Tribes: Ascend Beta Review
As I mentioned earlier, T:A is a momentum-driven game, both on a personal scale and an objective-scale. When you’ve built up high velocity, you don’t want to stop, because you’ll be an easy target, and it’ll take a while to pick up speed again. When your team has an advantage — either by possessing the flag in TDM or disabling the enemy generator in CTF, you want to capitalize on this momentum and score as many points as possible.
Maps are built on a large scale to accommodate the great distances players can quickly travel while skiing, and hills and valleys abound to provide opportunities to build momentum. If TDM did not have a driving force to make players congregate around a flag carrier, fast-paced gameplay could devolve into long-distance camping standoffs.
Your weapon load-out, degree of maneuverability, and health are determined by your class. T:A offers multiple variants of Light, Medium, and Heavy classes, with one of each initially available to players. You can unlock and upgrade classes either by spending the XP you earn during every match, or through micro-transactions. The one class that feels out of place is the technician, a class built around the concept of placing and maintaining stationary turrets — in a game that encourages players to ski around at high velocity.
Don’t get me wrong — there’s strategic value in using turrets to deter attackers from a given location. However, CTF bases already contain defensive turrets. The technician’s turrets only serve to slow down the gameplay of an otherwise fast-paced game.
While the game’s pace is fast, matches tend to be low-scoring affairs — at least among the beta crowd. Five kills seems to be the average, with players scoring ten or more kills generally reaching the top of the scoreboard in a TDM match. This can be attributed to need to lead fast-moving targets by a considerable amount, a skill that comes with practice.
Overall, Tribes: Ascend promises to be a solid throwback to classic ’90s-era shooters with a modern twist. A modified Unreal Engine 3 is hard at work providing a visually impressive experience, both in terms of graphics quality and artistic direction, and the game’s varied environments — from green valleys to frozen slopes and tropical islands — keep the atmosphere fresh, in stark contrast to today’s shades of grey and brown. Although there are some kinks to be worked out, such as the conflicting gameplay introduced by the technician class and the inability to learn to operate vehicles in an environment that won’t make your team suffer, Tribes: Ascend has a concrete conceptual foundation and a developer intent on delivering a quality product.
Whether this sequel will be able to transcend the niche appeal of hardcore sci-fi shooters with a steep learning curve is yet to be seen. Modern battlefield FPS titles have set a low entry bar for player skill, and T:A’s deep movement system, coupled with a penchant for projectile weapons, can easily frustrate newcomers who find themselves unable to mindlessly rake in kills. Tribes: Ascend is not a newbie-friendly game, which is a great selling point for a segment of the FPS crowd, but it may cost it mass appeal.