Review – Someday You’ll Return
I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of Someday You’ll Return from CBE Software for quite a while now. I discovered it a while back when browsing through Steam looking for my next potential game to satisfy my horror craving. I kept my eye on it and was saddened when the release date was pushed back due to complications from the COVID-19 pandemic. Well the day finally arrived and I was able to get my hands on it. It was well worth the wait.
In Someday You’ll Return you play as Daniel, a father whose daughter has gone missing. Stela has a history of running away from home, so a while back Daniel gave her a cell phone that he had secretly installed with a tracking device. Using this, he follows the signal to a forest in the Czech Republic where he and Stela had frequented during the summers for many years. What he thinks is going to be a simple task of picking her up quickly turns into a nightmare as things are not what they seem in the forest he used to know so well.
The initial premise is one that you’ve seen plenty of times in horror games. It only stood out to me because I love a good mystery and the setting looked beautiful. While it does have both of those things, it turned out to have a lot more going for it than I first realized. The plot, while seemingly common for these types of games, quickly became something unique and highly intriguing. It’s been a long time since I’ve been so completely hooked by a game. Once I started, I was unable to put it down.
The story might start off a bit familiar, but it becomes something all its own before too long. Much of what is happening around you and what had happened in your past is revealed in small pieces. Along with learning new information from newspapers and books, which is a staple in a lot of exploration games, you’ll also uncover truths after completing certain challenges. After a while, you’ll find Stela’s diary, but much of it is obscured by strange symbols that you can’t read. Following her path and having some revelations of your own will allow some pages to be readable, giving you some insight as to what happened to her to drive her away. The information is given to you at a great pace, with just enough to keep you guessing throughout the whole game.
Someday You’ll Return has clear inspirations from games like Silent Hill, Resident Evil, and Outlast, both in tone and gameplay. Set in an ancient Moravian forest, you’ll mainly be doing a lot of walking around and exploring the various trails. The developers used real locations, as you can see when you look at the maps and information boards at each location. There are also QR codes you can collect and if you scan then, it will bring to real links talking about that particular area. Both of the developers (yes, it was made by only two men) are from the Czech Republic and wanted to use their favorite spots as the setting for their game. They said they wanted to make something akin to a Silent Hill game set in the Czech Republic, and it shows.
Being set in the forest, you’ll have to carefully explore and follow trails. This is done in a truly realistic manner in which you’ll have to study the maps to see which paths to take to get to your next destination, as well as be on the lookout for the color coded trail makers to make sure you’re staying on the right path. This also means that there will be many times that you’ll get lost. Because the forest is so dense with many twisting trails to follow, there are plenty of times you’ll stray off the path to investigate something that catches your eye or accidentally venture onto another trail without realizing it until it’s too late. There is almost no hand holding in this game, so when you get lost, you’ll have to keep trekking along until you find a map station or landmark you recognize. This adds a strong sense of realism (and frustration) to the game, as you’ll often feel like you’re on your own, lost in the woods.
That’s not to say that all you’ll be doing is walking around and exploring. Far from it in fact, as this is not a walking sim. I was surprised to discover that there are actually a ton of different gameplay elements in Someday You’ll Return. Near the beginning of the game you’ll find your old tool belt and this will allow you to craft certain things you’ll need along the way, as well as tinker around with some of the items you’ll pick up. You’ll also be able to brew some potions, each with their own specific purpose like cleansing contamination from your body or allowing you to locate various flowers easier. Occasionally, you’ll come across a rock face that you can climb. While these sections start of easy, eventually you’ll encounter some that you’ll have to carefully plan out which handholds to grab onto and which direction to go in order to make it all the way to the top.
Someday You’ll Return also has a lot of puzzles. I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only are there puzzles in this game, but quite a few of them are very clever. There were a few of them that stumped me for a little bit and I had to take breaks to come back to them to look at them again with fresh eyes. I love a good puzzle and this game has several great examples, but getting stuck on one when you’re in the middle of trying to figure out what’s going on and the story is ramping up, completely takes away the tension. Like I’ve already mentioned, this game does not hold your hand or offer any help in these situations.
There was one in particular where I knew what I had to do, but couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to get a door code I needed. I spent hours reading through all my books and papers, and scoured through every available section of explorable area hoping to find some item or clue I had missed. After taking a long break, I discovered that there was a particular item in my inventory that had to be moved into the exact right position in order to be able to interact with it using the tools in my tool belt. I felt stupid for missing something so simple and glaringly obvious, but also a bit aggravated by the fact that I had been so close to discovering what I needed hours earlier, only to have missed it by not turning the item forward enough to be able to do anything with it.
Puzzles and crafting aside, there is another prominent gameplay feature that I need to address. There are several instances in which you’ll come across some deadly enemies and you’ll have to hide from them so they don’t see you. If they see you and you don’t hide fast enough, you’ll die instantly once they reach you. It feels a lot like Outlast in that regard. There is no combat whatsoever, although at a certain point you’ll get a totem that can hold the enemies within its area of effect in a sort of stasis so you can get past them. However, more often than not I found it to be more of a hindrance than a help, seeing as how many of the enemies not affected by the totem would be alerted to your presence and rush to attack you. After a while, I stuck to remaining crouched and stealthy.
There are also a lot of collectables you can find throughout this game. Along with discovering all of the locations and QR codes, you can find: candy wrappers, scout badges, guitar sheet music, bedtime story pages, and myths and legends from the area. I’m not sure if finding everything will have an affect on the ending of the game (I don’t think there is), but there are achievements for finding everything. Quite a few of them are hidden off the beaten path, so it’s at least some small comfort when you’re lost in the woods and you stumble upon one.
At least when you’re aimlessly wandering around the woods, you’ll have beautiful environments to look at. This game is gorgeous. The developers made fantastic use of Unreal Engine 4 and have created some very realistic looking locations, like the forest, an abandoned summer camp, and a dilapidated ancient castle. Well, the environments are beautiful at least. The human animations are far less convincing, but luckily you won’t see those too often.
The sound design is fantastic for the most part. The sound effects are clear and accurate. Hearing the differences your footsteps make when you walk over well-worn trails, crunch over fallen leaves, and plod across old wooden floorboards is remarkable and adds to the immersion. The sounds of the forest as a whole are incredible. I highly recommend playing this with headphones on, as doing so will make you feel like you’re really there. Exploring the woods and hearing something crunch behind you or whispers from unseen forces makes this came truly chilling at times.
There are a couple giant flaws in the sound department though. Daniel’s voice actor delivers a bewildering and erratic performance. He often times is angry and overly hostile for no apparent reason, especially in the beginning. He calms down and behaves normally after a while, but even then there are still plenty of times he’ll be talking to someone and go from sane to irrationally heated for no reason and then bounce back just as quickly. There’s also a couple times when Daniel will be going to his next major destination and a song with someone fully singing will start playing very loudly. It feels so out of place when this happens because it seems to come out of nowhere. Then it’s just over and you’re back to the natural sounds of the forest. It was so jarring the first time it happened that I actually started laughing. It was an odd choice to say the least.
Someday You’ll Return took me by surprise. I was interested in this game from the trailer and it managed to impress me in almost every way. It blows my mind that it was made by only two people! There are some problems with the pacing, especially when you get lost in the forest or stuck on a puzzle, but the story is so compelling you’ll have to see it through to the end. It’s one of those games that sticks with you long after it’s over. The way the story unfolds and is presented to you is brilliant. The stealth sections can be really annoying and Daniel’s voice actor is all over the place, but the mystery is too intriguing to let those few issues ruin the experience. If you’re a fan of horror, exploration, and puzzle games, then you absolutely shouldn’t let Someday You’ll Return pass you by.
This game utilizes Unreal Engine 4 well and has some gorgeous environments and lighting effects. The human animations aren’t nearly as impressive as the forest though.
There’s a nice variety of gameplay mechanics in here, such as exploring, climbing rock faces, brewing potions, crafting and tinkering with items in your inventory, as well as quite a few puzzles. The stealth sections can get frustrating.
The sound design is fantastic. The natural sound effects from the woods along with faints whispers around you make for a chilling experience. However, the lead actor’s vocal performance is extremely erratic and is often overly hostile for no apparent reason.
The mystery behind what happened to the daughter, Stela, is captivating. The story and information pertaining to the area are delivered at a good pace. Unfortunately, things can screech to a halt when you get to the stealth sections or are stuck on a puzzle.
Final Verdict: 8.0
Someday You’ll Return is available now on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.
Reviewed on PC.
A copy of Someday You’ll Return was provided by the publisher.