Dynamite. Renegades. Train wrecks. Wild beasts. Survival. Certain words hold a lot of power behind them based on the meaning and concepts they represent. Take all those powerful symbolic words and form a game from them and you get Help Will Come Tomorrow, the flagship title for developer Arclight Creations – a small indie studio from Poland that got the game fully funded through Kickstarter.
Help Will Come Tomorrow takes places during the October Revolution which was a major phase for the Russians in 1917. A train carrying many passengers through the Siberian wilderness witnesses a disaster, a group of renegades using dynamite to derail the train and then slaughtering the survivors. It is a mystery as to what the renegades want but your goal, for the time being, is survival.
Stuck in the wilderness of the Siberian environment with your motley crew, comprised of members of different social standings, political beliefs, and upbringings, it’s your duty to aid them to the end. You will help this ragtag group through many perils; themselves, starvation, dehydration, sicknesses, injuries, wild animals, renegades, getting lost, frostbite, hallucinations, raids, weather, and much more! How they survive, the stories they tell, and the choices they make is all up to you.
**I want to take a moment to clarify that Arclight released a day one patch that fixed many issues prevalent in other reviews put forth before April 21st, addressing almost all the drawbacks and cons mentioned within them.**
Help Will Come Tomorrow is a survival game which will push you to your limits. Unlike a lot of newer survival games that come out, this game is not action-orientated, it is done through interactions, choice management and a lot of text. Every day, unless a member has ailments or difficulty choice, all your characters will start with a specific amount of Action Points to spend. These AP are the bread ‘n butter to your playthrough, you need them to do everything: repair the camp, improve the camp, build new camping facilities, cooking, skinning, water filtration, healing, resting, crafting, exploring, fishing, hunting, and pretty much anything involved with surviving.
When you start Help Will Come Tomorrow you`ll have a choice of difficulty (Passenger, Survivor, and Resident of Siberia) with each one greatly affecting your experience; mind you, even easy mode (Passenger) gave me a run for my money. Initially, the crew you have will be randomised as you`ll start off with 4 out of 9 possible players, with potential to find straggling survivors to add to your camp as you progress. The members of your camp will suffer greatly from a wide array of ailments that you must closely monitor if you wish to survive: hunger, thirst, coldness, frostbite, tiredness, hallucinations, nausea, bleeding, anything that a person could really succumb to.
The reason you need to monitor these ailments is that over time they`ll begin to deteriorate your health, morale, trust, friendship, or credits, you could even die or lose a limb if you’re not careful…
Help Will Come Tomorrow is broken up into day and night, daytime is when you do all the actions talked about above and nighttime is for social interactions (also doable during the day at the campfire), which is where you can learn of the characters’ history or objectives to work towards.
The social interactions are stories which reveal more about the characters past, often presenting you with a multiple-choice narrative which can result in repercussions. This is quite an imperative feature of gameplay and shouldn`t be overlooked as these social interactions build your camp morale, trust, friendship, and if lucky, unlock new character traits as well! This game also keeps a journal beside the campfire, detailing all the social interactions that happened at night for your playthrough.
Character traits have hidden prerequisites to unlock, so the first time you play you may not obtain them early on. However, if you remember the criteria required then multiple playthroughs should be a little easier. These character traits are absolutely beneficial for the most part as you plan the strategy you use to survive: teamwork, tailor, strength, iron stomach, pacifist, any traits a human being may possess… that includes negative ones as well.
Even the upkeep in Help Will Come Tomorrow, what is normally a drag in most games, adds variability and depth to the gameplay. Weather can deteriorate buildings, upkeep the palisades to protect your camp, maintain the fire for warmth or lower it for less visibility, managing food and perishables so they don’t rot, do you let the survivors starve or chance a poisonous mushroom, this game really keeps you on the edge every minute you play.
I’ve tried a few runs on survivor difficulty but I mainly stuck to Passenger. From what I gathered, difficulties mainly alter the initial conditions of characters, resources, threats, and weather. Although I found ‘Passenger’ mode quite difficult, the one thing I tip my hat in favour for in Help Will Come Tomorrow is the knowledge you retain. In many other games, you’ll learn from your faults and fix or change a few things whilst keeping your methods the same, but with this game, you’ll alter your entire approach to the situations with every run. The vast knowledge you ascertain from every playthrough really reflects how well thought out this game is.
There are nine possible characters, all with their own backgrounds, history, traits, and things to bring to the table. I really want to point out how well managed the characters are as not a lot of traits will cross over or be recycled between individuals. You’ll find upsides and downsides to each one and you’ll need to strategise accordingly as to who you have in your camp. What I enjoyed is that they implemented enough story to each character that they have a personality, some who’ll sync with you and others not so much. I’m looking at you, Anna Mikhailova Khilkov, you permanently cold pessimistic witch – I’m glad I let you get your foot hacked off (spoiler?).
In Help Will Come Tomorrow every character can succumb to many different ailments, as mentioned previously, while most of these are easily remedied, I still question as to how some happened. I get if they’re hungry or thirsty, but at times I’ve had Siergiej wake up with a head wound – maybe he tripped taking a midnight tinkle, who knows? Other times I’ve had it where simultaneously my party of four woke up with hallucinations, making me waste AP on fixing all of them. It’d be nice maybe if there was a character log that’d detailed what happened or refer to prior ailments, so you see what some characters are more easily susceptible too. For example, Anna gets cold more easily than any other character I find.
With the gist of introductory mechanics out of the way in Help Will Come Tomorrow, I want to talk about something you`ll immediately notice from the start of the game – the controls. They’re not bad per se, due to the complexity and amount of options you have to manage on a console it’s sensible that the developer would split up designated roles for each button, but in itself is tedious and often causes mistakes. The left analogue and directional pad are used for different purposes, depending on the menu you`re on or what you’re traversing. This has caused me errors with changing recipes and having to re-input all my previous ingredients on numerous occasions.
Another common complaint with the controls is choosing characters for actions, often I’m pressing Cross to assign characters and accept things then move on my way only to find out that I’m still switching characters or I never did move to that window. This is because they split certain menu transitions with the Square button instead, as well. Even after multiple playthroughs, I still find myself succumbing to these errors, unfortunately.
Those errors are minor and small things I can overlook, thankfully, because overall, Help Will Come Tomorrow is addictive and delivers so much. Upon starting the game you’ll be offered a tutorial – which I heavily implore you to play through and take in – as this game has A LOT of mechanics that need thorough explanation, which they cover it of very well through lengthy guidance. Upon completion of it, there are literally no directions as you’re left to yourself and are to survive by any means you see fit. The general gist is that you’ll expand your camp through building mechanics as you try to survive until finally getting rescued.
Help Will Come Tomorrow offers the campfire and four upgradeable buildings, this may not seem like a lot but each building has its own version of an ‘upgrade tree’. Every upgradeable area has three branches to their tree usually with two to three upgrades per branch. Again, it may not seem like a lot but the Workbench’s Hardened Table upgrade unlocks Bows, Arrows, Harpoons, Fishing Rods, Sticks, Split Wood, Planks, Cut Stones, and Breaking Materials. Depending on how many materials you have, every upgrade has a makeshift model or a solid model, with solid being the superior choice.
The amount of time to upgrade everything varies greatly as it takes AP, which is limited, and materials that you’ll scavenge or create, plus you have to manage your camp and repair buildings as they deteriorate or get damaged, and go exploring. Even by Day 12, I wasn’t close to finishing everything.
Everything requires materials in Help Will Come Tomorrow as well, you can craft some through various upgrades but for the most part, they’ll be found through expeditions. An expedition consists of sending one or two party members out to explore the frozen tundra. You can bring tools or weapons, scavenge the tiles you visit, hunt wild game, or attempt to fight off renegades – the map isn’t by any means vast, it’s somewhere around 35 ~ 40 tiles big. Granted, with limited AP to explore, danger levels which will deter your choices, and getting stranded, amongst many other obstacles, you likely won’t explore the WHOLE map in a single playthrough.
The feature I liked the most is that when you scavenge a tile, it’ll list what materials from there on are available in that tile and a range of quantitative goods. This is extremely helpful for when I’m short on materials and I know exactly which tile to try my chances with. Besides the scavenging, you could hunt for bigger prey to harvest better foods, fish procuring smaller portions, or defend against the renegades – which should be a last resort only.
When night time falls in Help Will Come Tomorrow you’ll have the chance to speak amongst your camp discussing their histories, stories, or direction the camp wants to go. I already touched upon what learning about the characters does so I’ll focus on the direction. Sometimes conversation leads to quests, which gives you a general direction or idea to work towards. Exploring the train car for survivors, testing the ice strength on rivers for possible escape routes, checking old cabins and buildings you can salvage from, etc. This implements a strategical branch; do you work towards an escape and possible rescue? Ignore the direction and strengthen your camp bonds to survive until help finds you? Or maybe you feel you need to strengthen your bonds and forge an offence and take it to the renegades?
Surviving how you see fit is what this game plays very well.
Once you’ve built a base, concocted a plan, and have a good understanding of the direction you want to progress in within Help Will Come Tomorrow, it’ll be time to head out on an expedition. Expeditions are run by a solo party or a duo, this is a very viable option as you stand to gain a tremendous amount of resources. You can gather upwards of dozens of a single material or more and multiples of different materials all at once in a single hexagon! By the time you’ve searched three-five hexagons, you’re a walking treasure trove of materials! Alas, everything comes with a price and it is often at risk of your entire group. Your party can get lost, get attacked by wild animals, attacked by renegades, leave footprints leading things to your camp, fail the tasks you have, or run out of AP, amongst many other dangers the wild will aid in your perishing. However, if you manage to make it back to your camp alive, it’s so fruitful that your labour and risks paid off!
Help Will Come Tomorrow does offer a saving grace in terms of difficulty though; an autosave that happens at the start of a new day. This is an abusable factor in the game, that removes the daunting feeling of replaying an in-game 2 weeks. If you have a bad run, mess up an expedition, renegades catch you, etc. You can quit the game and the reload will start you off fresh on that day, this includes dying or getting game overs as well. I managed to get murdered by the renegades so I reloaded the save and put out the fire so they never saw me, resulting in me and my team surviving. However, the reload trick does have drawbacks, there are only so many outcomes you can change.
I wanted to finish off the stories of my camp members, but somewhere around day 12 to 14 I kept being rescued, I couldn’t alter that fact. Don’t get me wrong, this is essentially the goal, but I never got to finish their tales or achieve the good ending. So for me, the RNG of being saved hindered my progression, resulting in me restarting to try and achieve what I wanted to do… why did I have to be rescued? Bah!
Help Will Come Tomorrow may as well be called ‘Enjoyment Has Come Today’. Not only did I find myself playing it constantly, but I also found, dare I say, an addiction to it? It has a lot to offer the survival genre, engrossing character stories with a strong narrative, and a challenging difficulty that’ll give a great sense of progression. Whether you’re a fan of this genre or not, Help Will Come Tomorrow is sure to convert you (if not) and keep you captivated by the Siberian tundra.