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Tribes Of Midgard could be great, if it gets out of its own way

The RPS Verdict: get thee gone to Ragnarök

Tribes Of Midgard is a part-survival, part-slashy-attacky, part oh my goodness that frost giant is huge online adventure, for up to 10 Viking pals. It has elements of games like Valheim, Diablo, even a splash of Hades. You all pile into a unique world together, and try to survive waves of baddies attacking your town base, as an even bigger, badder giant stomps towards you over the course of several nights.

Accustomed as we are to yelling at each other and hitting trees, several of the RPS treehouse undertook the task of halting Ragnorok, and found ourselves unequal to it. There's a lot to enjoy in Tribes Of Midgard, but unfortunately most of it is obscured by an unbalanced economy that stymies progress into the fun stuff. Also, you will be naked for longer than you imagine.

Cover image for YouTube videoTribes of Midgard - Official Launch Trailer

Alice Bee: I'm probably the most positive out of the group, in that I think this game could properly own if it didn't keep massively getting in its own way. I really like the look of it, the monster design is great - properly epic - and you'd probably see very cool stuff with late game weapons and abilities. But the question is: would you ever even get there?

Ollie: The question I’m left with is: does the game want us to get there? There's so much it doesn’t tell you, and not in the “You know the basics, now go out and discover things for yourself” way. Rather in the “Hah, let’s point and laugh at these people who don’t know the first thing about survival” way. I was half way through our second game before I discovered there are combat classes and skill trees I could have been using to give myself a fighting chance. There are some pretty cool skills there, too.

Maybe I’d have noticed earlier if I hadn’t spent so much time failing to figure out how to build a simple ramp. One of the things Tribes Of Midgard has, seemingly meant to set it apart from similar games, is the ability to build structures out of snapping parts, a bit like Valheim. Things don’t snap together very easily, though, which quickly turns even the simplest building endeavour into a bit of a headache. Not that any of us actually figured out much of a use for building, apart from a ramp up the side of the cliff. I gave up after realising we were going to die before I’d mastered the art of placing down a single wooden ramp where I bloody well wanted it to go.

The crafting screen at the Tinker (who helps craft building materials) in Tribes Of Midgard
We haven't even unlocked stones and a giant is basically battering down our gates here. Metapohrically, because we hadn't built gates.

Ed: I'm with Alice. I think the world and monsters are fun, but I just wish I had more time to soak it in. Your home base is battered by nasty monsters every night, gradually increasing in bigness and badness, and you have to stop them waltzing in to destroy your town. There's a night and day cycle here, where the day is a fairly chill time for exploration. Trouble is, days just aren't long enough for you to settle in, gather resources, or make any significant progress before night comes and you have to return to base.

Katharine: Personally I think Tribes Of Midgard's biggest problem right now is its Souls economy. Souls are probably the most important resource in the game. You need to plug Souls into the HP of your village's Yggdrasil tree, the bit of town enemies are actually attacking. Souls are needed to upgrade your townsfolk to get better weapons, armour, traps and other resources, and you also need them to construct fortifications, rebuild your town's disued facilities… It's a lot, and fully upgrading each one requires more Souls than you could probably ever give it before your big bad jötunn boy turns up to properly deck you.

"A rebalanced Soul-conomy would speed progress and make you feel like you're achieving something, not flinging resources into a massive pit."

Alice Bee: A rebalanced Soul-conomy would speed progress and make you feel like you're achieving something, not flinging resources into a massive pit. It helped when we were all flinging into the same pit, but it's also impractical to all be doing the same thing at once, because at lot needs doing. It's Souls all the way down. Maybe it's better with a full team of 10, but the game is supposed to scale to party size. And who even has nine friends these days?

Ollie: I actually felt like the Souls weren’t what was holding us back, it was all the other stuff. Whenever the game asked for Cut Stone and Wrought Iron and so on, progress ground to a halt, first because we didn’t know how to get such things, and then because such things turned out to be hard to get.

Katharine: But the Souls, Ollie! We needed the Souls to beef up our townsfolk so they could make us the Cut Stone and Wrought Iron in the first place. I could have done with another tutorial for this, as I ended up getting confused - it turns out you can use Iron to make Ore, and Ore to make Iron, and after a couple of hasty clicks I didn't have anything to show for myself because I'd ended up using all my Ore to make Iron, and then all that Iron to make Ore again (because I'm a dolt). Oops. My bad, soz.

A screenshot of combat against monsters at night in Tribes Of Midgard
Another thing about fighting at night is that it is quite dark.

Ollie: See, that still sounds like a Wrought Iron problem - crossed with a “What the fuck is going on, game?” problem. I rarely had an issue with the Souls - apart from that time I accidentally spent all mine on healing the tree before repairing my gear (which also costs Souls). I think I got confused by bouncing between all the different people in the village to get them to do all the crafting and upgrading for me, instead of being able to do it myself. That's why most of the time I just buggered off into the wilderness and swung at goblins until my coffers were stuffed with Souls. At least that part of the game felt familiar.

Although to be honest the combat felt pretty off, too. Of the shadowy minions that arrived every night to gnaw on the base, the small enemies took three or four hits, but big enemies were a chore at 30 or 40. And each swing of my axe had such a trailing animation that I couldn’t dodge out of the way of an enemy’s swipe to literally save my life.

The player character in Tribes Of Midgard, running across swamping ground and fleeing from a large snake-like monster
A whole new world!
You get a new world seed for each new game you play, which is cool because it means no game is the same. Some of the biomes look really snazzy as well, and you encounter new baddies in them. Here I am high-tailing it away from a big lizardy thing from the swamps. If you die, you can go and collect your gear from a chest drop, soulslike style.

Ed: Yeah, I thought combat was on the basic side, with most fights coming down to who could slashy-slash fastest. Land enough basic attacks and you fill a mana bar that lets you perform bigger, betterer attacks like wide slashes, or slinging mini-tornadoes. Later on the weapons have more exciting abilities to stir up the norm, but we were stuck with basic axes, swords, hammers, and bows. Each played sort of different, I suppose. The sword and axe felt similar, but the former was maybe a touch faster, and the hammer had beefier, slower attacks. I never got to try the bow because I didn't have any resources to make one. Classic. I can't help but feel that the sword's just the best weapon overall, anyway? It enables you to slashy-slash very fast, and that's all that really matters.

Still, I enjoyed seeing loot pop out of fallen enemies. That is, if you were brave enough to seek them out.

Katharine: As you venture further from your village, the world gets tougher. The game does a good job of showing your own power level relative to the biome you're currently in, and there are also other survival aspects such as temperature and other status effects. I felt like we were being most productive when we worked together to take down enemy camps, not only for mega Souls bonuses, but also more valuable resources. The only problem there is that the world power level increases quite sharply once you push out. Even as a group I don't think we ever felt strong enough to take on these higher level areas for better loot. We just got stuck in endless loops of hacking down trees, mining stones and biffing low level enemies, which stunted our overall progress.

Alice Bee: Get a load of these Debbie Downers! I can't believe I'm the voice of positivity here. I think a bunch of problems could be fixed in one go with rebalancing the resource costs, and maybe making it so resources near your town slowly replenish over time. And also spawning more scrub enemies near the start so you can get the resources to craft armour, instead of running around naked for the first 20 minutes.

"We did spend a long time running around in our pants..."

Ed: I did quite like busting into a goblin camp in the nude. It was rather exhilarating, to the point where Katharine sternly reminded me to put some clothes on, but if you can't find enemies that drop leather, you can't craft any. Ollie eventually donated his own armour, but only because he, too, wanted to experience the thrill of being naked. He claimed he'd found a Rune that increased his damage if he was armour-less, but I don't believe him.

Katharine: We did spend a long time running around in our pants - although at least you don't have to do this at the start of every game, thanks to the unlockable starter kit you can equip once you've leveled up a bit. Just remember to make sure it's equipped before you start a game, though, as I found the game often forgets to carry it over from previous outings.

Alice Bee: There are a bunch of litte annoyances like that. If you fail it kicks the team apart as standard. You get sent back to the home screen with no "Same again?" option, and have to invite everyone back into your team, which sucks... No, you're making me negative! Dragging me down with your negative thoughts! There's loads of cool stuff in this game. There are magic cats with horns! Quests (that we didn't complete any of because they're all individual)! Runes with cool passive buffs like what Ollie had! And I like the combat, we just didn't get to properly explore the different biomes or higher level gear.

An icy frost giant, impossibly huge compared to the player characters and facing away from the camera, stomps towards the centre of our players' town in Tribes Of Midgard
We're going to need a bigger boat, because this giant is wearing one as an accessory.

Katharine: Yeah, I'd like to give it another go with a slightly retooled economy. I'd also like to be able to permanently carry over skills and classes I'd unlocked, too, as currently you start over with each new game.

Ollie: I had to Google some medical stuff for this analogy, so bear with me here: an adult’s spine is made up of 24 vertebrae, right? All of them working together in harmony to keep you nice and upright. 23 of those vertebrae could be the most flawless, calcium-rich bones ever conceived - but you’re not gonna care if you have a single bad bone causing you endless aches and pains and alright this analogy doesn’t really work. But you see what I mean. Most of Tribes Of Midgard is pretty great, but it’s undermined by an unbalanced economy and clunky combat. The good news is it means only a couple of things need to be tweaked in order to turn this game into a real cracker.

Alice Bee: Yeah, take the spine of the existing economy and turn it into a blood eagle. Rip it up. Let it die in unending torment. See, that's a pop-culture Viking metaphor: still nonsensical, but also violent.

Ed: Anyway, anyone got any Wrought Iron? Oh wait, it's night time already. Nevermind.

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Alice Bell

Deputy Editor

Small person powered by tea and books; RPS's dep ed since 2018. Send her etymological facts and cool horror or puzzle games.