Recently I had the pleasure of sitting down to an interview and demo with one of the representatives of Innogames to talk about their latest browser-based RTS game, Tribal Wars 2. Innogames is a development studio based out of Germany (and so of course the man I spoke to had that usual delightful, affable German disposition), and they began with the development of the numbers-heavy, surprisingly popular Tribal Wars. With that game's success, the creators decided to go legit and found a studio to push out even more titles, and they've been a contender in the mobile/browser space of game design ever since.
Since their inception, Innogames has been making moves to develop a number of cross-platform app games for tablets, browsers, and mobile devices. That market, while understated in the traditional gaming community, is booming among casual gamers and mainstream players. Some of the most popular among them are games like Tribal Wars; those that inevitably rise above are the ones with the cleanest interface and slickest art design.
Given the popularity of the original Tribal Wars, the sequel, which is slated for beta in the coming months, is highly anticipated by both fans of the founding title and browser-based RTS gamers in general. While titles like Dragons of Atlantis have been drawing huge numbers recently, I'll admit that although I'm usually a huge fan of strategy games in general, this genre has never really drawn me in. The user-interfaces are usually quite clunky, the gameplay dull, and the time-commitment intense. Though Tribal Wars 2 shares many of the fundamental mechanics of the genre with its peers, there are some notable differences and advancements.
The first thing I noticed was the smooth zoom from world map to city-level. The game's graphical capability is exceptional (for its genre), and I found myself wondering for a moment if it was more than a simple app/browser-based game. It's not! These games are advancing all the time, apparently. So the art direction is good, and certainly taking things to the next level. More importantly, the text/numbers-heavy Tribal Wars is getting a much-needed UI facelift, and is much more user-friendly in the sequel than it was in the original. Innogames says their intention is to retain the complexity and depth of the original while providing a much smoother gaming experience. Their goal is to make the game easy to get into, and difficult to master.
Apparently, Tribal Wars 2 is intended to be played over days, weeks, and months, as a 'semi-AFK' game that involves long queue times and building assignments for the development of the player's city. Though this might seem boring to the more instant-gratification types, the quiet joy of seeing our city grow from sleepy hamlet to epic fortress over the course of weeks can be quite satisfying, and is no doubt what keeps people coming back to these games. Though the most compelling part, according to Innogames, is the feature that's the game's namesake: Tribal Wars.
Players are intended to band together into tribes and declare war on one another. That's the long-term appeal of the game to those that get deeply invested. Though the game doesn't provide the option to create a player avatar or portrait (something I personally place a great deal of value on) they give plenty of other options to specialize and personalize their city through the specific upgrade paths chosen through development. For example, a player can choose in the late game which guild to specialize in within their city: the Knights Templar, Spy Guild, or Teutonic Knights. These choices are meaningful and distinguish the player from their neighbors or tribemates.
One of the most interesting aspects of the game, for those interested in meaningful investment and progression, is the game's biggest feature: the fortress. The upgrading and enhancement of the player's fortress in their city is what defines their dominance over their peers. The player with the biggest fortress in any given region gains the ability to grant special titles to other players, such as “Grand Master of Spies” which further enhance those players' ability to specialize in specific activities and tactics. This 'rock, paper, scissors' approach to city development allows for serious coordination between cities and tribes, and will most certainly make for an interesting, long-term game for those with the desire to stick with it and build a reputation in their community.
Though these types of games will never truly have the draw of big-budget, flashy titles, they're almost always free. Innogames was unable to comment on any premium shop models they have in mind for release, but it can be safely assumed they'll go with the genre standard and implement some form of premium currency players can use to purchase minor in-game benefits and advantages. So, if you're looking for a new game to distract yourself with at work when you should be working, Tribal Wars 2 is shaping up to be a winner among its peers. Keep an eye out for open beta as we'll be providing further coverage.
Tagspeech is the alias of author W.B. Wemyss, who was responsible for the bizarre cyberpunk fever dream called Children of Athena.