Editor’s Note: December 16th, 2015. This review is officially out of date and is no longer reflective of the current state of Tribes: Ascend. I’m currently working on a new review for 2016 so keep your eyes open for it. I’m keeping this review up because I did way too much work to take it down. Thanks for reading!
Editor’s Note: March 30th, 2016: The newly updated and overhauled review of Tribes Ascend is now out!
Tribes Ascend. The Tribes franchise came out of nowhere for me, having only learned about it when I heard about the BETA for this game. It clearly shows that I still have not learned every facet of gaming culture. Tribes Ascend is my first experience with this kind of fast paced FPS gameplay. I honestly thought I had at least touched every type of FPS game style in existence at least once, but here Tribes was to remind me that I hadn’t. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised really, but still…and apparently its a very popular franchise. I guess that means that I never will know everything there is to know, and that’s actually a good thing, the world stays fresh and interesting…
Tribes Ascend makes the claim to be the fastest FPS in the world featuring total freedom of movement with the usage of jetpacks, “skis”, and vehicles. The game takes place in the futuristic scifi universe of Tribes, where the Blood Eagles and Diamond Swords fight in large open arenas, testing skill and luck. The game itself has no story, its just a multiplayer FPS shooter, but you can find out about the lore of each here: Blood Eagle & Diamond Sword. It doesn’t really matter which side you choose other than who is your enemy and where you spawn. The game is class-based, with nine classes for varying different roles. Each class comes with a primary and secondary weapon, a belt item (grenade usually), pack item to enhance your class, and a melee weapon. Melee weapons are the only weapons to change based on factions. Blood Eagles use a three-pronged claw and Diamond Sword use a short sword. However, both do the same thing so it doesn’t matter except for aesthetic. You can also summon Orbital strikes or supply drops with credits you earn in-game, but I generally feel these are worthless and leave you vulnerable to attack so I go the entire game without summoning them usually.
Most of the weapons featured in this game are explosive based weapons and it forgoes hit-scanned weapons. The main weapon for most classes in the game is a weapon called a Spinfusor. It shoots out a projectile that explodes on impact. From there you have a variety of different weapons from the fusion mortars, assault weapons, and chainguns. Add in a sniper rifle and missile launcher and that tells you most of the weapons in-game. These weapons, since they explode on contact and aren’t hit-scanned, require quite a bit of skill to kill people with, so typically you shoot at the ground or wall near the player and watch gleefully as they fall apart into tiny pieces. Or am I the only one that does that?…
Classes are fairly straightforward with their own set roles. However, classes do have some flexibility in what you can do in any game. Whether its attacking the base, defending the flag or chasing other people, each class handles the game in their own unique way. You are given three classes to start out the game with and you can obtain more by purchasing them with money or experience. For the most part, the devs have kept the classes fairly well balanced. A few classes feel slightly overpowered, such as the technician and its thumper, but no one class feels vastly superior to all of them, its more of a rock-paper-scissors feel of balance.
The three classes you start with are:
- Pathfinder – Light, Agile and the fastest class, used for retrieving the flag or outpacing the enemy.
- Soldier – Medium balanced class for general havok raising.
- Juggernaut – Heavy long range bombardment class that rips through enemies defenses from afar while withstanding quite a bit of punishment.
You can unlock the following classes afterwards:
- Infiltrator – Light, cloaking class that destroys generators and kills other players when they least expect it.
- Sentinel – Light, long range sniper that can jam enemy sensors.
- Technician – Medium, turret wielding class that repairs base defenses and generators.
- Raider – Medium, base attacker class that can rip through enemy defenses.
- Brute – Heavy, hard hitting weapons for straight forward fighting.
- Doombringer – Heavy, chaingun wielding class that can deploy shields or mines to defend the flag/base.
There are currently three main game modes in Tribes Ascend:
- Capture The Flag – Considered the main bread and butter of Tribes Ascend, these 15 V 15 team matches have you capture the flag fives times in order to win the game from the enemy bases guarded by turrets, sensors and players.
- Team Deathmatch – Each team has 100 lives and the first to lose them all, well, loses in these 15 V 15 matches in big open areas. The flag in this game allows the team holding it to score two kills as one.
- Arena – 5V5 team matches that are played on small maps with 25 respawn counts for each team. Similar to team deathmatch, except it has no flag.
I like Capture the Flag the most as there is so many roles you can play in the game. You can be out running around killing enemies, you can try capturing the flag, you can defend the flag/generator and you can attack the enemy’s flag/generator areas. I like this diversity of choices in what we can do in a game and gives the game a nice fresh feeling every time. Arena is….tbh the worst mode. Your more likely to fall off the map than get a kill and its not quite as fun. Team Deathmatch is fairly straightforward, just kill everyone you can. There is a fourth game mode called “Rabbit” that was in the BETA (before I joined) but is currently unavailable. The game also lists that custom servers and ranked games are coming to the game soon, probably after BETA.
This is the first FPS beta I have ever been involved in. I am usually incredibly late to any FPS game in its lifetime but not this one. I consider myself a fair FPS player, but I’m told that I underrate myself so I just let the leaderboards speak for myself. And I currently sit around #7 on the leaderboard on average these days. Which isn’t that bad for me I suppose, considering I don’t get as much practice as I would like with this game. The beta itself has been an interesting experience and for the most part stable. Hi-Rez has been good about keeping the game bug-free and the classes balanced (ish). The servers themselves have their off days but mostly seem to handle the load of 15 V 15 matches. This game requires a good internet connection and at least 30-40FPS to play, otherwise you will be at a serious disadvantage in this game due to the 100-200 km/hour your traveling over the maps.
Tribes is a free to play game or freemium based model. Just that very word usually gets my blood boiling. I am not a fan of the business model and its well documented on Twitter/this blog heh. However, with Tribes, it has given me some hope that the freemium business model has some of the potential that I saw with some previous games, mostly in how few gold-only items there are so far. So I was more than a bit surprised that the freemium element is not thrown into my face as much as it usually is. You don’t have a bajillion ads thrown in your face, the company isn’t stuffing down your throat to buy gold now!! and as a whole, Hi-Rez is rather calm about it. This really shocks me. The biggest advert so far has been when you first log into the game, off to the right of the menu you have the latest new addition for the game displayed in all its glory, which as of this review is the new content pack for the infiltrator. (See below) That’s it. Sure when you unlock items or get new classes it shows the gold buying option but that’s not a big deal. I have to give great kudos to Hi-Rez, it has certainly made it a lot easier to enjoy this game.
The place where you can potentially pay for the game is unlocking your classes or getting upgrades. You get started with three classes and the rest are unlocked with Gold or Experience you gain in-game, same with new weapons or items. You can upgrade your classes with improved weapons, better armor, different pack items and new skins. Upgrading your weapons’, armor or items attributes are XP-only purchases. Buying skins is, so far, the only gold-only item in the game. The minimum gold pack is currently $9.99 and it goes up to $49.99. You can read about all the gold costs in this wiki article. Any gold purchase you make gives you “VIP Status” which means you get an 50% XP increase in your games forever. There are also Boosters that can increase the XP gained by 100% in addition to VIP status’s boost for a limited amount of time.
This is definitely an expensive freemium model. The XP cost for unlocking new classes is balanced in my opinion, but the weapons, among other things, are quite expensive XP and gold wise. It can take a week or so to unlock a single weapon for a class via XP. And for a game that has 9 classes, unlocking all the weapons in addition to everything else means your in for the long haul. This is unfortunate as it causes people to specialize in certain classes rather than having access to multiple classes. The skins that have come are around $7.00-$10.00 a shot. This isn’t that bad, it is cosmetic after all, but it would have been nice if they allowed for XP unlocks. Even if you buy new weapons, they aren’t necessarily more powerful than the base items, they may just fit your style of gameplay better. Even the new Inflitrator items aren’t necessarily more powerful, they just have different applications to situations in the game.
I think Hi-Rez should consider reducing the gold pieces required significantly and go for mass sales. This fits PC users better as we see with the Steam sales and it means more people can enjoy the items. As it currently stands, buying new things via gold is a premium and in an economy like this one, people can’t afford a lot of premium items. I am also disappointed that skins are gold-only unlocks and hope they consider allowing for XP unlocks. The XP boosters are also very expensive considering how short they work. Let’s not also forget Hi-Rez, you can make more items if you need more sales. I’m just saying. Still, this isn’t a bad business model, it’s just expensive and it’s probably Hi-Rez trying to gain their money invested back ASAP, but they need to consider cheaper options as well.
Visually, this game is one of the best I’ve seen. The details in the game are quite neat and the weapons very well done. The weapons look very scifi but realistic, well, realistic within reason ofc. The bio-domes of the game are fantastic and have a lot going on in them. You get a sense that your part of a great battle when you see ships flying overhead and big vistas of planets. Just seeing the shadow of a passing starship is just really cool. I am also glad that when you get hit, your vision doesn’t blur up and get hard to see through, your screen just distorts slightly and you have a few glass cracks as though your helmet is breaking. The explosions are nice and impactful. The game just looks really good. It isn’t a graphically intensive game, but more CPU intensive as my poor duo-core-2 found out the hard way.
Tribes Ascend features a pretty kick-ass score in the background if I do say so. Its full of heart-pounding beats and is fairly atmospheric to the game. Each map has its own theme too so you can recognize the map just based on music alone. The music adapts itself fairly well to each situation your in. Such as when you grab the flag, the music suddenly starts speeding up or if your just somewhere out in the corners of the map, the music calms down or goes away completely. Sound wise, each weapon has its own unique sound as well, so its easy to figure out who is chasing you or if your about to get hit by a Juggernaut’s mortar and the sound just fits in with the music just right. And I just really love that “cha-ching” sound that comes when you get a kill.
As a Pathfinder, you really get a sense of just how insanely fast you can go in this game. You can go so fast in this game that you can hardly steer which can lead to hilarious situations like running into a wall or rock outcropping. I use this class on certain maps that I just can’t use the Juggernaut very effectively, usually big open maps where no one will bunch up. Jerks, how dare they not all pile together so I can them all in one giant explosion. Such selfish people. ;). The light spinfusor, shotgun and impact nitron don’t give this class a lot of power. However, the throwable nitron does allow you to knock the flag out of the person who is carrying it, in addition to knocking them away. The class is quick and agile, if a bit fragile. Engaging the Brute in close quarters and Doombringer at all is a very bad idea. I have no big issue with the class as it feels well balanced for all modes of play.
The Juggernaut is a heavy class that has a great amount of survivability and long-range bombardment capabilities. It is currently my favorite class of the moment. However, getting kills with this class? Really hard and as such really rewarding to get them. The fusion mortars, XL grenades and spinfusor requires a high amount of prediction skills because your rarely fast enough to keep up with anyone your chasing and more often than not your the one being chased. But the class has some great potential for multi-kills if you can find a bunch of enemy players bunched up, just lob a mortar or two into them and watch them scatter, if they don’t explode into tiny pieces first. The class won’t break any speed records but its a fun class to attack/defend the generator room or siege the enemy base’s flag area. Avoid doombringers and pathfinders as that seems to be their biggest weakness. A few of my issues with the class is that the energy/thrust of the jetpack just isn’t enough for this class and I think the mortars should have a bit more power or wider area effect with their attack, but that aside, the Juggernaut feels like a solid class that can hold its own in the game.
Tribes for me as an experience is, well, one of many emotions. Some games I can be on top of the world, getting tons of multi-kills and think I’m a demi-god who everyone is mine to kill at my discretion. Other games, I vent frustration and anger with my poor friends’ on voice chat as I get killed by a certain infiltrator for what feels like the billionth time and I want REVENGE. *cough*. :P. What can I say, it brings out the worst in me sometimes ;). But its all in good fun and I hope they realize that. Then again, its may be part of the entertainment for them….hmm….shazbot….
That said, for a 15V15 team game, I feel like I am on my own more often than not. The game offers a “game voice system”, which is a text-based chat system that talks, to help coordinate the team, but I think that the system is spammed with generally worthless information. The game changes so fast that even if you act on what’s being said, by the time you get there the target is long gone. You can alleviate the problem by having three or more friends on the same team on voice chat, but for the most part coordination for the entire team rarely happens. I can’t say what would “fix” the coordination problem either and I doubt that true voice chat would fix the problem. It could easily give us a bunch of people yelling curse words all the time, making the game much less fun. It certainly happens in plenty of other games. Still, the game manages to keep people on target and working toward mutual victory.
I think what surprises me so much about Tribes Ascend is that this game is free-to-play. I never get the same amount of quality out of other freemium games . Better yet, the devs also listen to feedback. When they initially released the infiltrator gear, it was rather pricey so after some feedback, they lowered the price on the items and refunded people the difference. Hi-Rez also implemented a bunch of settings features that players asked for and has constantly improved the game in the BETA process. I hope this trend continues after the beta tag is dropped from the game, as I’m glad to see developers willing to listen to their customer base, even if its on stuff that isn’t considered “necessary”.
Tribes Ascend is a game that just feels fun. I never feel like I’m grinding to the next achievement, to the next weapon or whatever other goal you can think of. Its just pure shooting guns enjoyment. Kills are so insanely enjoyable in this game, moreso than any other FPS I’ve played, large part due to the skill required to get a kill. Oh, you don’t need an insane amount of skill to get kills, but you can’t just grab a gun, pop off a bullet and get a head-shot. It does take practice and skill to predict where the opponent is going to go and when/where to shoot. I can say that Tribes has spoiled me on the thrill of getting kills in FPS games, possibly forever. 😉 If you have a need for speed while shooting at someone, this game will provide it in spades. The gorgeous vistas, the crazy FPS action and huge enjoyment this game provides is worth taking a look. The game is free to play and it can’t hurt to try it out.
If your interested in this game, and enjoyed this review of Tribes Ascend (Beta), please click on the referral link to join the Tribes Ascend experience below as it helps out greatly. Also, you get an XP boost by signing up with it. Please leave a comment below as well if you do join up. 🙂 You can also find me on Tribes Ascend as KingIsaacLinksr.
Thanks and I hope you enjoyed this review of Tribes Ascend (Beta)!