Selene Vassos is the protagonist of Returnal. She is a Greek-American deep space scout working for ASTRA. While on a mission, she defies orders and follows a mysterious signal codenamed "White Shadow," which leads to her crash-landing on the planet Atropos.
Selene Vassos grew up with space in her life, with her mother Theia training to become an astronaut and being seldom present in her daughter's life. As a result, Selene came to suffer childhood trauma from the neglect and disregard at her mother's hands. Her main company was a stuffed octopus-like toy, her expansive imagination, and her own developing interest in space. Additionally, the phrase "White Shadow" would somehow make itself known to Selene, permanently following her throughout life.
One night on a drive with Theia, Selene murmured from the back of their car, "Do you see the White Shadow?" Shortly after, Theia saw an astronaut appear in the middle of a bridge. Unable to fully swerve out of the way, she clipped the astronaut and drove both of them into the water below. Subsequently, both mother and daughter survived, though Theia would be permanently crippled and unable to continue participating in the space program while Selene would come out completely unscathed.
It is implied that this event left Theia and Selene's relationship even further marred, with the young child unable to see her mother as anything other than an abuser due to Theia's grief and pain. This negative image would persist well after her mother's death.
In adulthood, Selene pursued an aerospace career as her mother, signing up and training for an astronaut program as well. In this time, she additionally formed a family with an unknown partner and had a child named Helios. However, Selene's focus was not on her family but rather the career she vied for. It is indicated that she secretly hoped for an accident to befall her child and untether her from earth, and one night in a car ride her negligence and detachment granted her just that: a car struck her while driving her son, killing Helios while leaving her alive. The guilt from this would persistently haunt Selene and further spur her to make it to space and off of the planet.
Eventually, ASTRA picked her for deep-space exploration and gave her a ship of her own. Selene named it Helios after her son, possibly both to honor her child and serve as a reminder of her neglect.
While on said mission, Selene encounters the White Shadow broadcast signal emanating from the planet Atropos. Seeking answers to her own life, Selene goes against the chain of command and enters the planet's orbit, only for the Helios to be struck by something and causing her to crash-land. This would be the beginning of a possibly endless nightmare for Selene.
Behind the Scenes
Selene has been described as having "a scientist's mind" as well as "highly intelligent, driven to a fault, and relentless in pursuit of what she wants" by Returnal narrative director Greg Louden.
Selene is voiced by Canadian actor Jane Perry, known for her work as Diana Burnwood in the recent Hitman series. Selene's appearance and performance capture is based on the likeness of German model and actor Anne Beyer.
- Selene has a condition called complete heterochromia iridium. The irises of her eyes are two different colors. This is a very rare real-world condition affecting less than 0.001% of humans.
- From the Ship Log Selene Vassos Personnel File players receive the information that her heterochromia is trauma induced.
- From ingame ship log, data file, requisition order. Gameplay video by Baytuh
- TheGamer.com, written by Stacey Henley, April 16, 2021
- PlayStation Blog, written by Greg Louden, March 17, 2021