Tribes: Ascend is the latest offering from Hi-Rez studios, the game is still in beta at time of writing – so anything might change; and this is really more of a preview than a review. Tribes: Ascend is a much-anticipated revival of the Tribes franchise. The game will be free to play, Hi-Rez Studios will be making their money on the game with micro-transactions; as we’ve come to expect from free to play games these days. Currently you start with only two playable classes – both are medium armor. The Soldier sports a basic, but competent loadout; an energy pack, grenades, spinfusor (Tribes’ signature weapon), and a pistol. The other playable class, the ranger, starts with an equally versatile loadout; the same energy pack, very similar grenades, a “thumper” (single shot grenade launcher, grenades are timed but also explode on contact), and an Assault Rifle.
Tribes veterans will be quick to point out the Assault Rifle, and the Pistol are out of place in the Tribes universe. While no Tribes games have had anything similar in the past, in this reviewer’s opinion they do not detract from the game. The ranger’s thumper has a limited range due to the timed explosive charge; so he really needs the assault rifle as his long-range option. The soldier’s pistol is a very weak, short-range weapon, it’s only really useful for finishing opponents off who prove too squirrelly for that last spinfusor disc. There are quite a few bullet-type weapons in the game, but similar to the old Tribes chaingun almost all of them fire very fast moving projectiles, rather than the hit-scan weapons most gamers are used to. The result is that, in typical Tribes fashion, you need to lead your target if you intend to hit him. There are a couple exceptions to this. The pistol, sniper rifle, and the shotgun-type weapons. It’s a non-issue for those weapons though, the pistol and the shotguns are really only useful at short range, and the sniper-rifle was always like that in Tribes/wouldn’t be very useful if it wasn’t.
Older Tribes games had very few rules about what weapons could be equipped. With a few exceptions – such as the missile launcher and fusion mortar – you could equip any weapon on any type of armor in any combination. Medium and larger armors could swap out base turrets, and place deployables. This system is very appealing to the player because of the flexibility it offers, but in reality a few “best” loadouts become most common. Tribes: Ascend has chosen to use classes instead of the earlier flexible loadout system. This is part of their monetization strategy as you have to purchase most classes either with tokens earned through gameplay, or gold purchased with real money – but it also serves as a balancing system, some combinations of weapons might be too powerful, and as such become commonplace. The obvious concern here is “pay2win”, but I am (very) happy to report that it doesn’t seem to be an issue, as the two classes you start off with can hold their own quite well against any other class.
There are a few classes that have very unique abilities though, such as becoming invisible with a cloaking pack, sniping, missile launchers (the best anti-vehicle weaponry). So it’s more pay to be more versatile. There are two classes that can be earned through tokens very quickly, as they have a deeply discounted price, the pathfinder, which has light armor (reduced health, increased speed), a light spinfusor (slightly less damage than the soldier’s), and a shotgun (useful for finishing off opponents), and a special type of grenade thatexplodes on contact but does less damage, has more knockback and the ability to instantly remove the flag (in capture the flag and rabbit game modes) from the hands of the enemy – making the pathfinder ideal for a role known as flag chasing.
The Juggernaut is the second deeply-discounted class, the Juggernaut specializes in long-range artillery with his mortar, wears heavy armor (reduced speed, increased health), has a slightly beefed up grenade, regen pack (faster health regen), and a higher damage spinfusor. The Juggernaut’s weapons and skills are somewhat balanced for attack and defense, but his low speed makes him less desirable for attack. This means that while you only start with medium armor, you should have light and heavy armor available to you very quickly.
Tribes: Ascend has the core elements of Tribes in tact, the various armors, spinfusor, mortars, and the signature vehicles (Shrike, and Grav-Cycle) are all present. Overall, despite some jarring inclusions (multiple bullet weapons), the game is faithful to the Tribes franchise, requiring players to learn to lead a target based not only on the target’s movement, but their own as well. All of the skills acquired in previous titles are instantly transferrable here. There are some nagging bugs (mostly terrain glitches) that should be worked out soon. The game can easily compete in the free online FPS genre, and should be on your watch list for games to play. You can get into the beta now by liking Hi-Rez Studios’ facebook page.