Stranded From Civilization…Time to Start a New One!
A group of adventurous young people get onto a ship and set off on a voyage. To what purpose, you ask? Simply put, to explore the open ocean and see what they might discover.
Unfortunately, about the first thing our would-be heroes “discover” is a storm, which does exactly what you expect it to do; leaves them shipwrecked on a remote island in the middle of nowhere. So what do our faring adventurers do? Do they despair? Do they organize emergency fires and SOS signals to try and contact the outside world for rescue?
Nope! They make do with what they have. Luckily for them, it’s not a desert island. There are ample amounts of trees and vegetation on the ground, and fish in the sea. A resourceful group of people could probably get by fairly well…so that’s what they do; put their heads together and eke out an existence.
Where the story of these survivors will go from here is up to you to decide.
Beauty in a Virtual World
The first thing you are likely to notice about My Tribe is that it’s very easy on the eyes. The animated introduction, backgrounds and menus have a whimsical painted look about them befitting a children’s storybook. Characters are depicted as two-dimensional sprites that surprisingly look distinct from one another and are capable of a staggering number of fluidly animated activities. And there are all sorts of neat little touches throughout, from seagulls flying overhead in the sky, to butterflies flitting about the flowers. My Tribe is simply a gorgeous little game that breathes a life of its own.
The sound design is just as good. The rhythmic sound of waves crashing along the shore permeates throughout, the aforementioned seagulls screech with authentic wails, and storms thunder with natural raw power. There’s a little bit of voice acting from the characters, often as they give off varying sounds at you’re interacting with them, from childish giggling to light surprise. It all works very well at making the game feel more real, and not a single sound effect stands out as obtrusive or annoying.
The music is also good. It loops through a series of varied and pleasant-sounding beats that are incredibly catchy and hard to get out of your head. Sometimes they have a tropical feel to them. Sometimes, they’re more atmospheric and ambient. And oftentimes, they sound appropriately…tribal. Either way, they fit the theme of the game like a glove, and are just as easy on the ears.
Running a Successful Tribe
When you start out, all you got are a handful of characters, adults and children alike, and the clothes on their backs. Building a thriving tribe requires a lot of things, including food, building materials, shelter and fire. It’s important that you immediately start assigning tasks to get everything up and running efficiently.
At the beginning, your tribe doesn’t have a whole lot of survival know-how, and will be limited to chopping wood, gathering rocks, catching fish, and setting up some rather crude hovels. But by conducting some proper scientific research, other skills and technologies can be employed, including growing crops and designing new clothes. And more than that, characters get better doing certain tasks the more they practice them; therefore, it’s often to your advantage to have people specialize in a few specific jobs, often related to their innate skills.
Snowflakes in the Tropics
Which leads to another thing to one of the cooler things in My Tribe; every character is unique. They have their own names, appearance, needs, wants, desires and general personality. Some are physically stronger and more suited to building and extracting rock, while others are smarter and better at researching. Individuals even have different reactions to various weather patterns; one might enjoy the rain, while another will grow uncomfortable and work slower as a result.
You can get a glimpse into a characters’ thought process to gauge their current mood, and see what kind of interests they might have. Not only does it give them some a sense of identity and add to the overall charm, it also helps point you to what kind of job they would be most suited for. For example, someone who has an interest in studying the ocean would do well as a fisherman or a scientist.
Easier to Learn Than You Think
My Tribe sounds like a complex game, and indeed, it can be for the budding simulation player. However, it’s never overwhelming. The controls and interface are top-notch, clean and intuitive, unlikely to get you lost.
Getting characters to do things, such as collecting items, doing jobs, or making babies is as simple a process as picking them up with your mouse cursor and dropping them in the appropriate location. Leave a person in the water and she’ll start fishing, move a boy to a barrel and he’ll open it and get the goodies inside. You can also switch between characters on the fly, take a closer look at their characteristics, and even set their AI to do only certain jobs with some taking priority over others.
And more than that, My Tribe has a lengthy but highly detailed tutorial to run you through all the basics of tribal life. It can easily take up the first hour of the game, but never once does it feel intrusive. Better yet, it can be easily skipped, making starting a new game a painless process.
The Tribe Never Sleeps
One of the more touted features of My Tribe is how it never actually stops “playing.” Even if the game is not running, or the computer is shut off, time will still pass in the game world. It sounds cool on paper. It also somewhat addresses one flaw in the game in that it has a slow pace; doing something like a setting up a building or doing research can take a while, leaving you little to actually do in the meantime. Shutting the game off will cause that stuff to be completed in the meantime.
Unfortunately, it leads to My Tribe’s greatest flaw in that it also deprives total control of the tribe’s development from you. And worse than that, if you want your tribe to thrive, it means you need to check in with the game regularly to make sure everything’s going as planned. Death is a real thing, and it can be disheartening to come back to My Tribe and find that characters you’ve grown attached to have perished in your absence.
Conclusion - Tons of Addictive Gameplay Available
To that end, My Tribe kind of more like a virtual ant farm than an actual game. And like those, it has its own charm. It’s still a fun and strangely addicting game on its own merits. With thousands of pre-made islands to play on, hundreds of discoveries to make, and dozens of game-altering potions to brew, there’s a lot to find in My Tribe to make it a worthy addition in the experimental gamer’s library, provided time is available.
Review by David Galvin
Dave Galvin is a freelance writer and avid gamer. Somehow, he managed to find a way to combine the two passions.
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