While there are plenty of games that allow you to create and share with others, there aren’t many examples that can unite total strangers in working towards a common goal. Coming from Q-Games, the uniquely styled The Tomorrow Children is one such game.
You’re given the impression of taking part in some grand experiment as you start to play the game. You are not a hero setting off to find glory or battle a global menace – in fact, the world has pretty much come to an end after a catastrophe that led to the creation of The Void. No, you are a cog in the machine whose job is to help build towns for people to live in. You must collect resources from islands that appear on the horizon, construct amenities and domiciles, and stop the attacking Izverg from destroying buildings. It’s a rather simple gameplay loop that you can get lost in for hours.
A short tutorial teaches you the very basics of mining and interacting with society, and from here you may select a town to help and move there via a subway train. Once at your destination, you have the freedom of doing whatever you wish to try and help it grow, but the more productive work you manage to do contributes to your toil score, which in turn grants coupons to buy gear and costumes. Shovels, pickaxes, chainsaws and more are available to buy, but they all have a limited lifespan and you have to keep buying more.
Costumes, on the other hand, affect various character attributes: strength, agility, patriotism, dexterity, fortitude, and might. While some of these are self explanatory, an attribute like patriotism isn’t one that crops up often. It relates to how many coupons you can get in relation to the toil you put in towards growing a town, while dexterity determines how fast you work. These attributes are improved through attaining higher Bourgeois, which is The Tomorrow Children’s levelling system, which is dependent on how much toil you accrue from work and the praise of other players.
Though this is an online game and, the other players in the town aren’t always visible on screen, their ghosts only appearing when they perform actions, so you never feel isolated. The only ways to communicate with them are through different gestures, which includes praising someone or scorning them. You’d think that this limited communication would hinder The Tomorrow Children, but the majority of players I’ve come across have that intuition of what do and how to achieve goals together. There have been quite a moments where I’ve been impressed by how easily people work out how they can best fit in with a task.
A simple example comes from mining and transporting resources. In one town, a large group of players will be busily mining an island and throwing resources out, with other players then pick these items up and drop them in the loading bay so the bus can pick them up. Once that bus reaches town, another group of players can collect the resources and move them to their designated storage bays, all without one word being uttered. An efficient mining operation, maybe, but the town layout was a mess with no order to where buildings were placed.
In another town players were working well together and had somehow decided on a town layout. In the centre of this town was the town hall and the various shop stands, with homes laid out around it in street-like fashion, while power generators and workbenches were grouped in a different area, and trees growing fruit were kept in an orchard of sorts nearby. Again, all of this done without any verbal communication.
On the rare occasions that someone does try to disrupt a town’s happy community, they’re locked away in a cage for a period of time. nfractions include throwing away a resource in a bin, or firing a weapon in the town. There’s no negotiating for not being thrown in jail, so you have to take the punishment, unless you are broken out or pay to bribe the guards. Other players will see that you have broken the law as the cage is visible to them, and you’ll also have a blue tone over your character.
A player’s status is quite important in a town in quite important. You first arrive as a proletariat with a red hue that other see over you character, and it’s only after you’ve worked in the town that you can construct a residence and become a residentzy of the location. That’s not permanent though, as you have to move on once a town’s population is filled. That’s not players but NPCs rescued from the islands in the form of matroska dolls. Returning them to the town and placing them on specific pads eventually turns them into people who utter a few occasional phrases.
Adding a little extra challenge, you can accept the requests for help from other towns, to visit and supply them with resources in response to some situation or other. These have time limits associated, with the ones I’ve encountered giving you an hour to do them, though this timer doesn’t appear to countdown when you aren’t playing the game. This system encourages you to explore a bit to see other locations, and how others are handling tasks. In one town I found what could be described as a skywalk, allowing players to walk to the resource islands without having to wait for the bus to let them cross The Void that would otherwise kill them.
Building a town is all well and good, but maintaining and protecting is something else. The giant Izverg creatures are a constant threat to towns, able to destroy buildings and undo your hard work. The most common are the giants that look a bit like Godzilla, with these being able to fire blasts at targets. You then have the fast moving giant spiders that can climb buildings, flying rays that drop bombs and smaller flying Izverg that attack players in towns and when mining. To battle the bigger creatures players can create turrets which fire giant cannonballs at the Izverg. It’s quite a sight seeing various shots flying towards the monster at the same time, knowing other players are helping to keep a town safe, even if you can’t see them.
Yet after playing The Tomorrow Children there’s a feeling that this is only the beginning, with the game being a canvas that has yet to be added to. There are quite a few directions that Q-Games could take to keep people from finding the initial loop from getting stale. There will be only so many times players will get satisfaction from helping a town reach its goal by doing the same things.
On a technical level, there’s the issue of the quite regular disconnects from the servers too, and it remains to be seen how the game will fare once the free to play portion opens up. The effect that will have on towns will be interesting, as it introduces a class of players that won’t have the Freeman dollars that founders have, though these can be found scattered about in game and can be bought via microtransactions.
The Tomorrow Children is at the beginning of its journey, with Q-Games’ next step one of the most important in shaping the game’s future. What is present shows promise, but after several days of playing it feels like most of what can be experienced has been. There’s already a sense of repetitiveness settling in, and it feels like something is missing, even if I can’t quite put my finger on what it is. On the flip side it really is great seeing players work together to help their towns grow, and finding ingenious ways to do so. The canvas is set and there is potential for a masterpiece to appear depending on what comes next.