Returnal – Phrike boss battle guide

How to beat Returnal's first boss battle.

Some of the real highlights of Returnal are the boss battles that you come up against, pushing you to the limit as developer Housemarque flex their bullet hell muscles and try to send you all the way back to the start of this looping roguelike. We’re not going to let them get away with that too often though, are we? It’s perfectly OK to get stuck on boss fights like these, but it’s also perfectly fine to look for a few pointers to help you get over the hump.

Phrike is the first boss in the game, a three-armed alien creature that will likely be a significant challenge the first few times you come up against it. As with the other bosses in the game, it layers together a mix of slow and fast attacks, getting faster and more challenging as you drain its three health bars.


In this guide:

Phrike Boss Battle – Best Weapons, Consumables and Artefacts

Best Weapons

At this early stage of the game, you will have a small pool of weapons that you can find. We would recommend the Tachyomatic Carbine for this battle, or a higher powered version of the Modified Sidearm SD-M8, letting you attack Phrike from a distance. We do not recommend the Spitmaw Blaster shotgun, as longer range weapons are generally better for boss battles.

Of the randomised alt-fire attacks that the weapons come with Trackerswarm and Horizontal Barrage are likely the best for long range, but the grenade-like Blast Shell attack will also do the trick. The close range Shockstream is less useful here.

Best Consumables

You will have one consumable item slot at this stage in the game. You likely won’t have much of a choice in the matter, but there are some consumables that will certainly be useful. Expecting to take damage, a Silphium Vial will restore your Integrity (health), while an Apex Sphere will boost your Adrenaline back up level 5.0, amping up attacks and making the Overcharge reloads easier to achieve. The Anti-Energy Pulse creates a barrier that blocks incoming projectiles in a pinch (though its flashy dome might be more of a distraction), while the Ground Surge is an additional one-off attack that could be handy.

Apex Sphere can restore you Adrenaline to max if you get hit.

Best Artefacts

Exploring the environment fully will also net you a couple Artefacts that will always prove useful with their various buffs to your abilities. However, there’s one artefact in particular that stands out: the Astronaut Figurine. First found after completing the first House sequence, The Astronaut Figurine will revive you in place if you ever die, giving you a second chance. If you don’t manage to reach Phrike on that particular run, you can still get the Astronaut Figurine from defeating the tougher creatures encountered.

Phrike Boss Battle Tactics

In general, you want to keep Phrike at a distance. Phrike spews out an awful lot slow moving projectiles that are easier to avoid when at distance, but these are mixed up with fast laser beams, melee attacks from across the arena, and more. Strafe and jump past slower moving projectiles, and time your dash to get past faster attacks.

All the time, just keep on blasting! By now you should be familiar with the Overcharge reload system to keep firing, and use your weapon’s secondary fire as often as possible to deal more damage over time.

Phrike Attacks and Stages

Phrike’s attack patterns grow over the course of the fight, changing as you deplete each of its three health bars in turn. Here’s what to look out for and how best to avoid them.

Phrike Stage 1 Attacks

  • Red missiles (fast) – Phrike fires fast-moving red in your direction. Simply keep moving sideways to avoid
  • Golden orb shower (slow) – Phrike emits slow moving projectiles up and outwards to drift down. Keep a distance and run around them as they descend.
  • Purple orb streams (fast) – Phrike shoots a stream of fast moving purple orbs in your direction, one from each hand. Simply move sideways to avoid them.
  • Face laser vertical (fast) – Phrike shoots a laser from its face, sweeping up from its feet to the ceiling. Watch for energy lines gathering to its face which indicates this incoming attack, and time a dash to avoid.
  • Underground move (non-damaging) – Phrike can relocate by descending under the mist and moving. It glows red as it does so, so just move to keep a distance.

Watch for the build up to Phrike’s laser face attack.

Phrike Stage 2 Attacks

Phrike increases in speed, using all of the above attacks in quicker succession, as well as mixing things up with the following. Be on your toes!

  • Energy wave & dash melee (combo attack) – Phrike creates a wave of red energy that moves out from where it is stood, and then quickly dashes to your location and performs a melee attack. At a suitable distance you can prioritise dodging the melee attack and then jump over the wave.
  • Dash melee (fast) – Phrike dashes toward you and performs a melee attack.
  • Purple orb streams long (fast) – This attack is now extended from three streams to nine, cycling through Phrike’s hands multiple times.
  • Face laser horizontal (fast) – Phrike shoots a laser from its face, sweeping horizontally across the arena. Time a dodge to pass through the laser beams (it’s tricky, we know!)

Phrike creating a energy wave before a dash melee attack.

Phrike Stage 3 Attacks

Again, Phrike adds new attacks to its arsenal, but also seems more likely to layer them in quick succession and even repeat attacks back to back – two successive dash melee attacks, two energy waves before a dash melee, etc. etc.

  • Golden floor orbs (slow) – Phrike emits slow moving projectiles to move across the floor, either as single balls or as lines of six. Keep a distance and weave between them as they are more separated.
  • Upward red missiles (fast) – Similar to the Stage 1 red missiles attack, but Phrike emits them upward before they come toward you.

Phrike’s two Stage 3 attacks in combination.

With all of that knowledge in your noggin, defeating Returnal’s first boss should be a mite easier to figure out and beat. Don’t worry if it takes you a few attempts to get past Phrike, and don’t even worry if it was a close call. Returnal does not punish you by making you take on this boss time and time again, but will let you skip past to the second biome with a permanent unlock.

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