Someday You’ll Return Review
But will you want to?
Someday You’ll Return is about every parent's worst nightmare — your child going missing. If that wasn’t bad enough, developer CBE Software’s adventure-mystery game also threw in spiders, a cursed forest, and monsters that can best be described as oleaginous. The game is story-driven with lots of puzzles and horror aspects thrown in. All of which have moments where they shine but also moments that left me scratching my head wondering what they were thinking.
You play as Daniel, whose daughter Stela has disappeared in a forest which he has a long history with. Right off the bat, it’s made clear to the player that Daniel is not a kind person. He’s dismissive of his daughter's mother’s concerns, he complains about everything, and he has the temper of a seven-year-old who's just told he couldn't play Roblox until he finishes his chores. I do think it’s possible to make an enjoyable game where the main character is a terrible person — Kratos from the original God of War series comes to mind. The issue with Daniel is he dives into the purposely bad category and the accidentally annoying category at the same time. Think Joffrey from Game of Thrones: you're not supposed to like him but even if you were you wouldn’t, anyway.
With Daniel, I think a good portion of the blame goes to the voice acting. His tone rarely fits the mood of the scene. There were times he should have seemed worried about his daughter's safety, but he sounded as if he was just at work having a casual conversation, while other times he would hiss at other characters for doing nothing at all. It was as if they gave the voice actor his lines with no context other than you must be on one end of the anger spectrum, nowhere in between. My initial thought was that because CBE Software is a Czech Republic company, there might have been translating issues, but none of the other characters in the game seemed to have this problem.
The overall story has interesting elements to it. Anyone can relate to trying to save a loved one, but this game takes it a step farther. As Daniel travels into the continually eroding forest, the deeper he must delve into his own past mistakes. As the forest deteriorates, certain areas become host to oily shrieking monsters. The player must be stealthy to avoid being found and killed by monsters. But these areas are small and don’t involve too much skill; all you need to do is crouch and hug the corners to escape.
We learn about Daniel and Stela primarily through journals and flashbacks. The most intriguing example of this was when a potion allows you to listen to old memories of Stela. You follow illuminated footsteps from memory to memory, hearing conversations she was having. That combined with her diary, which was unlocked over time, painted a picture of her personality and what she was going through better than most games could. The issue was that there was too much time in between these moments. It felt like the game had around five hours worth of material but was stretched to 10–15 hours instead. At one point in the game, Daniele refers to The Blair Witch Project. And I thought that movie was a good representation of Someday You’ll Return. Both take place in haunted woods; both have interesting story aspects; both have too many lulls and worst of all both had endings that ultimately left me feeling unsatisfied.
One of my favourite things about Someday You’ll Return is that it’s an open world game without a GUI map. You are told from character dialogue where you need to go and then it’s up to you to use physical guide maps scattered around the park and marked trails to find your destination. There were times I would get lost, but for once I was okay with experiencing this in a video game. Everyone who has spent a decent portion of their time in the wilderness has had that feeling, even if only for a split second. It added to the immersion of being out in the woods with nothing but your wits to guide you.
Another thing I enjoyed was that the developers based the location on an actual forest in the Czech Republic. There were QR codes near points of interest. I was able to point my phone at my computer screen and saw the real-life locations for key points in the game. The only complaint I have with the scenery is the number of times you have to climb walls. The mechanic is simple enough — you control one arm at a time and grab onto protruding rocks. But at one point I wondered if I was playing a rock climbing simulator rather than a horror mystery. It felt like another example of trying to add time into the game with the cost being the enjoyability.
The worst example of filler is with the puzzles — they are hit and miss with a majority of them being misses. One that stood out positively is when I needed to find three items scattered near a campground. All I had at my disposal to locate them were descriptions written in the tone of a young boy going on an adventure. The quest is combined with some decoding that reminded me of imaginary adventures I did when I was a kid. Completing this puzzle gave me a sense of accomplishment and nostalgia all rolled into one. But these puzzles are rare in Someday You’ll Return. The bulk of them involve finding an item near you that can open a door or combining a few items to make a one-off tool to solve a problem. If the developers had cut down on the number of tedious queries and focused more on creating a few adventurous ones it would have improved the game.
It’s a shame that Someday You’ll Return isn’t a better game. Aspects of the story and gameplay were engaging along with a brilliant setting. It had the pieces to be a real gem, but the game is too bloated for it to reach its potential. I think the developers have talent. CBE Software has a motto “it’s much better to fail while trying something new and original than to succeed by copying already successful games”. I couldn't agree more: it’s always better to go down swinging rather than playing it safe. While they may have missed this time, Someday You’ll Return showcases their potential to make a great game in the future.
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