Having never held the fantasy genre of games in particularly high regard, I often find it somewhat of a chore to even think about giving up anything more than a few seconds of my time to play one. The thought of playing anything that even resembles Dungeons and Dragons makes the relatively small number of brain cells that I use for concentrating on things scatter hurriedly, leaving nothing but a deserted and desolate wasteland in the middle of my brain across which the occasional tumbleweed dances by with comical timing that makes it perfect for the inclusion as a light-hearted piece of humorous imagery in this article.
At first, I looked upon Tribal Wars with great suspicion, as is always the case with games of the real-time-strategy genre, and my disapproval of the game was almost a foregone conclusion. In the interests of fairness and traditional games-review procedure, I invested a few days into the game, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I was pleasantly surprised at my findings. Simple, addictive, and longevous in its ability to entertain, Tribal Wars is a challenging but rewarding experience, requiring the utilisation of strategy, planning, and the forging of relationships with other players.
Before you can even think of leading your lowly village to virtual fame and faux glory in the world of Tribal Wars, you must take steps to begin expanding your tiny society, which in its early stages would crumble if someone threw a large enough rock at it. After choosing your village’s location, you are essentially thrown out into the ruthless fray of the game, and the fact that you are given a 3-day period of ‘beginner’s protection’ should be an indication of the fact that you need to hurry up and get some resources flowing in your village. There is an optional tutorial integrated into the gameplay which I found very useful, since there are quite a few variables in the game to get to grips with before you can comfortably take charge of your village and lead it to fame or infamy. Please note that the aforementioned fame and glory of the game does not transfer to real life; just watch your friends laugh ferociously at you when you tell them that you just reached level 15 on your village headquarters.
Starting out in the game is a remarkably slow process regardless of whether you choose to follow the tutorial or not. You will soon discover that building and expanding your village in Tribal Wars take a considerable amount of time to complete. The initial period after you begin is pretty much as fast-paced as the game gets, since the emphasis is on managing your resources in order to develop your village into a settlement that can withstand attacks from other players. Constructing centres of production such as a clay pit, iron mine and timber camp will allow you to produce a steady supply of resources with which you can construct and expand other structures such as your farm, the expansion of which allows for a larger population in order to fuel the labour necessary for your village to grow. Growth and expansion within your village is achieved by upgrading the various buildings within it, with upgrades to your headquarters allowing for faster building times.
It’s a simple layout, but it gets the job done
All actions in the game take place through your village headquarters, albeit in a very rigid manner, with the locations of the buildings being predetermined for you, taking direct control out of your hands from the very start. The village-management side of the gameplay did very little to impress me, nor did it feel any different to pretty much any other real-time strategy games, aside from diminishing the control I have over the layout of my village which other games such as Forge of Empires allow you to have.
The expansion of the various buildings in your village to certain required levels allows for the construction a barracks in which you are able to train your military for use in attacking other villages and also defending against the constant threat of intruders wishing to plunder and pillage your vulnerable village. Expansion of your headquarters to level 3 allows the building of a barracks, while reaching level 10 with your headquarters as well as having your smithy at level 5 will allow you to create a stable in order to train more effective military units such as cavalry for use in battle. Upgrading your smithy also allows you to produce more powerful troops with more devastating weapons, beginning with spears, swords and axes and moving on to siege weapons such as battering rams and catapults for more serious raids on the more powerful villages that surround you.
The gradual expansion of your village’s resources, population, and military potential is what Tribal Wars is all about, with the ultimate goal being to surpass the surrounding villages in terms of your size and power. The raiding of surrounding villages allows for further expansion of your village and for some swift pillaging of their resources. Should you grow enough in size to be able to train a nobleman, you will be able to wear down the loyalty of the surrounding village’s population in order to eventually take over them completely, which is where the ruthless element of the gameplay enters into the equation. It was only this morning that I left my village unattended for a few hours and returned to find that my resources had been plundered; as a relatively new player, my village was pretty defenceless against the attack, which highlights the fact that the game isn’t really suited for the more casual player. Keeping watch on the surrounding villages is essential since you can bet that they are doing exactly the same.
When Is a Battle Not a Battle?
I’m pretty certain that when playing a game set in the medieval period whose title indicates that there will be ‘wars’ or at last some war-related happenings, there is a certain expectation that the game will contain some skirmishes and even a few epic clashing of forces in order to wield the military might that you have literally spent days developing. While you are able to enter freely into battles against troops of surrounding villages, there is no real-time graphical simulation of the action as you would expect, since this apparently would be too mainstream.
The game can be reduced to text on a page, making it feel more like a glorified math display than a game of action
Tribal Wars is an aspiring hipster’s dream in that the battles themselves take place on an extremely understated and purely statistical basis; in other words, you certainly won’t be getting stuck into epic battle scenes or be afforded the opportunity to witness some good old-fashion pillaging of the surrounding villages, since actually having control over your troops in a real-time strategy game is so 2009. Instead, the battle screen is simply a table of numbers that gets compared with the enemy’s with the victor being decided through some pretty swift calculation of which set of numbers will lead to the most favourable outcome. The fact that I was expecting some brutal battle scenes akin to the Battle for Isengard or any number of scenes from the movie 300 left me bitterly disappointed when I realised that attacking the neighbouring tribes was no more exciting than spending some quality time mashing buttons on a basic calculator.
In spite of the relative lack of control afforded to you by the game (building placement in the village, calculated battle scenes without dynamic graphical representation), I still found Tribal Wars to be quite an addictive experience. The game is about as addictive as an essentially two-dimensional, largely text-based, browser-dwelling game can possibly be, and don’t waste your time telling me that the pretty village animations are a credit to the game, since this simply isn’t enough of a feature to compete with Innogames’ more well-rounded title ‘Forge of Empires’, which has all the resource management of Tribal Wars but with considerably more snap, crackle and pop in both the graphics and the gameplay department; it even lets you control the battles in a turn-by-turn basis, with real player models and everything! Tribal Wars can be a very entertaining experience, but due to the highly competitive nature of the alliance/tribe system as well as the fact that premium account players have a distinct advantage over non-paying users, the game isn’t for the casual gamer wishing to dip in and out of the action every few days. Tribal Wars needs a considerable investment of time, and is a pretty rewarding experience if you are willing to give it your undivided attention.