Tidal Tribe is a simulation game developed by one person developer SepiaRain.
It is available on HumbleBundle and Steam for $14.99. This review was conducted by Joseph Pugh. Note: The humble bundle link is a referral link, buying the game through it grants me a small commission.
Going into Tidal Tribe, I expected a very light experience, hoo boy, there’s a lot of complexity in there. At first, it’s a little overwhelming. You play as a villager with the power to move the earth….and fly with a towel. Just, bear with me here.
Using this power, you must redirect crashing tidal waves and use the water to form lakes and rivers. This, in turn, makes plants grow that your villagers use to satisfy their various desires and eventually upgrade their homes. If you have ever played a sim game, such as Roller Coaster Tycoon, you might be familiar with raising and lowering terrain. Tidal Tribe is completely based around the concept.
You need to manipulate large and small amount of terrain to get results. Simply making lakes and rivers will make plants grow, but you have to do some research and planning to make the plants your villagers NEED, to grow. Watermelons for thirst, coconuts for food, bananas for…..fun? It gets weirder after that.
Tidal Tribe is very tongue in cheek, the story has quite a bit more dialogue than I was expecting and it’s silly, fun and hilarious. The rest of the game mirrors that as your villagers eventually start erecting signs that say your cute or address the player directly. You can also buy upgrades for your villages called myths, allowing them to breathe underwater longer for example. They are spread by the newspaper boy and you can read over these myths in that form. Reading them can prove pretty entertaining.
The water is physics-based and you have to manage your tasks while making sure your villages don’t get flooded. Poseidon giveth, Poseidon taketh away just as easily. This can be troublesome as the picky villagers don’t like their homes to be up high, the most logical location to avoid flooding. Oh well, time to get creative!
Different plants grow in different conditions, some need more or less water, or they be closer or farther from the sea. A few need to be up high or down low, others in the shade. Some grow better next to other plants, though watch out for parasites, nothing grows next to them. Having water near housing without flooding it can also be helpful in case of fires. Your little villagers won’t have to run as far, which is another challenge in itself. Different villagers learn to craft things from different fruits.
They need to be able to get from place to place in a timely manner or it slows everything down. You need to carve them paths through mountains and make sand bridges over rivers. While you will spend most your time flying around, but you can land and walk around like a villager. You can even help collect fruits if you wish. Your time is usually better spent doing other things, but the option is there
There is actually an incredibly deep simulation that’s always running, your villagers are individuals and their needs are simulated. They live, give birth and die, sometimes of age, but they can drown and commit suicide as well. It is shockingly in-depth, with all manner of different things going on behind the scenes. By and large, its rarely has an impact on your gameplay, but it’s interesting none the less. Especially with just how detailed it is.
My biggest complaint is it’s sometimes difficult to tell how you are doing or what’s happening. The info is there, you can find it in the various menus and there is a LOT of numbers, graphs and map widgets to utilize. But it would be nice if you had a general idea just by looking around.
Your houses being upgraded is a good sign, but without digging you don’t know, why or how quickly things are happening. The game is very light on HUD elements, but gives you a pile of books, metaphorically speaking, that you can dig into.
You will want to look at wiki, especially when starting a new mission to see what society is like and check out the environment. Does the sand erode? Does the water seep? Are there parasites?
The game has three modes, story, challenge, and free play. Free-play is where you tweak your own world parameters, challenge mode offers a couple of specific scenarios and story is where most of the meat is.
Despite being little stick-like figures, the kids featured in the story are bursting with humorous personalities. You take on main missions but you also have side missions you can do. There are even little mini-games that can help you earn XP to boost aspects of your character, such as flight speed. The mini-games are cute, and their inclusion is a nice small distraction from the main game. You can also gamble your XP in a game of chance or a duck race!
Tidal Tribe takes a small mechanic from other simulation games and built itself around it beautifully. It’s relaxing to play, simple to learn but deceptively complex to master and it has a lot of content. However it puts all its eggs in one basket, if the concept of terrain manipulation isn’t appealing to you, the mini-games aren’t enough to make up for it.
If you do think that concept sounds interesting, pick it up. You can feel the heart that its single developer put into it and its bursting with personality! It’s easily worth the small price tag!
A review key was provided to Gideon’s Gaming by Sepia Rain. You can read about my review process here.
- Unique gameplay based around manipulating water and waves to form lakes and rivers
- Simple to learn but deep in its mechanics
- In-depth simulation dictating the villagers
- Humorous writing and dialogue
- Lots of main and side content, plus cute minigames
- Huge in-game wiki to explore
- Not always clear what’s happening or how you’re doing
- The background village simulation, while deep is mostly but not always irrelevant to the moment-to-moment gameplay