Tribes: Ascend is a new class based competitive multiplayer game being developed by Hi-Rez Studios. It is an exciting and visceral experience requiring more tactical thinking and hand/eye coordination than your average Deathmatch experience.
In Tribes: Ascend each player is equipped with a jetpack that can be used in short bursts before it is expended and needs a short time to recharge.
To traverse the map, players thrust themselves into the air and then fall back down to earth using the charge that has accumulated since the height of their jump to cushion their landing, allowing the players to “leap and bound” across the spacious arenas.
The upward lift of the jetpack is satisfying and the gunplay requires more tactical thinking than just blindly emptying your clip into a confined hallway or enclosed courtyard.
At it’s heart, the gameplay is a series of variations on the classic Capture the Flag mode. In every available play mode players are tasked with recovering the enemy flag. Even in Team Deathmatch the flag is crucial. As the team with it in their possession gains double XP for kills.
A Class for Everyone
Each player can select from an array of classes (after they unlock them using one of two types of in-game currency), though currently little differentiates them visually.
Hi-Rez Studios was kind enough to provide us with two 30-day VIP passes which gave us a substantial boost to our in-game currency. This allowed us to purchase additional classes and experience a wider variety of gameplay then most other beta participants would be able to access.
The classes run the gamet between lightly armored speedy classes and the heavily armored defense and siege classes, with Turret constructing Technicians and Infilitrators equipped with the classic Predator-inspired cloacking device to rounding out the cast. Two of the classes are available initially, while the other ten can be unlocked as you progress.
A player can select their class from a menu screen or simply respawn as the same class after death. They will be resurrected at their team’s base where they can begin the lengthy trek to the enemy base in hopes of avoiding their automated turrent fire and any other enemy players to capture the flag and return it to their home base to score points for their team.
The Art of the Jetpack
It’s an incredibly rewarding feat to fire a white-hot explosive disc at an empty patch of land and watch as it and the opposing player meet in the same place at the same time
It only takes a few seconds to become comfortable with traversing the terrain using your jetpack, but it’s the proper conservation of your jetpacks charge that will often be the difference between life and death.
Each battle with an opposing player usually plays out in a similar manner. Most players at any particular time are either actively thrusting upwards or falling back towards the ground, the key to victory is to place yourself in a position where you are above the enemy while they are descending. At the apex of your jump you aim for the spot you think your opponent is going to land. It’s an incredibly rewarding feat to fire a white-hot explosive disc at an empty patch of land and watch as it and the opposing player meet in the same place at the same time culminating in a powdery explosion and hopefully a kill for you.
The most delightfully surprising new aspect of gameplay is the addition of Skiing. Yes, you read that correctly.
This new ability is so organically implemented and crucial for successful play that I can’t imagine how the previous titles ever operated without it
If a player is on a downward slope they can hold the dedicated Ski button and begin to descend the hill at a rapidly increasing velocity. Using this method a player can ski down a snowy mountain or sandy dune and at it’s base transfer their built up momentum to their jetpacks and launch themselves forward and airborne covering greater distances in less time than walking or “hopping” could. Using this technique is crucial when trying to chase down an enemy with your team’s flag in their clutches, or for you to put distance between your pursuers if your carrying the enemies’ flag.
This new ability is so organically implemented and crucial for successful play that I can’t imagine how the previous titles ever operated without it.
On flat land a player’s momentum is conserved and as long as the Ski button is depressed a player can rotate their view 360 degrees while still continuing to move along the same trajectory, this allows you to turn in circles while sliding across the terrain and fire off a few quick shots at pursuers or if your an especially skilled player, you can fire an explosive weapon directly behind you and using it’s kinetic force increase your velocity further. It’s an extremely clever mechanic whose utility is akin to the Rocket jump of yore, in that it’s not a necessary ability to master, but those that do will have a distinct advantage in the long haul.
Several powerful vehicles are also available to purchase using the points you’ve accumulated during the round for kills and flag captures. At first glance, these vehicles look to be plucked directly from the Halo series. There is the speeding hover bike, the one man space fighter and a heavily armored and painfully slow moving tank. But besides their similarities in role these vehicles control quite differently.
The Shrike, for example, is an expensive flight vehicle which allows you to fly across the battle field at unmatched speeds. It does not have the ability to strafe however so when piloting the Shrike, players must be careful to pull up and away after laying down fire. It’s weapon is an energy cannon that fires four powerful explosive bursts with a lengthy recharge period between them. It is powerful but extremely fragile, clipping the terrain can easily result in the ship tearing itself apart, killing you instantly. A high level perk for one of the classes actually allows them to survive a crash unscathed, thus allowing them to effectively become reusable kamakazie pilots.
That New Base Smell
Repeatedly capturing the enemy flag is not the only role to be fulfilled in combat. Each base is equipped with a radar dish, automated turrets, inventory stations to resupply ammunition and vehicle spawn points. All of these useful consoles are powered by a generator located deep within the bowels of your team’s base. If an enemy successfully infiltrates and destroys the generator all the aforementioned devices become inoperable until someone on your team repairs the generator.
Each of these devices can be disabled independadntly by attacking them, but the most cost effective method is to simply disable them all at once. This is an important part of gameplay as a team can cripple another team’s ability to detect enemies or power force-fields keeping “flag grabbers” at bay and put the opposing team in a state of “recovery” where players scramble to reestablish base defenses instead of actively tying to steal the other team’s flag.
Tribes: Ascend features an array of unlockable abilities which you pay for using the credits you’ve accumulate throughout your matches.
I personally found most upgrades to be pretty underwhelming as they took a great deal of time to unlock but had no real noticeable affect on gameplay.
Most are just your standard stat boosts like increased Health or additional charge for your jetpack but a select few allow for special tactics that have the potential to give a player a real edge in combat.
For example, one ability allows you to augment your melee attack so that when you strike the enemy player carrying your flag it causes them to drop it on site instead of needing to successfully kill them first. I’ve seen this ability work really well as a well timed jetpack thrust places a teammate in melee range of the enemy and with one swipe they knock the flag lose and just by touching it instantly return it to it’s pedestal thousands of meters away.
While Tribes: Ascend is still underdevelopment and therefore subject to change, it seems to have it’s core mechanics firmly in place. The game becomes increasingly enjoyable as you continue to play and gain further appreciation of it’s nuances, instead of diminishing. I found the game to be extremely challenging, which speaks to overall skill level of the player’s this game is attracting. It requires a high degree of precision to be successful, but this is what makes each small success so rewarding. I felt like I earned each and every one of my kills.
If you want a multiplayer game that relies on skillfull execution and not just the random dice roll of auto-aim this is a game you should keep your eyes on. It looks fantastic, the art direction is really stunning and the gameplay is addictive.
Tribes: Ascend is set for release sometime in Q1 2012.
Final Word: GideonKain
Tribes: Ascend is a fun and faithful sequel to it’s progenitors. While the learning curve is steeper than most games, it becomes incredibly rewarding as you begin to master the best methods of moving across the terrain and learn to calculate the firing arc of a weapon over a distance that would ordinarily be the size of the entire map in another multiplayer game. It’s hard to beat a game that has great graphics, tight controls, balanced gameplay and …oh yea, it’s free!
Final Word: MkaY
I don’t know about you, but I like games and I’m willing to pay to play good games
Nothing in this world is free. While Tribes: Ascend is free-to-play, the system that runs the game costs money. The business model Hi-Rez Studios has chosen for the game is not that bad and quite frankly, I’d pay for it because it IS a good game. The game is easy to learn and we had fun with it. I don’t know about you, but I like games and I am willing to pay to play good games. For now it seems that Tribes: Ascend is a free-to-play game that’s worth paying for.
I strapped my jetpack and literally jumped in to some butt-kicking… and got my ass whooped. Playing a FPS where speed and learning to master movement is your key to victory brought a delightful grin to my face. I’m eagerly waiting what the final product will offer us.