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Tribes Ascend Beta Impressions

I have been part of the Closed Beta for quite some time now, and the latest build brings forth a ton of great features, a streamlined & improved UI, and an expanded unlock system with reduced class numbers. Earlier builds of the beta included around 15 classes, which have now been condensed into 9 classes starting at the top with the lightest class going down to the heaviest, slow moving class. The game itself features an unrivaled game speed not seen in this generation of shooters – a forgotten trend as first person shooters has leaned towards the realistic, simulation battlefields of modern day than the arcadey futuristic off-world locations we saw in the late 90s and early 2000s.

Hi-Rez Studios, who revived Global Agenda early 2011 as Global Agenda: Free Agent (which we recently covered) has been hard at work to not only revive the Tribes name, but in spirit and all that goes along with it – to please the fans of Tribes as well as draw in new members in hopes to revitalize a lost art form in online competitive shooting: fast and frenetic fun. I somehow missed out on the Tribes series. First was Starsiege: Tribes in 1998 and then Tribes 2 in 2001 – both developed by Dynamix and published by Sierra. I do recall the outcry of the third game in the series, Tribes: Vengeance developed by Irrational Games (Freedom Force and BioShock fame) in 2004. That’s where the series ended for fans and really the series. Multiple projects like browser-based and MMO games have been worked on, but either have been abandoned or in development hell. So here we are, present day and a new Tribes game has got me excited – how can that be? Easy, they’re doing something different (in today’s gaming space) all while being faithful to the series in a throwback to the “good ole times” of gaming.

I’ve branched out to the different classes, but I still find myself gravitating towards the Pathfinder (lightest class) and the Soldier (standard, mid-range character). They just fit my play style the best. You’ll need to experiment with each of the classes, not only for their mobility and handling, but mix n’ match their loadouts and go from there. You’ll find a few favorites, and despise a few – but tactically in certain modes they are quite helpful.

If you didn’t already know, the game is designed to be Free-2-Play at launch. So the game is littered with micro-transactions to enhance your game, but not so much that it makes it imbalanced and unfair to others. A lot of care was taken to ensure the economy and the structure of the game would not be compromised and it doesn’t appear to be the case. Something I haven’t seen developers do when it comes to the F2P model is give you a bonus for spending some of your hard-earned cash. Should you decide to pay real money to get yourself Tribes Gold, the game’s currency to unlock character classes – you are rewarded with a lifetime “VIP” membership which raises your priority in being queued for matches.

Sorry Launchy - Got you with a kill in midair

As of now, there’s only Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and Rabbit Arena modes. Rabbit mode was in the last build where a flag carrier had to hold the flag for the longest period of time to win the round. That has been replaced with Arena, which is subtitled with “5 on 5 Action”. Team Deathmatch is as you know it, where you are against the other team trying to kill them all before they kill you all and reach the point limit. Capture the Flag is a point based system in which you must infiltrate the enemy ship, steal their flag and return it to your base (with your flag firmly planted) to score. When the game goes live, Ranked and Custom servers will be available for more customization and better leaderboard and stat tracking – but as of now, it’s all about the fun.

The game is as deep as you’d expect with Badges, XP and ranking, statistics at the end of each match allowing you to try to best those in the next match. It’s incredibly rewarding whether how good or bad you do.

The engine powering Tribes Ascend is fantastic, and I was consistently getting 60fps and I suspect this will be the general framerate seen on desktop PCs and maybe slightly lower as you get down to notebooks. The game is wonderfully colorful and bright. The futuristic tones of the menus and HUD along with weapon animation and colors are present – but contrasting against the natural, outdoorsy landscapes as opposed to urban environments creates a vast landscape to explore. As of today you can download the beta for yourself: http://www.tribesascend.com/. I feel that the game in its current state is worth releasing, but Hi-Rez Studios is wanting to polish the game and achieve a certain amount of feedback from the fans to make it “just right” for the Goldilocks’ out there.

We’ll see what the final version is like when Tribes Ascend comes out later this year. It’s free, open, and fun to play. If you like futuristic first person shooters, you’ll find a worthwhile investment for your time and money.

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