I’ve always been a big fan of the disaster movie or those many ‘against all odds’ type of films and books – you know the drill, something terrible happens like a plane crashing onto a desert island or a cruise ship sinking in the middle of the ocean. It is these tales which bring together groups of very different people, put together in order to work as a team and survive. Help Will Come Tomorrow comes with the same principles, but it delivers something much more grittier then the usual Towering Inferno template. Surviving here is a much longer and harder prospect, so wrap up warm as it’s about to get very cold.
I’ve played a lot of survival games over the course of the last year or so and I’m fast getting used to partaking in endless human misery and how to eat plant roots. In Help Will Come Tomorrow – which is set in Russia in 1917 at the dawn of the Russian Revolution – a group of strangers are found traveling across Siberia on a train. There is an accident, caused by a bunch of revolters hijacking the train, and four individuals find themselves stranded; alone and cold in the Siberian wilderness. How they survive next is up to you.
There are three different difficulty settings found in Help Will Come Tomorrow, yet I would encourage you to choose the lowest first because this is hard enough as it is. Once you start the game you find yourself in control of the four survivors, and it is you who will determine whether they live or die. These are randomly sourced from the train survivors at the start of each game, and so you may start with a working-class cook, a captain of the guard, a member of the aristocracy, or a revolutionary worker perhaps. Each member will have an interesting backstory that you will discover throughout the playthrough and these are pretty great tales, full of very good dialogue and narrative.
From there, you have to basically satisfy these characters’ needs through survival and trying to make sure they can all work together without killing each other. Each character has a belief ideology – aristocracy, revolutionary, and neutral – and it is these which will determine who can work best with others. They also have basic needs too, like hunger, thirst, morale, and coldness, which all need to be dealt with.
The four characters start in a clearing in some woods, with each having three action points to spend per day. You will firstly and most importantly build a fire, which is done by clearing the snow away and getting a character or two to build it. That would take one action point, for example. Then you could build a shelter, or a makeshift workshop to craft tools like a knife or shovel. Or a quarantine area if someone gets sick and you need to separate them from the group to stop the spread of disease. But then you’ll also need to consider what would happen if you get attacked, and how to stop wild animals being attracted by the fire. Well, it’s obvious that keeping the fire low will avoid attention, but then you suffer the risk of dying from the cold, harsh environment. There are so many decisions to make and so little time to make them in Help Will Come Tomorrow. After each action is used, you’ll play out the end of the day, allowing the characters to talk through the night to build relationships – or destroy them – with dialogue trees and stories of past lives being told.
Throughout your time you’ll be needing resources; that is a gimme, and will keep everyone alive. You can get these by clearing snow away or laying snares for tiny creatures for food. But you can also send a small party out on exhibitions looking for resources. These journeys could well be risky, seeing some possibly killed or lost, but the rewards might just be worth it; items and much-needed resources come to the fore. Alongside all these, there are narrative events you will find on these sorties, giving much-needed exposition about the events going on around you; they work brilliantly in providing a break from the grind.
Visually and Help Will Come Tomorrow has a serious animated tone and design that reminds me of The Banner Saga. It works well and the character animation is extremely well-drawn with a good attention to detail. The menus can however feel cluttered at times and that’s to do with the sheer amount of information on offer. The locations are bleak but great, with some lovely static artwork on offer in the narrative sections, while soundtrack-wise the game plays a constant background offering that is full of passion and drama.
Help Will Come Tomorrow on Xbox One is most definitely one of those games that survival enthusiasts should try. The options available and the reliance on stats and daily tasks while balancing the needs and traits of your characters is a constant tension and some will relish in the challenge. For me, I adore the artwork, the writing and the setting, but the controls are sometimes a little troublesome; clicking through on the wrong thing on the menus causes plenty of confusion. When the game settles down though and you get used to what it brings, then it comes into its own with exploration elements and a whole host of wonderful stories. It’s certainly a good, solid survival game but I do worry about it coming across as too complicated for newcomers to the genre.