The Tomorrow Children: Phoenix Edition PS5 Preview – A Returning Cult Classic
With its stunning Soviet Union-inspired fantasy visuals, social gaming systems, and hazy late-night electronic soundtrack, the original PlayStation 4 version of The Tomorrow Children stood out as a weird but special game.
Unfortunately, the thoughtful and immersive game dreamed up by developer Q-Games was marred by poorly implemented free-to-play mechanics and confusing integration that left many players scratching their heads. But those who loved it really loved it, prompting Q-Games to re-license it from Sony for an upcoming PS4 and PS5 re-release. And after spending a few hours with the newly revamped PS5 version – appropriately subtitled Phoenix Edition – it’s clear that Q-Games doesn’t take its fans’ dedication for granted.
The game’s main loop is essentially the same. The player takes control of a living wooden doll who must rebuild his city and restore humanity by visiting mysterious islands that appear from The Void, an empty expanse of once human consciousness, and mining them for resources. As before, you can work with other players over loose online connections much like Death Stranding. (The Tomorrow Children did it first, kids.)
Screens of The Tomorrow Children: Phoenix Edition
The more you play, the more tools you can unlock for mining, as well as weapons to defend your city against invading kaiju-like monsters known as Izvergs. And for every matryoshka doll you find while exploring, you can revive another cheerful human NPC peasant to inhabit your town. It’s a game where you can work on a plan or just lose yourself in busy work for hours, your mind flooded with the game’s dreamy soundtrack.
Phoenix Edition adds to that core experience in several significant ways. For starters, all free elements have been completely removed and the gameplay loop has been significantly refined to allow players to work on their town without having to pay anything extra or work as much. This had a profound effect, making the game much more accessible and fun.
This time, fans can rest easy knowing that the game won’t suddenly disappear. There’s now a single-player mode, where players can work alone or with fellow NPCs without having to go online, while multiplayer games are connected peer-to-peer, getting around the issues that killed the original game when its servers were shut down by Sony a year after release.
Singleplayer and multiplayer are intertwined, so your progress continues no matter what mode you’re playing in. Personally, I’ve always loved the feeling of isolation in The Tomorrow Children, a rare feeling for a game so reliant on multiplayer features, and it’s great to see that vibe enhanced here through some clever new tweaks.
The Tomorrow Children is about working together while working alone, and now you have more control over your town. You can create it alone or invite friends to collaborate via party codes. In both single and multiplayer modes, you can now issue orders to your fellow NPCs to help the cause, such as asking them to gather more resources, focus on city repairs, prioritize in defense or simply to follow you to help you in your efforts. This means that even the single-player mode honors the game’s core concept of working together for the greater good, and it also means you can leave the busy work of generating electricity and collecting resources to your NPC buddies. while you focus on the activities you enjoy most.
In multiplayer too, these concepts have been refined. Players cooperate to build towns as before, but can interact in new ways – for example, you can gift an item to another player by visiting their house and dropping it off at their doorstep, even if they’re offline at that time. that time. You can leave Dark Souls-style notes by dropping a tape recorder to drop hints, or use a megaphone to ask others out loud for items you need. You can build a bench in your town and sit on it with another player to heal yourself. Tents, which act as portable respawn points, can now be shared, so fallen players can quickly join the fray even if they haven’t prepared a tent themselves. There are tons of little additions and improvements like this.
The Tomorrow Children – Screenshots from the original PS4 version
Playground objects that were purely frivolous in the previous game now generate working currency, and among them, the seesaw provides a fun way for two players to earn currency together. You can even work together to help your friends unlock a trophy by setting up the right conditions in your city and inviting them to come and participate. Or if a player is in mourning in your city, you can report them faster and easier via a “snub” emote and possibly have them thrown in jail to contemplate their behavior.
There are new islands to explore, bringing the total to over 40 – and each now has its own name, to help you keep track. Three of these new islands are based on designs from the game’s community – for example, one new island I visited was made up of huge, glowing orbs with secrets at their hearts. And you can explore these islands with the good old jet pack and other tools from the original game, alongside new ones like the grappling hook, which you can fire from a gun and use to reach high places.
When exploring an island, a new monolith structure may appear; and if enough players gather and touch it, the island’s geology will change, spawning new areas and caves full of goodies to loot.
Meanwhile, when the monsters of Izverg attack, you’ll face the same frantic race to defend your city as before, leaping into turrets or wielding a rocket launcher to take down those giants. And when you do, and mine their bodies for resources, you’ll find that they now have higher drop rates, which means more loot for yourself, your fellow NPCs, and your friends online. . Likewise, consumable Voidka boosts have been made easier to find, with a vending machine placed at the bus stop in front of each island, while Void Power abilities are more plentiful in quantity and variation than before. This generous amount of extra items and rewards is the most obvious result of moving away from free-to-play mechanics, and means you can enjoy more variety and have more fun.
Another hugely appreciated change is the revamped tutorial. The original version of The Tomorrow Children threw players into its sandbox with the most minimal instructions, along with a convoluted explanation of its confusing set of mottoes. The economy here has been polished anyway, and Q-Games has taken a lot longer to walk players through the basics of exploring, building towns, using items, and more. It’s still a very loose tutorial that lets the player explore and figure things out on their own, but the opening sequence of events – entering town, getting mining equipment, visiting islands to dig for resources , etc. – is now more guided than before. When the game detects that you’re not making progress through the tutorial, it gently nudges you with hints on what to try next, without holding your hand too much. Some players might still want more concrete integration, but for a game that’s all about playing its way, the balance seems well judged.
Oh yeah, and it looks gorgeous. Still. The original PS4 game used a cutting edge lighting technique called Cascading Voxel Cone Tracing which is similar to ray tracing, bringing a tangible Pixar-like quality to its textured surfaces and creating beautiful scenes where light flooded in for fill the screen while you exited the opening of a cave. Footage from the original PS4 version still looks amazing today, but running on PS5 at 60fps, Phoenix Edition is an even smoother and cleaner experience, with darker shadows and brighter highlights.
In terms of other next-gen improvements, while the PS5 version sadly doesn’t use the DualShock’s haptic feedback, it now makes more use of the speaker in the controller (keep an ear out for the cries of matryoshka dolls hiding nearby ), and gestures are now mapped to the touchpad.
The Tomorrow Children: Phoenix Edition is more than just a port of this hidden PS4 gem. It’s a totally revamped game that has clearly received the love the original deserved. It’s still a somewhat esoteric package, but changes to its in-game economies, tutorial, and social elements along with an all-new single-player mode make it much more accessible than before. Basically, despite these welcome major changes, the game remains as comfortable and inviting as ever – my three hours are up and I’m thrilled to get lost again in the nebulous world of The Tomorrow Children when Phoenix Edition launches on PS4 and PS5 on September 6.