In a world running rampant with zombie apocalypses, military warfare, robot struggles and galactic domination, one would think that the first-person shooter well is starting to run a bit dry. A conclusion like this can be evidenced by the sequel parade for major consoles within the next half of the year–and you don’t need me to point out the franchises I mean, because chances are high that you have them reserved already. But how can you breathe life into a dead horse that’s been beat so badly? Indie-game company Hi-Rez Studio has decided to take up the challenge–and what’s more, they’ve made the experience absolutely free.
Hi-Rez Studios, the minds behind the spy-fi third-person shooter, Global Agenda, have dusted off the seemingly forgotten Tribes series and aimed to bring it back to full glory with its release of Tribes: Ascend, a multiplayer-only addition to the franchise back in April of this year. This class-based first-person shooter focuses on two of the four main factions, dubbed tribes, of the Tribes universe: The Blood Eagles, fueled by their hidden disgrace and mad struggle to reclaim their honor, and The Diamond Swords, an elite and cunning force under the wing of an enigmatic society known only as “The Empire,” whom wage a constant, vehement war against one another, each hoping to meet their ends through any means necessary.
Now, I think that perhaps warring parties in space isn’t essentially the most innovative premise around which one can base a first-person shooter, but when I actually strapped in, I found myself hypnotized by its two most prevalent mechanics: jetpacks and skiing. That’s right, I said skiing! While pointing and clicking (i.e.: shooting and throwing grenades and other utility items) was obviously the mechanic of the game I applied the most, I soon discovered that skiing needed to become second nature if I was ever to be successful in my quest to take back what’s rightfully mine, or end the oppression, or for oil on the planet Tartarus, or whatever the devil people fight for nowadays.
The suits of the soldiers are all equipped with a special feature that renders them resistant to friction, which allows them to glide whimsically across the terrain without a care in the world. Utilizing this mechanic is key in traversing the terrain, since most maps are quite expansive and others, mountainous indeed. Momentum can be your best friend or your worst enemy. I found this out the hard way while playing on the map Sulfur Cove–as I was fleeing from opposition I couldn’t bank as sharply as I wanted to because I was going much too fast, and ended up gleefully off the map and drowning in clear and serene beach water. On the flip side, during the same match I used momentum to catch up to a runner and stab him in the back–my favorite method of offing opponents!
As a lover of MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena), I love any game that has classes in which I can specialize. I tend to lean toward the stealthy, elusive classes, because I like wreaking havoc to send the enemy into disarray and vanishing without a trace. As such, an FPS that includes such a thing as does Tribes (and, say, Team Fortress 2) gives me reason enough to play. There are nine classes in the game split into three tiers: Light Armored, Medium Armored and Heavy Armored. Because there are so many, everyone will have to work together and do their job so that others can do THEIR job. A bad backbone makes for a horrible skeleton, see?
And the party is varied greatly! While of course there are the standard all-arounds like the medium-armored Soldier, which is fairly balanced and good to have in almost any mode, some classes are more or less useful depending on what game mode you’re playing. For instance, in Capture the Flag, the bases are guarded by heavy turrets, radars and the like which are all powered by a Generator–which, as far as I’ve seen in other Capture The Flag modes, is pretty unique. The Medium-armored Technician class can keep these all ship-shape with his mechanical prowess, while the Infiltrator, a Light class, can cloak himself to get past all that and sabotage the Generator with his technologically-aggressive mines, and dip out like a ninja, allowing teammates to go for the flag unhindered by enemy hazards. These skills are balanced by the fact that a discarded pebble can kill him. Needless to say, the tactical Infiltrator won’t be as useful in, say, Team Deathmatch. However, being a badass sneakster is always a plus for me, so I don’t care what mode I’m in–I’ve gotta go with the Infiltrator.
Of course, the game provides abundant customization in the manner of offering a slew of perks and an assortment of primary and secondary weapons as well as one utility item such as grenades, mines or sentry turrets, all of which can be upgraded to become even more powerful, resulting in a very fleshed-out enterprise. As such, if you you find your favorite class less useful in a certain mode, you can tailor it for the cause. And fret not if you like different arrangements of the same class; Tribes: Ascend also features multiple Custom Loadout Slots to suit your veritable fancy for being prepared for any situation–between which you can switch on the fly mid-game if the situation calls for a sudden change in roles. I like to use them to make builds for certain modes. For instance a Capture the Flag build in one slot, and a Control Points build in another.
Speaking of such things, what makes the game feel truly outstanding is the crazy array of weaponry it throws at you. The staple of the series, aptly dubbed the Spinfusor, which launches spinning discs of searing plasma energy at foes which also deal huge splash damage makes a valiant return and variants of said gun can be found among most (if not all) classes. For instance, the Infiltrator can wield a Stealth Spinfusor, which will allow him to vanish more quickly after his cloak wavers from firing the gun than if he were using another weapon. Surprisingly enough, I don’t use this weapon when I play the class.
But enough about what the game can give you, you’re probably wondering how much all this elaborate material costs. Well don’t even worry about it, this game operates on the increasingly popular Free-to-Play model, only Tribes: Ascend is semi-unique in the fact that it is not a Pay-to-Win game, as all weapons, perks, and other features accessible right from the start and can be unlocked with XP gained from just playing the game. However, real money can be used to buy Tribes Gold to unlock things more quickly, but it isn’t necessary to do so. The only things that XP cannot buy for you are cosmetic skins and bundle packs of weapons (though, the weapons can be purchased individually for XP). Standard microtransaction procedure here.
By the way, don’t worry if you think your computer is an ancient slab! My laptop sure is, but I don’t use it to play. However, the game is powered by Unreal Engine and as such can scale marvelously on most any computer, so if I didn’t have anything better to play it on I could do so on my laptop without much complaint. If you like first person shooters with badges and accolades aplenty, then there isn’t a reason why you shouldn’t give it a whirl!
You can download the client and check it out by visiting the official Tribes: Ascend website. Happy Ascension!