Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Tribal Trouble Review

Tribal Trouble PC, developed and published by Oddlabs.
The Good: Random maps, colorful graphics, multiplayer
The Not So Good: Peon supervision, not much depth
What say you? Some nice features, but the gameplay is too simple: 5/8

POORLY WRITTEN INTRODUCTION
Throughout time, mankind has struggled to achieve dominance over other cultures. Tribal Trouble highlights this ongoing conflict, where “natives” and “vikings” duke it out for control of lush islands. Tribal Trouble adapts the classic RTS method of gathering resources and assembling an army to crush the opposition. Will the game make enough changes to the formula to make it unique?

GRAPHICS AND SOUND
Tribal Trouble features some bright and sunny graphics that fit well with the overall theme. Since you can zoom really tight to the ground, it is important that the characters look good up close, and they do in Tribal Trouble, without significantly high system requirements. This is a full 3-D game, with nice effects (thrown arrows, trees being chopped down) a some beautifully rendered environments. The graphics is definitely one of the draws of the game. The sound is on par with most RTS games, with sound effects accompanying most of the actions in the game. The background music has a nice tribal theme, but tends to get irritating after several hours of play. Overall, the graphics and sound of Tribal Trouble can compete with most “major” RTS releases.

FEATURES
Tribal Trouble has several game modes. First, a tutorial teaches the eager student the basics of the game. For those lonely players, there are skirmish games against the computer and a campaign mode. Skirmish games are played on random maps, and Tribal Trouble has a powerful random map generator. The generator actually produces some convincing maps, as opposed to other games that do a less than spectacular job. Skirmish games can support up to six players. You can play a set of linked skirmish games in a campaign. The campaign is represented on a treasure map, where you can select (with some restrictions) the next map you wish to play. Unlike some RTS games, there is not much variety to the missions: all of them are essentially skirmish missions against varied levels of AI intelligence. There aren’t any “hold out for x amount of time” or “collect x amount of a resource” missions. You must play the vikings first, and then the natives. You can also engage against people in multiplayer matches, using the in-game browser. The same random map generator used in the single player skirmish matches is available here as well.

UNITS AND RESOURCES
There are four resources to gather in Tribal Trouble: trees, rocks, iron, and chickens. Trees are required for constructing buildings, while the other three are each for a specific unit (rock warriors, iron warriors, and chicken warriors). These are all gathered by peons, the basic unit of the game. Peons construct buildings, produce weapons, gather resources, and convert into military units. There are only three buildings in the game: the quarters produces peons and a chieftain, the armory collects resources, manufactures weapons, and produces warriors, and watch towers can hold one military unit who can attack enemies from a distance. The more peons are located within the quarters or armory, the faster units and weapons are produced. This is the primary strategy in the game: balancing the number of peons collecting resources with those manufacturing weapons and training into warriors.

ET AL.
Unfortunately, this is essentially the only real strategic decision in the game. You use the same basic build order every game (since there’s only three buildings in the game), and once you get a handle on how fast resources are collected, you’ve figured Tribal Trouble out. There are some problems with the game that makes peon management needlessly complex. First, peons that are produced in a quarters can’t be ordered to automatically move to another building or gather resources: delivering this order requires one click per peon, which gets repetitious very quickly. Also, there is no idle peon button, so you can have peons sitting around doing nothing and not notice (there are also no “idle military” or “select all” buttons either). You also cannot tell how many peons are collecting each resource, just the amount you currently own. On top of the peon troubles, there is not much strategic depth to the game. Since there are only three military units, you mass the warriors corresponding to the resources you’ve gathered, send them to the enemy base on an attack move order, and sit back and watch. There are no formations to use in the game, so the battles quickly degenerate into a test of who has the most numerous powerful units.

IN CLOSING
Tribal Trouble has the features of a good strategy game, the lacks the execution. This game might be good for children, but the low numbers of units, buildings, and viable strategies makes it too straightforward for the discernable strategy gamer. The random maps and picturesque graphics elevate the quality of Tribal Trouble slightly, but at least for me, it doesn’t have enough tribal meat in the gameplay.