If you've been following our guides for Housemarque's Returnal, there's a chance you've gotten very familiar with the game's opening area. But If you want to see the rest of the game's worlds, there is one last obstacle to get over, and if you are not prepared it will toss you around like a ragdoll. This is our official guide on beating the first boss of Returnal Phrike.
Returnal Phrike Guide – Getting to Phrike
First, it's best to understand where this boss fight even is so you don't end up running into it by accident. Thankfully, since this is the first area of Returnal, you are given a straightforward sequence of events. Once you find the Atropian Blade, basically your melee attack, you'll be able to cut through red energy barriers and explore the Overgrown Ruins even more. Eventually you'll come across a room marked with a locked door marked by a red arch way on the map. You will need an Anathema Key in order to open the door and fight Phrike.
To find the Anathema Key, you will have to find a challenge room. Since Returnal is a roguelike there are no real concrete rules on where this room will pop up, just know you'll be in for a fight when you get there. Go back to the locked door, use the key, and you'll have access to Phrike's boss room. The good news is you only have to get the Anathema Key and unlock the door once. All future runs against Phrike will already have the door unlocked. Once that is done, scour the map for items, return to your ship and rest up for some quick and free healing, pick up that astronaut figure from the house if you haven't already, and make sure your weapons and consumables are the ones you want. Once you have everything settled, entered the boss room and leap into the pit below.
Returnal Phrike Guide– The Returnal First Boss Fight
The good news and bad news about Phrike, and most boss fights in Returnal is that there's no real silver bullet build or weapon strategy that will vaporize them immediately. Like the bullet hell shooters that have inspired it, the name of the game is more about learning enemy attack patterns and getting past them while keeping the gunfire going. If you're waiting to hear about how the Carbine weapon combined with some parasite combinations will make Phrike a cakewalk, you're not going to find it here. If you want a cheat sheet as to those attack patterns, you've come to the right place.
Phrike's boss fight can be broken up into three distinct phases which reveals increasingly nasty attacks that can body you if you're not careful. These phases line up perfectly with the boss' three health bars, with the more dangerous moves coming in near the end.
Phrike's first phase is its most tame. Three distinct attacks are used at this point in the fight. They are quick and fast bursts of red bullets fired from its hands, a slow cloud of purple bullets that start in the air and slowly descend, and a large swarm of blue darts that fly at you en masse. These are very easy to dodge and keep track of if you keep Phrike at roughly middle or long distance.
Then there is Phrike's quick red laser attack. This attack rarely pops up on the first phase, but becomes more prominent in the second phase. Phrike will look straight down at the tentacled mass of where feet would be on a human being, fires a red laser beam, then immediately sling it upwards at you in a quick vertical slice. If you see the set up for this attack, dash immediately. You'll get maybe half a second tops to react to this attack and it will carve huge chunks out of your health if you're not prepared.
As for the second phase, Phrike will start asserting more control of the battlefield. This will include more rapid use of its attacks and a horizontal – but much more heavily telegraphed – laser strike that sweeps the field in a half circle, and it sinking in the mist-covered ground to appear elsewhere. Keep an eye on the orange glow and follow it so you are not blindsided.
Finally, there is Phrike's shockwave and sweeping claw attack. The shockwave is exactly what it sounds like, a red wave of energy will sweep through the area from Phrike hitting the floor with a red laser. The wind-up of this attack is similar to vertical laser slash but takes a bit longer. A good habit to get into is dodge roll upon seeing the attack, and if the slice doesn't happen get ready to jump. As for the claw, it's also self-explanatory. Phrike crosses one of its arms across its chest then will glide towards you to attack with a glowing red claw. As a heads up, Phrike loves use both of these attacks back to back, starting with a shockwave then going into a claw. If you're keeping long distance, you should be able to anticipate the claw then keep track of the shockwave and not get combo'd.
Now to bring it on home with phase three. Phrike will now remix all of these attacks mentioned before and throw in a few twists as well. These include a constant stream of purple bullets firing in a circle at ground level, a second sweep to its horizontal laser attack, and multiple shockwave attacks. Like most of these attack patterns, keep Phrike at a distance, keep circling, and be ready to dodge incoming claw swipes and vertical laser slices.
Returnal Phrike Guide - getting the Returnal Crimson Key
If you keep all of these tricks in mind and just keep firing, Phrike should go down. Congratulations, you now have a bunch of items rewarded for your troubles and the Crimson Key, which will grant you access to the next area of Returnal, the Crimson Wastes.
And that was our guide for defeating the boss Phrike in Returnal. If you are having troubles with other parts of the game and could use a hand, we have you covered there as well. Check out our beginner's guide and exploration guide for more tips. Stay tuned and keep going, the world of Atropos can't hold you forever.