Late in 2010 Hi-Rez Studios announced they were taking over the Tribes franchise and had two games in the works with one being an MMO and the other being a multiplayer-only FPS. Well, one of these is currently in closed beta and we’ve scored a key to have some fun with!
The Tribes franchise is no newcomer to the video game industry with the first game ‘Starsiege: Tribes’ released in 1998 and there being 3 releases since then with the last one in 2004. However, many people haven’t even heard of this ongoing series of games.
You might be wondering what Tribes: Ascend is like in summary. Well, think large maps, weapons, skiing and jetpacks. What does this equal? Speed, and lots of it. Oh and did we mention it’s free to play?!
Once you get past the standard login and profile creation screens there seems to be 12 classes available to choose from. However, right from the get go there are only two classes: Soldier and Ranger. I’d recommend the ranger if you want to get straight into the game and manage a few kills, which will equip you with an assault rifle and grenade launcher. Instead of the assault rifle, Soldiers are equipped with ‘Spinfusors’, which projectile electrified spinning blades of death at your opponent. The Spinfusors are single shot weapons though, and with the amount of movement in this game can be difficult to use. For most of my review playtime I decided to stick to the Ranger to try and experience everything the game has to offer.
The game currently has 3 modes available to play in the closed beta which were CTF, Team Deathmatch and Rabbit. In Rabbit mode all players try to keep hold of one flag for the longest time. I found Rabbit to be very enjoyable as you’ve got to evade all the other players which means getting your jetpack and ski motions correct. Rabbit isn’t averaging as many players as the other modes; however Oceanic servers for CTF and TDM were quick to join. There is currently no lobby or game creation option so you’ll be thrown into the middle of a current game.
After you’re connected to the server you’ll be asked to decide on one of two teams which are the Blood Eagles (Red) and the Diamond Swords (Blue), they both seem to have the same equipment depending on the class chosen, with the only difference being the aesthetics of the weapons and armour.
Once you’ve chosen your team you’ll be dropped into the game world onto one of the few maps available. Katabatic is the most played map; essentially a large snow field with an array of mountains and slopes. You generally spawn somewhere on the snow, normally not too far from the action.
Tribes: Ascend is running on the Unreal Engine 3 and the first thing you notice is that it looks pretty well made graphically. It mightn’t be as impressive as some AAA titles but the visuals are definitely not something to complain about.
As soon as I spawned I realised walking was very slow compared to the other players, but a handy hint promptly let me know about skiing and using the jetpack. Essentially your best bet is to hold down ski (spacebar by default) down hills and use some jet pack (right mouse button by default) going up the slopes otherwise you’ll kill your speed. Dropping into a downhill slope from a jetpack flight also works very well. I’m not too sure about the max speed available in game, however from my experiences just before 150km/h is where it starts maxing out and firefights at this speed get pretty hectic. Having said that, this may change depending on other maps and terrains in the full release of the game.
Tribes: Ascend works like most FPS games, you do get experience and points from kills and assists and during the game these can be redeemed for supply crates and tactical strikes and the like. Tactical strikes in particular can take some getting used to due to your constantly moving opponents. However you can take out enemy turrets and generators which have been built from these points with the tactical strike.
There are an infinite number of game experiences in this openly set game area. It’s not uncommon to see two players hurtle past you in excess of 140 km/h in a rather dangerous version of tag. You can only feel so sorry for some people when they are being chased by 4 or 5 opponents though and besides you’ll gain the assist points!
I did come in contact with some veteran Tribes gamers who were nigh on impossible to keep up with let alone fire at at the same time. However, this new release seems to have brought in a multitude of newcomers to the Tribes series. I only had minimal experience with Tribes 2, and was on the same level as the Tribes newbies, so was maintaining an average score.
I feel that Tribes: Ascend fills a certain niche in the FPS market and will always have a group of veterans playing it whilst still flying relatively low under the video games radar. I wholeheartedly recommend Tribes: Ascend to someone looking for a new, unique FPS, and why not give it a go, it’s free to play!
That said, there is some form of in-game transaction system that will be rolled out in the full release. If that is handled well, I think Tribes: Ascend may just make a bit of a splash in the ever increasing ocean of video games out there for us all to play!
I’ll give this game a solid 3.5/5, which means I’ll definitely be playing the full game when it releases sometime in the next few months. With a game like this we can only wonder what Hi-Rez has planned for the MMO iteration of the Tribes series.
Until next time!
Whilst the game was in closed beta when I experienced it, it seems beta keys are now available via http://www.facebook.com/tribesascend by clicking the ‘Get a Beta Key’ tab.
Editor’s Note: This review has obviously been done while the game is in beta, so it doesn’t fully reflect the final version of the game. It’s free to play though so why not go and try it out for yourself!