When you die in Returnal, the majority of your progress is lost, but you can unlock Permanent Weapon Traits (Mods) to help you in the future.
Returnal Weapon Traits Explained
In Returnal all weapon drops are random. In the start, you will have a poor pistol but you can upgrade it by finding weapons in chests and from defeating miniboss (or main boss) enemies. However, the guns you will get at random are always a surprise. There are two versions of each weapon, each version has different traits. One version of a weapon can fire faster but deal less damage per hit, while the other may fire slower but deal more damage per hit, and so on.
Pay attention to the progress bar in the bottom left corner of your screen, above the health bar, after you find a weapon. This shows how close you are to obtaining the permanent weapon trait. Simply beat enemies with your weapon to fill up this bar! It’s as easy as that. The permanent weapon traits are unlocked by simply killing enemies with a weapon. To unlock the level weapon trait, you will need around 10-15 kills. More kills are needed for higher-level weapon traits, which aren’t available until the fifth biome.
By pressing the options-Button > Equipment > scroll down to the traits below the weapon stats, you can see your traits.
New weapon traits will become available as you progress through new biomes. There will be more weapon traits per weapon, as well as higher-level traits with greater impact. This occurs automatically as you progress through the novel.
As we have mentioned above that each weapon has two versions, each version has its permanent traits! For example, if you discovered Variant 1 of the Shotgun and unlocked its permanent traits, you could discover Variant 2 on your next run, but none of its traits are unlocked. This is because it is a different version of the same weapon. This can be perplexing at first. There’s no way to switch weapon variants, so you will have to depend on luck with random drops to get you what you want.