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Returnal: Ascension adds campaign co-op and a challenge tower

I was starting to fear the worst

Much to fans’ delight, Returnal isn’t done yet. They’ve been clamoring for more content, especially after a recent Twitter teaser, and it’s actually coming this month. During this afternoon’s State of Play stream, Housemarque announced Returnal: Ascension — a new challenge tower, and co-op support, are arriving on March 22 with the 3.0 update.

To quickly touch on the “endless” content, there’s a new how-far-can-you-get activity called the Tower of Sisyphus that’s playable after you’ve gotten the Icarian Grapnel (grapple hook) after beating the second boss. According to Sony, this is “an ascending gauntlet of increasingly dangerous phases, with each containing twenty floors.”

You’ll need to clear out “all the enemies on each floor and secure your passage to the next one up.” It’s essentially a score-chasing arcade experience with a multiplier (which used to be Housemarque’s wheelhouse), with some “new narrative content to be explored.”

Co-op is also coming on March 22, but it’s specifically for the main Returnal campaign — so the “Tower of Sisyphus, House sequences, and Challenge Mode” are excluded.

“By accessing the Chronosis portal near the crash landing (and in other select parts of the game), you’ll have the option to either host or join a public cycle. Or, if you’d like to share the experience with a friend, you can also choose to host a private cycle instead,” Housemarque explained in a post-show announcement on the PlayStation Blog.

“If players get too far apart, they will be tethered back together. This is to ensure that the focus remains on cooperative gameplay and both players feel connected to the fates of each other. If one of the players is downed, there is still hope: the other one has the option to revive them.”

Returnal co-op screenshot

Tethering concerns aside, my mind also went straight to co-op progression.

Here’s the rundown: “Progression is tied to the host, so if you’re struggling to overcome a certain boss or biome, bringing in another player to help may open your road to triumph. Client players who join to help will also get to keep some progress they make — such as collecting logs and xenoglyphs — and the more games they assist with the more their Scout Rank will grow.”

I’m super curious how online co-op will be balanced (in terms of damage, health, enemy spawns, etc.), as this is a really tricky game for some of us. I actually made an effort to try and finish Returnal recently, but then Elden Ring consumed my life. I’m glad it’s still installed on my PS5 with the Ascension update incoming in under two weeks.

“This was our effort towards expanding the lasting power of Returnal, and we hope to see players engage with our new modes for years to come,” said game director Harry Krueger.

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