The Tribe Must Survive Hides Secrets In the Shadows

The Tribe Must Survive Preview

It’s been a great couple of years for colony building games. Not only is there a huge number of new titles, but lots of them are truly unique. You’ll encounter commonalities, sure. Most of these games will have you chop trees and break rocks, but there needs to be something that sets your game apart. The Tribe Must Survive takes a back-to-basics approach, but what is it doing to stand out from the pack?

Something Wicked This Way Comes

The Tribe Must Survive is primarily about managing a whole mess of people in a hostile world. Your primary challenge is a curse of darkness which has seized the land. Creepy creatures crawl in the shadows and if given half a chance, will snatch up your people, never to be seen again. (At least, you hope to never see them again, you don’t want to see them come back to you Changed). Naturally, your best tool against the encroaching dark is fire, and wood fuels the fire.

This is the fulcrum of all your management skills. Rule number one is don’t let the lights go out, and have contingencies to keep going. You will inevitably fail, and subsequently, you’ll start again having earned some points towards unlocking your full kit of caveman production buildings. The idea of constantly warding off encroaching danger isn’t new to the genre, but The Tribe Must Survive has shadows that are so dark, you might feel a twinge of fear at the unknown. Sometimes those moments are frustrating but, there’s something to be said of the moment of panic when one of your guys vanishes, you don’t exactly know why, so the danger could still be lurking. It takes a game of some quality to make you break out into a cold sweat.

Cthulhu Cavemen

While the story is somewhat contrived, The Tribe Must Survive has a distinct aesthetic. This game knows what its about. The developers describe their world as a “gloomy Lovecraftian stone age,” and while those are all components I can point to in ten other games, I’ve never seen that combo before. Now that I’m racking my brain, I can’t think of a single story across any medium that crosses Lovecraft with the Flintstones. A world filled with unknown horrors is that much scarier when the characters barely know a thing. Everything is scary to them!

This is a game with a very distinct look. You can definitely see a Klei influence, specifically their hit co-op survivor game Don’t Starve. In fact, you could probably make a case for The Tribe Must Survive acting as a prequel to Don’t Starve. There’s a lot of shared DNA between both games from how they look to the spooky magic system. The key difference is that you play Don’t Starve as a singular character, but The Tribe Must Survive casts you as a protective overlord.

The Tribe Must Survive is still a work in progress, and it’s clear that there are more features to come. But the shape of the game is clear from the verbs- what you actually do in the game. You are playing from a top down perspective, and you do not directly control any of the characters. Instead you click on buildings and highlight resources, giving your tribe a set of priorities to tackle in their desperate fight for the titular survival.

The Longest Journey

Ultimately though, the game feels like it’s missing something. The unlock system is still cooking, but with the right pacing that could make the game very engaging. The aesthetic is strong, but there is not a lot of opportunity for player expression. You will drive Tribes like stolen cars, abandoning them at the end of each run. But while I like the look of the game and think it has a neat premise, it’s more of a distraction than an addiction. I’m sure that’s good news to some.

I keep coming back to the art style and the world building. The Tribe Must Survive is not a shaky effort; it’s a game made by people who want to see it become the best it can be. Diehards of the genre will find a lot to love and maybe with some steady development, The Tribe Will Survive can carve out its own niche in a booming genre.

***PC code provided by the publisher for review***