Happy Tribe Brings Chinese-Style Gameplay, But Poor Localization, to Facebook

The first English-language Facebook game by Chinese company 活力飼舍 is Happy Tribe, a title that uses war game mechanics for a primarily player vs player game. Although the graphics and gameplay are generally solid, the play experience is marred by poor localization and lack of documentation.

Happy Tribe combines mechanics Facebook RPGs such as Crime City and Mafia Wars, along with elements from strategy games like Starcraft or Command and Conquer. Gameplay involves harvesting resources, building your village, training warriors, casting spells, defeating invaders, and eventually attacking or defending yourself from other players and collecting taxes from the defeated.

The primary resources of Happy Tribe are food, population, magic, and combat power. Going in order, food is required to build, population determines your maximum number of warriors, magic is used in spells and combat power determined how strong your army and warriors are. Generally, the majority of the single player game is spent waiting for your production buildings to complete their production cycles, as there are no other tasks to accomplish. There isn’t much of a shortage of resources, and in the early levels you’re primarily bottlenecked by a lack of production buildings, which you can’t build more of until later levels.

In building your city, “cruel natives” and other wild fauna will appear around your village, threatening your safety and well-being. While these threats don’t actually attack you, you can fight them off and collect experience, food, and rare items from them. Fighting them consumes a certain number of combat power points, which you’ll have to rebuild later.

Spells in Happy Tribe are cast from special buildings such as temples and ziggurats. These buildings not only require food to build, but also require rare resources such as giant skulls and wood to complete. Players can find these through killing natives and some other special in-game promotions, and can also purchase them with premium credits, costing real money. More spells are available as you build higher level buildings and do tasks like destroying enemy warriors or summoning great beasts for you to defeat and collect resources from.

The player vs player and only real social aspect of the game is shallow at best, and only allows you the ability to attack and steal from your friends.  Unlike Crime City or Mafia Wars where you’re given a list of random players you can attack, you can only attack other players you’ve added as friends.  Upon initiating an attack, you simply allocate a number of warriors to the attack and hope it works out.  Once a village is defeated, you can tax it to gain resources as well as “tease” the subjugated player, which earns you additional food and publishes the humiliation on his wall.  You’re also able to liberate friends who have been conquered, sometimes will fight off people trying to attack you, but without the ability to formalize alliances or send resources, your only real way of interacting with other players is through combat.

The gameplay of Happy Tribe is simple enough, but the poorly done localization makes the game much harder to play than it should.  In some cases, the mechanics of the game aren’t explained clearly or at all, leaving some large amount of trial and error to determine how to play the game.  Apart from translation and writing issues, the “cruel natives” of the game fit the cutesy atmosphere but could inspire some ire, especially from US audiences, for being drawn in blackface.

All in all, Happy Tribe is a simple player vs player game where you gather resources, build your village and attack your friends.  While simple enough to pick up and play, the flaws in localization make the game more difficult and less enjoyable than it might be otherwise.