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Tribes: Ascend introduced the Cloak and Dagger pack for the Infiltrator about a month ago, including three weapons and two skins for the class. Today the Raider class got some new toys and skins to play with in the Raid...
Apr 23 //
Tribes: Ascend (PC)Developer: Hi-Rez StudiosPublisher: Hi-Rez StudiosRelease: April 12, 2012MSRP: Free-to-PlayRig: AMD Athlon 7850 2.80 GHz, with 4GB of RAM, GeForce GTX 560 Ti GPU
Tribes: Ascend claims to be the fastest shooter available, something that becomes highly evident to both spectators and players alike after only a few short moments of gameplay. The main mechanic is "skiing," which allows frictionless movement across the game's terrain. Holding the spacebar will allow you to ski, but without any actual momentum, you won't go very fast.
This is where the jetpack comes in. The jetpack is your main source of vertical movement, but it’s limited by the amount of Energy your character class has. Ideally, skiing down big hills and letting gravity do all the work will conserve the Energy needed to burst uphill using the jetpack, allowing the player to fly smoothly around the map at incredible speeds. Once mastered, you can begin to use explosives to boost yourself to even higher speeds.
Having a good grip on this movement mechanic is required if you want to stay at the top of the scoreboard. By moving slowly, you're almost guaranteed a quick death. There's a jump button, I think, but if you're using that instead of your jetpack then you're not doing it right. Movement is the most unique aspect of Tribes: Ascend and will take some time to get used to. An in-game tutorial introduces the basics of how skiing works, while a skiing mini-game allows you to really test your skills. Once you get the hang of it, skiing gives you an incredibly natural and smooth feeling that is just about unmatched by any other title.
The free-to-play model allows you to jump straight into Tribes: Ascend and start playing immediately, though a ton of things remain for you to unlock. You are given three free character class loadouts out of a possible nine. The amount of diversity among these three classes, specifically when it comes to weight, allows you to experiment and discover your preferred play style. Each weight class has a different level of maneuverability, so don't expect to be the fastest skier while playing as the Doombringer.
Each class allows for a lot of customization, though you'll have to unlock more weapons and items in order to really start personalizing your classes. While playing the game, you'll earn XP depending on what accomplishments you achieve in a match. Unlocking the classes themselves is rather cheap, which is great since you won’t be set too far back in currency by unlocking a class that you don't jive with. So far, each item that affects gameplay can be unlocked without spending any real money, requiring only XP. To expedite the process, however, real cash can be spent to buy Gold within the game, which can then be used to unlock various items.
While everything can be obtained through XP only, some items will take for-ev-er to unlock this way. The most expensive items right now cost 100,000 XP to unlock. At a casual rate of play, this could take weeks to accomplish and may even feel like a grind. If you were to purchase $10 worth of Gold, that weapon could be yours instantly. Most of these weapons aren't necessarily better, but offer a different -- and sometimes easier -- way to play the class.
It's a shame that most of the starting weapons for the classes aren't explosive weapons, as these are much easier to use for newer players. There are plenty of weapons with an explosion radius so large that you need only shoot near an enemy to do damage, but very few classes start with one, requiring you to shell out either XP or Gold in order to unlock them. This is the only real issue with the unlocking system -- some gated items feel like they should be the starting items for a class.
There are four gameplay modes in Tribes: Ascend, but only two of them are truly balanced and fun. Team Deathmatch has a single flag that grants the holding team double points, but in the end it just feels a bit "been there, done that." Arena Deathmatch is even worse, placing you in a much smaller arena with a set number of team respawns. Even though you're skiing really fast (hopefully), these modes feel uninspired and certain classes feel underpowered. They are quick diversions at best, but they don't contain the true Tribes experience.
The remaining two modes -- Capture the Flag (CTF) and Capture and Hold -- are where the most engaging gameplay can be found. CTF truly captures (get it?) the essence of what Tribes: Ascend is. Besides the basic "get their flag" aspect, each team has a base that they have to keep powered and upgraded in order to properly defend. A radar station and base turrets are powered by one central generator, which the enemy can destroy to cut power to everything until it is repaired. This often means that playing defense is just as vital and important as playing offense.
Capture and Hold is a bit larger in scope, as there are five control points to manage. The team dynamic is definitely there, but it feels more disjointed. Usually, there are about two or three points that will constantly go back and forth between teams. There is no generator to take care of, but you'll still want to make sure that the radar station and turrets are up and running while you control the point. In fact, once I repaired a turret for one of our captured points, but unbeknownst to me, it was simultaneously being captured by the enemy. Naturally, as soon as I repaired it back to its functional state, it shot me point blank in my face. Small moments like this are what make Tribes: Ascend so interesting to play.
During matches, you'll earn credits to spend on a multitude of things. These are different from the XP and Gold that you can spend outside of matches. Credits are earned on a per-match basis and can only be spent during that match. Credits allow you to upgrade your base, call in air strikes, or purchase vehicles. Vehicles are somewhat pointless at the moment because of how quickly they are destroyed. They just aren't worth it for the amount of credits you have to spend to purchase them.
The maps themselves are absolutely huge, except in Arena mode, and consist of plenty of hills used to gain speed. Map knowledge is crucial, especially in CTF, as it will allow you to set up the perfect routes to gain speed and capture the enemy flag without stopping. Luckily, Tribes: Ascend allows you to roam the map freely whenever you wish to gain such knowledge. If you capture the flag without a lot of speed, it's considered a "llama grab," and the game makes sure to let you know when you've accomplished such a heinous crime by awarding you a special medal.
In fact, the game gives you plenty of medals for your in-game achievements. Such standards as Double Kill or Revenge Kill are still there, but the game has included some original ones, like the Blue Plate Special (hitting an enemy with an explosive weapon while in mid-air), to let you know it really cares. These medals are nice little rewards that make you feel good for doing something useful or impressive.
While you can probably tell just from the screenshots, Tribes: Ascend looks fantastic. Although almost every map consists solely of hills upon hills in terms of terrain, the overall aesthetic varies greatly. One map consists of snowy terrain and an icy-looking sky, while another has a deep red hue and two giant lava-filled castles. You won’t have to worry about getting the feeling of déjà-vu while playing the various maps, thanks to the huge difference in aesthetics.
Lag seems almost non-existent, as long as you stay on your region's server. It is not common to see players instantly teleport to where they were three seconds ago, or deal with damage not registering due to a drop in latency. Getting into a match is also really quick, with wait times often clocking in at under a minute.
To join a game, you'll simply pick a mode type and be placed in a queue. You can also join in on a friend’s game if you want to play together. Now that Tribes: Ascend is out of beta, Hi-Rez Studios has also added a "Custom Server" option for players who want a slightly modified experience. Not just anyone can create a server yet (though it still says "Sneak Preview"), so you're currently funneled into whatever specific modifications that other people have chosen. Apparently, people hate the Technician class enough to create servers banning it.
Tribes: Ascend brings jetpacks back to the FPS genre in a major way. Even if you've never played a Tribes game before, Ascend offers the perfect opportunity to jump in and see why the franchise has lasted this long. You'll want to spend the majority of your time in the CTF mode, though, as that is what Tribes was created for and is likely where you'll find the most enjoyment.
Some of the items will require either a significant amount of playtime to unlock or a quick cash payment, but if you want to support Hi-Rez Studios for making an incredible free-to-play game, you shouldn't feel cheated by paying some extra money. Just because it is "free-to-play" doesn't mean you can't throw some of your money their way.
I didn't expect Tribes: Ascend to finagle its way into my normal rotation of multiplayer games along with Team Fortress 2 and Dota 2, but once I started embracing the skiing mechanic and playing as a team, I found myself booting it up more often. Given its free-to-play nature, one can only hope that the vehicle imbalances will be fixed and additional worthwhile game types will be added in the future. For now, it's still an incredibly enjoyable and unique FPS experience that you have no excuse not to download and GO FAST.
We are at the doorstep of a new generation of games. The free-to-play market is doing its best to shake the stigma frequently associated with its business model. These new free-to-play titles have no barrier to entry, and the...
Tribes: Ascend will soon be exiting its open-beta stage and will finally be considered a full-release-quality product. Sterling and I already agree that the game is incredibly fun to play even if we aren’t the best skie...
Shazbot! Tribes: Ascend has been taking up quite a bit of my time over the past few weeks. It's currently in its open-beta phase, with a released date of April 12th. It's a free-to-play FPS for PC and many of you may alr...
With the open beta for Tribes: Ascend going strong, Hi-Rez Studios announced today that the free-to-play first-person shooter has secured an April 12 release date.
To go alongside this news, the team put together a parody tr...
It's fair to say that when the Destructoid PC team was talking about its most exciting upcoming PC games in 2012, Tribes: Ascend was one of the games everyone was most looking forward to. Some of us have been playing in the c...
Hi-Rez Studios has pinned the Tribes: Ascend closed beta for a November 4, 2011 commencement. As the name would imply, this is going to be rolling out on an invitation-only basis, though anyone who pays for the VIP Starter Bu...
If having some hands-on time with Tribes Ascend at PAX a few weeks ago wasn't enough, you can get even more if you're lucky enough to be selected for a closed beta starting within the next few weeks.
Of course, multiplayer be...
Aug 07 //
Allistair Pinsof [embed]208187:40197[/embed]
Tribes: Ascend (PC)Developer: Hi-Rez StudiosPublisher: Hi-Rez StudiosTo be released: 2011Unfortunately, I missed the boat on the original Tribes. Despite buying a copy of Tribes 2 in 2001 -- I had to after the Penny Arcade guys praised it week after week -- I was let down to find that it was unplayable on my 56k modem connection. A quick YouTube search makes me all the sadder to see what I missed. Tribes, for the uninitiated, is like Halo on crystal meth mixed with Team Fortress and Tiny Wings. Yes, Tiny Wings!
The main mechanics that distinguish it from other class-based FPSes are the jetpack and skiing. The jetpack is something that should be familiar to players, especially after Halo: Reach and Killzone 3. It controls how you expect, but offers more fuel than the ones in those games.
Skiing, on the other hand, is something entirely unique to the Tribes series. In order to quickly traverse Ascend's sprawling maps, you must learn to jet off peaks and ski down hills (a la Tiny Wings). After timing a couple dips, you'll soon achieve max speed (going into the red on your speed gauge), which is essential for successful flag captures.
Tribes veterans will feel right at home speeding through the maps of Ascend. It's doubtful that the game will launch with 40 maps, as the original did, but in place of more maps, you'll get more detailed, varied ones.
The game runs on the Unreal 3 engine, but the color pallet has more in common with Unreal Tournament 2004 and Halo. The levels come to life with small details, such as spaceships and enormous planets hovering in the distance. What's most striking about the maps is the sheer size of them -- the largest maps in the Halo series can't even compare to Tribes' smallest maps.
The varying hills and valleys of the two maps in the QuakeCon demo not only altered the visuals of the map, but also the flow of the game due to skiing. Crossfire, the initial map I played, is modeled after Broadside from the original Tribes. I can't comment on how faithful to the original it is, but the spacing between generators (more on that below) and sequences of hills and trees made it fun to fly over on a jetpack or drive through on a Gravcycle.
Drydock, the other map, took place in a desert and featured much steeper hills that could send a skillful player across a great amount of terrain. Although only these two maps were shown, I was told the upcoming beta will have four maps.
I hate CTF, but...
Capture-the-flag is a game variant that I never enjoyed. This is mostly due to the speed and aggravating flag resets you experience in games like Unreal Tournament or Quake 3. However, when played with the expansive maps and player speed of Tribes, this mode becomes something worthwhile.
In addition to capturing/defending flags, you'll also want to destroy the opponent's generator, which powers the team's turrets (these guys are tough!), vehicles, and inventory stations. This creates a much more dynamic game of CTF, where you are constantly juggling between defending your base and attacking an opponent's generator.
Above all, Tribes is a team-based game. As the Hi-Rez announcer said as we played, "If you find yourself playing deathmatch, you are doing it wrong!" That being said, the beta will feature Rabbit-Chase, a solo CTF-variant featured in Tribes 2.
Vehicles and loadouts
Every defeated opponent drops credits that you can pick up and spend at the vehicle station. Your options are a fast motorcycle (Gravcycle), an aerial fighter ship (Shrike), or a powerful, slow-moving tank (Beowulf). The final game will also feature a transport vehicle that can carry up to four players. Without it, the heavier classes in the demo seemed a bit useless.
One of the most memorable moments of my play-session was when I chased an enemy Gravcycle on one of my own. Thanks to the physics and Halo-like controls, it handled perfectly. The chase became an intense game of cat-and-mouse as we dodged trees and drove through buildings, all while absolute mayhem surrounded us. I can't imagine how much better it would have been with a full 16-on-16 match (we were playing eight-on-eight).
In the past, Tribes games offered loadout settings that let you chose equipment and armor type. Ascend narrows the selection to a number of pre-set classes based around size and role. While it makes the game approachable to newbies (here is your sniper, over there is your spy), the customization has already caused some backlash from fans online.
During the demo, I played mainly with the sniper, scout, and soldier classes. All of them felt good but lacked the distinguishing features you find in Brink and Team Fortress 2. Speaking of TF2, rocket-jump experts will be happy to have another game to show off their skills. Achieving max speed and rocket-jumping off a hill is one of the most effective strategies I saw during the demo.
Don't call it a budget title, because it's free
I've read the complaints from series fans online: "guns are too big," "it isn't fast enough," "why no modding?" etc.
As a newcomer to the series, Tribes: Ascend feels like a great place to start, and the unique qualities of the series that I've always been curious about live up to my expectations. Whether they will live up to the expectations of a Tribes junkie, who knows the old maps front-and-back, is a question I'll let an expert answer.
Hi-Rez, which previously developed Global Agenda, is offering Ascend at the price of free. The catch is that players will only have access to a set number of classes which rotate each month. If you want the others, you will need to pay. This sounds disastrous when considering team-balance.
I'm used to hearing, "No, screw you! You be the sniper!" in Team Fortress 2. Not, "Dude, I can't afford it!"
I had fun playing the game, but it remains to be seen whether it will hold up when long-time community players get a hold of the closed beta in September. An open beta will follow later in the fall, with a full release date to be announced.
Console fans will have to wait for a while longer, however. Although Hi-Rez hasn't confirmed a console release, they said they are interested in releasing one. Unfortunately, they are struggling with Xbox Live Arcade's positioning on free updates (an essential part to a game like this).
Talking to the Hi-Rez members gives me faith that they will listen to the community and take the feedback from the beta into consideration. If they do, they could have something really great on their hands -- not that it isn't great fun as is.
Tribes: Ascend makes me sad that I missed out on decade of Tribes. It also makes me very grateful that Hi-Rez is bringing it back for both long-time fans and newbies like me.
Despite current hardware's expanding of the possibilities in first-person shooters, nearly every popular FPS released in the past decade have been slower and smaller in scope than the ones before them.
Tribes: Ascend feels r...
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