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April 2024

The Tribe Must Survive

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Strategy
Publisher: Starbreeze
Developer: Walking Tree Games
Release Date: 2024


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PC Preview - 'The Tribe Must Survive'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on Jan. 17, 2024 @ 6:00 a.m. PST

The Tribe Must Survive is a strategy tribe-builder game with survival and roguelike features.

The Tribe Must Survive is set during the early days of humanity — well, sort of. The world as it exists is in a fallen state. Strange things lurk in the darkness, and at some point, once-great civilizations existed and fell. Your tribe consists of the survivors of a larger tribe that fell to infighting and terror over the strange things that lurk in the night. Do you have what it takes to keep the flame of humanity burning, or will the last embers fade?

On the surface, The Tribe Must Survive is a 4X-style game. You begin with a small tribe of outcasts and nothing to your name but a fire and some scant supplies. From there, you must gradually build up your tribe. This includes tents to sleep in, huts to store supplies, and more. Eventually, you can explore beyond the safe confines of your fire by sending tribes folk on expeditions or establishing long-range outposts that can provide more safety and access to raw materials that you can't easily get at home. Over time, you'll even establish trade routes to shuttle supplies back and forth — if you can survive.

The most terrifying element of the world Is The Dark. Darkness is a fundamental fear of humanity, and The Tribe Must Survive exists in a world where the things lurking in the dark are not just wild animals. For your tribe to thrive, you must find a way to keep the darkness back. Fire is the bare minimum, and you must keep your fire burning bright at all times, which means keeping a good stock of wood. As you progress, you may find other ways to beat back the darkness, which allows you to explore further. Fail to do this, and the darkness will close over your tribe. People will be taken by unseen things in the dark, and any survivors will be left horrified and panicked.

As terrifying as the dark is, the real threat in The Tribe Must Survive is actually the tribe itself. The terrors you face are not something you can fight directly but something that your tribe has to survive, and this unrelenting pressure understandably wears on your tribe folk. Each member of the tribe is more like a Sim than a unit in an RTS. You can assign them certain buildings or send them on quests, but the bulk of their actions are determined by their character traits. Some may be open and friendly, and some might be neurotic and antisocial, but survival depends on them all working together. You need to manage the needs and wants of your various tribe folk. Some need to be kept from stressful situations, some need the stability of rituals, and some are content as long as they can keep their stomachs full and fires burning. Some will take to worshipping strange gods and become devout zealots, eager to please their patron in exchange for power.

Inevitably, you'll run into situations where your tribe gets into a conflict. Sometimes this can be resolved peacefully. Other times, you can take a problem faction and send them off to a distant land. If there's no other option, a schism may arise between two factions, forcing you to choose which side to support. This can change the makeup of your tribe and potentially kill off or eliminate the losers of the conflict. This means you need to decide what is best for the tribe, even if it's not necessarily your personal choice. After all, the tribe must survive.

The Tribe Must Survive, as you imagine, is not designed to be finished in a single playthrough. The game is divided into acts that will alter the game world and how your tribe interacts with it, and lack of knowledge is almost certain to lead to ruin and death. There are some rogue-lite elements to the game that encourage you to try again and again.

Overall, The Tribe Must Survive is shaping up to be an interesting game. The mix of early humanity and cosmic horror gives it a distinct tone and feel, and it makes me genuinely curious to see where a full playthrough goes. The core gameplay feels familiar and fun, and I enjoy the idea of a game built on dealing with the needs of your people rather than fighting other groups. It's a game where the greatest threats are the unknown, so it has the potential to stand out in the 4X crowd. I look forward to seeing more when The Tribe Must Survive comes out later this year.

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