1998 was the year when the legendary Half-Life was first released, developed by Valve Corporation and published by Sierra Entertainment. Just 10 days after its release, Sierra Entertainment released another FPS called Starsiege: Tribes. Amongst the hullabaloo caused by Half-Life in the press, Starsiege: Tribes was released quietly to critical acclaim. It was lauded as a near perfect multiplayer experience with great graphics. Tribes never saw a large audience as the big guns of that time, Quake, DeltaForce or Half-Life; but was a hit nonetheless.
In 2001, a sequel called Tribes 2 was released. Improving upon its predecessor in almost every way, it was praised for its excellent environments, arsenal of weapons, graphics and general balance. While it obtained lower scores than its predecessor, it wasn’t a slouch either. Tribes 2 featured support for upto 128 players playing against each other at any given time (64 vs. 64). It was a unique combination of fast paced yet tactical gameplay. An inbuilt chat system, level editor and internal email system only helped the sense of community of Tribes players. In 2002, a Tribes: Aerial Assault was released for the PlayStation 2, which was essentially a port of Tribes 2 with slight changes.
2004 saw the last major release for a long time in the series, called Tribes: Vengeance. Unlike other games in the series, it featured a complete single player campaign in addition to the multiplayer portion. It was generally well received, but also criticized for “dumbing down” the Tribes multiplayer experience and making it more accessible to a wider range of players. Some of the much loved tactical elements in previous iterations were removed or made much simpler. Due to this, Tribes: Vengeance is generally frowned upon in the Tribes community.
So many of the features that Tribes introduced into the gaming industry are now almost standard. Team based FPS gameplay, customizable classes and huge maps are now seen almost on all multiplayer games. After 8 long years and a fairly mellow marketing campaign, Tribes: Vengeance was released by a new developer, Hi-Rez Studios on 13th April, 2012. It runs on Unreal Engine 3.0, has all the elements that made the previous games exceedingly fun and the best part, is completely free to play! The trademarks of the series return, and the most fun part, super fast movement is even better now. After playing it for almost a week, I’m hooked and I think this could very well be the best free to play game out there.
Tribes Ascend: Classes
First things first, Tribes Ascend is basically a team based FPS that supports upto 64 players, 32 on each side. There are 2 factions or Tribes called Blood Eagle and Silver Sword. You can choose any one when you join a game and then you get to choose one of 9 classes that can be also changed ingame. Initially, 3 classes will be available and the rest can be unlocked by XP or gold, which is a currency bought by real money. XP will take time to earn but gold can be bought right away if you’re Richie Rich. Weapons, upgrades, custom skins and the like are also bought with one of the two currencies.
Coming to the classes, there are 9 classes with 3 “loadouts”. Loadouts are classified based on the armor they wear, light, medium or heavy. The initially available classes are one of each type, the Pathfinder is light armor, the Soldier is medium armor and the Juggernaut is heavy armor. Other classes available for unlocking feature different strengths and weaknesses. So there are totally 3 light armor classes, 3 medium armor classes and 3 heavy armor classes.
Light armor classes are fast, agile and can dish out damage but can’t really take much of it. Heavy armor classes are slow, have high defenses and varying levels of damage they can do depending upon the class. Medium armor classes are a balance between light and heavy armored classes. The classes are as follows:
Light armor – Infiltrator, Pathfinder, Sentinel
Medium armor – Raider, Soldier, Technician
Heavy armor – Brute, Doombringer, Juggernaut
Tribes Ascend : Gameplay and modes
Tribes Ascend features four modes:
Team deathmatch – Everyone goes all out against the opposite team, whichever teams kills the most in a span of time wins. First player death spawns a flag, the team holding the flag gets double points for each kill.
Capture the flag – The aim is to have a single flag carrier capture and transport a flag a couple of times to their base without dying, while others support him/her.
Arena – A 5v5 rated skirmish, a fight to the death.
Capture and hold – A classic scenario where the team who defends a base for the longest wins.
Tribes has been always known for 2 things. Speed and well…speed. Its the fastest FPS out there, you don’t have time to contemplate where you’re gonna shoot. It’s all about prediction. Most weapons have a large distance and travel time, so you have to predict where your enemy is going to be to actually land a shot. Also, you can’t just stand around, if you’re not moving, you’re dead. It’s a bit intimidating at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s exhilarating. Other online shooters seem slow in comparison. The second thing is again, speed. Tribes has a unique movement system of the usual moving forward/backward and strafing, plus skiing and jetpacks! Skiing is done by holding your spacebar down when you’re going downhill. You gather speed and move in excess of 200km/h. When you happen to hit a slope (trust me, there’s a lot of them), right click and jetpack up the slope! The jetpack has an energy bar that refills itself, so you can use it in short bursts. When you master movement, you can ski down a large slope and jetpack up the apex of a hill to reach amazing heights at extreme speeds. People are going to be flying around and fighting them in mid air is nothing short of awesome. Also, you can buy and upgrade vehicles, but they’re expensive and slow. You’re much better off on foot.
Ammo and grenades aren’t free though, you spawn with limited full ammo and equipment. Dotted around the landscape are inventory stations that can be used by both factions to refresh all ammo, health and equipment in a few seconds. These stations can also be used to change classes mid game. Every kills drops a little ammo that can be picked up as well. Just make sure not to try to use an inventory station when under fire, because for certain period you’re a sitting duck.
The trick to success is proper movement and prediction. You have to move fast, not get hit and yet be able to understand where your enemy will be so you can um…pump him full of lead, or whatever they use to make bullets in the Tribes universe. An accumulation of “credits” in game lets players to call down a supply drop, faction-specific inventory station or a devastating tactical strike that decimates enemies in an area. Every class gets 2 different weapons, a customizable belt that can hold an upgrade and grenades. The weapons are according to the classes and so are the belt items. These weapons and upgrades can be swapped and upgraded using XP or gold. It’s honestly very cool when you’re flying across a gorgeous landscape and land a shot on a flying enemy. No other multiplayer game, let alone an FPS lets you do this.
Tribes Ascend : Graphics, connectivity and download
The game looks great and performs well even at the highest detail levels. It runs on Unreal Engine 3.0 so there is no dearth of shiny explosions, sweeping vistas or good looking environments. Tribes Ascend scales well too, and its minimum requirements are:
OS: Windows XP (SP2), Windows Vista or Windows 7
Processor: Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHz or Althon X2 2.7 GHz
RAM: 2gb or greater for Windows XP), 3GB or greater for Windows Vista or 7
Video card: ATI or nVidia graphics card (512MB video ram or better and Shader Model 3.0+ support). ATI Radeon 3870+ or Nvidia GeForce 8800GT+.
Sound card: DirectX compatible sound card
Hard drive: 10 GB available
Internet Connection: 56kb/s
As I mentioned earlier, the game is free (!!) and can be downloaded from https://account.hirezstudios.com/tribesascend/. The download is around 2.75GB. There is a list of server regions where you can play, North America, Asia and Europe with sub sections. Even playing in the furthest region has no lag and once you click to join a game queue, you get a game within 10 seconds. Matchmaking is based on ranks gained by XP, so a newbie won’t end up getting slaughtered by high ranking veterans.
Tribes Ascend : Conclusion
Fast paced, fun gameplay Slightly steep learning curve
Great visuals Intimidating at first
Free! Slow experience gain
Unique movement system
Tribes Ascend is a wholly unique multiplayer experience that is very exhilarating and gives a real sense of achievement for the kills you get. It could very well be the best free to play game out there. After all, which game offers deep gameplay, great visuals and a fun time for nothing at all? Go try out Tribes Ascend today, there’s nothing to lose after all!
CoolPCTips rating for Tribes Ascend: 9.2/10