Game Reviews

Tribes of Midgard Review

The Jotnar are coming.

by William Schwartz

Survival Games aren’t anything new.  The idea of foraging for supplies to stay alive as long as possible has been baked into many games at this point.  Though the new release from Norsfell, Tribes of Midgard, is a refreshing spin on things that adds a lot to the traditional formula.  In a nutshell, Tribes of Midgard is a cooperative focused (though you can play solo if you want) game where you band together with a group of Vikings to defend your village against an ongoing onslaught.  Played on a timer, during the day you’ll search the randomly generated world for crafting materials, while completing different tasks.

At night, you’ll need to defend yourself from the Helthings which will attempt to overthrow your village by making it to the center to destroy the Seed of Yggdrasil.  In the meantime, giants known as Jotnar will also be working their way towards your base as you’re basically in a constant loop of finding stuff, using that stuff to upgrade your weapons, equipment, and village, and then doing that again and again while keeping the enemies at bay.  Tribes of Midgard is part survival game and part action role playing game, layered with content on the periphery to keep you playing.

Part action RPG part survival

While it is designed to play with friends, Tribes of Midgard has multiple modes to play, including one skewed towards solo players.  These modes all follow a familiar pattern in the aforementioned loop of scouring the map for materials, upgrading, fighting and surviving.  There’s enough systems involved here to make you dizzy.  Norsfell has really crammed a lot of different gameplay ideas into Tribes, the end result is a mixed bag.  Some things feel half-baked while others will keep you coming back for more.

If the Seed of Yggdrasil Falls the Game is over

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Combat is at the core of Tribes of Midgard, but it’s probably the weakest part of the game.  While there are many different weapons and items to outfit your warrior with, there’s just not enough variety in the combat to make it feel satisfying.  There’s a lack of skills with your character that other Action RPGs deliver on.  Think of the variety in builds that you’ll see in something like a Diablo for example, and that’s really what you’re left longing for in Tribes of Midgard. Whether clearing out an enemy encampment or taking down the mighty Jotnar, the combat is repetitive with very little need to do anything more than mash the attack button.  This is certainly the case when playing solo, fighting a giant by yourself is wholly underwhelming.  Even taking down the spongey enemies gives you that same feeling.  Yet, this is a core pillar of the game and it’s unavoidable.  Combat is one of the most rewarding activities to harvest souls, find unique items hidden in enemy encampments, and obviously you’ll need to do this frequently as the days turn into nights and the helthings attack.

Protect your village against Jotnar

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Upgrading your character and the weapons you’re using does make things better as does finding runes in the world as well.  The problem is that each run in Tribes of Midgard is going to be pretty different.  So, a reliable build isn’t something that you’re going to find here.  Instead you’re going to focus on a character archetype on each run, this will allow you to specialize in certain weapons or traits.  You can then earn points as you level up in the world which will go towards unlocking different bonuses for your character.  These are world specific, so anything earned in the game in this regard is only for this single run.  If your village falls to the Helthings or the Jotnar make it to the village you’ll start the whole process over again.  That process is a loop that feels familiar to many survival games… grab items, make weapons and equipment, grab more items, level up that equipment.  There is a persistent element as well.  You can unlock classes, runes, as well as a bevy of cosmetic items that will carry over from playthrough to playthrough.

Tribes of Midgard Let’s You Create A Viking

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As games of this type can be Tribes of Midgard can be a tad unforgiving.  While you don’t have to manage things like hunger or thirst in this survival game, it can really feel like you’re making limited progress on a day to day (in-game) basis.  You’re constantly worried about getting back to the village before the Helthings can overthrow you.  Death absolutely decimates your progress if you have any number of souls on you.  The main currency is souls, and these are lost forever if you happen to die in the game.  Which actually isn’t very hard to do.  It’s quite easy to come upon an enemy that is over-powered, especially if you start venturing too far away from camp too early on.  Items that you have in your possession when dying will be left behind as well, but can be recovered if you venture back to the spot where you fell.  So Tribes of Midgard can feel a bit unforgiving.  Though on the flip side of that, when playing with friends it can feel lacking in difficulty.  Because of the ability to be revived by your teammates in the early goings of the instance.  Strength in numbers they say, and that’s certainly the case with this game.

Treasure chests Viking comradery are abundant

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On the presentation front, Norsfell has absolutely nailed it with Tribes of Midgard.  The Viking aesthetic, and the bright colorful world display from that isometic viewpoint is quite good. The art style is absolutely inviting and it’s coupled by a fairly innocuous soundtrack of ambient music.  That said style is cell-shaded style.  The game’s color palette and look remind of something like a TLOZ: Wind Waker.  While they did get dialed in on the presentation front, not everything got to launch without problems.  There’s some stuff in here that feels half baked.  Traversal is one of those things.  You’ll find some oddities from time to time in Tribes of Midgard.  From getting stuck in the world to falling through objects, I had my fair share of issues.  Clearly they are known, because the solution is to reset from the pause menu.  It’s not the elegant solution, but at least it’s something.  It can be frustrating though.  When you couple of the aforementioned difficulty and crippling loss with something that isn’t caused by the player it can be a tough pill to swallow if any progress gets lost.  Especially since losing the souls is such a penalty.

The Verdict

Tribes of Midgard does some things very well and others not so much. The overall presentation and the systems surrounding the experience go a long way in making you forget that the game is built around a rather mundane combat system.  While that can be excusable, some of the half baked ideas, bugs, and overall unbalanced experience keep excitement to keep playing in check.

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Tribes of Midgard

  • Score: 3.5 / 5
  • Available On: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, PC
  • Published By: Gearbox Software
  • Developed By: Norsfell
  • Genre: Survival ARPG
  • US Release Date: July 27th, 2021
  • Reviewed On: PC
  • Quote: "While some problems can be overlooked, the half baked ideas, bugs, and overall unbalanced experience keep excitement to keep playing in check.  "
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