Few people recognise the importance of the Tribes series in pioneering the sci-fi shoot’em’up genre, but the latest game in the series -- a free to play title -- will certainly change that, with a strong showing in all aspects of gameplay. Subtitled Ascend, this title is a class-based shooter revolving around infantry combat on the ground and in midair through the use of jetpacks and skis.
People often liken Tribes to Halo, but fans of the series are always more than happy to point out the fact that Tribes came about first. However, given the widespread exposure of Ascend, many are wondering whether the series can really hold its own against the Xbox-exclusive series which continues to go from strength to strength.
That said, Ascend comes across as a title whose aims are clear and gameplay mechanisms well-executed. The free-to-play model of the game has brought in new gamers by the thousands, but many are wondering: is this title worth spending money on?
What Tribes: Ascend Got Right
Fast and steadily paced - Ascend is great fun thanks to its consistently fast-paced action. Skiing and boosting around the maps makes for hectic action, especially when vehicles come into the equation. Combine exciting movement with futuristic, explosive weaponry and you’ve got a title filled to the brim with frenzied action.
Good variety in settings - The maps across each game mode are varied and all offer something unique. In some maps, this may be an array of bumps and jumps used to incite midair combat. In others, it is a group of buildings and structures which can be used as cover as well as strategic vantage points. Each map generally has a unique theme, and all have a difference in environment, meaning something new every match.
Diverse range of classes and abilities - Each class brings something new to the table, especially in weaponry. Classes are split up into weight groups, with appropriate speed and energy differences making up for the different power of weapons between classes. While the variation is one element which makes gameplay exciting -- particularly in the team-based game modes -- it also comes with a downfall, and that is poor balancing.
Effective upgrade system - An effective upgrade system means players will have to decide between powering up the weapons they already have, or purchasing new weapons. Doing either has a meaningful effect, so it can at times become a dilemma in choosing how to progress your classes. This means players will have to be crafty in upgrading their characters should they wish to be among the best in the game.
What Tribes: Ascend Got Wrong
Poor class balancing - It seems incredibly difficult to recommend a class-based shooter when the balancing between them is so awful. It might be true that in competitive play, expert players can use their knowledge of the game to overthrow any class, but in general online play, it seems that it’s always the same two classes being used by players, and to devastating effect. It is widely known how poorly balanced the classes are, but if players can put this behind them, they’ll find a title well worth experiencing.
Lack of game modes - When you first open the game, only two modes are available to play, with more becoming unlocked as you level up. This is a strange move, and does not allow players freedom in playing the game the way they want to. Should players really be penalised for being new to the game? Furthermore, even when all game modes are unlocked, it feels like there is something missing. Players can only hope the developer releases more game modes in the near future.
The Final Verdict
Tribes: Ascend is, more importantly than anything else, a breath of fresh air in the FPS genre. The title offers a well-rounded experience which offers noticeable improvements over its predecessors. The free-to-play model of the game means that anyone can give it a go, and it is strongly recommended you do so, as this will likely be one of the most well-rounded and unique shooting titles of the year.
By Harry Hughes