The Tomorrow Children: What’s yours is Minecraft - Games Weekly

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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Tomorrow Children: What’s yours is Minecraft

Come, comrades! for the greater good of the nation, we must work together to... um, pick apples, deliver rocks and fight off budget Godzilla toys? While the core socialist concept of The Tomorrow Children is certainly a breath of fresh air in a market packed with games that champion selfishness and celebrate capitalism, the actual gameplay could be considered a bit too close to real work to make it all that much fun to play. When asked by a colleague during the recent alpha what the game was like, we floundered for a few moments before accidentally stumbling upon the most accurate description of The Tomorrow Children we’ve come up with even a few months down the line ‘it’s a bit like having a second job’.

Whether due to the limited content of the alpha or a broader problem with the game itself, there just doesn’t seem to be all that much to do right now. Effectively, what there is falls into three main categories resource gathering, fighting off enemies and town development. As raw materials start to dry up and odd creatures slow their attack, you just find yourself at something of a loose end. You’ll run on treadmills to generate power, pick fruit to either turn in to the communal pool (or munch on to keep your stamina up) or round up loose materials no doubt dropped by those with smaller pockets than your own to make room for something shinier... it’s just a bit of a grind. Enemy waves keep on coming, though, so there comes a time when all your combat-trained citizens are offline and you need to hold back the forces of evil, but mounted guns make this just as easy for an apple-picking civilian as a soldier.

Resource gathering itself is intentionally slow in order to promote teamwork and while you can just chip away at a rock face alone for a bit, you’ll earn greater rewards for working with other players to bleed the land of materials that little bit faster. Doing so also helps grow your personal standing and while the in-game chat system may be simple, it’s also important. You need to earn the validation of others to increase your income and improve your social standing, making an exchange of recognition or congratulation between co-workers almost as important as the bits and bobs you end up pocketing from the hard labour itself. Once handed over to the state, these resources can be used to craft new stuff for your town, but it’s not a simple process and there’s always an orderly queue for the work benches.
This is largely due to the fact that the crafting system takes the form of a sliding tile puzzle, and not even an easy one like most examples of the outdated and basic task you see today. It’ll stump you after a few wrong moves, wasting not only time that others could be using to create new items or facilities but also valuable materials that the community needs. The socialist voice of the game clearly comes through loud and clear, because we found ourselves feeling obliged to go out into the wilds to replace the resources we squandered in this way. But it does little to change the fact that neither the crafting process itself nor the act of refilling the community coffers was anything like what we would refer to as ‘fun’.

Even though it might not be particularly enjoyable, the act of giving something back and working with your equals for the greater good can still be quite rewarding, both figuratively and literally. A message of praise from a stranger as you break rocks for the people back home is actually quite touching, while your physical contributions are used to calculate your income and importance when reporting back to the main office in town. But there are no HDTVs, fancy cars or upholstery to squander your earnings on it’s all shovels, machine guns and building tools, things you can use to increase your productivity.

As we said, The Tomorrow Children feels a lot like work, because most of the gameplay is work. But assuming there’s more to do in the final release than the alpha (a fair assumption, really), those little magical moments of feeling like the most important person in the world could still serve to make all the hard graft feel worthwhile.

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