It’s time to grab your fur shawl, put a bear head on your head (scary teeth!), pick up an axe, and join the Viking horde because I’m going to review Tribal Trouble 2 a free-to-play fantasy Java-based browser MMORTS published by GameSamba. In this Viking-themed game, you’ll be thrust into the zany world of Vikinghood, asked to strike out through the islands for Skald and Odin and—probably collect a lot of chickens along the way.
As a game goes, Tribal Trouble 2 is a sillier game than most that doesn’t take itself that seriously—however, that’s not to say it’s not a serious RTS when it comes down to it. If you’re not already used to the progression of RTS games, this might end up smacking you down hard; all the time being a little bit goofy about it.
GameSamba presents a fairly solid, but extremely staid RTS style game involving Vikings and their axes. In the game I even noticed a few references to Norsk mythology including Skald and Valhalla.
You start the game as a Viking cheiftan (or cheiftess?) who is looking to build up her village and fortify it against the raids of other Viking tribes. To do this, you will have to enter into the glorious field of battle and either succeed or find yourself amidst the halls of Asgard and enter into Valhalla with an axe in your forehead.
System requirements are fairly low: Java 6+, 512 MB memory, 500 MB hard drive space; runs in Firefox 3.6+, Chrome 11+, Safari 4+, and IE 8+. It’ll need a modern video card with at least 128 MB memory and OpenGL 1.2 support—but most already have that across the board.
Gameplay: For an RTS it fully understands that it’s a silly, silly game—but doesn’t pull its punches
The game requires a Java plugin for your browser (so it’s not Flash like most) so you’ll probably see Java™ Platform Standard Edition executing on your Windows PC when you jump into a battle. The character creation section of the game seemed to mostly run atop HTML and CSS2. The initial battle took about two minutes to make the downloads in order to get the app installed and running in the browser. Once that download is complete you’ll have the 3D app installed and the battle section will go full-screen.
The character drawings—cartoony things—look a bit like Hagar the Horrible, but they’re in keeping with the general humor written into the game.
From the tutorial there are three obvious combat classes: Lur Blaster (wields something that looks like a Viking trombone), Axe Berzerker, and Chicken Punisher (uses an axe made of tropical chickens). The game’s obvious sense of humor comes out here with the Chicken Punisher and the fact that chickens are a resource to be collected to produce this unit.
Building construction involves peasant units, the interface is fairly clean and similar to most RTS. Pick a building type, pick a location (resolved where it can go with green tiles appearing on the map), and then go. There’s even a way to speed-up or slow-down construction by accelerating time with the +/- keys. The peasants themselves are a resource that gets upgraded into the warrior types by constructing an Armory and then equipping them with weaponry (axes, or chicken axes likely—chickens are also a resource…)
The interface itself is a little bit kludgy and difficult to use at first, it doesn’t manage the same way that you’d expect initially.
The difficulty is unexpectedly high even in the boot camp level when it comes to deploying against the enemy. It takes far more Vikings to take on fortified positions than I initially expected and there’s a bit of a learning curve to understand what makes the game tick. So far it looks like the idea is to use overwhelming hordes of rape-pillage-and-burn to overcome even the smallest defender. However, fortunately for us, peasants breed like rabbits on fertility drugs.
The game is all about building up your home town. This fact leads you into the field of battle against NPCs, other players, and even in entire campaigns. That means there’s actual PvP available in the game against other cheiftans; there are also helpful NPC cheiftans for the campaigns who can provide information, tips, gold, and sometimes troops.
Although you’ll first have to establish that you can play the game by beating boot camp (i.e. the tutorial.) It’s not a forgiving mistress, but hardcore RTS players will probably find it a breeze.
Graphics and Sound: It’s a browser game, and an RTS, don’t expect anything spectacular
The graphics in this game aren’t anything to write home about, but they get the job done. Mostly they’re low polygon, small-figures on the map selectable and scaled enough to tell what they are. The units are easy enough to differentiate and select and that’s all that’s needed for a game of this caliber. So far, I’ve only seen a few maps and they’re all pretty much the same: islands of green grass, trees, rocks, water, and enemies.
The buildings have a somewhat authentic look to them and they construct slowly but without any sort of progress indicator.
The rocks, trees, and chickens are pretty bland looking—although the chickens are hilarious.
When it comes down to it the sound of the troops is extremely minimal. You can hear them throwing their axes, getting hit, and dying. The Lars Blaster has two “songs” he can use to charge up the troops, and I expect that makes some sort of a noise. The chickens cluck and gobble when they’re nearby, but do little else.
The music in the game is the same thing repeated over and over, and it’s a silly little jaunty tune with a flute, and some other various instruments designed to generate a goofy sort of music. The orchestration of the music isn’t really that bad, and in a sort of way it’s a little bit catchy. It’s hard to say what ethnic type they’re aiming for with it, as it combines flute, banjo twanging, hooting, and a melody that reminds me of sea chanties.
Freemium: Cash shop works on Sambas and Viking Oddities, pretty standard
The game furnishes a store run atop a the GameSamba microtransation currency called the Samba which can be used to purchase the in-game Tribal Trouble 2 currency Oddities. In the game, Oddites and gold trade for pretty much the same things—i.e. buildings and troops. Since you’ll need both, you’ll probably be looking to develop your town via fighting battles, talking to other chieftains. Both cost a lot less in Oddities than they do in game-earned gold.
Most of the essential buildings for the town can only be bought with gold. Plus, the ship upgrade is only possible that way a swell—for raiding more islands, PvE and PvP missions.
For the most part, the Oddity market doesn’t do anything unbalancing to the game; it just lets players get further in faster. Probably good for casual players with money burning holes in their pockets.
Conclusion: The concept of zany Vikings is a little hard to swallow but it’ll do
So far, playing Tribal Trouble 2 shows me that GameSamba has generated what would be a passable single-player game with a lot of web elements. The fact that they used Java instead of Flash is a little curious to me; but it worked out okay in the end. Plus, this game has a lot of personality behind its axe-wielding sea-going barbarians.
The community is currently a little bit small; I think I’ve only seen a maximum of 33 players online the entire time I played.
It’ll do as a diversion and a way to enter quickly into a game world. The fact that it runs on Java, launches from the browser, means that you could play this game anywhere. Missions are really not short, however, so be ready to set aside 20-30 minutes for a session. RTS is not exactly for the casual gamer, and this is no exception.
The game could probably use a lot more unit types but it’s still at its infancy so we’ll likely be seeing it grow up quite a bit.