Help (Desperately) Wanted

HIGH The writing.

LOW The learning curve.

WTF Nothing like a cheery Bolshevik.

The premise of Help Will Come Tomorrow is that four random strangers (chosen by the game from a group of nine possible) are passengers on a train traveling through Siberia. The locomotive is attacked, but the four survive and find themselves lost in a frozen wilderness with only each other to rely on. They’re sure rescue is coming… but what if help doesn’t come tomorrow?

HWCT is a 2D survival game played via dialogue options, and it’s split into three phases. The first is a side view of the survivors’ camp. The player must decide what to build with their limited resources (protection, cooking utensils, weapons, and so on) while also addressing concerns like hunger, thirst, illness, cold, morale and a myriad of other issues.

The second phase is when the player should consider exploring their surroundings and gathering resources to expand the facilities and craft items for survival — things like clothes, knives, and medicine. However, it’s not so simple since survivors going out might go missing, lose vital items or meet roaming gangs that might murder them.

Finally, when all party members have exhausted their actions in the first two phases, the player ends the day around the campfire — as long as there’s something to burn. This is when the personalities of the group come to the fore.

The player will pick a conversation topic and then let the characters do their thing. Maybe a Bolshevik will talk about the injustice within Russian society and upset an aristocrat, or a militarist might confront a deserter. The player then has a chance to reply, and it’s really a stroke of genius since there will be two choices.

The first option is to continue to disagree. The second option appeases the person arguing, but that placation might not align with the speaker’s philosophy. For example, if a socialist chooses not to challenge the bourgeoisie, it might sit well with the audience, but the person saying the false statement of agreement will become demoralized. Morale impacts interpersonal relations, but if the camp morale drops to nothing, it’s game over.

On the plus side, learning more about certain characters through these campfire chats may unlock a new mission for exploration or uncover a new personality trait — things like one person getting drunk easily and become friendlier to others, or that someone has an iron stomach and can eat bugs.

All of these factors amount to a complex web of systems in Help Will Come Tomorrow. A depressed lower-class member might need to build cover so that they can sleep and recover from the cold, but teaming up with the authoritarian army veteran to do so might cause them to sink into a deeper malaise. It might be necessary to keep the fire burning low to avoid being seen by outsiders, but if it’s too low, it won’t be possible to cook food.

The thing that struck me the most about HWCT is that it seems to be a game that is not expected to go well on the first playthrough, and honestly, it’s a lot to parse. The tutorial covers the bare minimum and then leaves the player to figure the rest out — it wasn’t until my third playthrough that I realized I needed to invest in the cooking pot before I did anything else.

HWCT does eventually start to reveal itself, and more tools and resources become available as more challenges strike the campsite – snowstorms hit and bury the shelter, bandits attack, and more. I loved getting stuck into this and deliberating of what to prioritize each day.

Help Will Come Tomorrow is rich with nuance and content, and it often doesn’t end well, but those looking for a survival game with focus on dialogue or those wanting to get a taste of an interesting period of Russian history should check into it with no hesitation.

Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Disclosures: This game is developed by Arclight Creations and published by Klabater. It is currently available on PS4, Switch, PC, Linux, and XBO. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher reviewed on the XBO-X.  Approximately 10 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game one ending was reached. There are no multiplayer modes.

Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E10+ and contains Mild Language, Mild Violence, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco. I’m actually kind of surprised about the low rating — the game is relentingly depressing and there are long, intricate dialogue talks of murder and betrayal. I didn’t see people getting murdered and there isn’t much in the way in blood, though people are forced to kill animals (it’s not graphic) and people die as a result of a myriad different influences.

Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes.

Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game is easily playable without sound, and there are no relevant audio cues necessary. The text size cannot be altered. This game is fully accessible.

Remappable Controls: The controls are not remappable, and there is no diagram for the control scheme. The left stick moves through items, A button is generally confirm, holding down the A button is sometimes required. The B button cancels selections, and the Y button has several uses including going out on an exploration and confirming certain commands. The D-Pad is used in certain menus and the RB and LB button are used to highlight different characters.

AJ Small
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