Tribal Trouble is a real time strategy game with resource management and tactical combat. Two tribes, Vikings and Natives, fight on a series of really beautiful islands in either a campaign, single skirmish or multiplayer battle.
The graphics and animation are simply wonderful, the cinematic quality of the visual presentation is the first thing that grabs you about this game. Your troops will run, hunt, work and even die with such beautiful animations that it's fun just to watch them do their thing using the incredibly powerful zoom control. The view controls are comprehensive and cover just about every option you could want from a tactical map view, to any angle or zoom level. The textures on the buildings are great, the chickens are adorable, and even the way that the way the trees fall when your 'pions' chop them down makes Tribal Trouble the best looking indie game I've reviewed in almost three years.
The presentation is brilliant too. The basics of on-disk manual and readme are there, but they are hardly needed because there is an excellent tutorial that tells you how do get going. The front end interface looks and works fantastically (there are even tooltips) and there are options a-plenty. Sound too is first class, with excellent sound effects to match every action. There is not much music, mostly unobtrusive background music, but this was perfectly appropriate for this sort of game. It was well produced and never became annoying.
For a real time strategy game, this game falls more on the side of resource management than war game. In many R.T.S. games you only need click and wait a few seconds to make a soldier, but here you must construct an armoury, send people out to gather resources, then build some weapons, then train troops to wield them. There are only a few types of military unit, basically soldiers with different throwing weapons, and the expected best tactic is to make and mass as many troops and you can and charge them all towards the enemy in a visually stunning recreation of the film Zulu.
Autonomy is a divisive factor in these sorts of games. In Tribal Trouble your units do have some intelligence but there were still one or two times when I was screaming "Attack!" at the screen because my troops seemed to stand there and do nothing while the comrades they were standing right next to them were slaughtered.
A large number of clicks is needed to keep the supply chain going, so I found myself playing that familiar juggling game of visiting buildings and clicking things while at the same time selecting troops and telling them to attack. The sounds of dying individuals often have to be ignored. Pions breed like bacteria, and are great for tree felling but in combat they are as useless as their name suggests.
There is lots of game here. Islands can be randomly generated, and there are lots of options for the maps and game types. You can play with several players and the sprawling campaign mode will keep you entertained for a long time.
There are only a small number of buildings and unit types, and each level usually consists of killing all of the enemies. Like many R.T.S. games the tactics in combat tend to be similar; build as many units as you can as quickly as you can and charge. All units throw things, and units take lots of punishment before they die so the important distinction between hand to hand and missile combat that takes place in real life battles is ignored. There is no need to spy out the enemy either because all sides can see each other.
Although the samey nature of the gameplay can be a problem, the wonderful part that terrain plays manages to rescue the game. Placement and defence of your bases is vital because of the location of the resources needed to make weapons, and it's possible to win by starving the enemy by attacking their resource gathering pions. Those on higher ground are favoured too. The only downside is that terrain might be so important that winning or losing a multiplayer melee may come down to where you start. I almost forgot to mention that the A.I. is excellent in both pathfinding and strategic ability.
I would have liked to see more opportunities for tactics in the gameplay, but ultimately Tribal Trouble manages to impress on all levels.
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