Someday You’ll Return didn’t exactly endear itself to me in its opening moments. Dark, claustrophobic corridors, random jumpscares, a character called “the Beast.” I was ready for an uninspired, generic horror game. Then came in the protagonist, Daniel, who seemed like an abrasive bastard without much going on character-wise. However, once the brief prologue concluded, I was given a chance to explore the ancient Moravian forests and begin in earnest Daniel’s search for Stela, his daughter. And that’s when the artistry started to reveal itself.
Not only were the gorgeous autumnal vistas a significant improvement over the dim prologue, but over time, motifs began to appear and reappear, prompting me to think about their significance. Initially, the game seemed dull and routine. But as Daniel was stripped of modern implements like his car and cell phone, I was gradually stripped of my cynicism, and both of us were forced to confront the mysterious evils of the past, deep in the wood.
- What is Someday You’ll Return? It’s a first-person psychological horror game set deep in the forests of the Czech Republic. Play as Daniel, a man returning to his home – where he swore never to return – in search of his missing daughter, Stela.
- Developer: CBE Software
- Release Date: May 5, 2020
- Price: $34.99
- Website: www.youwillreturn.com
- Reviewed On: PC
Nuts and Bolts
Now, Someday You’ll Return isn’t really a mechanics-focused game. But it is more mechanically robust than others within its genre, so it’s worth noting whether the gameplay is successful. For the most part? I’d say that it is. While very little is complicated or challenging, the inventory-based puzzles scratch that problem-solving itch nicely. And when Herbalism is introduced as a mechanic, you’re made to follow recipes and concoct potions, simultaneously curing Daniel’s ailments and connecting him on a deeper level with an older, more magical world.
Taken together, exploration, puzzle-solving, and action setpieces make for a well-paced horror adventure. That said, the game is not devoid of mechanical flaws.
When Someday You’ll Return fails to make a sequence work, it’s usually the result of small annoyances. Or, even if an overall sequence works, its impact can be sapped by these frustrations. For example, a skin-crawling trek through a cave infested with spiders creates a beautiful atmosphere of paranoia and discomfort. However, the central mechanic of the sequence, swiping Daniel’s torch at clusters of webbing, is clunky, slow to respond, and awkward. Eventually, the struggle with the torch controls become more pressing than the terror of escaping a brood of eight-legged monstrosities.
Into The Wilderness
Probably the strongest accolade in Someday You’ll Return belongs to the visuals. These capture somber beauty – warm fall leaves wreathed with golden sunlight fade into drab, decaying hangers-on in the dusk; the moon mounts the sky, fat and full, its otherworldly luminosity speaking of supernatural forces at work. There are also motifs more memorable and disturbing than any jumpscare, like the recurring image of black, distorted hands clutching at a naked girl. There’s also an interesting contrast between the ugly ruin of concrete and rebar, symbols of modern decay, and natural and historical sites worthy of aesthetic esteem and preservation. Pairing these visuals with the moody soundtrack, Someday You’ll Return is dripping with atmosphere and enticing you to observe your surroundings with a careful eye.
As for the story itself, Someday You’ll Return is intriguing, if a little forced in spots. By forced, I’m referring to moments that basically feel like “hey, isn’t this girl creepy?” It’s tropey and overdone, and something similar could be said about the previously-mentioned Beast. This monster has an interesting design once you get a good look at him, but he isn’t particularly scary. One scene saw the thing charging at you, and all I could do was laugh at the sight – not the most promising sign for a horror game. It also makes it harder to connect with the horror when the protagonist comes off as so unlikeable early on. He is irritable, overbearing, dismissive, and disrespectful. However, a protagonist need not be likable if they’re interesting, and that’s something that improves throughout the game.
As Daniel continues the search for his daughter Stela, Someday You’ll Return hints at his backstory, his unwillingness to confront his past. This provides a point of intrigue for the player, a throughline to follow as they experience the game. The game’s emotional core isn’t exactly rock-solid, but with enough mystery, mood, and atmosphere to prop it up, Someday You’ll Return is a perfectly good way to get your horror kick.
Zoom Out: Verdict
Audiovisuals and Atmosphere - 8/10
Puzzles and Herbalism - 7/10
Horror Elements and Storytelling - 7/10
Action and Setpieces - 6/10
Someday You’ll Return doesn’t have a fundamental failure so much as a variety of small problems. Frustration in the gameplay, an unlikeable protagonist, and some stilted attempts at horror have a tendency to undermine the feel of the game. However, the game breaks through these problems and finds success on the strength of its audiovisuals, puzzle mechanics, and its pervasive atmosphere of uncertainty and decay.
- Puzzle Mechanics
- Some Great Horror Sequences
- Tired Tropes
- Clunky Action, Controls
- Hard to Connect with Daniel, Especially Early On