Most of the time, I consider shooters to be B Tier entertainment. I respect the skill that goes into mastering them, especially since I lack most of it, but they’re not my first stop for my gaming fix. On a whim, I decided to give Tribes: Ascend a shot since it was totally free-to-play without any up front cost at all, and because I had read more than a few complimentary remarks concerning the game’s beta test. The game officially launched last week, and I’ve already sunk a fair bit of time into playing it. It is a fantastic game!
For anyone unfamiliar with Tribes and what sets it apart from other shooter titles, I have two words for you: jetpacks and skiing.
Tribes is about movement and speed. It takes time to adjust and much longer to excel at it, but it is an incredible amount of fun. And when that time comes when you finally pull off that amazing shot against a mid-air player while screaming along at 100mph, it will be worth all of the deaths you’ve suffered up to that point.
What really impresses me about this title is the incorporation of “skiiing” as a full feature. From my understanding, this high speed frictionless skimming of the ground was a bug/exploit in previous Tribes titles. Players figured out a way to get around faster, and it became another skill to master. In Tribes: Ascend, the developer decided to incorporate it intentionally, and it still has quite a learning curve.
Classes are split up into Light, Medium and Heavy weight classes, each of which has a different level of mobility and health. These classes divide up further into specializations. You start the game with access to three unlocked classes, one for each weight class: the Pathfinder, Soldier, and Juggernaut. You can unlock more classes and upgrades for every class through either experience gained through playing or through microtransactions via cash for gold. You can also purchase xp boosters with gold as well, and if you make even a single gold purchase, you are upgraded to a VIP account which nets you a permanent 50% xp increase.
I like this setup because it allows impatient players, or players who don’t have a ton of free time on their hands (like me) to experiment with the different classes to find one they enjoy right from the start. The unlockable classes aren’t more powerful than the free ones you start with either; rather they just fill a different niche. I played a Soldier for an afternoon to get the feel for the game. I realized that this was a wonderful game, that I was having fun, and that the developer should be rewarded with my hard earned money for creating it. I happily paid a small amount of money in order to unlock the Technician class much faster than I would have just through xp alone, and it just kicked up the whole experience another notch.
While I’m certain each and every class is fun to play, the Technician allows me to focus on defense. I don’t have to cap flags. I don’t really have to chase other players around very much, because the action always comes to me. This means my basic skiing skills won’t be too much of a weakness. I usually find a nice, enclosed area where those Light classes can’t hop around too much. I grab my Thumper (imagine a cross between a shotgun and a grenade launcher), drop some light turrets to protect our team’s generator, and get to work repairing our defenses and guarding our flag. I scatter in some motion sensors that warn me of opposition and that drain some of their energy as they pass by, which reduces their mobility. For my skill level and play style, its perfect!
Thus far, I have only tried out the Capture The Flag game mode, but there are others:
- Team Deathmatch – With a unique twist.
- Rabbit – Score points when you have the flag. Everyone else tries to kill you for it.
- Capture And Hold - Reminds me of Keep assaults from MMOs like Warhammer Online.
If you enjoy shooters at all, you’ll enjoy Tribes: Ascend. It’s lacking in any sort of single player or co-op mode, but that’s almost a relief seeing how most shooters don’t possess much of what I’d call a story anyway *cough* Call of Duty *cough*. The real meat of almost any shooter experience is always the multiplayer, and in Tribes you get to have a free experience that easily rivals and surpasses most games you’d pay for up front.
My advice is try it for free, and see what you think! You have nothing to lose.
Oh, and if you want an easy kill, look me up! I play under the name Evidicus. You’ll find me guarding a base somewhere.
Don’t mind the turrets. They’re really quite friendly once you get to know them.