Someday You’ll Return is a heart-wrenching psychological horror game developed and published by the same folks that brought us J.U.L.I.A.: Among the Stars, CBE Software. As indie game developers in the Czech Republic, CBE Software has brought an especially unique perspective to the psychological horror genre by incorporating the environment of their home country. One thing is for certain, if you can manage to make your way through the winding trails of the Czech Republic and don’t mind having to backtrack quite a bit, the story that Someday You’ll Return has to tell is one that can be felt and understood universally, regardless of your background.
Someday You’ll Return has a lot of different facets and pieces that come together to weave its perplexing narrative, so, let’s start at the beginning with the story. Your story begins behind the guise of a man named Daniel, searching after his runaway daughter Stela in the Moravian forests that he swore he would never return to, but something immediately seems off when you arrive.
To put it bluntly, Daniel’s character is a complete and total asshole and we’re given very little context as to why he acts the way he does. As soon as we arrive, things start to go wrong. We lose track of Stela’s GPS location almost immediately from her cell phone, stumble upon a strange old woman that only speaks in riddles, and once our cell signal is restored we get into some pretty heated fights with our significant other.
When you’re not arguing with your wife, you have an epiphany that Stela had to have returned to the run-down summer camp, Lucky Leaf Camp, deep in the woods. Why she would do that, you don’t know, but at that point were really out of options. On our way there we meet Eleanora. She agrees to help us with our search for Stela and later gives us Stela’s diary. What we learn of Daniel and his history comes not from his own confessions or inner monologue, but from Stela’s memories and the vague conversations he has with other characters. We start to get the impression that Daniel is being purposefully vague, not just forgetful, and eventually start to unravel why.
NOT SO HAPPY TRAILS
The search for Stela will take Daniel all over the forest, and have you actually navigate real trails of the forests of the Czech Republic. For someone who is terrible with directions and bearing, this initially terrified me. The trail markers are indicated by little colored lines on trees in the forest and sometimes can loop around on each other or intersect with other trails. Daniel does have a handy dandy GPS on his cell phone, but half of the game his cell phone doesn’t have a signal or has been stolen by a malevolent entity-so I rarely ended up using it.
THE DARK FOREST
As Daniel stumbles around the forest, growing increasingly frustrated with Stela’s disappearance, the eerie supernatural forces of the forest start to interfere with his journey. Bits and pieces of lore scattered throughout the forest give hints about its origin, but the reality of our situation is never explicitly stated. Daniel blacks out often, sometimes completely at random, and the veil between the real world and this strange shadow realm begins to blur. This all begins to happen after we enter into an old bunker with a bright red door. When we emerge from the horrors within, it looks like a nuke has been set off in the forest around us. Here we have to contend with the Beast, the Fog Children, and their grotesque traps of crawling arms and black ichor.
ALCHEMY AND HERBALISM
One of Someday You’ll Return’s most interesting mechanics is their alchemy system. Throughout the forest you can gather various herbs and flowers to concoct potions that will clear up some of the vertigo you experience when encountering the supernatural denizens of the forest, as well as potions that reveal hidden lore. Eventually you can even start to unlock Stela’s memories, frozen as brief whispers of time. These small glimpses into her life will reveal the previously hidden pages of her diary, giving us further insight into her disappearance.
EXPLORING AND INTERACTING WITH OBJECTS
At its heart, Someday You’ll Return is a game that truly rewards exploration and thinking outside of the box. There are a variety of objects you can pick up and interact with, turning them upside down and around in a 3D viewport window to search for clues. You can even combine objects to overcome an obstacle or solve a particularly difficult puzzle. For the amount of time we spent playing the game, I did find myself wishing that we had a few more puzzles to interact with. In my opinion, they tended to be slightly hit or miss. Sometimes the puzzles were very simple, and other times I would have to sit there for a solid thirty minutes to figure it out.
There is a large variety of collectibles that can be found in Someday You’ll Return, including candy wrappers, guitar sheet music, and discovery points. Admittedly, I found the collectible system to be slightly immersion breaking. While it is a neat addition, and I LOVE myself some collectibles and achievements, it just didn’t feel right to be constantly on the lookout for the more light-hearted items. And while I really loved being able to play the guitar, it just felt…jarring, and wrong-to stop in the middle of everything that was going on and play a carefree song.
My biggest pet peeve with Someday You’ll Return lies mainly with how it is broken up into chapters. Each chapter, and sometimes scenes in between scenes in that chapter, had odd moments that just didn’t seem to connect with each other. If it wasn’t enough to deal with the constant swapping between the real and and shadow world, we then had to piece together Daniel’s completely out of character dialogue and vague responses. Some things just seemed wrong. One moment he is screaming at his wife on the phone, asshole levels maxed out, and the next he has a soft, sweet tone with a little girl that he has found. I hate to reuse the word, but it is just so incredibly jarring that it hurts. We can never get a true read on Daniel’s personality or why he does the things he does, and that makes it extremely hard to connect to him as a protagonist. You can have the most beautiful graphics and sweeping music, but if your main character falls flat, the gameplay just feels hollow. The only thing that kept me going was wanting to see Stela’s journey through to the end.
I absolutely do still have to give credit where it’s due. The world of Someday You’ll Return is breathtaking. You can definitely tell there was a lot of love put into the atmosphere and the beautiful forested mountain landscape. I had an extremely hard time picking out screenshots for this review because every single one was just so dang beautiful and captivating to experience. Even if I did have to do a lot of backtracking for progress, it wasn’t so terrible because I got to experience all of the gorgeous views and scenery one more time.
There are a handful of encounters that ask you to sprint for your life, and I can confidently say that most of the time I ended up being ripped out of my immersion once more because of them. While I appreciate the attempt to add tension, it just added more frustration to my gameplay. Daniel’s model has a tendency to get caught on the slightest invisible corner of a hitbox and just a second or two too late can be enough to sabotage the whole run and set you back one more time. The final sprint encounter I definitely ran over twenty times. Each time Daniel would decide he just wanted to lean all the way a certain way and tip off of a small pathway, he refused to swap platforms or would get hung up on a corner, or he would just spontaneously die to a rock that came flying at his head from nowhere. There was zero indication of the flying rock or its impending location, You just had to keep your head down and pray. After almost thirty minutes to an hour of trying to get past this section, I was absolutely emotionally and physically fried.
Though I guessed what was going to happen about halfway through playing Someday You’ll Return, my heart still aches when I think about the ending. I don’t think Someday You’ll Return was trying to trick anyone with a “gotcha” twist, and that’s what makes it hurt even more. You can see it coming, building up, and you still have to keep going onwards to reveal the truth. It’s about acknowledging the past events that have happened, accepting responsibility, and being able to move on. Even with the “good” ending I achieved, it felt bittersweet. I won’t ruin it in our review, but it is definitely worth experiencing. I still have several questions about what exactly was real, paranormal, or fever-induced even at the end. So while we have finally reached a conclusion, I wish we could have received some more concrete answers.
Did I enjoy Someday You’ll Return and is it worth the money? Yes, understatement of the year. It has a few problems, but that doesn’t stop it from being a pretty great and enjoyable game. I actually streamed Someday You’ll Return for some friends as I played it, and had them hooked from the first jump scare. It’s not quite as scary as it is thrilling, though it does have some terrifying moments here and there that get your adrenaline flowing. After you see the monster for the first time, the tone of the story shifts from the suspense of being hunted by the unknown, to the suspense of finding your loved one, and in turn, finally finding yourself.
COMPLETION TIME: 17 Hours
Note: A copy of Someday You’ll Return was provided to Gamespace for review by PR.