[NOTE: GameZone was given a copy of the game and a free voucher for some in-game currency that can be purchased through microtransactions. None of this had any effect on our impressions, good or bad.]
The Tomorrow Children has been in development for many years and the developers stayed fairly silent on the project up until launch, leading many to question what the game actually held in store for us. Well, the answer to that question is actually pretty disappointing.
The game holds little content, it's visually dull, and you'll most likely be bored after just a couple hours. Sure, the game is in early access but there have been a plethora of early access games filled with content that keep players coming back day after day.
The premise of The Tomorrow Children is that the world was destroyed by a catastrophic event in the ‘60s and the survivors are slowly trying to rebuild, town by town. The overseers in the game that give you orders have assigned children to rebuild and make society what it once was. The game also has themes of dictatorship and as if no one has any real freedom, but we will come back to that.
While the game sounds like it has quite a bit of story and lore, it doesn't deliver on much more beyond a simple set-up. You don't really learn about the event that destroyed the world and you don't feel the sense of oppression that the game is clearly trying to give off. The game tries to introduce a sense of oppression by having commanding overseers, police officers scattered throughout towns, and a black market that sells banned items. It’s also heavily implied there is some sort of resistance that looms in the background but you never actually see them or get a sense that anyone is fighting back while you roam around. In fact, even if there was a resistance, I don't know why'd they fight back unless it's to free the children from their forced child labor. Even as you play as a child forced into labor, you don't feel as if there are any consequences if you just stop working. It doesn't feel as if there is anything wrong.
There's no character to this world. It doesn't take any steps to do any kind of world building. It’s quite a shame to see so much potential go to waste.
The Tomorrow Children is also quite dull on a visual level. The game is basically just a white space, almost like you’re in limbo or purgatory (maybe that’s the point). There’s no character, no eye-popping colors, it’s just… bland. I get that the art style is trying to enforce those themes of oppression, however those themes are so poorly executed that the art style suffers from it. Oppression has been shown in such beautiful ways in things like Schindler's List and more recently, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. It all comes off as very weak and boring.
The gameplay is repetitive and incredibly uninspired. Imagine No Man’s Sky’s gameplay in a less visually stimulating world and it’s even more boring. The goal of the game is to gather resources so you can rebuild towns, you must travel outside of your town on a bus into a place called “The Void”. The Void is a vast white space with some places to mine rocks and that’s about it. You have a limited amount of space to store resources, you have about 3 spaces to start with which is not much at all. You have to constantly go back and forth between the mines and load stuff on the bus to send back to town and it just feels really annoying. You end up just hitting rocks for thirty minutes, then you load it all on a bus, and then you go back and repeat the cycle. After a while, the clanking sound of your pickaxe hitting the rocks will drive you crazy and you’ll probably just close the game and go play something more stimulating. The game probably wants to make you feel like a slave, but that really just doesn’t translate well in a video game where gameplay really matters.
Combat falls short…
There is also combat in the game, but it falls short of what it could be. Out in The Void, there are giant robots. They don’t really fight you, but if you attempt to go up and hit it’ll just walk into you and kill you. It’s not epic or exciting like you’d think fighting a giant robot spider should be. You can also set up turrets around your town, presumably as defenses but nothing (at least in my experience) ever attacks or comes remotely close to your town. It all ends up feeling as uneventful for something that should be incredibly visceral and intense.
Some of the gameplay is also just confusing and isn’t even really explained. I would find boxes of equipment like shotguns and chainsaws and I couldn’t figure out what their purpose was. I couldn’t figure out how to open the box, I was unable to find a place to store them like the other resources, so I would just end up throwing the box on the ground and leaving it there. For all I know, you can’t actually do anything with those boxes.
You feel no sense of real progression…
On top of everything else, your contribution to the town feels useless. If you leave the game and want to come back to your town later, you will more than likely be greeted with a message that says something along the lines of "The restoration of your town has been complete. Please select another town." All of your work was done for nothing. You didn't get to see the completed town, you didn't really get any sense of accomplishment. It feels like a kick in the stomach after spending all that time collecting materials.
Lastly, the game has many technical issues. The bus that transports you back and forth between the town and The Void will just clip through buildings, other players will become transparent and sometimes they just suddenly disappear, and at times you’ll go to pick up items and several seconds after you pick them up, they’ll just appear in another player’s hands. It causes so much frustration and confusion and makes you wonder how some of these bugs made it past QA testing.
The Tomorrow Children is an incredibly weak game with loads of potential but it falls short on all fronts. It lacks in visuals, story, and gameplay and has several bugs that make you question if this game was just rushed to market in order to hit a date. The game also features loads of microtransactions which feels like an insult since the game probably shouldn’t have even been released. I hope The Tomorrow Children will be updated and it’ll reach its max potential but in its current state, I can’t recommend this game to anyone at all.