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A Gravity-Defying Tiger – Tribes: Ascend Review
For those of you who have not heard of the Tribes series, the major aspect of gameplay that sets the series aside from other multiplayer FPS titles is the intuitive and adrenaline-activating movement system. Each class has a jet pack nonchalantly strapped to their back with which rising into the air like a graceful hummingbird results in crashing to the ground with eye-watering speed in what is known in the game as ‘skiing’. Mastering this movement style, particularly how much energy to use from the jet pack and when to manipulate the topography of the environment, allows players to build up a tremendous amount of speed, whereby blurring past enemy defences to steal their flag at a stomach churning 350km/h is unheard of in other, traditional shooters. Obviously, the game isn’t 100% focused on flying around the map like a rabid demon escaped from aeons of captivity. Gentler use of the jet pack can give snipers the ability to ascend to the tops of map dominating towers, or for technicians to place strategical turrets, or indeed for simple evasive manoeuvres to outwit your foe.
Tribes: Ascend offers 9 unique classes, each with their own style of combat;
Infiltrator – As befits its name, this class is excellent at sneaking into enemy bases undetected.
Raider – A jack-of-all-trades class, versatile in attacking or defence.
Doombringer – An excellent base-defence class, armed to the teeth with a terrifying array of fear-inducing weaponry.
Soldier – Much alike to the Raider in versatility, but capable of wielding the Spinfusor, the signature weapon of Tribes.
Pathfinder – Guerilla tactics are the trademark of the Pathfinder, speed and ability lend this class the aptitude for hit-and-run lightning attacks.
Brute – An armoured leviathan capable of besieging an enemy base or raining fiery hell on would-be attackers.
Sentinel – Long-range engagement class with snipers, useful for eliminating pesky defenders or fleeing flag-stealers.
Technician – The heart and soul of any base, this class repairs defences, places turrets and can be quite handy in a fight.
Juggernaut – This class is the biggest damage-dealer in town, with high health and bombardment capabilities, the Juggernaut can lay siege to a base as well as provide a wall of fire to shield allies.
The combat in Tribes: Ascend can become extremely manic. Players zipping around in every axis renders horizontal aiming redundant, a feature that is highly uncommon in recent shooters. Without utilising the terrain to build up speed, or being frugal with the expenditure of the jet pack energy, you quickly become a sitting duck ripe for the plucking. The normal rules of FPS combat are completely thrown out in Tribes: Ascend and shot down in the air for good measure. Hit scanning is absent in the game (hit scanning is when you fire a weapon, the projectile will hit where your reticle is pointing at the time) and replaced with actual physics-based projectiles. This adds an incredible amount of on-the-go planning when targeting an enemy. The ability to track a target moving slowly is easy, it gets harder when you need to fire at the location where they will eventually be at, and then becomes a real mind-boggling challenge to do so when said target is moving at the speed of a comet.
Currently, there are four game modes in Tribes: Ascend; team deathmatch, capture and hold, capture the flag, and arena. Personally, capture the flag is my favourite and seems the game mode best suited for how the game is played. TDM and capture and hold both have their merits, and arena seems to be counter productive to the style of gameplay in Tribes: Ascend. There are currently 10 maps, each carefully constructed and designed to give ample amounts of havoc. Tribes: Ascend is a free to play game, starting you out with three initial classes but requiring either XP earned through playing, or gold bought with cold hard cash, to unlock further classes. XP is also used to unlock weapons and upgrades, with some (primarily weapons) open to be purchased with real money. In terms of the structuring of the games free to play business model, in some areas it works really well, in others it lacks. For example, some weapons require 100,000 XP to unlock, whereas only a few hundred gold will do the same thing. Gold can also purchase XP boosts for a certain number of days, which doubles the amount of XP earned in a match. This inevitably leads to those who pay having better gear for some classes, but overall the balance is relatively stable with pay-to-win being nullified to a large extent.
Ultimately, Tribes: Ascend breaks away from modern FPS titles and looks down at them with contempt and mockery as it flies around hyper as a kitten on catnip. The gameplay offers multiple ways to play the game, with enough interesting features to extend its longevity, and DLC is also an option on the horizon. The free to play aspect is handled very well, giving players the opportunity to pay for items, but doesn’t take away much from those who don’t wish to part with their cash. If anything, I urge you to check out this amazing game, it’s free so what are you waiting for?