The existence of a tribesman is renowned for being nomadic, hazardous, and short-lived. Yet even with this understanding, I didn’t expect Tribal Pass to be as brutal as it was. Death is just a split second away, and everything is out to get you. No matter what you do, you will lose members of your tribe as quick as a flash. It’s a harsh existence, and you must do whatever you can to make it as safe as possible.
Developed by shostak.games and published by Samustai LTD, this is a horrendously hazardous hardcore running title. You must move from the top to the bottom of your screen, avoiding obstacles, collecting food, and attempting to stay alive. Its premise is simple, perhaps too simple, and its difficulty is hard, perhaps too hard.
Tribal Pass kicks you around the park and then kicks you some more.
You govern a small band of warriors who must move from their old home to pastures new. Their voyage takes them across tough terrain where creatures attack you, other tribes kill you, and quicksand, rivers and pterodactyls must be avoided. With a shaman at the helm, he is the most valuable member of the party. Without him it’s game over, so keeping the wisest person alive is a must.
As you jump into Tribal Pass you quickly realise that this isn’t just a hardcore running game. No, it’s also a tactical resource management game that demands your attention. You must micromanage every element of your trip. You need to control food levels, hunt for meat, gather berries, recruit new members, and so forth.
The larger the tribe, the more sustenance they require. As you observe the food supply declining, you will become desperate. People will die, and you have limited choices. You either gather more supplies or eat each other. Yes, cannibalism is a thing in Tribal Pass. Run along, avoid the obstacles and munch on Geoff’s leg. Marvellous!
It’s all about the formation and the environment.
You quickly learn that running around as one big unit is a huge mistake. Your whole tribe can quickly be annihilated by angry rhinos or deadly tigers. You must observe the surrounding world, planning to split your group into two, three, or four smaller clans. This move can and must be done on the fly. The threats are ever-present and you must react to them quickly. Sadly though, sacrifice is a must and losing a couple of men quickly became the norm.
If it isn’t the animals or other tribes out to get you, the environment will kill you. Misjudge your formation and you’ll land in quicksand and die. Miss a bridge over the water and you’ll drown. Spiked trees kill you, flies eat your food, and don’t forget the pterodactyl. The flying demon will, you guessed it, kill you.
As I said, Tribal Pass is just vicious. Its simplicity should make it fun, but you are constantly on edge. Its rogue-lite elements tell you that you’ll fail, but this doesn’t make it any easier when it happens. I spent hours getting my people to the end just for my hard work to be undone; it was heartbreaking.
It’s a pixelated nightmare that needed more finesse.
If I put the harsh nature of the gameplay to one side, and the bitter resentment I feel towards the rogue-lite elements, I have to comment about the rough graphics. Now pixelated imagery is quickly becoming the norm in indie games, and it doesn’t bother me at all. But Tribal Pass was something else altogether. The fixed viewpoint, and hard to see obstacles made it unfairly tough. Chuck in a night mode and defeat is a certainty.
The developers needed to create more detailed and contrasting imagery to reduce unnecessary collisions. It ruined what was otherwise a challenging but fun game. What I enjoyed, however, was the variety of landscapes. The choice of colours and matching fauna added a realistic edge that I appreciated.
Another area that I liked was the tribalistic music that added an aggressive and adrenaline pumping atmosphere. It was interesting to listen to, suited the theme, and kept you in suspense. This continued with the sound effects. The noise of your men perishing, the flailing of spears and the rudimentary language were all wonderful to hear.
Tribal Pass is complex but surprisingly straightforward to play.
As your shaman becomes wiser from his journey, he learns new skills. These benefit the tribe but require certain buttons to be pressed. You can empty your hands, wield spears, hold torches, eat one another, or increase the clan size. Once you get to grips with the mapping, you flit between each of the settings with ease. It made a pleasant change from the rest of the ball breaking elements that make up this game.
If you can get past the harsh nature of the beast, you find a rather addictive title that makes you keep playing. There is something quite rewarding about making it to the mountains and seeing what score you are given. It’s just a shame that it takes so much heartache to get to that point. If you are an achievement hunter, you are going to have to dig deep and put on your big boy pants. Patience, skill and luck are required to get all 1000 Gamerscore.
Tribal Pass should have been brilliant, but sadly it has too many shortcomings.
It always saddens me when a game doesn’t reach its potential, and right now Tribal Pass makes me sad. It should have been utterly brilliant. The theme, music, and genre could have made for an excellent title. But unfortunately, it falls short in many categories. It’s for this reason I cannot recommend it. If, however, you want to try it, buy it here! Can you help the tribesmen find a new home? Run the gauntlet and chance your luck.