Pine Review – A Simulated Ecosystem

Pine Review

Games where I feel my impact on the world have always had my attention. This is one of the reasons the Mount & Blade franchise is a favorite of mine. The developers behind Pine, Twirlbound, took to Kickstarter to make a world where humans are the underdog. The world is where I first noticed how vibrant and alive it feels. The many different creatures and species wandering around surviving.

Each tribe has gatherers, traders, and fighters doing their job when a random human upsets their ecosystem. Guess what? We get to play that human and change it all. Pine’s story feels like an essay I stretched the word count for in college. There’s something strong there, but it’s not enough to keep the entire essay interesting.

Interacting With Tribes in Pine

A major mechanic of Pine is interacting with each tribe in the world of Albamare. The first tribe I ran into was a group of foxes with bombs. The Fexel are sneaky and have a fascination for alchemy. I knew for my first journey in Albamare I didn’t want to make enemies, but that’s not how Pine works.

Pine Combat
The combat in Pine uses an energy system alongside dodges and parries.

Making friends and enemies mostly relies on a donation system where you provide resources for friendship. However, it’s not that simple, because every tribe has a relationship with the others. This leads to constantly juggling each tribe’s reputation as pleasing one makes another angry.

This wouldn’t be the end of the world if allying with a tribe had much impact. The Fexel were my first ally and I wanted to help them the strongest tribe. However, the questline occasionally forces you to befriend different tribes. This immediately brings back juggling your reputation with each one. That balance becomes frustrating when it feels like you’re backstabbing your friends.

Tools Feel Underutilized

Unlocking new tools in Pine through cavernous Vaults often defines progression. In what feels like an open-world game, Pine quickly runs out of content. That’s the challenge with the open-world genre; it’s even more difficult to keep players interested. Games with far larger budgets like The Witcher and several Ubisoft titles focus on having tons of side content.

Pine Swamp
The Taming Bands allow riding Alpafants to save energy.

Pine suffers where the only reason to wander from the linear questline is better gear. When quests force me to destroy friendships with tribes, I lose a sense of purpose. In my first few hours, finding what the Fexel tribe needed was exciting. They became my tribe as I gathered food and resources for them.

The Vaults are one of the more unique areas in Pine. Each Vault has a puzzle that utilizes your new tool. While they unlock new mechanics like taming creatures or new puzzles, they don’t add much. It’s nice to ride a horse-like creature from one quest to the next. However, all it does is prevent exhaustion after sprinting too long.

The developer prides their world on taking place without your involvement. Instead of adding to the experience, I’m wandering around in the background and occasionally running into neat creatures. Making an impact on Albamare doesn’t matter when there’s barely a reason to make one.

Influencing Tribes in Albamare

Pine Tribes
Trading with tribes is a good way to build trust and get materials.

Getting stronger in Pine relies on crafting new gear from gathered resources. However, blueprints known as Ideas are the only way to craft new equipment. Wearing a set of armor provides certain bonuses in combat, but they don’t feel important. It’s a way to expand your health and damage, nothing more.

A creative mechanic is how certain Ideas influence tribes. While Pine’s world can survive without any interaction, dispersing rumors and plans directly affect how tribes behave. Leaking a rumor about an incoming heatwave prevents villagers from wandering out and therefore not gathering. This has a negative impact on their food and materials, hurting their chances of expansion.

What’s interesting about this Idea type is how it spreads to other tribes. By sharing a negative rumor in one village, it can leak to others you’re trying to help. This is a mechanic where players influence Albamare’s success or downfall.

Pine | Closing Thoughts

Pine PC Review
Who doesn’t love a cute little bird?

Pine’s pitch is a unique one where I wish they had more time and resources to make it something great. The sporadic framerate stutter combined with mechanics that quickly lose their appeal holds it back. On the bright side, Twirlbound is frequently patching Pine post-launch with fixes and changes. Overall, Pine kicks off strong and finishes weakly.

Pros Cons
The world feels alive and lived in. Not enough content for the length of the game.
Neatly simulated ecosystem. Combat feels repetitive.
Frequent framerate issues.

Looking for a quick game filled with non-stop action? Check out our review here for Ape Out!

Pine is available on Steam as of October 10, 2019, with a Nintendo Switch version coming later.

Pine was provided by the developer via a Steam code.

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