First Look: Tribes:Ascend

A long long time ago, Dynamix, at that point a division of Sierra Online (someone will correct me if I have my history wrong) released a team-based shooter called Tribes. Tribes was awesome because of its unusual weapons and its jetpacks!

In my long history of gaming, I’ve sucked at 99.99% of them, but I was OK at Tribes. It was a bit slower paced than most shooters and some of the weapons required a bit of tactical thinking. I was serious enough about it that I joined a team, went to practices…the whole 9 yards. Good times.

Then at some point someone found a way to exploit the physics of the game so you could “ski” down hills. Suddenly dudes in heavy armor were just as fast as lightly armored scouts. Dynamix seemed to think that was actually pretty cool and opted not to fix it, so I moved on to other games.

There was a Tribes 2 that I paid very little attention to but I think it included skiing as a mechanic.

And now we have Tribes:Ascend, a free-to-play iteration of the franchise. It’s still a team-based shooter with jetpacks. Skiiing is an integral part of the game, but since it was balanced for skiiing from the get-go that’s not as much of an issue. The way skiing works now is that you hold down the spacebar when going down hill and you’ll stop running and start sliding. It’s a sci-fi game and they have some lore about it but whatever. The point is you gain a bunch of speed going down a hill then use your jetpack to assist going up hill. Do it right and you can get up a good head of steam.

Anyway, the game came out of beta today and since it’s free I figured I’d give it a go. I wasn’t expecting much.. you can’t go home again, right?

But much to me surprise, I had a lot of fun with it. I even captured the flag once… unheard of for me, and I got a lot of assists and saves since most of the time I was playing defense. I’m sure a week from now the Tribes community will have gotten so good that I’ll once again be hopeless at it: I don’t have the dedication or the reflexes to keep up with serious players. But that’s just me. I have faith that you can do better.

Before I play much more I may need to read up a bit. I just jumped in with a generic class. There are turrets and generators and stuff and I’m not sure if anyone can build/repair them or if there’s a class for that. I’m also not sure what generators do, to be honest.

There’re a ton of classes and weapons, a lot of which cost $$ to unlock. I’m not yet convinced Tribes:Ascend isn’t Pay-to-Win but for now I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt.

I played 3 matches. My team won 2 and lost the third. All three were Capture the Flag and the only hang up was that there were a lot of stalemates when each side had the other’s flag. With the skiing system it can be really hard to catch up with a guy who has built up some speed so it’s pretty easy to just run and run with the flag way out on the fringes of the battlefield.

Anyway, I give it a tentative thumbs-up. Definitely worth the asking price at least! If you’re at all into team-based shooters, there’s no reason not to try it.