Tribe of Pok is an Indie simulation game in which the player controls the fate of a band of “Pokian” warriors and gatherers in a harsh world.
Their very survival depends on the player’s skill at time management and overall strategy, and the balance of needs: hunger, thirst, tribal growth, surviving the elements, hunting wild animals, and other activities are all represented. But does it offer enough to keep hardcore strategy fans hooked, or even casual gamers interested in a complex simulation world with caveman-like peoples? Released for Steam on August 23rd by Poking Water Games, Tribe of Pok also has Steam trading cards and achievements enabled.
One Small Tribe, One Big World
There’s a whole lot of stuff going on here in Tribe of Pok, which is both a good and a bad thing. On one hand, there’s more content that I initially expected, and the simplistic graphics and design of the game underscores how much it offers in crafting menus and overall mechanics. However, the very brief tutorial left me feeling a bit overwhelmed, and it took me more than a few tries for numerous steps to figure out exactly how to do something that seemed fairly basic. For example, I had a hard time getting the long-range storage system to work correctly, so that my Pokian warriors could hunt game across the map from their camp and then store the meat, hides, and other loot from the successful outing; there’s also no priority in tasks, so I found myself navigating the Task management tab often to see which of my Pokian was doing what, and why they didn’t seem to be moving over to a fresh kill or stoking the campfire.
Once I had the essentials down – gathering and storing enough food, wood, and other supplies for my Tribe, and also the basic hunting skills required for taking out large animals – I was left to tinker with the interface, and explore the more advanced mechanics without much guidance. The real problem here is that the game is fairly slow-paced, even with the ability to speed up the clock while you play, and my interested started to wane fairly quickly. It feels clunky, throwing a lot of objectives at you all at once, even though the Pokian tribe itself starts out rather small.
A Simple Design for a Simple Tribe
The Pokian people spend most of their time hunting and gathering, as you might expect from a setting such as this. There are environment hazards such as changing weather patterns, day/night cycles, random animal attacks, and limited resources, but once your tribe is well established on their foundation needs you can expand into building new structures, learning diplomacy, discovering new things, and the location of other Pokian wanderers. As you gain influence and infamy, random nomads can opt to join your numbers, which means more mouths to feed for every new set of hands out gathering supplies. Creating extra clothing and expanding your tribal lands, not to mention having healthy stores of materials, can help to expand your population; your Pokian tribespeople can also have children.
As I mentioned, the graphics in Tribe of Pok are very simplistic – the “animation” for characters moving around consists of their 2D cartoon bodies popping and hopping around, and the sound effects aren’t really any more complex; paired with the clunky interface, the whole package feels lacking in polish and sophistication, even for an Indie title with a lower price point than alternative options from bigger developers.
I love primitive style games that have an emphasis on survival, resource gathering, and tribal expansion, but Tribe of Pok unfortunately falls short. It’s overwhelming at the beginning, partly because of an interface that takes some getting used to, but even once I was into the swing of things I just couldn’t stay interested in progression.
I found myself wrestling with task management and camp maintenance so much that it didn’t leave time to simply enjoy the experience, and succeeding at something as simple as completing a quest for a “Great Hunt” didn’t feel rewarding enough while wrestling with difficult mechanics. I did like the limited-time perks that quests gave me, such as faster movement speed or reduced hunger for my Pokian warriors, but in the end I just found myself bored and frustrated with the lack of polish here.
As much as I’d love to recommend this one, I feel that Tribe of Pok needs a lot more pizazz to be considered an attractive, interesting, smooth-running strategy title, otherwise it’s just another simulation that leaves players wanting a bigger, better picture.