An Overlong But Intriguing Mystery
Someday You’ll Return is a great 6 hour game stuffed into an over-sized 15 hour package. On the plus side, the story is certainly gripping, the graphics look great and the sound design is some of the best in any video-game this year. Frustratingly, what begins as a really interesting and hellish dive into an adventurous mystery with horror elements quickly becomes bloated and bogged down, throwing in far too many unnecessary stealth sections and obfuscated puzzles.
The ending is certainly worth sticking around for but there’s also an overwhelming feel when the credits roll that this could have slashed a lot of the excess fat and become one of the breakaway hits of 2020.
The game itself wastes no time getting right to the heart of the story and begins with a simple set-up and builds off that. You play as Daniel, an obnoxious, opinionated Father desperate to bring his daughter Stela back whose run away into the woods but seemingly been captured by a mysterious creature known as “The Beast”.
Wandering through the forest with nothing but your phone and wits, you soon acquire a belt full of useful tools to help you on your travels as you begin to explore the deep regions of the woods. As the game progresses you soon learn there’s more going on here than first meets the eye and what follows is a nightmarish descent into the truth as Daniel’s mental state begins to wane, bringing with it a whole slew of hellish visions.
All of this builds up to the climax of the game, which throws in several different endings depending on how you approach different tasks that together help shed light on the entire story and what’s happening.
The game primarily plays out across both the horror and mystery genres in a first person perspective. The opening 5 or 6 hours are easily the strongest too as you explore the woods, following clues and snippets of data to try and retrace Stela’s steps and find out what happened to her.
This journey brings you to a fair few different locations across the map and what begins as a simple trek through the outer-edges soon sees you stumble upon a summer camp, water station, dark underground bunkers and more.
Aesthetically, the game is wonderfully rendered and the graphics are excellent throughout. Sunlight filters through the trees and realistically illuminates the blades of grass on the ground, the gnarly rock and stone outcroppings contrast against the greenery nicely and the different characters are good enough to pass as believable, even if they do feel more like Playstation 3 models.
Given this work was conducted primarily by two people though, it’s pretty impressive that they’ve managed to squeeze this much into such a pretty game and for that alone, it’s easily to look past some of these graphical hiccups.
Those impressive visuals bleed into the audio set-up too, which is outstanding to say the least. It’s highly advisable that you wear headphones or have surround sound on while playing this because the various sound effects and musical cut-aways perfectly capture the mood and help unsettle you as you play.
In exterior areas, birds chatters, owls coo and grass rustles as animals charge through the undergrowth. By contrast, indoor locations often feature more echo effects and a constant dripping that works well to unsettle you as you play through. As a minor gripe, the blood-curdling screams from the main antagonists dominate the audio channels when they arrive and it’s one blemish on an otherwise flawless atmospheric score.
Unfortunately Someday You’ll Return slips up where it really matters and that’s with its gameplay. On the plus side, the large exterior areas are all painted with various different trail markers and given the vastness of the forest, it’s highly advised that you follow these. A fair few times I ventured off on my own to try and find some collectables (more on that later) only to realize I had no idea where I’d come from and found myself backtracking for several minutes to try and get my bearings.
You really get a feel that this is a dense, mysterious forest full of secrets and the game captures the essence of this beautifully. Uncovering the different clues and collecting sweet wrappers, emblems, storybook pages and more are great additions to the game and help add some variety in the different locations.
With no mini-map and a mobile that becomes useless after the first couple of hours, there’s a deliberateness to this game that forces you to watch your surroundings rather than the UI. Outside following paths and journeying to the different landmarks are a series of busy-work sections that pad out the game-time and it’s here that Someday You’ll Return slips up.
Potion crafting sees you collecting different flowers dotted around the forest and cutting, boiling and crushing different parts of those together to give you potions. While this is fun the first few times, the longer you play the more cumbersome and irritating these segments are, especially as you repeat the same two or three potions throughout the game while avoiding the rest.
These potions range from sensing flowers nearby with a coloured marker (which you only need to create once for it to be a permanent effect), “True Sight” which is used to decipher ghostly balls of air swirling around to learn more about the story, or even curing vertigo while up high. To be honest, the actual ideas are quite nicely implemented but 7+ hours in you’ll wish there was an option to speed up the process of creating these different potions.
Stealth sections are here too, and during Daniel’s many nightmarish visions see you walking slowly across a vast area, trying to evade weird, black creatures lusting for blood. These sections feel more cumbersome and annoying than they should be and ultimately see you destroying a heart to free up the next section and move back on with the story.
As the narrative progresses you’ll encounter various different platforming sections and darkened tunnels to explore, each of which full of puzzles to complete. These puzzles are a bit of a mixed bag to say the least. Some are really cleverly written and the ones that involve you finding and combining different environmental items are great and give you a real sense of progression as you play through.
Other times, they’re so obscure and head-scratchingly bad that you wonder just how they made it into the game. One such example sees you deciphering a keycode on a door and the solution lies with a punching fist hitting a white cloth. With no audio or visual clues, you’re supposed to crouch down, watch the fist underneath the cloth and between each hit watch the adjacent hand hold up several different fingers each time for the code.
It’s not a deal breaker but this example, and a few others too, could have benefited from an audio or visual clue to give some hints to the player. These issues are ultimately the biggest drawback with the game and alongside some very noticeable bugs hold Someday You’ll Return back from being a better title.
I encountered a few big, game-breaking bugs while playing that required me to restart the entire chapter again. A few of these were pretty bad and the usual graphical glitches and frame-rate stuttering also shows up from time to time but these are minor points alongside some of the bigger bugs still here. However, the developers are pretty active and expect some of these to be ironed out in the coming weeks and months.
Still, for all of its flaws Someday You’ll Return does shine and those fleeting moments of brilliance are worth the price of purchase alone. Had this horror adopted a shorter run-time and a tighter pacing across its 12 chapters, the bugs and aforementioned issues wouldn’t hold so much weight over the verdict, especially given how much this title gets right.
If you like narrative-driven games and can take to the mystery at the heart of this, Someday You’ll Return may not be perfect but it’s certainly worth checking if you’re a fan of the genre.
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Verdict - 6/10