So, you’ve rolled the credits on Returnal, the PS5-exclusive action game about realizing that the events of Groundhog Day could’ve gone a lot worse, actually. Typically, a credit crawl signals the end of a game. Not so with Returnal. Once you hit the ostensible end, there’s a lot left for you to do.
Minor spoilers follow for Returnal’s first ending.
After you defeat Ophion, the giant skeletal cephalopod final boss, you’ll get thrown headfirst into a series of cutscenes. Some long-standing questions, like “Why is 8:36 such an important time of day?”, are answered. Many more are raised. The seminal Rock Band tune “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper” plays in the background, for some reason, much as it did in an earlier scene. And then, boom, you’re back on Atropos, stuck in the same loop you’ve been on for the previous however many hours it took you to run through every biome and eventually kill Ophion.
If you’re reading, you likely know about Returnal’s mid-game twist, the one that fragments time and splits the areas you can access. Once you hit the fourth biome, you’re locked out of the first three (Overgrown Forest, Crimson Wastes, Derelict Citadel) and can only access the latter three (Echoing Ruins, Fractured Wastes, Abyssal Scar). But after you beat the game, your ship’s cargo hold—which, prior to rolling the credits, is locked—will suddenly have a time-traveling device that allows you to switch between biome sets at the start of every run. Mysterious. Use it.
Once you set out into the first biome, the Overgrown Forest—because you missed it so much, right?—you’ll eventually come across a scannable object. It’s called a Sunface Fragment, and it’s the crux of the endgame. Returnal doesn’t explicitly state this, but each biome holds one Sunface Fragment.
Like almost everything else in Returnal, Sunface Fragments spawn randomly. Maybe you’ll find yours where I did. Maybe not. I’ll show you regardless. In general, I’ve found that they tend to show up in locations you otherwise wouldn’t be able to access without upgrades you’ve earned in subsequent biomes, like the Hadal Ballasts (which allow you to swim) and the Delphic Visor (which allows you to turn floating orbs into platforms through the magical power of bullets). You’ll also need the Promethean Insulators, an optional upgrade that allows you to walk on lava.
For instance, I found the Sunface Fragment of the Crimson Wastes at the end of that hallway full of lasers and lava and a strange aura that prevents you from dashing. You know, this one:
The Sunface Fragment in Echoing Ruins was also tucked away in a room overflowing with lava. Though I’d explored this chamber previously, it didn’t show up until my first run after the credits:
In the Derelict Citadel, I found my Fragment at the bottom of the pool of water that seems to always spawn at the base of the tower where you find the White Shadow signal and fight Nemesis:
For me, the Sunface Fragment in Fractured Wastes was the easiest to find, and the most flummoxing. You know when you first go through the Fractured Wastes, and you find the three hadal keys, and then you approach the boss-fight door and steel yourself for a doozy of a battle? And then it’s just...empty, save for a piece of equipment? Turns out, that’s where the Sunface Fragment was, at least in my game. Just shoot the floating orb and a series of platforms will appear. The Fragment was up there:
As for the Sunface Fragment in Abyssal Scar, sadly, it appears a crapshoot. Some have said it spawns on a platform before you dive into the biome’s second half. Others have said they found it right next to the boss chamber. Not much advice to offer here besides “Gear up and explore every inch of the biome.” You’ll find it eventually.
Sunface Fragments are permanent upgrades, so you needn’t worry about trying to collect them all in one run, or about losing them as a result of deaths, bugs, and other save issues. (After collecting two in one run, I suspended my game. I then lost my run when my roommate played something else on my PS5. I retained both Sunface Fragments.)
Once you collect all six, you should be able to access Selene’s house in the starting biome, sparking the final first-person exploration scene. Rummaging around the house, you should find a pair of car keys. Now, remember the submerged cavern you walked through after defeating Ophion, and how an ‘80s sedan is inexplicably there? Go and defeat Ophion again (I know, I know) and then interact with the car. That should spark the real ending. Probably. Maybe. Possibly. With this game, and the elusive hand-waving with which it approaches narrative, who knows?
(Updated 3/3/22 with new details)