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Krueger appeared on Kinda Funny Games’ PS I love You XOXO podcast to discuss a variety of topics related to Returnal and Housemarque. In particular, journalist Greg Miller questioned the director on the conversations around Returnal’s difficulty and accessibility.
“That’s definitely always going to be an interesting challenge to find that sweet spot,” replied Krueger. “I think we can always do more and could always add more support for different ways to play the game and different control methods. I think when it comes to the difficulty I think it is a question of what kind of experience you are having with Returnal.”
One thing Krueger wanted to make clear is that he believes Returnal’s challenging difficulty is incredibly important to the game’s overall narrative. He expressed concern that players might feel less engaged in the story if there wasn’t a challenge, saying “I think in many ways the story and the gameplay are very inseparable in Returnal.”
Providing an example, Krueger said “the character, Celine, she is talking about dying over and over and how these are 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.”
Krueger went on to make the point that if you could just easily get through any of the bosses in the game without any real challenge, “it would create a bit of dissonance.” He explains that the game tells players that it’s challenging and that they need to overcome these obstacles, but players “wouldn’t have had to experience that friction.”
Returnal does have a few accessibility options such as button remapping but features no kind of difficulty options or modifiers – though an update earlier this year did add campaign co-op, which can help with the game’s challenge.