Daniel gives Ida a call. He needs to know where Stela is and she's not answering her phone. Ida isn't thrilled. "Did you get a new phone? Stela is at school. Everything is fine. Leave her alone", she says but it's too late. Daniel is speeding towards Stela's GPS location and he's almost there.
Someday You'll Return has you playing as what we presumed to be a worried father looking for his daughter who's missing in the middle of the Moravian forest. Prior to starting our journey through the woods in the search for our darling daughter, we thought it'd be a straight-forward story about a lost child and a desperate father but straight away we were proven wrong.
CBE Software's horror adventure starts off as a scattered experience and even has you confused as to whether or not you're even the protagonist of the story. For a few short moments, you take control of the presumed-to-be-missing Stela as she tries to escape a hellish bunker before the screen fades to black and the main character Daniel takes the centre stage with his incredibly unlikeable personality and chronically angry tone of voice. When we started the game up, we instantly got the feeling we were standing in the shoes of the antagonist. Who was this Daniel? What was the context here? Was Daniel the bad guy? Because he certainly seemed like one right off the bat, like an abusive father bitching about everything he could possibly bitch about, yelling at his family and talking shit about his family as he trekked the mountain trails in solitude, raising his fist towards the sky in a rage about cell reception.
Who Daniel is and what his motives are aside, the player gets involved through the eyes of this unlikeable character and will have to look for clues that will, hopefully, lead him closer to Stela's location. These clues can either be items belonging to her, various documents offering hints and puzzle pieces you'll need to either manipulate within your inventory (such as tweaking an object with a tool from your kit before being able to combine it with something else, solving a puzzle and getting you closer to your goal). The game initially plays like a walking simulator of sorts with puzzle elements that reminded us of those in Resident Evil and, at this stage, it was pretty straight forward. You walk around, explore the woods, pick up items as you move through the trees and stumble upon some story every now and then.
This part of the game, which is rather lengthy, is intriguing despite Daniel being unlikeable. Exploring the mysterious forest, solving puzzles, looking for clues and finding out more about the surroundings is interesting and engaging and we were most definitely intrigued enough to keep playing.
A bit later in the game, however, it becomes clear that Someday You'll Return isn't some ordinary tale about a girl lost in the woods. It's a lot of different tales crammed into one. One minute you're taking a stroll on a calm trail as birds chirp around you, and the next you're falling down a hole where demons reside. One minute you're taking it easy exploring an old camp where you used to coach girl scouts and the next, that same camp is both on fire and in hell. What is Someday You'll Return about? It's honestly hard to pinpoint. There are some great mechanics at play though, at least in the first few hours of the game.
When you still have the impression of this being a walking sim, the game introduces a climbing mechanic that lets you move vertically up cliffs to explore, a herbalism system which lets you brew potions by following recipes you find (this was actually a severely underused mechanic considering how well-made it was), a lovely puzzle mechanic that actually required you to use your brain, and more. All great ideas and mechanics accompanied by some lovely visuals and sound design.
It would just work so much better if the developer had stuck to one idea and went with it. It's clear that the small team had many ideas and wanted to add them all into this one game, however, it becomes so scattered after a while that it's hard to follow, not only the storyline and the relationships but also the actual gameplay itself.
The game takes so many twists but the one turn that had us the most confused was when the survival element was introduced several hours into the game. Adding a new mechanic is one thing but for an experience to start off as one reminding us of What Remains of Edith Finch or Gone Home to, all of a sudden, five hours later, throwing itself into a completely different horror sub-genre with stealth-based one-hit-death survival at its core? Exceptionally strange.
The game is also rather broken, or at least it was at launch because not only did we experience some intense frame rate issues, we also had our entire save wiped following an update.
Someday You'll Return is incredibly ambitious though, we will say that, and for a team as tiny as CBE Software to create such a gorgeous and expansive adventure with an intriguing story is worthy of applause. However, there's just too much crammed into the experience to make it cohesive and not all of the ideas work as well as they could. The technical issues also put us off quite a bit, but at least those are fixable down the line.