Awards, as well as Audio Achievement, Music, and a Performer in a Leading Role win for Jane Perry as protagonist Selene Vassos.

Housemarque managing director Ilari Kuittinen is hopeful the game will reach a new audience when it hits Sony's revamped PS Plus.

Watch the full Kinda Funny Games interview below.

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Ed Nightingale

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Ed has an interest in streaming, people and communities, and giving a voice to marginalised people.