Tribes: Ascend Review – Shazbot Returns
Publisher: Hi-Rez Studios
Developer: Hi-Rez Studios
Genre: First-Person Shooter
Release Date: April 12, 2012
ESRB: T – Teen
Tribes: Ascend is a free to play –
Wait! Come back!
Tribes: Ascend is the 2012 update to the dormant Starsiege: Tribes series. It is still the Tribes I remember with a fresh coat of gameplay and visual paint. It is still the jetpack flying, spinfusor blue plate special slinging, flag capturing rockin’ good time. It is also free to play.
Free to play does not mean pay to win. It is not some cut-rate budget version of a better, more encompassing game. Hi-Rez Studios does not want to sap your wallet by putting out a game that offers more if you pay more.
It is what it is; one of the best free to play first-person shooters to hit the PC market in 2012 and a resoundingly successful, addictive update to Tribes that offers everything to everyone at the cost of time or money.
Tribes: Ascend pits two factions, Blood Eagles and Diamond Swords, against each other in one of four game modes: Capture and Hold, Capture the Flag, Team Deathmatch, and Arena. Get kills, capture flags, hold capture points, and earn experience. The teams who have the highest point totals or captures the most flags wins. Experience earned allows the player the chance to unlock new classes, only three are available at the start, weapons and armor upgrades, and perks. It’s all pretty straight forward, just like any recent first-person shooter.
Where Tribes differentiates itself from the rest of the FPS pack is its core gameplay. Light, medium, and heavy armored players jetpack and ski around large, mountainous terrain using weapons that require more than a simple place a crosshair on an enemy and shoot. The trusty, old spinfusor returns, along with many new weapons based on class loadouts. You might score some blue plate specials (direct hits) here and there, but for the most part, Tribes is about leading your enemies and using true skill to score hits and kills with your weapons of choice.
Yes, Tribes uses an experience system for unlocks. This is where the free to play model can come in. You can spend hours earning enough experience to unlock more character classes, and believe me, if you do it that way, you will spend hours on it. Or, you can buy in-game gold that will unlock the same characters, weapons, equipment, and perks. Does that mean someone can buy a competitive advantage over you? Far from it. Hi-Rez did a fantastic job of keeping the core trio of classes viable and balancing the pros and cons of every class based upon skill, game type, and maps.
This is not your lone wolf, run and gun type of FPS. Tribes: Ascend relies on skill and teamwork. If you learn the ins and outs of each class, it will pay dividends. Knowing the energy levels and applying that to jet packing and skiing is huge for moving across large sections of maps quickly and efficiently. There is no better satisfaction then scoring a well-earned kill in a one on one battle where you and the enemy are hopping about trying to time each other’s shots. Heavy classes like the Juggernaut will be at a serious tactical disadvantage out in the open against lighter, faster classes, but as a base or flag protector, their armor and weaponry can pose serious problems for the other team.
In-game credits are earned for everything you do; kills, assists, captures, etc, adding another layer of strategy to a robust free to play game. These credits can be used to upgrade base defenses, purchase vehicles, or call in ammo stations or orbital strikes. If you’re the type that wants to sit back at your base and defend your flag, while waiting for squishy light and fast enemies to come take the flag, you can repair or upgrade your base. Or if you prefer more direct action, you can rack up credits and drop an orbital strike on the other team’s base, or even better, right smack dab in the middle of a hot spot. Just be aware that you are completely vulnerable while waiting to target the strike.
Hi-Rez Studios should be commended for putting together a game, that is free by the way, with visuals as slick as this one. Tribes doesn’t have a great deal in the way of structures on most maps, but that really isn’t the point since so much of gameplay takes place in the air. The maps are wide open. It’s exhilarating picking up speed and launching yourself across a snow covered plain or leaping from one volcanic mountain to the next.
If there was one thing to nitpick about Tribes and what it doesn’t do all that well, it’s the sound. Yes, people will spam shazbot and other hotkey communications, but the sound overall is just very subtle. It isn’t a large enough part of the experience whether its explosions or gunfire.
Tribes: Ascend’s gameplay is accessible to everyone. Rather than force a steep retail price of admission, Hi-Rez Studios plans to continue support on a game that relishes in it’s free to play model but does not punish gamers for playing for free. This is a game that provides hours of addictive FPS gameplay, like its predecessors did in the past, like its contemporaries do now. Tribes is worth every bit of its price of admission and more.
+ It is FREE
+ Maintains fantastic visuals while adhering to it’s fast gameplay
+ Accessible gameplay to anyone
- Limited game modes
- The level of skill needed to excel could turn away some twitch shooter gamers, maybe that’s a good thing…