Written by Ian Cawley | Edited by Jade Swann

This title has an intriguing story, gorgeous scenery, and great ambience, but is hindered by buggy sound design, awkward animations, and frustrating and confusing gameplay.

A first-person psychological horror game with puzzles, crafting, and stealth.

Developed by CBE Software, Someday You’ll Return is a first-person psychological horror game with puzzles, light crafting, and some stealth elements. Their mission statement: “It’s much better to fail while trying something new and original than to succeed by copying already successful games.” This game is nothing if not ambitious, especially for a tiny studio with limited funds. I’m reminded a lot of the Penumbra series when I play this… lots and lots of potential, a wide and sweeping story with a deep backstory, and a lot of technical limitations mostly due to a small development team (they started as a two-man operation; there are now three).

Someday You’ll Return surprised me in many ways. I had not been aware of its development until release, and had only seen the one trailer on the Steam page before firing it up and having a go. It was a whirlwind of emotions to play. At some points, I was enthralled and others, completely bored or disappointed. The journey you go on with Daniel and his haunted past is a painful, if earnest story of regret and questionable redemption.

First Impressions

The first segment (for me, about two hours long), was so frustrating I didn’t want to jump in and play more the next day, but I’m very glad I did. The second and third chapters are intriguing. By the halfway point, they hadn’t even finished introducing all the mechanics and plot threads and I was sold on the story. This game will give you inventive mechanics one chapter and then ignore them completely or change the rules the next. A lot of it seems superficial to give the player something to do. There are very few things the player actually has control over, and I felt myself wishing I had more to do, or more satisfying feedback on my actions.

At first glance, it looks gorgeous. The atmosphere, the paths, the shafts of light coming through the leaves of the trees… the geography of each location is varied and interesting. It feels like you’re really in a Moravian forest. CBE Software says they modeled most of the game after real places in the Czech Republic. On the other hand, some of the textures do not hold up to scrutiny at all. Almost everything has a kind of Unreal-esque shine to it. 

Monsters are terrifying in animation and design. Some of the dream sequences towards the end of the game feel cinematic and poignant. However, many of the animations are janky and unpolished, and I found so many reused assets that it was easy to get lost, and sometimes hard to tell what details were important in the world.

Don't Mess with Sound

The soundscape is also a mixed bag. The voice acting, music, and ambiance all sound great individually, but the mix is way off. The delivery of voice lines, especially from Daniel, are very hit and miss. Foley and feedback sounds are dodgy at best, bugged or non-existent at worst. There’s almost no indication of where any particular danger is coming from, and most enemies can insta-kill you, making stealth segments equally as frustrating as they are tense. Combine that with claustrophobic arenas (albeit cool looking) and changing mechanics (one in particular that has to do with how vertigo works in the game) and you have a recipe for a lot of trial-and-error play.

Daniel has a ton of voice lines. Some are well-articulated, and some are needless, sloppy, and poorly delivered. There’s only one sound he makes every time he hoists himself on a ledge (something you’ll hear a lot) and he has wild mood swings in his interactions with other characters that make me wonder what the direction was like when they recorded. In a certain drowning segment, he makes no gasps for air and it feels eerily plastic, in spite of a really intense and well-designed puzzle.

The story, the lore, and the flavor text of this world are so cool, it’s a shame that they’re experienced through the eyes and ears of this blubbering oaf that feels so disconnected from the world around him. He’ll exclaim in surprise at some of the more mundane things you’ll experience, and say nothing at reality literally bending around him.

The Good Part

There’s a lot to unpack in the story, but the characters you meet (as well as the protagonist) all feel one-note compared to the world you inhabit. Pieces of lore are written in different scripts and styles that make it more engaging to discover. Puzzles are unique and steeped in iconography and folklore. The dangers of the world are disturbing and ominous nods to Daniel’s troubled past. The world shifts from beautiful to grotesque in a dream-like way that definitely takes some notes from Silent Hill

Gameplay (?)

Gameplay-wise, Someday You’ll Return will feel very much like a walking sim with some horror/puzzle elements. Later, you are introduced to crafting, multi-tiered puzzles, and even a bizarre kind of basic stealth combat. There seems to be a mechanic with Daniel and how dirty his hands are (certain actions make them dirty, and there are certain places you can clean them) that doesn’t actually do anything. You are introduced to recipes for potions that are used once, maybe three times at most, and then you learn a potion near the end you have to craft several times in a row. You carefully build an alchemy station and have a toolbelt for all kinds of applications, but manage to lose your cell phone about six times and have to resort to building or finding other light sources to walk through a dark room. Physics are animated in some puzzle crafting sequences, but rarely are they experienced in the world itself. A lot of weird disconnects like this exist throughout.

Fans of adventure-game logic will be pleased to know that a lot of the puzzles involve creative solutions, while others are a mere QTE that takes way too long to complete. I spent so much time doing simple actions that had to be repeated through long, awkward animations in order to progress. If those notes were addressed, it would still be quite a lengthy game. It took me about twelve hours to complete the story.

I haven’t said much about the horror aspects of this game, either. I find it hard to gauge. The absolute scariest part of the game for me was a couple of hours in: I was wandering through a new area, and Daniel was unusually quiet. Faces started forming in the rocks around me, and I felt like I was being watched. I hadn’t run into much danger yet, but the soundtrack was ominous, the puzzle I was solving had a sinister tone to the clues, and every out-of-place sound made me jump. I poked my head into a small tunnel with a creek, and something dark and humanoid crawled through the frame for a moment. Daniel didn’t say anything, there was no musical sting, and it was far, far scarier than any encounter with the game’s main antagonist, the Beast. And it happened organically. Most of the game doesn’t give you that kind of breathing room.


The Verdict: Fair

Overall, this title is ambitious and unique. If you’re not sold right away, push forward. The first impressions are much worse than the rest of the game. I recommend slogging through the slow and occasionally confusing gameplay and the stumbling dialogue. There are a lot of rough edges, don’t get me wrong, but fans of Amnesia, The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, and Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture will find a lot to like in Someday You’ll Return. For the price point and for anyone who isn’t naturally predisposed to this kind of game, it will be a hard sell.

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