You can also check out the video format of this review: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eu5YXyhToSw
For years the fandom have conceptualized what the perfect components of a game based on The Tribe would entail. There are three such components that the majority concluded would encapsulate the spirit of the show within a videogame format. These features are:
- a component based on The Sims where you are able to design your own character and engage with the Mall Rats socially and romantically
- a feature where you are able to trade with or attack other tribes
- the ability to discover and explore Tribeworld whilst scavenging for food and resources
Though The Tribe Game does indeed feature all three of these most necessary and lauded features, unfortunately, it also fails at all three simultaneously.
Let’s begin with the game engine itself, which utilises the long running RPG Maker program which is extremely well known on the Steam platform. RPG Maker allows fans, enthusiasts and mini developers to create their own RPGs with a relatively easy to delve into interface and a variety of pre-set features for ease of creation. Just a quick look at Steam will inform you that in order to stand out from the crowd, developers have to create an extensive amount of customised content, beyond the pre-set components of the base program, in order to draw in potential customers.
RPG Maker, for all of it’s initial ease and accessibility, is also very dated without extensive or additional programming, and this certainly shows within The Tribe Game. Usability and functionality are very stilted. Manevouring your character, selecting items, combat, (and we will not even speak of the awful farming functionality) is all so extremely poorly designed and structured that it often borders on frustration. Even the most basic mobile and indie games on the market, regardless of their overall playability, have solved these basic functional issues.
And we need to mention the extensive array of bugs and issues. Everything from sudden crashes, to the equip menu malfunctioning, to the character creation screen freezing, to quests being stuck because you accidentally pressed a different button to escape and now the conversation to trigger the continuation is closed off … yes, I’ve encountered one and all!
Ultimately, the engine informs the full scope of what can be accomplished with this game, and it is as limiting as you can expect.
Customisation is at the core of any would-be Tribe game, and this key feature is severely lacking. Despite the tease of being able to create your own character, you are only really provided with a handful of options on hair, clothing, and a tribal marking, in order to try and define your avatar. Discounting those styles already featured in the Mall Rats or extended cast themselves, and those options amount to even less.
But you could even forgive the lack of individual customisation if it meant that you could immerse yourself within Tribeworld right? Well … good luck with that. Though I must give the developers a heck of a lot of praise for the gorgeous individual character artwork alongside the work done on the Mall itself, everything else seems to be designed to restrict that immersion as much as possible. Poorly designed quests ferret you from one unrecognisable area to the next without you able to explore or traverse a fully realised map, the map assets themselves are pre-loaded features of the engine sprinkled with a few photoshopped graffiti images onto an asset, and the most immersible location of all, the mall, is very restricted in both its layout and scope of use.
The game thrusts you into the show as a stray who encounters the Mall Rats as they have just formed, in an alternate universe style setting, with the game’s storyline playing out rather differently. But ‘storyline’ is pushing the term quite broadly. As I mentioned before, it is a series of short fetch and scavenging quests, with a few set pieces of story interconnected now and again in order to serve as background for even more fetch and scavenging quests.
That is the bulk of the so called ‘gameplay’.
The remainder is comprised of the RPG Maker’s namesake – the RPG combat itself. Having played many games based on this engine, and seen what fully customised and coded components can do with it, the combat mechanics utilised for The Tribe Game are extremely mediocre and disappointing. Again, even the most basic mobile phone games have better mechanics and playability for their combat engines. You can attack, guard, and utilise ‘combat’ (i.e skills) in order to buff or de-buff your opponents. But it is all so very basic.
Instead of individual characters having specialised roles (i.e Lex being a fighter, Tai San and Dal being healers, Ryan being a tank, etc…), you mostly engage combat on your own, with no real character pathway or progression. The skills toted by the game consists of nothing more than skills utilised for farming and more scavenging, which, if you hadn’t worked out by now, are the most boring and frustrating parts of the game. For all the scripted nature of the areas and the quests, it is confusing why they did not go for group combat with you fighting alongside the Mall Rats and having a fully realised character skill trees and progression.
So, the functionality, playability and gameplay are all very disappointing, but what about the other components? Well, the concept of trading is also non-existent. You are not able to go online and trade items with other fans, or design tribestyles and have them used in a global market by other users. So what is it used for? Well ‘trading’ is just ‘fetch this item and give it to this character’. That is it. There is not even a small economy in-game, where you could say, trade 10 Chamomile Leaves for a specific item you needed. I was not personally expecting this, but it again just goes to show how limited this game is compared to every other mobile and indie game out there.
There just seems to be a lot of weird choices made in the development process of this game – even beyond the mechanics. Though some might etch a smile out of the manifestation of Tribemaster, a phantom ghost-like guide who instructs you on the use of the game’s mechanics, it just adds to the overall blend of oddness. You have to ask yourself how is this accessible for new players to the game? And it serves very little for veterans of the show. And some of the character writing, especially Tai San and Salene, is so extremely off that it really throws you for a loop.
But it can’t be all bad right?
Somewhat. The light does shine in a few small areas. As I touched on briefly before, the artwork for the characters are first-class. A lot of work went into their design, featuring several different ‘stances’ depending on a character’s emotional state, which helps lift the entire game and its immersion. This immersion is further aided by the music, which is taken straight out of the show itself – barring a few weird choices which have somehow sneaked into the game.
As a lifelong fan of The Tribe, it is extremely hard to reconcile what we got with what we have always dreamed of. But even judging the game based on what it has presented, it just falls so short in itself, let alone that dream.
The Tribe Game £15.49
Left behind in the wake of its peers in a sea of incredible mobile and indie games, The Tribe Game is simply decades out of touch, with poor functionality and gameplay which does not justify its price tag.