Time-travelling civilization building with The Tribez

The Tribez is a new iPad-only building and farming game published by Game Insight and developed by Divo Games Mobile as an adaptation of its standalone PC game Jack of All Tribes. The game was released on April 3, 2012 as a free download from the App Store.

The Tribez casts players in the role of a research scientist sent through a dimensional portal to investigate a parallel world. This parallel world takes the form of a prehistoric civilization where the player is viewed as the prophesized savior of the people. It’s up to the player to lead the inhabitants of the titular tribes to peace and prosperity by building housing and commercial structures, ensuring the people stay happy and keeping an eye on ever-dwindling resource stocks. Over time, they’ll expand to two further islands and watch their tribes’ technology advance while occasionally reporting back to their research colleague back home.

Gameplay unfolds in a similar manner to other citybuilding and farming games on both Facebook and iOS, though The Tribez presents itself with a degree of audio-visual polish not seen in many of its competitors. The player’s village is packed with detail and life, and every action is accompanied by an entertaining little animation rather than a simple progress bar. This helps the player to feel more invested in the wellbeing of their charges, and is more likely to keep them coming back for more after their initial play session.

The Tribez sets itself apart from similar offerings by giving players a wide variety of resources to collect and manage, and choosing not to limit play with an energy system. Players are free to play for as long as they like without having to reach for their credit cards once, though they’ll find themselves enjoying quicker progression if they’re willing to expend some of the game’s hard currency on speedups and more effective buildings. In a nice touch, special offers are implemented into gameplay — by finding a “magic crystal” from a special character who shows up occasionally, players can enjoy a discount on soft and hard currency.

Social features are not yet implemented into the game. There is a “friends” button on the game’s interface, but it currently only provides a “coming soon” message. It’s not yet been announced what form the social features will take, but given the type of game this is, it’s likely to involve gifting and helping out in friends’ villages. The App Store page for the game also promises that players will be able to acquire a pet dinosaur to “repel opponents’ attacks,” though it’s not yet clear if these “opponents” will be player- or computer-controlled — at the time of writing, the player occasionally comes under attack from computer-controlled barbarians, but there doesn’t appear to be any sign of rival tribes attacking.

While The Tribez may not be doing anything enormously innovative with its gameplay, the slickness with which the concept is executed makes it highly worthy of note. The detailed, well-animated visuals give the game a huge amount of character and will likely prove to be a big contributing factor in retaining users over time. It’s a shame the game hasn’t launched with any social features implemented besides Game Center support (which is used for achievements and a leaderboard for comparing total experience points gained) but as it stands, it’s a good example of how to get a free-to-play mobile title right — provide a fun, satisfying, fair experience for free players while offering benefits for those who are willing to pay out some money.

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