The Tomorrow Children: A game about work that’s currently as much fun as that sounds - Games Weekly

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Tomorrow Children: A game about work that’s currently as much fun as that sounds

It’s probably best to make it clear upfront that this is game a currently in alpha. It’s important to state clearly that The Tomorrow Children is in an early and unfinished state because, at the moment, it’s just not very enjoyable. The core idea is that you live and work in a town, mining resources to build and expand, while fighting off monsters that lurch in from the surrounding void. This white featureless plane is what’s apparently become of humanity after some cataclysmic experiment melted everyone down into a collective consciousness. You’ve been given physical form as a clone and sent out to rebuild civilization through the toil of your work and the sweat of your brow.

The whole thing plays heavily on early Soviet era iconography, which is sort of ironic given that, as a labourer in this world, your existence is defined by working for a greater cause that never really seems to benefit you personally. On a metaphorical level it’s genius. For gameplay? Not so hot.

Keep Digging
The thing you’ll be doing most is mining. There are surreal structures that can be hollowed out to find resources such as metal, food, wood or coal. There are also strange dolls to retrieve to grow your population. at the same time there’s the regular risk of Godzilla-like beasts appearing on the horizon, threatening your home unless you shell them to hell and back. There are also mayors to vote on, tempting you with different sweeteners like better tools, quicker turrets and so on. and, if you really want to play hardcore politics, you can throw cash at the votes to buy more and influence the election.
“Even crafting manages to add in an additional chore in the shape of a sliding block puzzle”
As you do all this, ferrying resources back to town, protecting it and voting, you and your home grow. Structures are upgraded and added, while personal stats improve (making you quicker at digging, for example). The problem is that while things change, nothing’s actually different. at one point we had achieved a pretty tricked-out town with a huge robot, numerous turrets, a 100+ population and… we were still trudging off to the mines and fighting off monsters. While your environment will alter visually, the day-to-day remains unchanged.

Waiting Game
Progression seems to have no practical effect on the process of playing the game. you dig, collect stuff, bring things back, occasionally shoot at monsters. It feels far too much like actual work. In fact it’s all work. There are other players in the town meaning you have to queue for some things yes: actually stand in line and wait. even crafting manages to add an additional chore after all the travelling, digging and gathering, in the shape of a sliding block puzzle that has to be completed to build anything.

The online system is also supremely weird. effectively, you play a single-player game in a town shared by other players. you’re all living and working in the same place but only appear to each other when you interact with anything so using a turret, riding a bus, digging a hole or picking up an object. It’s an odd setup because it can be quite lonely you only see specific interactions, not a population milling about. It also has a huge potential for frustration because there’s a delay between your’s, and other people’s, worlds. Numerous times we walked over to something in the distance, only to find we couldn’t pick it up because someone else already had, but our version of the town hadn’t updated yet.

Part of the problem right now is communication. So much of what’s going on is unexplained so the benefits of any of it is unclear. as we said, this is an alpha, so hopefully that can be addressed, because The Tomorrow children looks beautiful, with a plasticy sheen to its bleak and eerie world. but after a week of building, we never felt like we achieved anything.

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