InnoGames are well-known in the freemium genre. They've got a few active games on the go, most of them in the same empire building and strategy niche. Their biggest franchise however is undoubtedly Tribal Wars. As a newbie to the series, will I fall for the hook of Tribal Wars 2?
Before digging into the game, one thing that needs to be made clear is that going solo doesn't work. You have to ally yourself with other players in order to make any sort of meaningful progress. This is where the name of the game comes from - players band together to form tribes, each having their own hierarchy and leadership structure, expansion tactics and politicking.
You'll be relying on your fellow tribe members a lot, and the game is clearly designed around the idea of cooperation, as an active and supportive tribe will quickly surpass those whose members are more selfish.
Where it all Begins
Following advice given by a friend, when I chose my first realm for a playthrough, I stepped into one that had been recently opened, weary of falling prey to already developed empires. You are at least given a week of protection in which you can't be attacked by other players, but there are plenty out there who specifically raid the holdings of players on their eighth day.
As a medieval building game, Tribal Wars 2 goes the familiar route of starting you off with a headquarters, from which other buildings can be constructed and placed around your land. Some of these villages allow for production of units, while others generate resources that you'll need in order to expand.
There are quests to complete which, in the early stages, will be the best source of income for a new settlement - although they are only intended to guide you through getting started, and are by no means representative of the ‘best' way to go about things.
There's some depth to be found in the combat system of Tribal Wars 2. Units have different offensive, defensive and movement stats. Units also have their own individual loot carrying capacity, something which makes picking the right mix when invading another settlement or barbarian village an important factor to take into account.
Attacking a barbarian village is most efficiently done by using an army that has a high carrying capacity, as there are no defences to worry about - so for this, light cavalry and spearmen units are a great choice. Assaulting a defended village is an entirely different story, and experienced players have come up with some clever tricks - timing attacks so that damage lands in quick bursts, or cleverly deploying at the moment of an incoming attack in order to avoid damage.
Ruler Wanted: Multitasking Specialists Only!
By the time your beginner protection as ended, Tribal Wars 2 can be hectic. This is where it's especially important that you find a helpful and supportive tribe. Structures constantly need to be built and upgraded in order to provide sufficient resources. Your armies need food which means that farms need to be properly managed and improved. Troops have to be mustered to defend against incoming attacks - and to launch your own.
Your settlement will come under repeated attack, meaning that you need to dedicate time and resources to rebuilding and repairing buildings. You need to constantly loot neighbouring players in order to make sure that they don't get too strong. You'll quickly find that you've developed a routine - something which can either be a blessing or a curse on the game's ability to provide enjoyment.
I'm not impressed. It's by now a bog-standard freemium game that forces alliances with other players and applies a ton of pressure to spend money on the game. A persistent project has a great deal of appeal, but not enough to warrant putting up with Tribal War 2's business model.