Tribes Acend: Tartatus Update, And Potential Impact on F2P Games Everywhere

Tribes released update version 1.0.961.0 earlier today, also known as the Tartarus patch for the new map it contains. After putting in some time with it, I think it is very impressive from both a player and from a game design standpoint. Tribes Ascend is a F2P model that continues to excel.

The video will do a much better job at explaining the new elements than I could, but what really got my interest is how Hi-Rez Studios is setting the bar for all F2P games and not just shooters.

For example, the part of the video that explains loadouts is extremely interesting to me. It is no secret that I’m enthusiastic about Guild Wars 2 and the ground it is breaking for the Free-To-Play MMO market. The Loadout model of Tribes Ascend, where you purchase new custom setups slots for gold and experience, could work just as easily in Guild Wars 2 when it came to multiple specs across a single profession. Instead of gold and experience, in GW2 you could unlock multiple specs with either gold or gems. Where in Tribes you save loadouts for weapons and perks, in Guild Wars 2 you could save loadouts for weapons, traits and utility skills. Giving players the choice to do this with currency from both in game and out of game would be a great way to boost the cash shop without it being unbalancing or “Pay To Win”.

I don’t think it would be too terribly difficult to add this kind of feature to Guild Wars 2. So long as spec swapping can only occur out of combat, I believe it would be an excellent convenience feature that many players would be willing to pay for. I know I certainly would.

Only time will tell what ArenaNet has in mind. Moving foward as the game gets further into development, I find it refreshing that we may see more and more comparisons of GW2 to other highly successful F2P games and less and less comparisons with older, last-gen MMOs.

In the meantime, I’ll be enjoying Tribes and trying not to get my ass shot off! Thanks to High-Rez for this quality update!

Oh, and someone needs to swap Katelyn Pitstick’s coffee to decaf. She’s flashing those wide Redbull eyes at the camera, and it’s kind of creepy. RELAX KATELYN!

GW2 Beta Hands On: The Thief

I should probably start with the disclaimer that my time with the Thief was a bit less than either the Warrior or Guardian. Seeing as it was my first time playing the game, I found it incredibly difficult to STOP playing to try other things. I consider that the highest compliment I can pay to the game or ArenaNet.

When I did purposefully make time to experience the Thief, I was impressed in many regards and surprised in others.

As with the other professions, I enjoyed early experimentation with the various weapon skills. Running with double daggers was as brutally fun as I had hoped, and got myself into trouble more than once using Leaping Death Blossom when faced with a pack of tightly grouped enemies. Heartseeker is also a great finisher that does more damage to the enemy when he has less health.

What surprised me, however, was just how effective the ranged weapon sets were with the Thief. Similar to the Warrior, when I think of a rogue archetype in a MMO I think melee. The problem I faced in PvE with melee was two fold: First and foremost, during large dynamic quests and events the melee area can become a killing field as particle effects obscure the boss and the outline of any harmful AoEs. Secondarily, and specific to the Thief in solo play, a number of the stealth skills that I tried out completely reset the enemy I was fighting when I used them. While these same abilities may prove to make the Thief a slippery foe in PvP, in PvE is just meant wasting time starting the encounter over again from scratch – often after draining my Initiavite bar.

I didn’t have any such problems with the ranged weapon sets, and each of them were a lot of fun to play, both in a practical sense and in how well done their animations and sound effects were.

As far as sheer fun went, nothing compared to dual pistols!

Go ahead. Make his day.

Pistol Stealth Skill
Sneak Attack

Sneak Attack

Initiative.png 0 A rapid-fire attack that causes bleeding.
Main hand
Vital Shot

Vital Shot

Initiative.png 0 Bleed your foe with a shot to the vitals.
Body Shot

Body Shot

Initiative.png 3 Make your foe vulnerable with a body shot.
Pistol + Pistol
Unload

Unload

Initiative.png 5 Blast your foe repeatedly with both pistols.
Off hand
Black Powder

Black Powder

Initiative.png 5 Fire a shot with black powder, creating a smoke cloud that blinds nearby enemies.
Head Shot

Head Shot

Initiative.png 5 Daze your foe with a head shot.

Running and gunning with pistols imbued my Thief with a Swashbuckling feel, and was as effective as it was entertaining.

1. Vital Shot – The default shot stacks bleeds and has zero Initiative cost. Similar to the Warrior’s rifle, I loved having my default ability be more than just a flat damage number. Bleeds are my favorite condition at the moment because as any Predator fan knows – if it bleeds, you can kill it.

2. Body Shot – My set up shot. Vulnerability makes everything else hit a bit harder by reducing the target’s armor. Since it stacks in intensity, softening up tougher opponents in group play with a couple of these shots back to back worked pretty well.

3. Unload – My favorite of the dual skills! The animation is wonderful, and the only thing that could make this any better is if my Thief spit out a toothpick and a group of doves took flight in slow motion just before I fired. The ability to use this twice in a row if you have a full Initiative bar makes the best possible use of a combo field. After all, the only thing better than shooting people with a ridiculous amount of bullets is shooting people with a ridiculous amount of bullets that are ON FIRE!

4. Black Powder – A very solid escape ability, especially if followed by a dodge or strafe. Blind is one of my favorite conditions, especially for PvP since the auto miss can really frustrate an opponent who wasted an ability with a cooldown. I’d use it along with some choice utility skills to gain distance and keep myself out of trouble.

5. Head Shot – Another great way to tilt the odds in your favor. Daze puts all of your opponent’s abilities on cooldown. Weaving in a couple Vital Shots with two of these can shut down an enemy long enough for your heal to come off cooldown or to give your endurance bar a chance to fill up again.

As far as the Stealth skill is concerned, I don’t recall ever using Sneak Attack. I’m inclined to assume that it works rather well as an opener, or mid-fight when you’re in PvP or not the only person fighting an enemy in PvE, but I didn’t employ a lot of stealth abilities by design after a handful of mobs reset on me mid-fight.

The other weapon I had a great experience with was the shortbow.

Shortbow Stealth Skill
Surprise Shot

Surprise Shot

Initiative.png Shoot an arrow that Immobilizes your foe.
Both hands
Trick Shot

Trick Shot

Initiative.png 0 Bounce an arrow off multiple nearby foes.
Cluster Bomb

Cluster Bomb

Initiative.png 3 Fire a cluster bomb at target area. Detonate in midair for multiple explosions.
Redirect Arrow.png

Detonate Cluster

Detonate Cluster

Initiative.png Detonate your cluster bomb in midair.
Disabling Shot

Disabling Shot

Initiative.png 3 Do an Evasive leap away from your foe while firing a crippling shot.
Choking Gas

Choking Gas

Initiative.png 4 Fire an arrow that fills the target area with a poisonous cloud.
Infiltrator's Arrow

Infiltrator’s Arrow

Initiative.png 6 Fire an arrow and shadow step to target area, blinding nearby enemies.

The shortbow is so potent, especially against multiple enemies, that I couldn’t think of a valid reason to use anything else. It is extremely powerful and versatile. While it probably goes against the grain of conventional thought in the same way a rifle based Warrior does, you can’t really argue with the results or how fun it is to use.

1. Trick Shot – Bouncing shots is AoE damage that will target up to five enemies in range. Without a cooldown or Initiative cost, I found I could handle multiple enemies with ease when combined with the right utility skills.

2. Cluster Bomb – AoE combo finisher. The timing of the secondary Detonate ability takes a little practice, but the fire and forget single shot explosion is enough to make this worth using against multiple enemies.

3. Disabling Shot – Gap opener. Great way to put some distance between you and your opponent and slow his movement at the same time.

4. Choking Gas – Combo field. Respectable damage and the poison condition reduces your opponent’s healing.

5. Infiltrator’s Arrow – Gap closer. Gap opener. Awesome travel ability. Wherever you need to be, Infiltrator’s Arrow gets you there in style. The AoE blind is just the icing on the cake.

I can’t imagine playing a Thief and not using the shortbow even if only for the mobility advantage it provides. Infiltrator’s Arrow isn’t spammable, but it is certainly able to be used with Disabling Shot to create a respectable gap between you and your opponent. If using a melee off set, IA is also wonderful for closing in and buying you time with Blind so you can swap weapons and get stabby. While it won’t work for scaling keeps in WvW, it is fun to see just where you can position yourself with a little creativity.

For my healing skill, I swapped out Hide in Shadows as soon as I could. The Regeneration was great and the stealth would have been nice in PvP, but for PvE I found the mob reset annoying while soloing. Instead I chose to pick up Signet of Malice.

Signet
Signet of Malice

Signet of Malice

Tango-recharge-darker.png 20 Skill point4 Passive: Grants health when you attack.
Active: Gain health.

I love this ability. The more damage I do, the more I heal myself. It is like a point rewards system on a credit card from Assassin’s Bank. If you believe the best defense is a good offense, then this signet has you covered.

The utility skills I chose were:

Signet of Shadows

Signet of Shadows

Tango-recharge-darker.png 30 Skill point5 Signet Passive: Grants a 10% increase in movement speed.
Signet Active: Blind and immobilize the target foe.
Caltrops

Caltrops

Tango-recharge-darker.png 30 Skill point1 Trick. Scatter caltrops that Bleed and Cripple foes.

He who controls how the battle is fought usually wins the war. Both of these came in extremely handy for my range build, and kiting enemies through and around a field of caltrops was the kind of nasty business that put a smile on my face. I love them so much than any Thief build I play will make use of the Uncatchable trait in the Trickery line. Leaving behind a set of spiked beauties with every dodge is too good to pass up.

Signet of Shadows is like Christmas morning. All it’s missing is a red bow. Movement speed is a huge advantage in every area of the game, and increasing my mobility while being able to deny my enemy theirs is the key to how an average player like myself can win against a superior force.

In structured PvP I could have fully built out my Thief with the final utility skill and an elite skill, but I find the slow and steady power aquisition of PvE better for learning a class. Now that I have an understanding of the core mechanics, I look forward to taking the Thief out for some quality structured PvP time next beta weekend.

THE JUDGEMENT

I can see where the Thief would be a lot of fun to play, especially if you have a sadistic streak and not only want to defeat your enemies but frustrate them in the process. As with each of the professions I’ve played so far, I was happy to see that there are multiple ways to build out a Thief to suit your play style. Guild Wars 2 is also the only MMO I can recall where a Thief could be built to fill a somewhat supportive role, using traits that give boons to your allies every time you Steal or sharing your venom utility skills with them.

The Initiative system for the Thief works just as I had hoped, and it truly adds another level of strategy to your experience as you can ignore cooldowns so long as you have Initiative points to spend.

The Steal mechanic was another area where I enjoyed a great deal of experimentation, although the system’s major drawback is that it is entirely based upon trial and error. There aren’t any tooltips in the game that will let you know ahead of time what the benefit stealing from a particular mob may be. The idea of using an enemy’s own weapons against them has a lot of appeal, and I think it will only get better as ArenaNet refines it between now and launch.

My only real complaint is with Stealth. It is rewarding to finally have an MMO where being in stealth is the exception instead of the rule, although I am sure many who love their rogues in WoW will disagree. The one major drawback to it is the aforementioned mob reset. My suggestion to ArenaNet would be to have mobs enter an alerted state that was a middle ground between active combat and total reset. It wouldn’t have to be long. Three or four seconds at most would be enough to pop a quick heal or get off a weapon stealth skill and get right back into the fight. I think this would greatly enhance the Thief game play and would also make enemy AI appear a bit more realistic.