Ski your way to success.
Zap. Zip. Zoom. Slash. Grab. Slide. Die. Tribes: Ascend certainly is a high-octane experience. This free-to-play FPSisn’t exactly a typical MMO affair with no plot development, no overworld and a pure focus on competitive multiplayer. Hi-Rez Studio’s follow-up to Global Agenda isn’t trying to form a narrative or create a world in which you want to belong, instead they’re trying to recreate an online sport from yesteryear. One which requires pixel-perfect precision, lots of moment-to-moment decisions and deep complexity on maps which are just as compelling as any PvP experience we’ve ever had the pleasure of taking part in.
From the first moment you jump into Tribes it’s an immensely freeing experience, thanks to every character class possessing their own jet pack and frictionless skis which allow you to ascend high into the sky or zip along the floor, gathering momentum as you travel down negative gradients. These two gameplay additions coupled with traditional point-and-shoot first-person shooter gameplay, inevitably lead to a feeling of abundant empowerment. Mastering these components while keeping track of enemy players takes a fair amount of getting used to.
You’ll need to aim with the upmost precision, often ahead of a player’s trajectory, partly because maps are so large but mostly because the always-human enemies are just as mobile as you are. Where the additional complexity comes in is via Tribes’ nine different classes, all of which have dozens of different unlocks involving equipment, weapons, propulsion boosters, suit skins and the like. All of these can either be unlocked via earned experience or gold purchased with real cash, but unlike the vast majority of free-to-play games you never feel at a disadvantage to those with more capital than commitment. The key is that are the base weapons for each class, more than half of which need to be unlocked, which are sufficient to earn enough kills to progress your favourite role, be it fast-moving Pathfinder, turret-packing Technician or immovable Juggernaut. The feeling of progression is constant and palpable as you earn more equipment and upgrades – all the time becoming a better player, rewarded with badges, additional XP perks and gaining access to more game modes. Admittedly we spent most of our time taking part in the substantially more tactical Capture the Flag mode rather than the Team Deathmatch one, but we never felt like we were missing out.
The intricacies of CtF are heightened in Tribes: Ascend with each team’s base having their own auto-targeting turrets and radar powered by a vulnerable hidden generator. When taken out this makes your team’s flag even easier for your foes to steal, so team’s delegate those who stay behind and those that go on the attack. Despite always playing with ‘randoms’ on public servers we were always impressed to see how naturally teams delegated these roles, often without open communication. The UI and arena announcer constantly keeps you updated on team matters at all times, and players just naturally adjust. Whether that’s by excellent game design, affective matchmaking or an extremely well-drilled community we’re not sure, but we regularly had matches which were close and exciting. Within the over-arching economy there’s also another contained entirely within any match. Whenever you do something positive for a team, be it fixing equipment, stopping a capture, picking up a flag or killing an enemy, you’ll be rewarded with credits which can then be spent on calling in support equipment, upgrading HQ tech, or purchasing vehicles like tanks, speeders and aircraft. This additional layer of complexity gives you a lot to think about with regards to where you want to spawn a resupply point replenishing your ammo or whether you should upgrade your base’s turrets in order to give your team a better chance of repelling invasion.
It’s these kinds of options which kept us entertained long after we got to grips with the precision associated with painting an enemy with bullets, and we suspect that’s why we’ll return to Ascend time and time again.
Tags: Tribes Ascend
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