The Tomorrow Children has been stuck in my mind since the Open Beta ended last week. Everything about the game, from it’s beautiful imagery to the intense feeling of suppression running throughout the world, has me hooked.
I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t really know what The Tomorrow Children is, I certainly didn’t before I started playing. To sum the game up in a sentence: The Tomorrow Children is Minecraft meets Russian Communism, with dabs of Sim City. The core gameplay has you travelling on a bus to mine resources from large monuments, returning the resources back to a town (via the bus/loading bay) and then using those resources to build things in the town (such as residential homes for NPCs). Whilst all of this may sound very familiar, there’s another element at play which significantly changes the experience.
You see, The Tomorrow Children is about Collectivism. The player isn’t building their own town, or even building it for themselves, but rather they’re building it together, for everyone else. Whenever a player builds a building, they’re removing a shared pool of resources, stopping other players from building other items. The principle doesn’t just end there.
Players are hampered in various ways which require them to co-operate during the daily tasks. Each player can only carry three items in their backpack (mining one object will normally provide three of each object), meaning that they’ll quickly become encumbered. It’s not time-efficient to carry all of the resources back to the loading point, especially considering how many are needed, so instead you have to find other ways to transport the goods. This is where the emergent gameplay merges with the Collectivism theme.
Outside of three emotes, there isn’t any way to communicate in the game. Heck, despite being a fully multiplayer experience, players can’t even see each other all the time. Having said this, you can see other players whilst they perform an important task (such as mining, or picking up an object). With so little information to go on, you just have to trust other players and hope they’ll do the right thing.
To give one example. I flew my jetpack (yes, jetpack), to the top of a monument, and dug into it. I discovered a lot of materials to mine, and went about doing so. To get over the issue of being encumbered, I found myself taking the resources to the edge of the monument and kicking them off. I hoped that another player would pick them up and take them to the bus loading point. Thankfully another player had been doing this! As I kicked the materials off, this player was picking them up and putting them in the loading bay. TEAMWORK! This style of co-operation isn’t just required for the mining process. When the bus loads up the resources and takes them back to town, it dumps them in the street, requiring players to hang around, pick up the resources and take them back to storage. The whole experience feels incredibly natural, in the same way that co-coordinating in Journey did.
I ended up spending most of Sunday playing The Tomorrow People, and that’s because of the depth and difficulty of the game, as well as the graphical splendor that it constantly throws at the player. I remember constantly being in awe at how everything came together, the gameplay, the visuals and the sounds (all of the NPCs speak Russian in harsh, powerful tones), to create something which consistently pulled me in.
The one thing which was a surprise was the micro-transactions. I was surprised they were in the game, however I was even more surprised at how well they fit with the theme and how well they were implemented. Players can bypass the Russian regime, which has numerous items/weapons locked away behind bureaucracy, by calling a number and having the black market deliver an item straight to me. It worked well and showed how the rich could bypass an oppressive, political force which hampers the poor.
Right now we don’t know what the full scope of their implementation will be, however after playing the beta, I’m 100% certain that The Tomorrow Children will be free-to-play or at the very least, have a small entry price tag. It just feels like the game is set-up that way.
For now, how The Tomorrow People will look come it’s release is mere speculation. Speaking of speculation, I think it’s a bit weird that the game is having an Open Beta so close to E3. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sony launched the game at their E3 Press Conference. In fact, I’m willing to make a bet that they will (and that the game will be free-to-play). All I can say for now, I can’t get this game out of my head and I desperately can’t wait to play it again.