I really wanted to like Timbertales. It’s developed and published by a company called Rainware, but a quick search reveals that Rainware is just a one-man studio and this is his third game. That being said, Timbertales definitely isn’t an awful game. The art and assets are nice if minimalistic and I didn’t have any major problems with responsiveness, but the issues I had and lack of variety keep me from giving this a pass.
Before I even go into the gameplay, I have to explain my own experience with getting the game to run. I downloaded it just fine, but when I went to run it, it did not work. I tried everything: restarting the game, redownloading the game, and finally parsed through the game’s assets to find that I’m missing a file of Linux assets that don’t come with the Mac. I flagged it to the developer, but I haven’t seen it appear anywhere on the Steam page yet, so take this as your warning, Mac users.
After that rocky start, I found that at least on the Mac, the top of the screen rests right against the top toolbar and thus the bottom of the screen is cut off. This caused me a whole host of problems, the worst of which was that I couldn’t see the objectives for any of the current levels. This is problematic because sometimes the hoards are endless and sometimes you only have to defeat a set number of them, so I lost more than once not understanding what I was supposed to be doing. Another thing I could barely see was the creatures’ special moves and didn’t even know they existed for the first few levels.
But once I got into the game and ignored the scaling issues, the actual gameplay isn’t terrible. The game plays similarly to a board game. You can choose to play as Slyvan (the goodies) or Vermin (the baddies), set up your base on one of a few adjacent tiles on the map, and spawn in units to fight the other team and fulfil certain challenges (if you can find them).
There are a few fun elements here. Each animal type has a different way of fighting and special attacks with the porcupine shooting quills and the large wolf being a tanky up close unit. There’s a dense fog of war that lends itself to a lot of ambushes, causing you to be careful of how you move and group up units. The game itself plays like a minimalist version of Fire Emblem and XCOM but without the more interesting elements of specialized upgrading, base building, or a plot deeper than maybe you should go find where the Sylvan elders went.
The game seems decent at setting up elements of strategy, but at least for the first levels that I played, the AI didn’t do much more than bunch up in hidden pockets of the map. Most of my fights ended up in a slogging match and I couldn’t find more of a strategy other than sticking together and focusing on one enemy at a time. There is a high chance of counterattack after any unit attacks which does lead to some interesting risk, reward, and health management, but overall, the single player doesn’t really offer too much.
There is an online multiplayer match up mode, but I waited for five minutes two separate times with no results. I would assume that if you knew a person who had the game, it could actually be a fun multiplayer. The strategy board game style could really be interesting if you were playing against another person. However, I was not able to make that happen.
I honestly really wanted to like this game, but between the lack of story, game elements, and community, I really don’t think it’s worth your time.