‘The Tomorrow Children: Phoenix Edition’ preview: Filling the void

Jthe original version of The children of tomorrow, a self-proclaimed “altruistic cooperative world-building adventure game” by director and founder of Kyoto-based developer Q-Games, Dylan Cuthbert, has been caught and ultimately stuck in no-man’s land. Released as a free-to-play title in 2016 before games like Fortnite, Genshin Impact and others made the format popular on consoles, eventually Sony Interactive Entertainment, the game’s original publisher, shut down The children of tomorrowThe servers are down after only one year of service.

But now, after years of back and forth between Q-Games and SIE, Tomorrow’s Children: Phoenix Edition will be re-released on PS4 and PS5 (as a PS4 Enhanced title) on September 6, 2022. The Q-Games team took extra care to ensure that the untimely demise of the original release won’t happen again here: Switching servers to a peer-to-peer online model and supporting a fully offline single-player experience, though Cuthbert recommends playing the game online co-op for the best experience.

Tomorrow’s Children: Phoenix Edition. Credit: Q-Games.

The children of tomorrow: Phoenix Edition as a game is difficult to sum up neatly. It has touches of Minecraftcraftsmanship, notes of animal crossingstyle city building mechanics and some Valheim monster slaying and resource management, all wrapped up in a Soviet-inspired aesthetic. In fact, it is this aesthetic that will stand out above all else. The character models draw heavily from Czech and ex-Soviet puppet dolls, giving every interaction with your mysterious overseer a very deliberate spookiness. Soviet design runs deep in the game, going as far as having to report to a Ministry of Labor to collect rewards for your hard work rebuilding a society engulfed by the mysterious void. This style of art deeply benefits Tomorrow’s Children: Phoenix Editionboth timeless and incredibly crisp, especially on a PS5, while standing out from other adventure/world-building games that were released in the years since this game was shut down.

The gameplay is pretty straightforward, especially once you get past Phoenix EditionThe new in-game tutorial from , which was missing from the original version and seems essential to familiarize yourself with the world and the objectives. You are responsible for mining and collecting certain crafting materials, such as wood and precious metals, from the islands that form in the void around your town. You use these materials to build structures such as power plants and crafting tables that allow you to further build your city and ultimately save humanity. Thanks to Phoenix EditionWith new single-player enhancements, the in-game AI will help you with some of that busy work, like transporting materials from the island you’re exploring straight to your personal city. This is useful because your character has limited inventory space, allowing you to focus on exploring rather than carrying wooden blocks.

Tomorrow's Children: Phoenix Edition.  Credit: Q-Games.
Tomorrow’s Children: Phoenix Edition. Credit: Q-Games.

These empty islands initially look like procedurally generated space, with otherworldly spikes and caverns forming elaborate rock formations. In reality, they are created and organized by the developers. This removes that dreadful feeling of being stuck in a space that the game has randomly created without regard to player mobility and means that there are hidden treasures in each of these islands. For example, I used one of the game’s new Void powers to punch through a large rock, uncovering a hidden Matryoshka doll inside which, when processed through one of the unlockable building structures, adds a new villager to your town.

For the first part of my overview, I went through the various tutorials, which were practical enough to allow for self-discovery while gently nudging you in the right direction. For the second part of my preview, I was taken to a much more developed island populated by the Q-games team. This is where the scope of what can and cannot be done in Tomorrow’s Children: Phoenix Edition has become apparent.

Tomorrow's Children: Phoenix Edition.  Credit: Q-Games.
Tomorrow’s Children: Phoenix Edition. Credit: Q-Games.

Where in my solo town there was nothing more than a few small buildings, here there were parks, trees, buses and electric scooters circling around me. Other people fly away with jet packs, scale giant monolithic structures with grappling hooks. Different vendors, once locked behind the free microtransactions of the original release, are selling goods with in-game currency. fight them. There was a very real feeling that this city was indeed alive. This plays into the overall goal of the game itself beautifully: saving humanity from the void. With other games of this style, the game’s narrative direction gets lost in the day-to-day routine of running a colony. For Tomorrow’s Children: Phoenix Edition, this monotony is the very purpose of the game. Become a model citizen and live a life. Help your neighbour.

There are a few wrinkles in the overall design that I think could show their age here. These ranged from minor things, like squishy gun mechanics, to bigger oversights, like a lack of storage space for tools and items, ultimately leading to cardboard boxes full of pickaxes and rocket launchers littering the city which was a bit unsatisfying. As far as customization goes, your character can earn and buy new outfits, but there’s not the same levels of terraforming and town customization you’d find in something like animal crossing. But the location of buildings, trees, and parks as well as the construction of signs and other customization touches therein, while not very diverse, will help keep your town unique.

When The children of tomorrow was shut down, many critics and fans commented favorably on how the game was ahead of its time. The beautifully distinctive and new character designs, the sense of discovery on the ever-changing empty islands, and the collective joy of working with strangers to achieve a goal, whether it’s defending the city against monsters or successfully navigate a rocking park. With Tomorrow’s Children: Phoenix EditionThanks to Q-Games’ quality-of-life improvements, graphical enhancements, and much-needed preservationist approach to online play, the time for Q-Games could be now. And will certainly live until tomorrow.

Tomorrow’s Children: Phoenix Edition launching September 6 in Europe and September 7 in Japan. This preview was played on PS5.

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