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TimberTales / 9th of September 2016

I don’t know if this game has a problem being lost in translation but from the Steam store description for this mobile ported, free to play hex based strategy game, it seems pretty obvious that it has an interesting premise and a good heart behind it. As the developer intended to focus on creating a PC dedicated version of the game devoid of the shady, free-to-play micro-transaction elements that blight most others, it makes it seem as though this game could be a step in the right direction for the genre, however, I am sadly here to tell you that this is most certainly not the case.

The first thing to talk about is the story, or perhaps more specifically, the difficulty that I have in being able to tell you about the story. You see Timbertales brings an interesting environment to the turn based strategy table in that it’s based upon woodland animals fighting against a horde of insect aggressors who are intent on taking over the forests. It’s an interesting premise, and you can even play it from the insect point of view. A good start, I’m sure that you’ll agree, however, the actual story doesn’t really go anywhere further than that. The so called “Adventure Mode” seems to just string together a few environments and scenarios in order to engage players in battle without much context to explain why. Besides that, the difficulty in this game is absolutely absurd. I had struggles getting past the very first level as I couldn’t even find a way to heal the singular unit that I had and which I couldn’t take any more. This meant a lot of reliance on luck and RNG which, for an adventure mode, is absolutely shocking.
The presentation itself looks…well, okay I suppose. The game’s visuals are hand drawn and seem a bit minimalistic however they at least portray what animals I am seeing on screen. The problem however comes from the animations which are still images that poorly render when moving to a different tile or attack. This combined with the static nature of the sprites on screen (not even an idle animation guys!?) and the simplistic and boring environments provide nothing interesting for your eyes to see. The sound design too is insulting as there only appears to be a singular music track that plays on the main menu, leaving the rest of the battles to be played out in complete silence. The sound effects for each of the animals sound like nothing from God’s green earth and in particular the death screams are ear piercing and horrible to listen to. While the game might look interesting to view in still images or screenshots, actually playing the game is a completely different story.

Onto the gameplay now, and what can I really say about this? You move your units on a turn based hexagonal grid and attack your opponents. Strangely, enemies don’t actually attack you until you instigate a conflict, and even when they do attack you get a free shot at them! This might sound as though it makes the game easy, however, that couldn’t really be further from the truth. The game actively punishes you by limiting the number of units you can use, even when battling against computer controlled characters that vastly outnumber your army in size, making it pretty much impossible to win. You aren’t even allowed to spawn new units or, as I will emphasize again, heal your current units unless they have an ability which specifically allows them to do so. The “challenge” mode is particularly bad for this too as it basically doesn’t let you win unless you pick only ranged units. The strategy in this game too is pretty much non-existent as it just becomes a slugging match of who can hit each other first, repeating until someone falls. The only real strategy you can get from this game is by using ranged units, positioning them behind your brawlers but even then you might as well not use melee characters at all as they will just get slaughtered.
However, the most insulting part of this game, believe it or not, are in fact the micro-transactions. The developer states that they intended to allow this game to only have micro-transactions that affect cosmetic things such as buying new skins for your units or new name tags. However, this is very much not the case. While you can use an in-game currency, Acorns (which you earn by completing battles), to unlock new units, you also have the choice to do so with actual money. What is particularly shocking is the fact that to play a ranked, arena type game mode in multiplayer, you have to pay a fee of acorns or, instead, you can pay real money to start ranking up on the leader boards. This is clearly incentivised to be pay to win and I find it genuinely insulting that the developer believes that they are providing a positive message to the free-to-play or mobile port playing community.

So, Timbertales is not such a great release then. I haven’t felt insulted by a game in a long time, however, this has pretty much made me lose my faith in the mobile port community. Maybe there was actual heart and soul put into making this game, maybe for a mobile game it’s not too bad and perhaps I shouldn’t judge it too harshly as it is a completely free game. However, due to it contending with the big free to plays and the developer outright lying about his stance on micro-transactions I do not find myself recommending this game to anyone. Timbertales, in its current state, will require either an entire rework to its core mechanics or a change in payment stance for me to ever recommend you play and pay money for this game.
Jack McKay
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