‘Someday You’ll Return’ review: a haunting world blemished by an unlikeable protagonist

The great moments are let down by frustrating gameplay

“Please, no.” That’s the most memorable line from the opening of Someday You’ll Return, a psychological horror game about a dad, his daughter and a forest that shouldn’t be visited.

You start playing as Stela, the daughter, who is making her way through an underground bunker, clutching at some kind of memento and pursued by some unseen beast. She utters “Please, no” after falling to the ground and losing the memento through a grate as rocks crash down around her, and something descends in the lift in front of her.

It’s an impactful moment, and it sets up the story perfectly.

You then switch over to the main protagonist of Someday You’ll Return, a man named Daniel. He’s Stela’s father, and, to be honest, he’s kind of a dick. It’s not essential that you like the protagonist of any game, but it feels a little more integral when playing a story-driven game.

It only takes around fifteen minutes in Daniel’s shoes to understand that he’s not a good dad. He’s aggressive, prone to wild mood swings, complains about having to track down his lost daughter, and swears at any and everything around him on a hair-trigger. He’s, almost without a doubt, a terrible dad and probably a terrible human being.

The feeling in a parent’s gut upon the mere idea of losing a child is one so deeply unpleasant that you’d be willing to dig around with a teaspoon just to get it out. While Daniel does show some affection to his daughter in Someday You’ll Return, you never get the feeling he could ever conquer his worst aspects in order to be a worthy father to her.

That’s fine, I guess, it’s interesting to play flawed characters, but it hampers the desire to see this story through to its end. It’s just hard to connect with this ball of rage running around and pretending to be a person, and you almost end up feeling good in the beginning as things start to go horribly awry.

You feel bad for Stela, of course, having a naff dad on top of being in a creepy haunted forest is a bit much. One or the other you could deal with, but both? What a horrible fate.

Someday You'll Return Review
Credit: CBE Software

The creepy haunted forest might be the best character in Someday You’ll Return. The gorgeous array of colours it offers you is sublime, and watching the light zig-zag through the trees, over mountains and through the dusk is wonderful. In any other game, this would be a walking simulator designed as a chillout space.

Of course, it’s met by an equally stunning underground bunker to explore, though stunning in a more alarming way. The tight spaces, broken corridors and general “this is a building site, not a playground” feeling, add up to make for some deeply uncomfortable sections.

This is where a lot of the horror of the game feels at its scariest. In a forest, you can conceivably just pick a direction and run, but underground, locked away from the world, there is no such escape. Someday You’ll Return does an excellent job of playing with feelings of claustrophobia and the early hours have some truly terrifying moments.

They’re amplified by some excellent sound design too. The music is really good, swelling up as you witness the beauty that the world has to offer, and then creeping under your skin when the horrors of the world are trying to do the same. The constant audio assault of creaking floors, leaves under your feet, woodpeckers and ‘Jesus-Christ-what-the-hell-was-that-noise-no-thank-you’ make for a world that wants to draw you in and scare the living daylights out of you.

Someday You'll Return Review
Credit: CBE Software

However, the game falls prey to the worst of horror tropes: forced stealth sections. You reach a point where you have to sneak past some of the denizens of the world, and if they see you, you’re basically dead. These, as is always the case, stop being fun almost immediately, and become intensely frustrating, even when you gain the tool that allows you to fight back a little bit.

There are also spatterings of puzzles that feel incredibly forced. They don’t really challenge your brain as they do your patience and time. I never felt clever solving one of the puzzles because it was nearly always just a matter of looking around for a glimmering item. This, in turn, made it feel as though it was just padding out a game that could have done with being a little leaner.

The juxtaposition of a gorgeous forest and a panic-inducing underground is done well, and the visuals and sound design add a real sense of immersion to the world. It’s let down by some very odd timing on the voice acting from Daniel though, who seems highly erratic at best and downright dangerous at worst. Throw in the antipathy you’ll no doubt feel towards him as well, and you’ve got a game that can be hard to play at times, which is a shame, because Stela really does deserve better.

Someday You’ll Return is available now on PS4, Xbox One and PC.

Our Verdict

Someday You’ll Return is a mostly interesting story wrapped up in a pretty world, excellent sound design and some good scares. Unfortunately, it also suffers from ill-conceived stealth sections, rather dull puzzle design and a few pacing issues. The main protagonist is also unlikeable enough to star in a reality series about horrible dads, which makes playing as him quite aggravating in parts. It’s an interesting world and story, but one with gameplay and character flaws that hurt its appeal.

Pros

  • Great visuals
  • Good use of sound
  • Excellent music
  • Interesting story

Cons

  • Predictable puzzles
  • Frustrating stealth sections
  • Some iffy acting

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