If you would have asked me to play any sort of horror game a few years ago I would have told you that I wasn’t interested. However, over the last few years I’ve come to enjoy the genre, especially psychological horror games which combine exploration and fear with a deep narrative and constant feeling that you’re being watched. As such, a soon as I saw the trailers for Someday You’ll Return, I knew I had to play it – the concept, visuals, story, and atmosphere were exactly what I needed during the current lockdown.
Developed by CBE Software, a two-person development studio, Someday You’ll Return is a very ambitious game even for a much bigger studio, aiming to fill you with a whole host of emotions as you wander the woods alone, searching for that which you’ve lost. After 17 hours I managed to reach the end of the game, unlocking the bad ending due to the choices I made towards the latter half of the narrative. However, although I was incredibly impressed and still a little shocked that so few people made the game, the game has launched in an ‘unfinished’, yet a perfectly playable, state – in my opinion.
So, grab your torch, walkie-talkie, and rope as we head into the woods – it’s as if someone knew that Someday You’ll Return…
Someday You’ll Return is a psychological horror game which focuses heavily on its narrative and the emotions it stirs up within you as you traverse the haunting forests within the Czech Republic. You play as Daniel, a bad-tempered unlikable character who easily gets pissed off with anyone and anything he encounters – seriously, the voice acting and the writing are great, but he’s such a dick to anyone he comes into contact with. After hearing that his daughter has run away again he sets out to try and find her, using the tracking tool he secretly placed within her phone the last time this happened – what a great father…
However, the place she’s decided to hide in is the one place you swore never to return to, although you can’t remember why. As you get deeper into the forest you also get deeper into your mind, unlocking lost memories, tragic events, and secrets you’ve locked away previously, you’ll also begin to lose your mind as you begin to visualise things which clearly can’t be real, can they?! By utilising your own sense of direction, and the markings upon the trees, you must activate the inner scout as you explore the wilderness and discover the people and mysterious creatures which lie within.
Playing very similar to the awesome games from Bloober Team, Someday You’ll Return is a combination of exploration, horror, and chase sequences, whilst delivering narrative which is both presented to you and hidden away, waiting for you to discover. The developers have also incorporated puzzles and a very interesting climbing mechanic into the game, making the experience much more than your standard first-person narrative adventure – it’s certainly not a ‘walking simulator’ as I’ve seen some reviewers describe it over the last few days.
Unlike similar games in the genre, in Someday You’ll Return you won’t just be walking around and looking at things whilst awaiting the inevitable creature appearing and chasing you away. Instead, there are a number of mechanics and features which pull you in and fully immerses you within the world. First of all, yeah, there is a lot of exploration and investigation as you wander around the woods, exploration which led to me becoming lost on more than one occasion. However, even when I became lost I never gave up or felt frustrated – I’m just a guy in the woods, so I’m glad there was no waypoints or markers, the lack of them made it feel so much more ‘real’.
You have to self-navigate through the forest by reading maps which are placed throughout the area and following trees which have been painted with a certain colour – to indicate which ‘path’ you’re on. Believe me when I say that this forest is big, you can easily go off the path and find things you’re not supposed to, yet there are some restrictions to stop you wandering too far, such as locked doors, fallen logs, and rivers.
You’ll often come across walls which you must scale in order to proceed, a mechanic which I’ve not seen before (outside of the fun Crisis on the Planet of the Apes VR game). You alternate which hands you use as you manually reach out and grab notches on the wall. Although sounding quite simple, this ‘puzzle’ gets pretty hard when there are multiple pathways to climb up meaning you have to strategically place your hands so your next arm can reach a higher notch. It’s also realistic, so you have less stretch if you try and cross your arm to the opposite side (e.g. trying to grab a notch on the left with your right hand).
For the most part, I enjoyed these climbing segments but there were a few tricky ones towards the end which frustrated me a little – you can’t skip these either.
When you’re not walking or climbing, you’ll be collecting plants so that you can create potions which cure you of certain issues or to boost your defence against other effects. This is a mini-game in itself as each recipe requires not only certain plants but a particular way to mix them together. So, once you grab a plant you will either use it whole, crush it, or chop it up and then use the various components clean or after being crushed. It’s an interesting mechanic and is much more immersive and hands-on than similar mechanics in games such as Far Cry, in which you simply ‘craft’ things with a single button.
Another one of the puzzle mechanics has to be how the game deals with inventory items and buildable objects. When Daniel comes up with an idea for an object, he thinks of a blueprint which allows you to drop various components into it in order to create the final product. Not only this, but you can also use a selection of tools such as a hammer, screwdriver, and pliers. These tools can also be used to dismantle objects or within the environment to create paths – such as cutting barbed wire.
Finally, Someday You’ll Return makes use of the phone for various reasons – tracking your daughter, receiving calls, and answering text messages. I would have liked this mechanic to be more involved and possibly add more functions over time or let you call out and talk to people if you’re stuck or just want a chat, but it’s fine – it did the job.
Location Location Location.
I absolutely adored the visuals and the setting for Someday You’ll Return. Sure, there are times when the game is very disturbing and you find yourself trapped within an alternative dimension as you run and hide from satanic creatures, but when you’re not doing that, it’s a lovely place to simply walk around and take in the beauty. Also, throughout the game you’ll come across QR codes, codes which actually takes you to a map which pinpoints the location you’re in, but in real life. That’s right, the forest and locations you walk around are based upon real locations – I’m not sure if the details are 1:1 but the names and landmarks match up.
I love it when games merge real life with fantasy, I found myself scanning every code I could find on my iPad in order to see the real version.
Again, considering how few people worked on Someday You’ll Return, I was blown away by both the size of the game and the level of detail found within. The reason I found myself getting lost on a number occasions wasn’t just down to me not following the paths or being terrible at reading a child’s hand-drawn map, it’s because I would become curious if I could wander off and explore – which often resulted in me finding a collectable or something I shouldn’t see yet.
The world the developers have created is very realistic both in terms of the visuals and the level design, but also fantastical when things change and you enter the mysterious realm where your nightmares live.
Collectables and the story
As you explore the various locations, you’ll come across a bunch of collectables to pick up and read. There are numerous pages which form a book, usually found in the arms of deformed dolls, the aforementioned QR codes and information boards, sheet music which you can play on your guitar, and other random objects such as coats of arms.
There is also a hidden story for you to unfold, a narrative which you can’t see unless you use the potions you can create in order to see and experience memories from your daughter. Once you’ve unlocked this mechanic, you’re almost encouraged to seek out the points which you’ve passed previously and see what you’ll discover through this process. Collecting all of these isn’t a requirement to complete the game, neither are any of the collectables, but they will fill in the gaps and provide you with more knowledge of the events which occurred previously.
Once you uncover your daughter’s diary, you can reveal pages within it by finding the pictured locations in the world. This is another mechanic which encourages you to go exploring and seek out locations you may have already visited previously in order to fully unlock the hidden narrative within the game.
I completed the game with the bad ending, due to a choice I made in the final part of the game. However, based on what I saw and how it ended, I believe understanding the history of your daughter, as well as choosing a different way to deal with your issues, is how you would change the narrative and unlock the good ending. I’m saving that for my playthrough on the PlayStation 4 though.
Now you see me…
Two of the main components I don’t like in narrative horror games are stealth and running away from things – Someday You’ll Return has both, unfortunately. Now, before I start moaning about these elements and why I didn’t like them, they aren’t too bad within this game as the loading time is quite short and once you know what you’re doing, you can get through them easily. However, these are two things which I wish would go away as they don’t build suspense or dread, they just frustrate me when I end up dying over and over again – but, this is a personal issue, not representative of the game.
Stealth. Once you begin to see the creatures and unknown beasts within the game, the stealth segments will start. This involves, as you’d imagine, hiding from the path-based enemies as you try and get past them without being seen – as that often results in instant death. However, some of these sequences were frustrating beyond belief thanks to the very little guidance the game gives you. You know you have to make it to a set location – often where the light is flickering – but it’s not always clear what to do when you get there. I was stuck for over an hour in one sequence because I didn’t realise the item I just picked up could be used to destroy walls with creatures on it just by thrusting it into the ground.
True, the mini-tutorial told me this, but it was the last page and I didn’t read it – a simple pop-up when I got to that location reminding me of this would have been nice.
Running away. What would a horror game be without the customary chase sequence? Surprisingly, I didn’t have any issues with these – they occurred when I wasn’t expecting it, the path you had to run down was fairly obvious, and I wasn’t caught in any of them until towards the end of the game. There are a few of these sequences which will be trial and error as you have to run and then shut the door to give you time or destroy an object blocking your path, all whilst being chased. I say these will be trial and error because you probably won’t realise until you’re dead that you should have done something first.
As such, despite my dislike of these two mechanics, they weren’t too bad in Someday You’ll Return, just a little tedious and unfair in the latter half of the game.
As I mentioned in the opening paragraphs, I felt Someday You’ll Return should have had a month or so to polish certain things – the controls are one of them. I don’t use my keyboard and mouse if I don’t have to, I’d rather use my DualShock 4 or NACON Revolution Unlimited Pro (which mimicks an Xbox One Controller), so seeing that this game has ‘Full Controller Support’ was great. However, it technically doesn’t have this.
If you plug in either controller and load up the game (Big Picture mode or normal), you’ll first notice that the Left Thumbstick controls the cursor in the menu as if it’s a mouse. So, instead of moving up and down through the options, you’re essentially moving a mouse cursor around the screen. Confused and thinking it isn’t working, I started the game – surprisingly, the controller now works perfectly. However, every single key prompt the game gives you is for the keyboard – so, “press F for your flashlight” or “TAB for your map”. This doesn’t help when the controller has some commands on different buttons yet on the keyboard they share the same key.
Also, I’m happy there’s an invert y-axis option but it also inverts the emulated mouse cursor – which is once again used when looking at your mobile phone, rather than a simple object selection with the D-Pad or Thumbstick. It’s also super sensitive when using the phone so you have to move the stick very gently so that you don’t end up missing what you’re trying to click on. This issue also rears its head in the climbing, inventory management and construction processes I mentioned above. Honestly, I simply grabbed my mouse and used that to do these parts as I found it very hard via the controller.
As the devs are constantly updating the game, and the fact the controller aspect won’t have been number one on their list to perfect, I’m not too bothered about this. Both controllers ‘worked’ but I just had issues with the incorrect inverting of all aspects of the game (when it should only be during movement) and the lack of controller prompts. As Someday You’ll Return is supposedly coming to consoles, I expect these issues will be addressed at some point in the near future, before the console release.
When I received our review code for Someday You’ll Return, I was advised of certain aspects of the game which haven’t been ‘finished’ yet. Again, this is why I feel the game should have been held back or placed in Early Access until they had implemented everything they wanted. However, knowing about the issues made me lower my expectations going into the game, which ultimately led me to enjoy the game much more in my opinion. Other than the controller issues above, there are a few other notable things which are yet to be patched into the game…
The developers have advised us that they are refining the audio, both verbally and musically. As I played through the game, I didn’t really notice any missing music (how could I if it’s missing?), I just felt like the quiet forest with ambient noises was a design choice which was being used to amplify the loneliness and isolation the protagonist is going through. However, it appears more music is being added and placed within certain scenes – for me, this wasn’t an issue at all though. In terms of the verbal aspect, Daniel is apparently a very brave man, he stays silent in the face of danger and doesn’t cry when he’s injured – but that’s a bug. He’ll soon be made more human and react to the pain delivered upon him via screaming.
Supposedly, the developers are working on an improved ‘To-Do’ mechanic. Right now, you have a journal and you keep track of roughly what you have to do, leaving the actual exploration and investigation up to you to discover. I really enjoyed this so I hope they don’t dumb it down and start adding waypoints or arrows pointing to the goal. However, I did have an issue with the To-Do list as it wasn’t correctly tracking when I completed things, keeping goals ‘active’ even though I’ve moved on hours ago. Thankfully it didn’t block progress, but fixing those issues would be great.
Finally, bug fixes and proofreading is still being performed (as it is in most games released these days). I personally only encountered one bug which halted progress, requiring me to load an autosave, and the very final room suffered from terrible no clipping, allowing me to walk out of the wall very easily – and fall to an infinite drop. Speaking of saves – it has 100 autosaves… ONE HUNDRED! I can’t recall ever seeing a game with that many – they’re all about 2-3 minutes apart as well. My save folder is 167MB in size (which isn’t too bad). Also, I thought the subtitles and descriptions were all well-written, with only a single strangely phrased line of dialogue.
My PC isn’t the greatest – an old i7 processor, 16GB Ram and a GTX 780Ti, yet I was able to run the game in 1080p at 60fps for the majority of the time. It dropped to around 45fps when the screen was displaying a lot of effects, but that was only a single scene towards the end of the game. As such, I would say it’s very well optimised, even more so than some modern AAA games which don’t look anywhere near as good as this game did. The lighting effects, visuals, colours, and assets all made Someday You’ll Return look very picturesque despite the horror all around you.
The characters you meet along the way are fun and well designed, although the old lady seems to be auditioning for Britain’s Got Talent with her incredible ventriloquist act (there was a long time where she wouldn’t move her mouth whilst talking). The same goes for the environments, in terms of being well designed, not performing party tricks. I have to give praise for the level design as well, there’s a bunch of secret areas, alternative pathways, landmarks and structures, and fun indoor puzzles within small enclosed areas.
I really liked the music, although there doesn’t appear to be any way to pick up the soundtrack, and the voice actors were great. If we ignore the very angry attitude of Daniel (I believe he has mental issues), the emotion and delivery of the vocal work are great. I honestly thought the voice actor was the same person from the Call of Cthulhu or The Sinking City games, but it wasn’t, they sound very similar though. One of the reasons I actually pushed through to finish the game before writing this was to either confirm or deny that, as you can’t play the credits, you only see them when you complete the game (which is strange).
Someday You’ll Return is much more than a psychological horror game, it’s an immersive adventure which you’ll never forget. Although initially looking for your daughter, you’ll soon find yourself helping others and discovering secrets about yourself and the past, things which you forgot a long time ago. Despite my lack of interest in being chased and performing stealth mechanics, the ones within this game weren’t too bad, being rather forgiving and easy to complete after a few tries. It’s a beautiful digital trip to real-life locations, enhanced with fantastical and horrific events which will scare and disturb you.
Someday You'll Return£27.79
- - Very pretty game with great lighting, environments, atmosphere, and visual effects
- - Set within real locations, making it even more immersive, but perfectly combined with fantastical demonic elements
- - Interesting climbing mechanics as well as hands-on crafting and inventory puzzles
- - Good voice acting and decent writing, even if some of the personality traits don't make sense until later on
- - The developers are constantly improving the experience based on the feedback they get
- - The only prompts are for K+M, even if using a controller. Invert also affects all Thumbstick operations (when it should just be for the looking). (Didn't affect my score)
- - There are a number of audio bugs and adjustments which still need to be implemented, plus the old woman needs to learn how to move her mouth when talking. (Didn't affect my score)
- - The chase and stealth moments get quite tricky and unfair, almost as if you're meant to use trial and error to realise what you need to do in order to pass them
- - The ending I got, the bad one, didn't fully explain things to me
- - It's easy to get lost and not realise what you have to do to progress (the developers are supposedly refining this). (Didn't affect my score)