Genre: Mutliplayer FPS
Release Date: April 12, 2012
Developer: Hi-Rez Studios
Publisher: Hi-Rez Studios
Retail: Free to play
Tribes: Ascend is the latest installation of the popular FPS series Tribes. Originally the Tribes series was developed by Dynamix and published by Sierra On-Line, but Hi-Rez Studios has picked up where they left off. The series has had a heavily active community since its inception with Starsiege: Tribes. What sets these games apart from other FPS games is the skiing system that it uses. Each unit is equipped with anti-friction boots that allow you to zoom around the map at incredible speeds, creating incredibly fast paced game play. The bread and butter of this series is Capture The Flag. There are two tribes in this installment, Diamond Sword and Blood Eagle.
The work put into making this game ready to be competitive on release has been excellent, including having a Free to Play game not end up being a Pay to Win game were you could buy better weapons that are not unlockable without payment. The only buyable items in game (so far) are booster packs that increase the amount of XP you gain from your games. You can also purchase gold to unlock weapons faster, but at the end of the day, anyone can unlock all of the weapons and classes for free. Hi-Rez has also included an excellent observer mode with broadcasting in mind. I have watched quite a few matches being broadcasted and I must say, Tribes: Ascend is a blast to watch. Listening to the commentary really helps to broaden your understanding of the game, and watching how the teams work together helps you to be a better team mate yourself. If you want to watch a game you can join the Steam group Tribes Ascend Scrimmage Network and they will notify you when games are being played and where you can watch them. Hopefully with some refinement the broadcasting levels will be on par with that of Starcraft and other similarly competitive games.
I have been playing this game since its closed beta, and in that time I have picked up quite a few things about Hi-Rez Studios along the way. The most important thing that I saw was that they listened to their fans. When the closed Beta was first released all projectile weapons (pistol, Assault Rifle, ect.) were hit-scan, except for the Rhino SMG. This lead to a horrible imbalance in the game, and plenty of complaining on the forums for the game. Hi-Rez quickly altered the guns so that all projectile weapons except for the pistol and the sniper rifles had flight times and gravity effects. To me this demonstrates that Hi-Rez is very dedicated to their fan base. I’ve even run into a few employees while playing some matches, and they are a lot of fun to play with and really nice guys.
Given that large player base that Tribes 2 had, there are probably quite a few of you out there wondering whether you should make the switch from Tribes 2 to Tribes: Ascend. You would do well to note some substantial differences between the two games that I noticed upon playing about an hour and a half of Tribes 2. First off, the skiing mechanic in Tribes: Ascend is much easier than in Tribes 2. You don’t really need to use the terrain as much, and it is much easier to maneuver while airborne. This makes the game easier to get into, but the skiing mechanic is fairly easy to master. It also allows for more dynamic flag grabbing and capping routes, so defense is more difficult without deployables. Another major difference is that disc jumping is less powerful in Tribes: Ascend, and the use of Impact Nitrons is used more often because they deal less damage but cause more displacement. There is also the addition of the Jump Pack that uses up a substantial amount of energy in return for a boost of speed. Disc jumping will still get you going the fastest, but it is not nearly as powerful as in Tribes 2.
A direct result of the skiing being much easier is that the maps don’t need to be as well thought out in Tribes: Ascend. As of right now all the maps that exist are excellent as far as I’m concerned, but in the future we could possibly see a degradation in map quality, though I’m sure the community would gladly pick up the slack. The biggest thing that I wish would be transferred from Tribes 2 to Tribes: Ascend is the use of flairs to balance out the Saber Launcher. That weapon is by far the most obnoxious weapon in the game and can completely shut down any flag capping possibilities. Heck you could probably effectively just set up Defense with one or two Doombringers equipped with Saber Launchers and be completely fine. I’m surprised I haven’t seen that in any pro matches, actually.
EDIT: I have tried this idea out in game and it does not work. Saber missles don’t do nearly enough damage to shut down flag capping abilities. I still wish they would add flairs, however.
Tribes: Ascend has certainly casualized itself. If you are looking for deep game play mechanics, both games fit the bill, but Tribes 2 is unquestionably more in depth than Tribes: Ascend. The community of Tribes 2 is also much more dedicated to having a competitive and entertaining game each game they play. Tribes: Ascend’s newness lends itself to high server population, and as a consequence a high number of trolls that are trying to spoil everyone’s fun. Something I didn’t hear on Tribes 2 servers was shit talking your own team or the other team, which was a nice change. I’m sure it happens, but I didn’t see any of it. So in Tribes 2 it is much more team work oriented. This is a consequence of Tribes: Ascend not having dedicated Servers up yet, which will be released soon, but once again the newness of the game will lend itself to trolling.
EDIT: Since writing the articles dedicated servers have been release, and they have definitely cut down on the down talking of team mates, and have substantially increased the use of team work.
Whether you are playing this game competitively, just for fun, coming from Tribes 2 or you’re just watching the action in professional matches, I highly recommend this game. It is a lot of fun to both play and watch, especially if you can get a team together. Teamwork is key to this game, and sometimes the people you find online can be less than helpful. That being said, most people that are playing this game know that teamwork is key and act accordingly. These are the people that really make the game fun. Each class brings it’s own type of fun to the game, whether you are a Brute sitting on the flag laughing at Lights as the try to grab the flag and get crushed against your body, or you are a Pathfinder, zipping into a base, grabbing the flag, and capping it before anyone realizes what’s going on. The game is a welcome breath of fresh air to the FPS genre.
Also, I would like to thank Tribes Phenom HeXy, RedShifter, and Anthem for helping me get up to speed on Tribes 2 so that I wasn’t floundering around like an idiot for days before I figured out how to play.