Part mystery, part horror and all botched execution, Someday You’ll Return fails to capitalize on its set-up and gameplay.
It’s today. I’m running through the woods, trying to find Stela. It’s tomorrow. I’m running through the woods and stop to repair a ladder, trying to find Stela. It’s the day after. I’m running through the woods and mixing potions in somewhat intriguing ways. Stela also factors in somewhere. I’m not really sure any more.
Someday You’ll Return is as much about finding Stela as it is tolerating her father Daniel as he curses, bumbles, and hilariously oscillates between tough-guy rhetoric and incompetent stooge. Daniel is the protagonist, by the way, so we’re already off to a great start.
"Despite a solid opening, one that evokes mystery and intrigue, the actual story begins to grate as soon as you control Daniel."
Billed as a “psychological horror game”, Someday You’ll Return sees Daniel venturing into the forest to find his daughter Stela. Immediately, Daniel paints himself as possessive, self-absorbed, cynical and rude. Apparently this isn’t the first time Stela has run away. However, you’d think, regardless of how many times she has, that our hero would have some genuine concern for his daughter who’s gone missing, perhaps to make him that much more sympathetic. But alas.
As Daniel ventures deeper into the forest, things aren’t quite what they seem. From the outset, he investigates a strange red door into an underground complex and comes face to face with The Beast. Things get a lot weirder afterwards as he falls into a chasm, meets a young girl (who’s supposedly a younger version of Stela) mocking him in a swamp, and other such oddities. How much of this is in his head? How much of it is real?
Despite a solid opening, one that evokes mystery and intrigue, the actual story begins to grate as soon as you control Daniel. The writing with regards to the dialogue and overall delivery makes it hard to get invested. It’s one thing to have an unlikable protagonist who’s probably done some nefarious deeds in the past (besides being a jerk to his likely ex-wife Ida). It’s quite another to just be downright annoying at every single turn.
"Having such poor material to work with is one thing but the voice-acting for Daniel doesn’t do the story any favors either."
Sometimes, Daniel will tell his wife to stay out of all this while he finds his daughter, since it’s what he does (and is hilariously bad at). Other times he’ll remember how spiders gave him grief and upon creating a torch, proceeds to gleefully burn said spiders. This wouldn’t be a weird tangent to go on if, you know, he wasn’t after some stranger who mysteriously disappeared moments earlier. At another point, the heaviness of finding his daughter perhaps finally setting in, Daniel arrives at a tap to wash his hands before cheerfully – and I mean cheerfully – proclaiming “Refreshing!”
While one has to make do with poor material, the voice-acting doesn’t do any favors for the supposedly tense atmosphere. Try not to laugh when Daniel finally arrives at the camp and calls out to Stela, saying he’s come to take her home, much like how Ricky announced his presence on I Love Lucy.
In terms of gameplay, you’ll spend a good portion of your time just walking – or sprinting – through the woods, waiting for something, anything substantial to happen. Sometimes you’ll stop to take calls or check messages when you’re not looking for items. At other points, the monotony is broken up by repairing or crafting rudimentary items and brewing potions via herbalism, with the latter being introduced in chapter 2. Frantic chases, navigating creepy caves, snipping wires – it’s all fairly routine stuff that fails to really entice you.
The crafting doesn’t offer much complexity. Instead of, say, creating or finding tools naturally in the forest, Daniel very conveniently receives his tool set and gets to work hammering, cutting and screwing things without much issue. You’ll place wooden pieces on a broken ladder and need something to keep them in place.
"While it feels more interactive than the crafting system, the herbalism system still doesn’t offer much to get invested in."
Using the hammer magically materializes some nails and voila, ladder repaired, achievement unlocked. The same goes with crafting a torch – all of the ingredients are just conveniently located in one place without any need for actual investigative work. It only serves to disincentivize exploration all the more. Then again, the system barely has time to shine as is.
I found the herbalism system to be fairly decent, though again unspectacular. Gathering different herbs, cutting or crushing parts and mixing them in different ways to brew different potions was fairly simple but neat. It was still pretty situational and really only stands out given how dreary and drab the rest of the gameplay is.
There are some gripes to be had though. Why do I need to gather two copies of the same plant for two leaves? Why, despite having such an extensive herbalism kit, can I only hold two of one plant at a time? Why is there a potion that helps me locate other potions more easily, which is pointless since every herb has a telltale twinkle anyway? While it feels more interactive than the crafting system, herbalism still doesn’t offer much to get invested in. Climbing is also a thing. There isn’t much else to say about it sadly.
In terms of visual design, the lighting, foliage and atmospherics work to create a tone that’s more dark fantasy than straight up horror. It’s well done if somewhat generic. Performance is also fine though being able customize certain aspects like anti-aliasing and frame rates on PC beyond adjusting the quality from Low to Ultra would have been nice.
"You wait for something, anything interesting to happen. When something does, it under-delivers but you can’t really get mad."
You’ll be spending quite a lot of time in the forest so it’s a good thing that the environmental design is decent. Unfortunately, there’s very little reason to go out of your way. For the most part, you’ll navigate preset paths at a brisk pace, rummaging through the narrative and attempting to escape Daniel’s personality whenever possible. It’s mechanically similar to other first person narrative walking sims but fails to really stand out in its own right
That’s because the plot, visual design and environments fail to build an effective ambiance. There should be a pervading air of mystery, if not a sense of dread, as to what’s happened or going to happen. Instead, either due to the lack of urgency, shabby performances, poor writing or lackluster gameplay, Someday You’ll Return feels like it’s spinning its wheels. You wait for something, anything interesting to happen. When something does, it under-delivers but you can’t really get mad. Instead, you resign yourself to seeing what the next set piece has to offer. Wash, rinse, call out to Stela, get mad at your ex-wife, repeat.
Someday You’ll Return seems to have all the pieces in place for an effective horror experience, be it an intriguing setting and decent visuals to unique gameplay systems. Instead, it struggles as a first person adventure game, rife with boring moments, annoying dialogue and cliched sequences. So much could have been done in terms of environmental story-telling, but it feels relegated to documents and books that aren’t all that interesting, written by people that you don’t know about things you struggle to care about.
Keep your expectations low and you might find the story to be a worthwhile distraction. But if you are seeking something more, then opt for a real-life hike in the woods instead of this.
This game was reviewed on PC.
Decent visuals and environmental design. Herbalism system is a nice change of pace and offers some interesting mechanics. Performance is fairly solid.
Poor writing coupled with laughably bad voice-acting and an annoying protagonist. Fairly generic environments that you're disincentivized from exploring. Crafting - and to a lesser extent, herbalism - feel shoehorned in. Dull plot points and rote pacing downplay much of the horror. Missed opportunities with regards to environmental story-telling.
Despite some interesting ideas, Someday You'll Return is much less than the sum of its parts. It's not unplayable or a buggy mess but fails to really conjure any kind of intrigue or dread despite its attempts.