Tribes: Ascend Beta Review
In a world of modern battlefield FPS games, Tribes: Ascend dares to break the mold with a sci-fi setting and unique momentum-driven gameplay. Currently in beta, this F2P multiplayer class-based game is a reboot of the Tribes franchise, most popular in the late ’90s and early 2000s, and has to live up to the high standards of its surviving cult fanbase.
With Dynamix, the original developer of Tribes, long defunct, Hi-Rez Studios has taken the franchise’s reigns. Multiple parallels can be drawn between Tribes and Global Agenda, Hi-Rez’s debut title, including a sci-fi theme, class-based gameplay, and jetpacks, so Tribes and Hi-Rez form a natural pairing.
The question is, can Hi-Rez both do the series justice and make Tribes: Ascend a success?
Diving into the beta, you’re presented with three game modes to choose from: Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, and the oddly-named Rabbit, a free-for-all in which players scramble to grab a single flag and hold onto it for as long as possible. While someone is the “rabbit,” he is the sole target of all other players, who are temporarily placed on the same team.
Capture the Flag follows genre conventions with the added element of base defenses that require maintenance and upgrading, as well as vehicles that must be purchased through credits earned throughout a match — a system that punishes players for trying to learn to operate vehicles when those credits could be better spent calling down an orbital strike.
Team Deathmatch, on the other hand, is more than its name would suggest. Rather than a simple “kill the red guys” game mode, an objective-based element is included in the form of a single flag that, when in a given team’s possession, doubles every point that team earns for a kill.
While this is a fun twist to traditional TDM, it simply isn’t TDM. Maintaining possession of the flag is the most important goal in T:A’s TDM, and newcomers expecting a less objective-based experience will quickly find their team losing if they focus on the kills rather than the flag. A simple renaming of this game mode may be in order, because traditional TDM may not suit T:A’s play style.
T:A’s greatest selling point is its unique movement system. By combining jetpack thrust with a frictionless “ski” mechanic, you can navigate maps at breakneck speeds, jetting up hills and skiing down slopes to build ever-increasing momentum. A speedometer keeps track of your velocity, and there’s no better feeling that seeing the speedometer maxed out and hearing the wind whistling as you zoom across the landscape.