Ski free in ‘Tribes: Ascend’ beta preview
“Tribes: Ascend” is a class-based first-person shooter involving large maps, jetpack-equipped players and a serious sense of speed. For those wondering about its free-to-play business model, it seems to be relatively inoffensive, taking after the industry standard “League of Legends” model. There are only a few classes unlocked at the outset, with more classes, weapons and options unlocked through either playing or shelling out money. The only real gripe I have is that the launcher is an abomination that makes the “League of Legends” Adobe Air launcher look slick in comparison.
Freedom of movement is the name of the game in “Tribes: Ascend.” Each player has a jetpack to help him or her navigate the enormous maps. By holding down the space bar while running down a hill, players can “ski” along the ground and pick up momentum. When combined with the thrust of the jetpack, that momentum sends players sailing through the air at breakneck speed. Skiing is a skill to be honed, and experienced players can make efficient use of their momentum to cover vast tracts of ground in a matter of seconds.
The most basic class, the Pathfinder, is equipped with the series’ iconic weapon, the Spinfusor, which fires explosive blue discs. The discs are relatively slow-moving projectiles, so players will have to learn to lead their opponents properly in order to secure kills. Bullet-based weapons such as the assault rifle are also somewhat difficult to use, as it’s no easy feat to keep your crosshair trained on such fast-moving targets.
If it’s not obvious already, “Tribes: Ascend” is not an easy game to play. Although it might be streamlined compared to the older games, it still feels like a ’90s PC shooter—an all but extinct species. It’s a game in which movement is an art to be practiced, and each weapon is a science to be learned. Many games nowadays are geared towards instant gratification, but “Tribes: Ascend” is not one of these games. New players thus might be put off by how difficult it is to bag a single kill.
That might sound frustrating to some, but having grown up with “Unreal Tournament” and “Quake,” I can’t get enough of “Tribes: Ascend.” More than anything else, “Tribes: Ascend” is a game that rewards skill. If you can ski, you can escape from an ambush completely unscathed. If you can handle a Spinfusor, you can shoot players out of the sky and earn the Blue Plate Special medal. If you can do both, you can catch up to an enemy flag runner by out-skiing him and bring him down with a disc to the face. In “Tribes: Ascend,” if you’re good, you’re a god.
And that’s just the infantry aspect of the game. Capture the flag, the most classic “Tribes” game type, features bases with generators, turrets and vehicles. Teamwork and coordinated assaults are necessary if you want to actually leave the enemy base with their flag, much less drop it off at your own base. There seems to be a competitive community springing up around the game as well, with the North American Star League picking it up for future seasons.
“Tribes: Ascend” is currently in beta, with developers Hi-Rez giving out keys to anybody who likes them on Facebook. If you’re looking for a game of speed and skill, there’s no better choice.