There Is No Tomorrow – First impressions

Gare – Thursday, March 19, 2020 6:41 PM
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Imagine a game with plenty of potential and some decent ideas packed into it. Now imagine that this same game is also very much capable of driving me up the wall and making my brain boil like the soup I just left on the stove. Done? Good. So, in light of all that, let’s briefly talk about There Is No Tomorrow, a stealthy/action-y survival horror type of game – we’ll discuss the things it did right, the things it didn’t, and the things that still give me night terrors. It’s a bit of a mixed bag, you see.

The plot starts off with a bit of a shocker: a seemingly average schoolboy is transported from his normal, everyday life into the monster-infested, post-apocalyptic future. In terms of gameplay, There Is No Tomorrow is mechanically diverse: it’s got most of the fundamental elements you’d generally expect from a third-person action-adventure about surviving a nightmarish end-of-the-world scenario. There are puzzles, stealth segments where you need to sneak around monsters and take them out from behind, a few boss fights, a decent bit of melee combat and even some gunplay, although ammunition is somewhat scarce – the point is, it’s a complete package with a solid base. Execution, however, is an entirely different matter, and this is where the project’s issues start to become glaringly obvious.

Let’s start with melee combat. You grab a wooden stick, a metal pipe or whatever else you find nearby and start swinging away at enemies with the click of a button. The problem is, it all feels rather stiff and awkward; you’ll start attacking a zombie, mashing the attack button with reckless abandon, and become sort of locked in this state of “let’s hope the monster runs out of HP before I do”, which is never a pleasant experience. Ranged combat offers similarly little comfort for would-be action heroes. In fact, this is the part of the game I found to be the most exasperating, but don’t worry, we’ll come back to it later. Long story short, the main character’s aiming is abysmal, and homing in on an enemy with the crosshair won’t necessarily guarantee a hit. But Gare, I can hear you rightfully exclaim, isn’t the main character a mere schoolboy, probably fresh off his mother’s teats? Of course he’d aim like someone who celebrated the new year with a gallon of whiskey! Well, sure. You’re not wrong. But this happens even if you’re standing only inches away from your target. Like, I’m talking literally standing next to an object and still being unable to hit it.

Allow me to elaborate with an example. The first few hours of the game are… fine, I guess. Inoffensive would probably be the better word, but still. Despite its flaws and occasional bugs, There Is No Tomorrow works as intended and can be more or less enjoyed. Sure, the level design could be less monotonous and nothing about it really stands out, but let’s put that aside for the time being. My point is that the game didn’t make me want to tear my hair out. For the most part, anyway.

And then I got to the stealth-oriented escort mission and nearly had a brain aneurysm.

Probably about halfway through the storyline, you’ll meet another survivor – a young schoolgirl who, sadly, isn’t as handy with a metal pipe as you are, meaning it’s your job to protect her. Now, I’ve never been a fan of escort missions in video games, but hey, I could always just tell the girl to stay put, take out all the zombies by myself, then go pick her up once the coast is clear… right? Wrong. First off, that’s not how this entire segment works. The way it does work is this: if you get spotted by a monster even once, it’s Game Over, man. You can’t even fight back – if they see you, the girl gets immediately killed off in a cutscene, which means you’re forced to start over from your previous checkpoint. Oh yeah, because this is another one of those games that only ever gives you automatic checkpoints and does not allow the player to make manual saves. The only thing to do – other than sneaking by enemies – is to rely on well-timed stealth kills and make sure the other monsters don’t notice you while you take out their buddies. But even then, the danger’s always there that you might be spotted, or that the zombie you’re about whack – and which arbitrarily and unpredictably lumbers around the place – suddenly turns around in the last moment, just before you could deliver the finishing blow. And when this happens… you guessed it, it’s Game Over, and you get to start the entire segment over from the beginning. I also fell through the floor once, by the way. In case you were wondering if there were any bugs. The answer is yes.

Either way, once you successfully sneak past half a dozen zombies, you finally get to a corridor ravaged by flames. So, your new mission is to put the fire out with fire extinguishers. Simple enough, right? Wrong again. Sadly, the main character is incapable of using fire extinguishers like a normal person, and instead has to place them down next to the fire, then shoot them with a pistol to cause an explosion. And that puts out the fire. I’m not kidding. By the way, you have to do this three times for three different fires, which also means having to scour a zombie-infested area for three separate fire extinguishers. Of course, the same rules still apply as before: if you get spotted while doing this, it’s Game Over, and you go back to the beginning of the entire level. Inventory management also becomes increasingly bothersome at times like this, primarily because the game simply does not allow unneeded items to be placed on the ground to be picked back up later – if you need to get rid of something, it has to be permanently destroyed. So have fun being forced to discard important resources because you need to carry a fire extinguisher or three for that one puzzle over yonder. Anyway, if this is already causing your brain cells to leak out through your ears, don’t worry, there’s more. So, after at least a dozen tries, I had more or less mastered the intricacies of the level and could get to the fiery corridor without issues. I even collected the three necessary fire extinguishers. Everything was coming together. So, I place one of them next to the fire. I aim, shoot… and nothing. Then I shoot again, and again, and again. Still nothing. I’m standing inches away from the extinguisher, yet I can’t seem to be able to hit it. I am, of course, starting to run out of ammo, of which I didn’t have a huge supply to begin with – remember, this is survival game. Yet, despite my best efforts, the fire extinguisher remains unscathed and looks back at me with a defiant gaze. “No, Gare,” it appears to whisper to me. “Not today.” So, I’m standing there, completely out of ammo because I’ve just wasted all my bullets on this stupid little thing, and now I have to restart the level for the nth time. Oh, joy.

Yet even this obstacle is one I can eventually overcome. It’s cost me most of my ammo and patience, but the fire’s out and I can finally proceed. I get a quick story sequence and heave a sigh of relief, thinking the game has awarded me with a checkpoint. Then suddenly, all hell breaks loose and I find myself face-to-face with two or three angry zombies out for blood – my blood. The girl screams for help as I awkwardly fumble through my inventory to equip a Molotov cocktail, but by the time I hurl it at the advancing nasties, it’s all too late. I die. No worries, though, I’m pretty sure there was a checkpoin–

No. There was no checkpoint. I once again get sent all the way back to the beginning of the level. To the part before the fire. The part before the extinguishers, the nerve-racking stealth segment and the poorly-designed escort mission. My efforts were futile. This confession has meant nothing. I begin to laugh – not chuckle, but laugh. With all the power I still have left in my aching body.

Anyway, so I’m not sure what else to say here. There Is No Tomorrow feels like a competent enough attempt at an action/stealth game that has the potential to be fun. But as I’ve hopefully illustrated, it just does too many baffling things that end up hurting the overall experience.

But hey, there’s at least one positive side effect to all this: the next time I find a white strand in my hair, I’ll know exactly which game is responsible for it.

The game is available on Steam.

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