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Published on November 9th, 2011 | by Brandon

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Tribes: Ascend on its way to greatness

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It’s no secret that I’m a longtime fan of the Tribes series.  In fact, Starsiege: Tribes was my introduction into the world of online first-person shooters and is one of my essential games.  Something about the mixture of capture-the-flag, weapons, and jet packs just sucked me in from the first time I ventured into a server.

Over the past decade, we’ve seen a few Tribes sequels come and go, but none of them managed to truly emulate the spirit of the original.  So when Tribes: Ascend was announced earlier this year, my heart filled with hope that we would finally see the glorious return of the Tribes I knew and loved.  And after spending most of my waking hours this past weekend playing the closed beta, I’m here to say that I think Tribes: Ascend may very well achieve that honor.

Before we dig in any further, check out the video below, which shows off some Tribes: Ascend gameplay and has the added bonus of being commentated by yours truly:

When I played an alpha build of Tribes Ascend for the first time at QuakeCon, I was impressed with the unusually smooth gameplay (especially when compared to an alpha like Battlefield 3).  As expected, the beta build of the game feels even better.  Aside from the game’s stability (which is somewhat poor at this stage–I crashed often between rounds), the gameplay itself feels incredibly solid.  The movement is fluid, and skiing across the terrain of the maps is a delight.  Staying true to its roots, Tribes: Ascend is definitely more Quake and Unreal Tournament than Call of Duty and Battlefield–and that’s a very good thing.

The biggest deviation from former Tribes titles is that Tribes: Ascend is free to play and now features a loadout system.  Each loadout has a type of armor (light/medium/heavy), two main weapons, a melee weapon, a belt slot (for grenades/mines), and a special ability pack.  There are currently 12 loadouts to choose from, but I imagine Hi-Rez is likely to add more loadouts over time.  While some Tribes veterans will undoubtedly consider this new system a step backwards (indeed, debate has been raging in the forums), I didn’t mind the loadouts as much as I thought I might.  Each one offers a unique playstyle that is easy to learn, but difficult to master.

Perhaps the best part about Tribes: Ascend is that there are so many ways to earn points and help your team that don’t involve your number of kills.  Having players who focus on repairing your team’s base and setting up defenses is often vital to winning a match, and it’s not unusual to find flag runners topping the round’s scoreboard with only a few kills to their name.  This diversity is a welcome change from more linear games where, for better or worse, skill is often judged by the almighty kill/death ratio; the fact that your number of deaths isn’t even shown on the scoreboard in Tribes: Ascend should illustrate how little kill/death ratio matters in the game.

While my experience with Tribes: Ascend has been very positive so far, it’s not perfect yet.  The current price of each loadout in tokens (the currency you accumulate by playing the game) seems too expensive.  After sinking many hours into the game this past weekend, I only managed to gather about 5,000 tokens, a third of what is needed to purchase a single loadout.  Perhaps this is by design to encourage people to purchase to lay down cash for Tribes Gold and purchase loadouts that way, but the system feels like it needs some tweaking.  There are also many features that aren’t enabled yet, such as customizable perks, so the effects of those features are yet to be seen.

While there is certainly a good chunk of work left to do before this game goes gold, I already feel confident in saying that Tribes: Ascend is going to be a fantastic game.  It’s telling that, while we are currently in the midst of a full landscape of AAA titles like Battlefield 3, Modern Warfare 3, and Skyrim, all I can think about playing this weekend is more Tribes: Ascend.  Once you get your first mid-air spinfusor shot, I bet you’ll feel the same way.

Oh, and did I mention that we’ll be giving away some Tribes: Ascend closed beta keys this Friday?  Stay tuned to the site and @KBMODGaming on Twitter for your chance to win one!

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vol1tion

BrandonBrandon

Brandon started his PC gaming days playing Doom II (IDDQD/IDKFA for life) and has been hooked on online gaming since the original Starsiege: Tribes. The way to his heart is through proper grammar, corn dogs, and cookie cake.


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  • Juhggernuts

    AWESOME article for an amazing game. Well done.

  • Bizznichw

    Awesome post Brandon…..I remember that one late night (5:30am) before QaukeCon, you showed me that “Best of Tribes1” video and it still gets me excited today!!!!

  • davepaison

    I am really excited about this game, but there are some things that concern me immediately…. and one of those is the loadout system. I’m not sure that in it’s current form people will buy into it. I do enjoy the game and I look forward to playing with you, soon.

    I also had the same thought about how I am more drawn to play Tribes: Ascend that some of these blockbuster titles. Kind of crazy.

  • ablestmage

    Your KD ratio in Modern Warfare and Black Ops isn’t all that important either. It’s listed, sure, but other things are listed, also. Most points captured, most grenade kills, even medals for the silliest things like lowest average altitude the whole game, or most time spent crouched. I generally have the worst KD ratio on MW/Blops matches, but because I’m capturing flags, capturing points, and usually only equip a riot shield that naturally doesn’t even fire, and a target-lock-only launcher, to take out killstreak vehicles in the air like choppers that the people who get lots of kills are able to call in, but I can take out with a single shot. You don’t get kill credits for taking out vehicles or drones, but doing so is still vital to completing a mission for those who are good at the other stuff.

  • ablestmage

    The reason kills are so hard to come by (as a fan of Tribes, COD/MW/Blops, and Halo alike) in Tribes is not because of the awesome gameplay, is because instead of the physical dimensions of the level. MW2/Blops levels are generally close-quarters matches on average with few long-range kills, while Halo offers a better blend of range and close combat, while Tribes to me seems extensively long-range. You would naturally get more kills if you had rocket launchers and everyone spawned in the same closet, for instance, than you would if everyone had a bow-and-arrow and spawned somewhere randomly on the moon.. so it’s a little “now wait a minute” to see someone suggest that kill counts are lower because of gameplay dynamics of focusing on flag targets and repairing the base, when in my experience of pretty extensive Starseige:Tribes play and watching these Beta videos, that the reason seems really quite different.

    • You certainly have a valid point. The larger maps and long-distance gameplay definitely play a role, but I think the gameplay also affects kill counts significantly, in large part due to the fact that you can regenerate health in Tribes: Ascend. It’s relatively easy to ski away from a dogfight to regenerate health, then come back into the battle at full health. Thanks for the insightful comment!

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