It’s rare that people combine passion with a job. I met Jan Kavan, the creator of Someday You'll Return, during the Digital Dragons 2019 to talk about his game, and it was the kind of encounter you leave with a pleasant feeling of having met somebody special.
Truth be told, I didn’t really feel well before the meeting. My head was aching and I was contemplating the idea of lying in a bed. But meeting Jan Kavan changed that. Someday You'll Return is a game created with enormous effort, but also with lots of love.
Someday You'll Return tells the story of a father who goes looking for his daughter. She was not kidnapped, but ran away from her father. What happened in the family and why are we chasing the girl, who’s seemingly not very keen on meeting the father ever again?
The game has all the seeming of just another walking simulator – but the devil is in the details. Indeed, the story told in the game from CBE Software (whose back catalog includes the J.U.L.I.A. series) is the mainstay of the game, but the creators don’t stop there. In addition to exploring the authentic forests and mountain trails, we will also engage in complex crafting and herbalism, and make difficult choices that will affect the subsequent events.
"The game observes you quietly from start to finish," Jan told me. When you make a choice, you don't know which decision is good or bad (Kavan wanted to avoid constant reloading of the game, because it’s supposed to be a personal journey, the inherent part of which are mistakes). Jan illustrated the idea with an example: our ex-wife calls the protagonist at the beginning of the game, and three ambiguous choices are presented to the player. We can answer the phone, but then we’re most likely in for a nasty argument. We can reject the call, or.... just let the phone ring without answering it. Each of these three decisions will bring different results.
In addition to crafting and interacting with NPCs, the game comes with a climbing system based on puzzles, and allows you to swim, which distinguishes Someday You'll Return from the typical walking simulators. It’s more of an adventure game with very strong emphasis on the story, and the drama of the family, which for Jan is a sort of a nightmare-scenario:
It’s my worst nightmare. When you’re a father – I have three daughters and a son – you realize all the things you’ve messed up. What’s important, though, is that the story doesn’t stem from the worst-case-scenario drama between a father and his daughter; it’s more about the everyday stuff that happens in these relations, and which we often don’t notice. Playing Someday You’ll Return will hopefully let you realize those things.
There’s no combat in the game, but – in sort-of-Amnesia fashion – there will be moments, when the protagonist will have to avert some danger by fleeing. The modern-day Czech Republic in Someday You’ll Return is also brimming with references to unsettling myths and dark legends of the 9th century. This works great with the story full of riddles, mysteries, and “paranormal” events (which supposedly have hard and realistic reasons).
One of the most exciting things about Someday You'll Return is exploration. Jan asked me to walk a trail somewhere in a Czech forest. I noticed hiking trail symbols placed on the trees, identical to those used in the real world, and they in fact mark actual in-game paths. At one point, I arrived at a beautiful sight – the visuals in this game are definitely beyond what we’re accustomed to in indie games; you can truly marvel at the environments. What I found most surprising was a QR code placed on a tree. If you scan it, you get the real location of the site, so you might as well put on some hiking shoes and visit the places from the game in reality!
I don't know if Someday You'll Return will turn out a great little indie game. What I do know is that the man behind it is driven by passion and love, and that’s reason enough for me to anticipate the release of the game. How long a wait? Someday You’ll Return should come out somewhere around the end of 2019. If you’re a fan of games such as Firewatch or The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, you should check it out – it might just become the next big thing.
Matthias Pawlikowski | Gamepressure.com