The Tomorrow Children's Apocalyptic Vision is Both Sad and Beautiful
Life in the Void.
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Many games task you with saving the world. But what if the world you’re a part of is already gone? Q-Games’ The Tomorrow Children asks that question: what do you do, how do you behave when everything you know is dust? Do you work for the common good, harvesting food and mining for materials in exchange for money to buy tools to do your job, or do you prioritize yourself and earn renown?
The Tomorrow Children’s story centers around an experiment gone wrong. In 1960s Russia, an attempt to create a "sublime" human race, melding all human minds into a single consciousness, has resulted in the complete destruction of the universe. The planet earth has been replaced by an endless Void, whiteness stretching on forever and ever in every direction. Over the course of 90 years, those who were able to survive the experiment have rebuilt a socialist society that requires everyone to contribute to the general good through work and production.
You, the player, are a "projection clone," one of a number of tiny Russian-doll-like beings that hold some of the consciousness left behind after the experiment. You live in a town, a small scraggly collection of buildings, workbenches and kiosks in which you can trade credits--which you earn through work—for mining tools, water, a jetpack, and any number of goods that will help you do your job better.
The game itself is a captivating mix of Minecraft and Dark Souls, mixing resource management, exploration, and a self-upgrade system with some truly horrifying gigantic creatures to fight. These creatures in The Tomorrow Children are an ever-present threat, flying bat-like things and giant Godzilla beasts that will slowly creep up over the horizon and make for your town.
While mining for glowing mushrooms deep within a crystal cavern, I heard loud, thundering bangs passing by. I emerged from the cave to find one of these giant beasts, a silvery reptilian monster studding with glowing red lights towering over me. As I watched, other workers--other players--began firing rockets at it in a desperate attempt to bring it down before it crushed them. After a minute or so of pounding it with fire, the creature double over and fell, instantly crystallizing into a shimmering silver figure of what it once was.
At its core, The Tomorrow Children is about working together to ensure humanity’s survival. But the fact that humanity has technically already wiped itself out makes for an interesting thematic twist. Unlike post-apocalyptic games like Sunset Overdrive or zombie outbreak stories like The Walking Dead and Day Z, the world has fallen beyond rock bottom to total annihilation, providing a completely blank slate on which to rebuild. The way The Tomorrow Children depicts this world state--empty stretches of white space and melancholy ambient music--evokes a feeling of sadness, maybe even hopelessness at times.
Although the game is still in an alpha state, this beautiful melancholy permeates the small area I was able to play in. Your tiny Russian doll traipses from a kiosk where they buy a jackhammer to a vending machine where it spends its last credits on something to drink. You can almost feel the atmosphere under that white sky--cool, crisp, an endless night devoid of wind.
The Tomorrow Children also subtly pushes you to work alongside other players. Others playing online will show up as ghostly black and red shimmering shadows, with their PlayStation Network IDs floating above them. You can work with these fragile comrades to mine or collect food, or simply explore. Resource management is a group activity, as everyone’s work will contribute to the good of their tiny colony. And if you become more prestigious, more well known for doing lots of work, others may want to tag along to siphon some of that renown. Its gamification of socialism is smartly done, wrapped in a visual and audio package that successfully communicates the melancholy--and hope--of rebuilding a world.
The Tomorrow Children will launch exclusively on PlayStation 4 at an unannounced date.
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