Looking for some real-time strategy with a comic flavor? Try playing Starcraft while listening to an old George Carlin record. Despite its billing, Tribal Rage doesn't deliver any comedy, strategy, or really much of anything except a delicately balanced blend of tedium and frustration, topped off with a painful hum in the back of your skull.
Set on yet another postapocalyptic Earth, Tribal Rage lets you battle as one of six allegedly wacky tribes for domination of the scorched planet. Among your choices are the neo-fascist Enforcers, the Grim Reaper-hugging Death Cultists, or the, um, extraordinarily large-lunged Amazons, women whose endowments make Lara Croft seem prepubescent in comparison. Tribal Rage's humor is pretty much limited to a Trailer Trash unit that looks like Elvis and shoots a guitar gun.
Stopped laughing yet? Then let's discuss the gameplay. In a striking show of originality, you'll get to mine ore to create units to defend your bases and to attack others. For all its boasting of uniqueness, Tribal Rage coughs up a big greasy hair ball of some of the most hackneyed gameplay to be found in any game, any genre. The game comes with a number of stand-alone, unconnected scenarios that are totally lacking in depth and character. While each of the scenarios does have specific mission goals, you can fail to meet the goals and still win just by killing enough of the enemy.
Tribal Rage does offer a nice little twist in terms of a campaign game, but fails to fulfill any of its promise. Instead of asking gamers to play through a series of increasingly challenging, pre-scripted scenarios, Tribal Rage generates a grid of uncontrolled territories, each representing a different battle zone controlled by different factions. Starting from one territory, you must take over the entire map, moving units and credits to support your war effort. Unfortunately, you can pretty much breeze through the map once you generate a heap of killer units and a hefty bankroll to overwhelm any resistance. A potentially more challenging, large-scale strategic game is kneecapped by this most basic approach.
That strategy is money in the bank except when one of Tribal Rage's endearing bugs arbitrarily decides to erase those units and resources. As aggravating as that is, Tribal Rage features an even more egregious game-crashing glitch that affects those gamers who have those terribly rare and unpopular Sound Blaster audio cards. There's a patch on the Talon Soft web site, but the game still crashed on me after I installed it.
Not that I minded the crashes that much. Even if you're willing to forgive the pedestrian graphics, average sound, interchangeable units, and crappy gameplay, Tribal Rage's bottom of the barrel AI is sure to cripple whatever fun you might be able to squeeze out of the game. This game has the absolute worst pathfinding routines in the universe. Grouped units will separate widely, get stuck on the edge of any object in the zip code, just stop moving, or simply refuse to move, staying behind while the rest of the troop marches on. It makes you wonder if anyone played this game before it was shoved in the box.
But wait - there's more! Units must be clicked on exactly right to get control of them. Buildings and defense structures frequently refuse to deploy despite receiving orders about a dozen times. Units need to appear on the screen all at once to be linked to hot keys. There's no command to center the display on hot-keyed units. The ability to design your own super-units sounds good but throws any concept of play balancing right out the window. Starting to get the idea?
Sure, Tribal Rage features multiplayer, but so what? Russian roulette is a multiplayer game, and I don't want to play it either. Tribal Rage does have its place in the gaming world - on a store shelf, gathering dust.