Wednesday, 27 January 2016

The Tomorrow Children: PS4 Beta Preview

The Tomorrow Children: PS4 Beta Preview

Platform: PS4
Released by Q Games

The closed beta of the Tomorrow Children is an oddly beguiling affair.

Mixing the red peril with Minecraft leanings and a hefty dosage of Jigsaw, this beta from Q Games was open for a few hours over the weekend to the invited and was encouraging others to get involved.

And when you consider the premise and the idea of communism, the fact it’s an online open world sandbox seems delightfully and wilfully, amusingly wry.

Set in a world where the Soviet Union has somewhat gone awry and the world’s become enveloped in a kind of dystopian void, it’s wilfully perverse when it comes to its game mechanics and raison d’etre.

You play a child, whom you later learn is a Projection clone and is therefore able to function within the white wide expanse known only as the Void. Armed with only a satchel, you stumble around the void until a TV set on a stick rises slowly from the white nothingness….and a disembodied address comes your way, with some instructions and some vague level of menace. It’s like Jigsaw from the SAW movies has been trapped within the TV screen and is working on bringing the Russian world back to life.

Basically, in a nutshell, it’s up to you to re-build the world and create a glorious utopia again – and the ethos of sharing plays a big part in that. As the TV set receded into the distance, a massive structure rose up out of the ground and the glorious leader granted me a pick-axe to smash my way into the building and to do his bidding.

What transpires though is that you need to have some inkling of how to solve some basic puzzles and employ some lateral thinking as too much time in the dark sees your projection clone start to twinkle with green static. Given a portable lamp is a clever touch, but how to use that when you have to carry metals from within and with only one set of arms is a puzzle that may take an ounce of simple thinking to solve.

Here’s the interesting thing about The Tomorrow Children though; it seems to thrive on a pool of economies rather than a one for themselves ethos. The metals I gathered were taken out of the complex and dumped into an area that was marked “Storage” – before I was granted access to the subway and a personal upgrading for the work I’d done. It’s quite clear the Red philosophy permeates every pore of the DNA of this game.

Taking you on the subway to what would appear to be the hub of the game brings you into an area that resembles, in part, a monopoly board. Divided up into portions and with bits going on around you, there’s plenty to do as you start to absorb yourself into this world.

From the wry Russian humour to the fact you’re told to "Line up", there’s an air which pervades The Tomorrow Children that a few hours didn’t really give it justice to crack.

There were a few people around in the game, but I did struggle a little to communicate with anyone and people would appear atop of me in areas when I least expected it, a touch which needs to be ironed out.

Communication is going to be key with this game if we’re all working off the Communism / One team one dream vibe and while there are signs of that starting to gel, I’d hope the final version envelops more of that and makes it easier. You can praise or chastise colleagues but I saw little reaction to my approval / disapproval of them.

Equally, the Void itself seems to have no rules.

The voice tells you not to wander off too far into it, and if you do head off into the distance, the ground starts to sink like white quicksand and you are absorbed within. But, you don’t actually die – merely get boosted back up, which seems odd given the menace that’s presented with the threat.

And there are creatures waiting to attack you – the Izverg seemed determined to make my life a misery. Attacking one seemed to link it as an albatross around my neck and it would merely follow me and attack. Even if I was in the middle of another interaction with someone else – which is more than a mild irritation given how I was unable to continue with what I was doing.

In among the propaganda films and the Russian ethos, there’s an inkling that The Tomorrow Children is something different and is shaping up to be an indie that’s more than just quirk.

But there’s a lot going on and I really did enjoy the sort of minimalist vibe of it all. I’ll be interested to see where the full game goes and given that you can share resources with others, there clearly has to be some demarcation of what happens if you steal from others / don’t share. Sure, there are rewards for working together but it’s interesting to see what may happen if you go off brief.

Intrigue is the name of the Tomorrow Children and quite frankly, based on the few hours I spent in the closed beta, I’ll happily dive in when it gets released.

If the glorious leader deems it worthy of my presence that is….

The Tomorrow Children has yet to receive an official release date

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