In my brief history on this planet, I’ve played many, many horror games. It’s one of my favourite genres, often probing into the mind of the player more than any other kind of game. There’s a creative space in horror that when tapped correctly can yield some of the most deeply personal and cathartic experiences you’ll find in this industry. Of course, this is when it’s done right.
There’s nothing worse than a botched horror experience because it fundamentally undermines it’s own reason to exist. It’s like going to watch a comedy show where there aren’t any jokes; if a horror game isn’t scary, then what’s even the point? Well, you could argue that strong storytelling, engaging mechanics or rich characters could replace the scares with something that’s still worth experiencing. Yet what if all of those components are lacking?
You’ll likely be left with something like Someday You’ll Return, a game that’s clearly had plenty of love and passion poured into its code but ultimately fails at being a horror game, only doing just enough to make it a playable game at all.
The story is a simple one, something you’ll no doubt have seen in plenty of other modern horror tales to the point where even the game feels need to occasionally highlight how obviously familiar everything is. Daughter goes missing, Dad embarks on a journey to find her, tracks her to some spooky woods, things proceed to become weird and trippy as the forest itself seemingly tries to prevent our protagonist Daniel from saving his loved one.
While I have nothing against what has admittedly become a very easy premise for throwing a troubled man into a situation beyond his comprehension, what really lets Someday You’ll Return down is how weak its character writing is. When using an accessible and easily digestible plot, it becomes the writer’s responsibility to populate its engaging characters that hold the attention of an audience longer than a threadbare narrative. It’s a pity then that Daniel, the player character, is possibly the least likeable protagonist I’ve ever encountered in a video game.
I understand the storyline of his personal growth going from detestable father-figure to a loving and empathetic parent but in order to set up such an arc, some kind of redemptive quality needs to be present for the player to route for. This is a character who when his teenage daughter is seemingly kidnapped, consistently blames the incident on her stupidity, showing more concern towards the dryness of his shoes than his own daughter.
Of course, this lacklustre presentation isn’t just limited to Daniel, but the game overall. While the world of Someday You’ll Return can look beautiful at times, the game often feels unfinished. Plenty of sound effects feel like they’ve been ripped off a stock FX website, constant graphical bugs with animations either starting or ending abruptly, dialogue playing over itself and most egregious of all, performance hitches every fifteen minutes.
I’m not talking like a couple dropped frames either. The game has a habit of freezing to a complete standstill while somehow still taking into account the player’s movement. The camera will swing around wildly, often causing me to become disorientated, losing track of where the hell I was actually going in the first place. Sure, it’s easy to overlook that the first couple times it happens. Yet when it’s happening so frequently I can almost predict when such a stutter will occur?
That’s a pretty huge problem.
It would also be remiss of me to not briefly touch on the voice-acting in this game because it’s some of the worst I’ve heard in a very long time. Special mention must be made for Daniel, who sounds like he’s in a constant state of unenthusiastic sleep deprivation. Witnessing pillars of concrete rain from the sky while being hunted by some ghillie suit fanatic isn’t even enough to breath the slightest hint of emotion into his voice. Someday You’ll Return would have been better served in incorporating a silent protagonist because often, in the case of horror games especially, less is more.
Which can also be said about the mechanics implemented in Someday You’ll Return. Honestly, there’s some pretty cool stuff at play here. Harvesting and manually brewing herbs to make “potions” according to recipes is a really neat idea, one that I actually found to be rather satisfying to complete. The same can be said for the blueprints that can be constructed with selected items around the world. Manually selecting the right tool for the job actually makes the, admittedly rigid, crafting system actually engaging.
It’s just that these mechanics aren’t used enough to drive the core gameplay loop. The vast majority of your time will just be spent walking around the woods or being forced into clunky stealth sequences that feel too scripted to be tense yet far too slow to be exciting. Which is a pity because beyond the odd interesting mechanic here and there, Someday You’ll Return also has some interesting visual imagery. Yet the second you get close enough to interact with it, the sloppy graphical elements and sound design rob them of any kind of terror you’re likely to experience.
Look, this is a game I wanted to enjoy. It’s a small team that was clearly very passionate about the work they were doing. Yet that alone isn’t enough to overlook how hit and miss Someday You’ll Return is. There are some good ideas baked into a shell that’s unfortunately let down by poor performance, terrible presentation and writing that fails to evoke emotion and engagement on even the most fundamental level. There are plenty of other games that do what this game was going for in a much more convincing manner, so I recommend going to check those out rather than struggling to enjoy what little entertainment there can be found here.
Someday You’ll Return is an occasionally pretty game with a splash of interesting ideas and visuals that are unfortunately let down by shoddy performance, abysmal storytelling and an overall lack of care placed into its presentation – 5.0
Last Updated: May 11, 2020