Some of the significant game development know-how came from Eastern Europe countries over the past decade. Maybe it’s because the air is healthier there or it’s overflowing with places of power. But that doesn’t matter, since the games speak for themselves: ranging from brilliant historical RPG Kingdom Come: Deliverance to atmospheric horror, walking simulator series Layers of Fear.
The novelty story-driven horror game Someday You’ll Return by CBE Software is one of the most vivid examples of this phenomena. I’m still amazed at how the developers managed to combine balancing storytelling with exploration, coupled with complex inventory management and refreshing puzzles. Perhaps this recipe doesn’t work perfectly so far, but time will tell.
Someday You’ll Return is available on Steam for your regional pricing.
At first sight, Someday You’ll Return may sound suspiciously like Firewatch, Blair Witch or The Suicide of Rachel Foster. This is true in part, but don’t judge the book by its cover – all new is well overlooked old. It’s hard to call the game an adventure one, nor a walking simulator. In fact, the truth lies in the middle of it. All I can say is you might be quite excited about it if you are craving for some good psychological horror narrative-based games.
Story – Out of The Woods
Someday You’ll Return is a story-driven horror game playing up this whole “fathers and sons” angle. The main protagonist Daniel is a divorced man with a quite a sharp tongue, who previously worked as a camp leader deep in the old Moravian woods, located in the Eastern part of the Czech Republic. And, for whatever reason, he wants anything to do with the place. His daughter Stela, just like any normal teenager likes to rebel and runs away from home from time to time. Who of us hasn’t done that? But there’s a big difference this time and it seems that Stela got herself into a spot of bother. Overcoming his fear, Daniel sets out to find his beloved daughter and gladly all these secret woods paths have been hardwired into him. And with the Google Maps analog in his hand, but it won’t hold for long. So don’t get your hopes up.
But of course, it’s not that easy. The one thing Daniel wasn’t expecting is the supernatural nature of the woods. Or rather he clearly was aware of it but preferred to turn a blind eye to. Also – and get this – maybe reality isn’t everything it appears to be? It turns out that not only Daniel should help his daughter, but also help himself as well. First and foremost he must keep sane, whether he is dealing with hurtful memories from the past or whether peeking at some inexplicable Beast living in the World War II bunker.
Comparing something to Silent Hill, I find a terribly bad taste. Or calling something Lovecraftian. But it seems that Someday You’ll Return leaves me no alternative. Especially considering the fact that the developers themselves called their game a “Moravian Silent Hill“. Desperate parent looking for its child? Put a check. Insanity level to look after? Put a check. Aggressive dark matter aka Presence in Song of Horror and spooky monsters that drive you mad? Put a check. Survival challenge in the woods? Put a big check. Much of that sounds familiar, but the thing is, we never saw a combination of all of this in one game.
Gameplay – Survival for Dummies
Someday You’ll Return has a heavy focus on exploration and that means that most of your time you’ll be wandering through the woods, trying to find the right path. Gladly, during your journey you can find some maps scattered here and there: the trails are marked in red, blue and yellow.
Same colour markers you can find on the trees, so pay attention and be careful, since you’re totally alone here. However, if you’ve ever lost in the woods, please don’t get upset. There are things to see off the trail, like a ton of collectible items and even some sort of side quest events. I really felt like I’ve become one with nature. But here comes a little flaw: the hard attempt to find your way through the woods would sometimes minimize the drama and suspense built up by the plot.
Hands of Gold
There’s definitely something to be said about another wonderful mechanic, which is herbalism. Personally, I’m not a fan of potions and so, but this game forced me to re-examine those convictions. People underestimate the benefit of good old manual labor. I was truly excited about the opportunity to gather herbs, сhop them and then boil in order to obtain some useful and fancy potions. By the way, the herbalist kit looks just awesome – a true “visual eye-candy”. The potions could be used for a variety of things, such as reading between the lines (literally), finding the right herbs, listening to memories or blocking voices in your head. The only downside is that, despite the diversity of recipes and plants available, barely two are really necessary for you to progress. I never even thought that I would complain about something like that, but it’s just not enough.
And continuing the theme of good old manual labor, Daniel can also craft and repair items with a tool kit, which you can find early on in the game. Let’s see what we have: a knife to cut tissues, a pair of bolt to use against barbed wire and a screwdriver to pull things out (thank you, Captain Obvious). But again, just like with herbalism, this mechanic is called on in very specific situations only – like fixing a ladder or putting wood pieces together.
Run Boy Run
I must confess, I don’t even like stealth. At all. But once again, I will seriously need to reconsider my world view. Much like every first-person horror game, Someday You’ll Return makes you play hide-and-seek with your deadly enemies. There are also a couple of obstacles awaiting you in every corner: spooky arms that reach out to embrace you just like in Song of Horror or enemies hanging from the ceiling.
Further – it is more, at a certain point Daniel’s surroundings will transform into a waking nightmare. Creepy dolls scattered here and there, voices whispering in your ear and Blair Witch-like wooden amulets hanging from the trees do the trick. Zombie-like watchmen meticulously patrol the area and if you ever show your face, they’ll turn into gigantic spiders to finish you off. Daniel is not a fighter, so all you’ve got is to keep a low profile in order to avoid an instant death. But still, you can use a totem that can suspend your enemies in the air for a given period of time. However, sometimes it could be difficult to work with it due to the large number of restrictions. Now, I can’t say that these episodes were exceptionally dreadful, since you’ll have to die all over again and at certain point it could be extremely irritating. Despite small shortcomings, the overall experience was more like a pleasure and worth my efforts.
As you can see, Someday You’ll Return has surprisingly varied gameplay. And now a few words about puzzles: they are well-balanced, which is, not that hard or that simple. Many of them rely on items you find during your journey and sometimes it might be frustrating to figure out what exactly you missed to complete the picture. Once I was lost for a while searching for something completely innocent like a book in a drawer. Just think of them as classic point-and-click adventure pixel hunting and that’s just a matter of taste to like it or not.
Graphics and Audio – Dead Silence
The visuals are a true star of Someday You’ll Return. The forests you explore are simply so gorgeous that you can just stand there for hours enjoying stunning views around. The lighting and fog effects are also praiseworthy. It is also worth noting the contrast between the warm colour palette and all the horrors awaiting for you throughout your journey – this underlines the whole scary atmosphere and that degree of uncertainty. Clearly, the developers put all their love in carefully recreating real locations of their homeland using all the possibilities provided by Unreal Engine 4. It only remains to me to wait until the end of the quarantine in order to see all this beauty for myself. So the QR codes in-game will certainly come in handy: they provide additional information for some of the forest’s more interesting locations. The only fly in the ointment are clumsy and unnatural animations. But luckily, you rarely see anyone in the woods.
I’m really grateful to the developers for mostly sticking to the sounds of nature. That’s awesome, no doubt about that. Coupled with perfect visuals they are creating an unforgettable experience and I can tell that someday I’ll return just to hear the birdsong and the ruffle of leaves under my feet. It is such a luxury in our modern urban setting, isn’t it?