Return to Grace review: A space odyssey of personality

Return to Grace review: A space odyssey of personality
Images via Creative Bytes Studios

Written by 

Ben Williams

Published 

30th May 2023 14:00

When wondering what to expect from a Return to Grace review, the first stop is a look at its developer. Since its founding a decade ago, Canada-based Creative Bytes Studios values crafting unique adventures that are both high-quality and engaging at its core, with the player’s experience as a top priority - backed by AAA experienced founders leading the indie team. 

A first-person adventure that combines retro and futuristic sci-fi, Return to Grace is a result of the built-on experience of the studio that brought the story-driven The Vale: Shadow of the Crown, and mystical platformer, Embers of Mirrim. Packing plenty of charisma and wonder in a small package, Return to Grace is a short-and-sweet delight that makes you want to come back for more.

GGRecon Verdict

Return to Grace is an immersive yet charming retro sci-fi adventure, engaging you with its plethora of personality and lore from start to finish.

A unique sci-fi tale

Adie with the Alan A.I in Return to Grace
Click to enlarge

From the moment of Return to Grace’s opening credits, you’re immediately immersed between layers of charm and sci-fi intrigue. You play as Adie Ito, a space archaeologist in the year 3820 who’s landed on the ice-cold Ganymede moon in hopes of finding Grace - an A.I god who once lead the prosperity of humanity. 

After locating Grace’s resting place, a based called the Spire, you encounter and befriend its only inhabitants: fractured variations the A.I god’s personalities, each with their own quirks and sense of self - such as Logic, Control, and Empathy. 

Using their unique abilities to traverse and puzzle-solve through the Spire, you’ll begin to solve both mysteries of how to restore Grace and why she was shut down in the first place - all whilst getting better acquainted with each different A.I personality, along with your choices impacting the course of the story. 

Graceful storytelling

The Logic A.I in Return to Grace
Click to enlarge

Delving deeper into the Spire is pleasing to the eye whilst advancing through the beautifully designed aesthetics of tech set in the 3000s that embody a 1960s retro sci-fi sheen. However, the best thing about Return to Grace is its cast of characters, even though most of them aren’t even human.

To start, Adie only has access to one AI to converse with. Over the course of the game, though, she’ll unlock more varied iterations of Grace’s personality who she speaks to over the communicator on her wrist - all talking to one another as well as Adie herself. 

As a result, the continuous back and forth between Adie and her digital companions gets better the more you go, with additional characters in the conversational roster - each variation’s namesake personalities and wit shining through without feeling too overcrowded. 

From Logic’s neutral and curious tone, Empathy’s calm and kindness, to Control’s cold but booming god complex - along with a handful more - all of Return to Grace’s temperaments are communicated brilliantly through clever writing and fantastically casted voice-acting. 

Pixar movie fans could easily think of Return to Grace as Inside Out with AI, but Adie’s journey with her new virtual friends can pack just as much heart if not more.

Being able to utilise a cavalcade cast of characters through an intimate first-person perspective makes Return to Grace all the more of a joy whilst Adie steadily finds out more about Grace as a whole. That’s as well as steadily dropping lore around humanity’s futuristic rise and downfall, becoming all the more fascinating as you hear the responses of the different AI personalities. 

Not too puzzling gameplay

Exploring in Return to Grace
Click to enlarge

To advance through the story, Return to Grace requires you to make use of some AI abilities to puzzle-solve your way ahead - through means like hacking, memory sequencing, and balancing across obstacles. Although with some degree of challenge, no puzzles are complicated enough to put you off wanting to proceed. 

Perfectly playable using either a mouse and keyboard or a controller, as tested on both for this Return to Grace review, the gameplay’s true emphasis lies in how your decisions impact the course of the story. 

With a playtime of 4-5 hours, you can lessen that by taking the opportunity to take puzzle and traversal shortcuts offered to you by certain AI. Although this may get you through some stages quicker, you’ll miss some opportunities to explore and dig up extra and arguably essential lore about Grace and what happened in the distant past. 

Some differences depending on decisions can be small, merely showing in different interactions with some of Grace’s fractured personalities. On the other hand, some decisions in particular can be massive - seeming to alter the course of the story altogether. 

Decisive downsides

The garden in Return to Grace
Click to enlarge

The autosave performs absolutely fine and there are multiple save slots for extra playthroughs, but Return to Grace having no manual save option is a slight disappointment if you’re curious about where some choices go without needing to commit to starting all over again.

What’s more, whilst the narrative is brilliant overall, a lack of a final choice in what’s assumed to be Return to Grace’s “best” ending does take some slight agency away from the game’s immersion. 

Nevertheless, with the whole journey being so short and the personalities involved making the time fly by, re-starting Return to Grace to see how decision outcomes can differ is still a time investment worth paying.

The verdict

The control room in Return to Grace
Click to enlarge

Brimming with charm from start to finish, Return to Grace is a concise and captivating retro sci-fi adventure. Filling such a short first-person adventure with many characters may sound overstuffed on paper, but Creative Bytes Studios has managed to craft a wonderfully immersive story that hones on fun, mystery, and heart all in a single package. 

Lacking some ability to explore different decisions may be an initial downside, but Return to Grace’s lovable cast of AI characters and the fascinating tale behind them will still make you want to jump back in after the credits roll to see how different events can play out.

Played on PC. Code provided by publisher.

Ben is a Senior Guides Writer at GGRecon. Alongside his BA (Hons) in Business Management is a wealth of gaming and entertainment writing experience, having previously occupied roles as a Copywriter in e-commerce at Overclockers and Guides & SEO Writer at GameByte and FragHero. When not whipping up guides and reviews, Ben’ll be off playing the latest Pokemon games, Overwatch 2, Spider-Man, The Witcher, and Final Fantasy - all before reading manga and listening to Ice Nine Kills.

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