It is all about perception
Space Sims are not exactly plentiful these days. The larger publishers shun them like the plague, most likely because the market for the genre is too small to make large budget titles commercially viable. Fans of the genre have put their hopes on smaller publishers who have often used developers in low-wage countries. This is not necessarily a bad thing as some great quality games have been produced in countries such as the Czech Republic and Russia. Yet games coming from these territories are often perceived by gamers as poor quality. Unfortunately The Tomorrow War, under review here, does nothing to change that perception.
In The Tomorrow War, you play a young cadet fresh from the academy. Just as you arrive on the space carrier that will be your home for the foreseeable future, an unknown alien race appears at Earth’s doorstep. It is immediately obvious that the aliens are hostile towards the human race, giving you plenty of opportunity to try your hand at flying a spaceship while lavishly applying your trigger finger.
The return of the British Empire
The game falls short right from the start. The Tutorial leaves you wondering what you are supposed to do while the game seems to be playing without any input from the gamer. It wasn’t long before I learned why I got so confused by the tutorial: the game is profoundly broken. Much of the in-flight voice work is missing which means that the orders you are given never reach your ears. Occasionally, written orders are shown on screen but something seems to conspire against you getting any orders at all. You see, most of the written orders are shown only after several orders have been given, leaving you utterly confused -and frustrated- as a result.
Whenever anyone speaks, you will likely be wondering if the missing in-flight orders are not a blessing in disguise. Your character will interact with others between each mission to progress the storyline. All characters in The Tomorrow War look distinctly Eastern European. Despite this, they all have hick, posh British accents that will make you cringe upon hearing it. Are we really to believe that the future of space defence is in the hands of the English aristocracy?
But the “fun” doesn’t end there. Despite impeccable English accents, the pronunciation of words is absolutely appalling. One voice asked “But what about the career?” which made absolutely no sense at all until the subtitles betrayed that “career” was supposed to have been pronounced as “carrier”. Quite a difference. And if all the above isn’t enough to want to ram a meteor shard through your sound system, the actual dialogue will surely cause you to want to put it out of its misery. To give you an example, at some point one character asks “Do you have a question?” to which you reply “Yes, can I join you?” and the character answered “That, is out of the question”. Another time someone told me that they had been following me closely and found it peculiar that I had been in combat twice. By that time, the wear & tear on my desk was visible from the place where I had been bashing my head on it.
Another factor to cause irritation is the in-game music. Pretty much all of it is bombastic. It gets on your nerves just minutes after you start the game. I switched it off during the training missions and promised myself to give it another try once the game was underway. I did, but the music was still the same. When a grand orchestra is beating frantically away at your eardrums while you are flying sedately from point A to point B it tends to make the blood boil. The pace of the music does not change with the pace of the game and the franticness follows your every movement, however low key it may be.
It doesn’t look any better than it sounds
While the game is based on an epic space trilogy written by Russian author Alexander Zorich, there is so little story to be found here that I doubt Mr. Zorich would recognize his own hand. The voice work is an obvious culprit in this but if the animation and character design had been top-notch it could have salvaged some of that. Unfortunately your character and the NPCs are so stiff that they must share DNA with mannequins. Their faces are completely devoid of emotions, making the chance of you identifying with your in-game presentation very unlikely indeed. Oh, and their lips continue to move long after the voice is already done speaking, giving any conversation a positively surreal quality.
The rest of the graphical presentation doesn’t fair any better than the character animations. It is rare that a full game is released with graphics as dated as found in The Tomorrow War. No matter where you look the game is lacking the detail that gamers have come to expect these days. I am the last to judge a game on its graphics but this dips even below my low requirements.
All the above is further hampered by mediocre controls and a weird cockpit design that tells you barely enough to make due while being utterly in your way. The Tomorrow War was designed for the Russian market and in its current state it would have been better if it had stayed there. With enough polish, better dialogue and proper voice acting, it could have been a shoo-in for Space Sim fans in Western markets. As it stands, its disc is worth more as a coaster for your coffee mug.
No Pros and Cons at this time