Game Reviews

Celtic Tribes

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Celtic Tribes
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| Celtic Tribes

This is a freemium game review, in which we give our impressions immediately after booting a game up, again after three days, and finally after seven days. That's what the strange sub-headings are all about. Click on the links to jump straight to day three and day seven.

I've never had much interest in Britain's Celtic heritage. It always seemed so chronologically distant, so barbaric, so otherworldly.

As someone interested in cutting edge games on sophisticated mobile technology, I just find ancient history a little yawn-inducing. My interest starts at the industrial revolution.

Developer Xyrality is hoping to prove me wrong with Celtic Tribes, its latest "manager strategy MMO". Whatever that is.

Is it any good? Let's find out.

First impressions

Apparently "manager strategy MMO" means "using menus to perform every action in a freemium builder".

You're given a village to look after, and through a series of menu selections you upgrade buildings - which already exist in your tribe's home - by using resources: wood, clay, and ore.

You have a population to manage, so you'll need food to feed them, and you have troops to train so that you can attack nearby villages for more resources, and so on and so forth. It's typical freemium builder stuff.

All of this is explained to you by a woefully inadequate tutorial that assails you with a wall of text, deviating every once in a while down random tangents.

At one point I was being told how upgrades to buildings work. Then I was learning why I won't need Potions to finish the game.

Why? It wasn't made clear, which uncertainty forced me to return to the wall of text again to ensure I hadn't blacked out from boredom halfway through and missed a vital bit of info.

So far, Celtic Tribes is a dry experience, and I'm not looking forward to playing more in the days to come.

Day 3: Outta the Iron Age

Celtic Tribes is still barely a game. I'm going to break down exactly what you do to play it, in order to demonstrate how shallow it is:

1. Tap Celtic Tribes icon on home screen of your iOS device.
2. Tap the 'village' icon and go to the detailed view by tapping the icon at the top-left of the screen.
3. Choose which two buildings you'd like to upgrade with the resources you have at your disposal, then tap the 'hammer' icon.
4. Tap on the 'tavern', choose a couple of missions to go on.
5. Tap the 'map' icon, choose a village to attack, and send everything you have at the enemy.
6. Close the app and go do something more interesting while you wait for these actions to finish.

You can also spend premium currency on speeding up the wait times if you like, and you can set some runes in a 3x3 grid that boost your village as well.

This kind of gameplay is what the anti-freemium crowd thinks the payment model does to all games: it strips traditional gameplay elements down to their absolute fundamentals, and then charges you to make the resulting boredom pass more quickly.

Maybe there are some additional elements tacked on, but ultimately you're paying money to watch totally meaningless numbers go up.

I am admittedly playing the game quite a lot, because it's so quick and easy to make (ultimately hollow) progress. Sure, I'm upgrading my Tavern to unlock new mission types, but each of these new missions requires you to simply tap the button next to it, and wait a set period of time, in exchange for a resource pay-off, just like the ones you had before.

A few days in and I'm currently praying to Cernunnos for a little variety, and if that fails I'll be hitting up Ankou to take me away from this.

Day 7: Dry

The most exciting thing that has happened since last I checked in with you is that I've joined another tribe in an attempt to add a more social element to an experience that's about as captivating as doing sums. Because everything's better with friends, right?

No. Not right.

In a bitter twist of fate, the leader of our tribe - of two, I might add - has immediately provided me a full list of rules for being a part of his exclusive club.

He's demanding that I add icons to my game name to distinguish myself among the wider Celtic Tribes community, and he's given me a list of protocols to follow.

I swear the following is true: if I want to go on holiday from the game, I have to leave the tribe (him) a note indicating that I won't be around. And if I want to share a joke with the tribe (him), I'm supposed to put it in a dedicated joke writing area of the forum.

I think this might just be the dullest game I've ever played.

That said, it's clear that Celtic Tribes does appeal to a particular kind of player: the kind of player who creates a forum area for jokes.

If that's you, go and download this, because you'll find comfort - and a pretty good chance of companionship - in the game's regimented structure. You'll lose yourself in the heady pursuit of creating Runes, forming alliances, and dominating your fellow enthusiasts. I wish you luck.

Everyone else should avoid, avoid, avoid.

How are you getting on with the game? You can tell us and the rest of the PG community about your experiences by leaving a comment in the box below.

Celtic Tribes

As dull as a dreary Tuesday afternoon... in a sleepy country village... during a power cut, Celtic Tribes is a game about selecting menu options from a list and waiting set periods of time. It's just about the most boring thing I've ever done with my iPhone
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