Game Review: Tribes: Ascend
Game Review: Tribes: Ascend.
Tribes: Ascend blows in at 183km/h like a hurricane of fresh air. It’s a faithful recreation of a sci-fi PC classic, it’s fast, competitive fun, and you won’t find anything else like it online. Oh, and it’s free.
For those of you just joining us, we’ve already taken a lengthy look at Tribes: Ascend, courtesy your friendly neighborhood Free Agent, during the closed beta. The full release launched on April 12, so it’s time to slap an official review score on this sucker.
I won’t get into all the nitty-gritty details here once again, since nothing much has changed about the excellent and affordable free-to-play model and basic gameplay, but I will repeat my bottom line: Tribes is back and it’s better than ever. It’s even truer now than the last time I said it, because with the full release Hi-Rez added the new Domination-like Capture and Hold mode and a remastered version of the classic Tribes map, Raindance.
Capture and Hold is an advanced mode reserved for Level 8 players and above, and for good reason: to succeed, you’ll need to play as a team well-versed in Tribes’ mechanics, and voice chat is highly recommended. For those old-timers that felt Tribes: Ascend failed to recreate the team-oriented gameplay of the original and Tribes 2, Capture and Hold will scratch your itch.
You know you’re a game reviewer when you stop to examine the foliage while your flag is being capped.
The classic capture-point mode gets an infusion of life in Tribes thanks to the bases controlled by each side, and the powerful turrets protecting them. The fun game-within-a-game of destroying the enemy’s turret-powering generator (and protecting your own) we know from Capture the Flag mode blossoms in Cap and Hold because the base capture points are located right next to the generators, which concentrates all the players in smaller areas. I had a blast returning to the enemy base time and again for frantic gunbattles featuring massive Juggernauts, cloaked Infiltrators, turret-building (and generator-repairing) Technicians, and grenade-throwing Soldiers.
I just wish it looked prettier. Even on the highest graphical settings the final product is not as high-res (wordplay!) as I thought it would be, and the wide open battlefields are in sore need of additional scenery elements to add visual variety.
As it stands now, the majority of the grass-, snow-, and desert-themed maps are really only separated by their primary colors (Drydock being a notable exception thanks to its floating spaceship bases).
Brilliant game-within-the-game battles play out at each Cap and Hold capture point on different maps, most notably at the hotly contested bridge smack in the middle of Raindance. Each team has a turret on their side of the bridge providing protection, and I found myself retreating to its automated blasts when the enemy rushed and pushing past it confidently as my squad counter-attacked in engrossing tug-of-war firefights.
The Raindance bridge is prime real estate.
That is, when I wasn’t getting capped by snipers. Either the sniper weapons have been amped up significantly since the beta or the people playing as snipers have improved dramatically. Whatever the reason, I fell from headshots and long-distance finishing shots at an alarming rate, adding an unwanted element to the cat-and-mouse, skiing and jet-packing combat Tribes is famous for. A nerf could be in order.
Why play Tribes, a game all about high-speed combat, if you want to stand still and snipe? It’s that insane anti-friction-boot speed that makes Cap and Hold truly different in Tribes. Got a cap point that’s about to fall? Ski over at 180km/h and save the day — or at least give it the old college try. I found myself skiing all over Raindance’s green hills and Katabatic’s frosty peaks as capture points were secured and taken in a blink. Combined with the different strategies required at the various capture points, traditional vanilla Domination becomes a deep, layered, frenetic experience in Tribes’ Capture and Hold.
Like a Champ
Also, kudos to Hi-Rez for handling the increased server load brought by the official release without missing a beat. I was never booted from a match, stuck in a queue, or hit with significant lag, even when playing on Tribes’ highest graphical settings. Sure, the highest setting isn’t very high, but still, I was impressed by Tribes’ rock solid performance.
I heart you, anti-friction boots.
Hi-Rez polished and tweaked Tribes: Ascend for months in beta (with updates certain to continue unabated), and the full release shines. Capture and Hold and Raindance are strong additions to an already-strong free shooter, and it makes Tribes: Ascend an even more addictive “just one more match” FPS that’s unlike any other shooter on the market. In the age of me-too shooters, that’s not just a good thing, that’s a great thing.