Calling all Comrades!

The Tomorrow Children – Open Beta Impressions

 

Tea: Water that looks suspiciously like Vodka

 

Welcome to the void, tovarich. Our glorious motherland requires your help and the help of every other citizen. Resources must be excavated and defenses against the vile capitalists, I mean chrome Godzilla monster, constructed. Gather your tools and do not forget to bring a light, otherwise the darkness will swallow you whole. We are all working together here. Set out into the vast emptiness in front of you and do you duty, tovarich. For our nation and everyone in it.

During the weekend, I got to take a peek at The Tomorrow Children during its open beta phase. The PS4-exclusive title is set in a fictional world that totally does not resemble Russian Marxism, since none of the characters are actually speaking Russian, rather some made up Russian-sounding gibberish. You are part of a cloned workforce looking like little girls and tasked by absolutely not Lenin/Putin to gather resources and inhabitants for the nation. You get a few basic tools every comrade needs like a shovel, a pickaxe, and a jetpack. With all of that in your surprisingly spacious backpack the gathering can begin. Small towns demand your attention and the improvement of the infrastructure. Electricity must be created on a treadmill minigame, new structures built, and resources farmed outside. The excavations sites are reachable via bus, since the outside of every town is deadly due to the nebulous void that will devour you should you try to run from your duty.

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– Stand together comrades. There is work to do! –

I am usually not one to get interested in titles like this: online, resource farming, and no greater narrative at play. What intrigued me about The Tomorrow Children, however, is its absolutely stunning visual design. It is hard to describe, but the images should give you a good impression of what the game looks like, let me just say that the toy-like look for buildings etc. and the paper-maché-with-wire-skeleton-underneath character design hold up in motion and even up close. The lighting engine, whichever that may be, is phenomenal. Especially during the beginning and ending of days or even the lighting effects inside caverns. This truly deserves special praise since I have rarely felt like going into a cave, when I go into said holes in rocks in video games, but here everything feels beautifully absorbing. The online component is not as strong as I thought it would be (just the way I like it). There are definitely other players but you cannot see them all the time, especially not walking around etc. They appear to you mainly when they are doing stuff (only being visible while working, how telling). There is a sense of working together none the less, since you ride the bus together and will probably meet at drop-off zones or inside caves, mining near one another or even speeding up the resources gathering by cooperating. Your only means of communication are gestures and a whistle and surprisingly that is more than enough. For instance, one of the many memorable interactions included another player making me understand that he didn’t have a light source by running about and returning doing a shaking motion and after giving a torch to him he thanked me by running around me whistling.

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– The lighting is a lot better than this picture can make it out to be, seriously. –

There is a brief tutorial at the start, but it is more about controls, rather than the greater scheme going on. I understood that very quickly, because after taking the subway to the first town I was confused by all the numbers going up and down and people disappearing and appearing left and right. And I just couldn’t make sense of anything. When you walk around a bit and try a few things out for yourself, you will get to know the basics of the game and what you need to do. Before you know it you can be a productive member as well, go out and gather material, walk on the treadmill, build basic structures and defenses, and at the end of the day get your share of coupons. With those you can buy, of course, more tools and even new outfits with special perks. There is also a level mechanic at play, a bourgeois level to be precise, which lets you improve your stats as you see fit. Presumably if you have enough resources you can start a town of your own with elections etc. But this was only a beta and I only played for about 10 hours.

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– You thought I was kidding about Chrome Godzilla Monsters? Nope. –

I have a few criticisms of course. First of all, I lost connection several times, but it is questionable whether my terrible internet connection was to blame or the game itself, but I’d assume the latter, since the other day with less people running about it worked just fine. There is a lack of variety in the islands or I simply got really unlucky, since I had Christmas Ball Island three times in a row and that is one of the boring ones, let me tell you that. Floating Sushi Island or Giant Pig with Apple in its Mouth Island is far more my style. There are some issues with picking up items that another player is trying to pick up and you simply standing there in a squad position for 20 sec and then you are allowed to move on. The game is kind of bad at explaining some things and I know I usually want to figure out stuff for myself, but when my shovel is out of shovel uses (yes, that is a thing) and I don’t know whether I can repair it or have to buy a new one and whether the corresponding booth has already been built in my town then I am getting a bit frustrated. However, some other minor criticisms and even some of the bigger ones can simply be attributed to “it’s a beta, what do you expect, the full game is probably not going to have them”.

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– A slain beast is a great source of material. Also another look at the gorgeous lighting. –

With that out of the way, let’s talk about what I liked and there is a lot actually: First and foremost, the art style. It is simply beautiful and stunning to look at. Walking around inside an island that has already been raided to a certain extent gives a great sense of communal achievement and exploring yet untouched islands has the aura of exploration and discovery. It is truly fascinating how much people are willing to work together in this game. I could count a lot of times when impromptu collaboration took place with little to no communication being necessary. Monsters regularly attack the town and they can only be defeated with proper defense mechanisms in place and all of these must also be maned (or rather girled) by the inhabitants. Taking down a chrome sparkling Godzilla monster together truly is a bonding experience. And afterwards all of us got to take the corpse apart, since the fallen monster becomes a source of materials after its death. I already mentioned the lighting, but I need to do it again, since the lighting engine is absolutely amazing. Jumping off the top of an island, gliding down with your umbrella while the sun is sinking is truly awe-inspiring. The world is brimming with detail and as you know by now, I am a huge fan of details that weren’t necessary, but are there none the less. For instance, the totally not American-brand pickaxe by Eagle Corp. (bought with Freeman Dollars no less) does not strike square holes into walls, but rather star-shaped ones. And there would be a lot more of these to enumerate.

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– Let’s do this, comrade! –

What is most important at the end of such a beta is the fact that I am left wanting more. I went in to simply get in on a beta for once, since I never had the chance before and due to the fact that the game had caught my interest a while back. Yet after my weekend with the game I am sold. The game will rise and fall with the community, as is the case with any online collaboration based game, but if the beta was any indication I have a good feeling about this. Balance will be key, as the incentive to be a productive member must be chosen appropriately to ensure participation and not simply messing up other people’s work (but I am sure a few of those players will make their way in anyway). I generally love the feeling of being a small gear in a larger contraption that functions so fluently. People wear outfits according to their jobs in society and help each other out. Plus there is something satisfying in systematically taking apart a larger structure bit by bit. Oh, and the mining is fun as well. The art style, the collaboration, and the basic premise make me want to return to the void immediately and I will keep a watchful eye on this game and suggest you do the same if you have been intrigued by this at all. I hope to work with you in the future to build a better world, comrade!

 

 

 

Image sources in order of appearance:

 

And here are some screenshots I took during the beta:

 

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3 thoughts on “Calling all Comrades!

  1. I just can´t help but think of a giant anthill in the shape of a video game and every player is a tiny ant that is born, works and, in time, dies. From this standpoint, if should be clear that I don´t believe this game will dazzle me with a refined story, or even a big end goal that needs to be achieved.
    However, I don´t feel that this has to be something negative forcibly: nowadays, almost every game makes the player the hallowed hero that would even make the brothers Grimm shake their heads in disbelief. Game protagonists (like Geralt of Rivia, the Herald of Andraste, Commander Shepard, Ezio Auditore da Firenze and his fellow assassins, Lara Croft, etc. etc. etc.) are always someone extremely special and talented and special and unique and special. Don´t get me wrong, it´s great to feel special (well, in most cases, at least. I has to be said that on the other hand it´s rather disheartening to feel especially ugly or untalented), however, I am (and if I dare say, the majority of humankind is) someone you would call ´normal´ as in ´not special´. (Let´s just face it, okay?) So as much as I enjoy to be able to fire bolts of thunder from the tips of my fingers in games or to thu´um an enemy into oblivion, I genuinely believe that it would be a very refreshing experience to play as one character in many that look just the same or to not have this keen sense of competition blowing down my neck which more often than not expresses itself in ranking lists (and which I hate anyways).
    On the other side I have to admit that my interest is more of a psychological nature than anything related to the game itself. In this sense I am wondering firstly, in how far the game allows its players to build up a kind of individual identity and to act accordingly, and secondly, in how far the community will strive for said individuality (notwithstanding the difficulty in which it can be obtained. If at all.).
    After all, we, as humans (and especially as gamers) are used to being and to perceiving ourselves as individuals, a trait more esteemed than any other especially in the Western world.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your wonderful comment, first of all. And yes, I can only agree with your observation of video game protagonists, although for some reason I noticed a lot of Bioware games in that enumeration, but I am certain that is pure coincidence.
      I can also understand your interest in the game from a purely psychological standpoint and indeed only time will tell what the game will and can evolve into (a possible parallel society perhaps?). Individuality is an interesting aspect in this environment and while you are certainly limited visually and action-wise there is a strong sense of individuality, I’d argue. Basically your actions determine who you are and how you are perceived by others even though they may not recognise it as such in the first place. You simply cannot be egotistical in this game, since your progression from a pure xp-kind of stand point is closely tied to the community you are building. You cannot hog all the resources since it would not benefit you at all. This linking of individuality while tying it closely to the community is one of the most interesting aspects and I believe one that can only be understood and experienced by playing the game and not just observing.

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  2. Okay, okay, I get the hint: perhaps in time, I´ll try it out myself and join in the rows and rows of little productive ants.
    However, I can´t quite see your point with respect to individuality: certainly, my actions define my individuality and my actions are also the only thing perceivable to other players, but if the game only rewards those who work and do so in cooperation with others, certain individual traits such as laziness or antisocial behaviour, are being suppressed as the player would gain nothing from such an attitude (which is, by the way, a pretty capitalist strategy if you ask me).
    (And as to my enumeration of Bioware characters: I agree, comparatively, I mentioned a lot of them, then again, I simply love all Bioware-titles and hardly play anything else, to be honest. So the respective protagonists came to mind immediately. However, the list could still go on forever: the Dragonborn, the survivor in Fallout, Kratos, War, Snake, Bayonetta, Dante, etc. (you get my drift))

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