Soar With the Blood Eagles

Posted: January 4, 2012 by: Sarah Lamotte

Tribes: Ascend has a particularly apt subtitle. It’s been seven years since we last skiied and soared our way through the shooter series that was once a fierce competitor for the likes of Quake and Unreal, and now Hi-Rez Studios is breathing new life into the franchise. Ascend also marks a shift into the free-to-play space the developer began to explore with their last title, Global Agenda; however, unlike many other free titles supported by microtransactions, paid players here aren’t afforded any real advantage and all content can be unlocked for free with enough time invested.

At its heart, Ascend plays much like the Tribes of old – Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag and Rabbit Chase modes are all available in the Beta – but it evolves the classic concepts by giving players a choice of twelve different character classes (with more on the way) that offer different abilities and equipment loadouts. Each class is rated on mobility, durability, anti-armour and range, with points distributed so that most classes have roughly the same amount of power on average. Along with the familiar options of light, medium or heavy armour, the classes offer two main firearms, a power-up pack, and an offhand weapon like grenades or claymores. Two classes are available to start with – the Ranger and the Soldier. The Ranger, as the name suggests, has above-average range with the assault rifle, but it also packs the Thumper DX for close-range grenade fire. The Soldier’s middling in every stat except for his slightly low anti-armour, but he wields one of Tribes’ most iconic weapons: the splash-damaging Spinfusor.

Other classes can be opened up with the tokens awarded at the end of each match, but it’s a long, slow road: you’d be lucky to unlock one with a week of heavy play. Less patient players will be happy to hear that classes can be unlocked for a price, but you’d better have deep pockets – twenty dollars will only give you enough gold to unlock three or four classes. Taking a leaf out of Xbox Live’s book, the pricing is set so you’ll always have a little gold left over. Right now, it encourages you to buy more so you can use it all up, but in the future those leftovers will likely be mopped up by the planned addition of buyable character skins. If you balk at the idea of spending money on a Beta, it’s worth noting that all player progress will carry over to the final release; jump in now and you’ll have a hefty headstart on launch day.

Though there’s only a handful of maps and game types in the Beta so far, the classes on offer are diverse enough to maintain interest. For players who favour defence, the heavy armour classes – the cheerfully named Doombringer, Juggernaut and Brute – are supplemented by a support class, the Technician, that shines in Capture the Flag matches. It sports the lowest stats in the game and a pretty puny SMG, but the improved repair tool ensures you’ll bring your base’s defences back online faster than ever, giving you a crucial edge. The Technician also has the ability to deploy light turrets which, when used strategically, can help keep your flag covered at all times. There really is a class to suit every play style – stealth fans even get a look in with the Infiltrator, a light-armoured class whose sneaky backstabs and sticky grenades make him formidable for offence in the right hands. Classes also gain experience as you use them, unlocking enhancements in a skill tree that culminates in perks that can be used with any class, which adds an extra layer of customisation for dedicated players.

Longtime Tribes fans will immediately feel at home, with classic maps like Tribes 2′s Katabatic making a reappearance – its steep slopes and exposed capture points make for some of the most frenetic Capture the Flag play around. Ascend’s more than just a high-definition facelift, though. Capture the Flag is more nuanced and dynamic here, with the added ability to earn credits for your in-game achievements which can be spent during that match on upgrading different aspects of your base, buying vehicles, or calling in a range of airstrikes. It’s a system that brings the series in line with more modern titles, escalating the chaos of a game that’s already more fast-paced than most.

For a Beta, Ascend is an immensely playable game: it’s incredibly stable, and regular patches add more polish and content all the time. It’s already an experience that’s at once a massive nostalgia bomb and a breath of fresh air in the modern shooter landscape, and given the asking price, we’ll definitely be keeping an eye on the game’s evolution. Ahead of its expected launch in the first quarter of this year, we chatted to Hi-Rez Studios’ Chief Operating Officer, Todd Harris, about his plans for Ascend and the future of the franchise.

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12 Responses to “Soar With the Blood Eagles”

  1. majBUZZ #

    As a beta player i can say tribes feels like it hasn’t evolved enough, back in the day there was a mod called ultra renegades to me that is what the tribes experience should have evolved towards, more of a unlimited power and weapons unlimited jet pack so more of a 3d experience and floating bases high up in the sky gave you that feeling of being larger then life and the weapons are only limited to 2 per class active at any one time, they also feel weak and underpowered, plus there should be some advanced weapons like tracking and one or two hit kill. There is a lot of unlocks so maybe some of this is addressed already.

    January 4, 2012 at 10:29 pm Reply
    • Scrub #

      At first, I was a little put off by the limited weapons but the more I play, it doesn’t seem as much of a burden as I had initially thought i.e. you get use to it. And I definitely don’t feel the weapons are underpowered, I would actually say the opposite, some of them are overpowered IMO.

      I’m with you on how it hasn’t quite evolved enough yet, HiRez had said initially that they were trying to capture the T2 feel, and while I’d say they are about 80% there, it’s still lacking and doesn’t quite capture the grandiose feeling I got while playing T2, much akin to your “larger than life” analogy…

      I’m also very disappointed they left out the transport, bomber and mobile point base as I felt all of those vehicles added a lot of depth to the game. The transport was shown in the initial Ascend trailer, but HiRez has since stated that no additional vehicles are planned before release *sigh*, maybe they will change that, it is still in beta after all.

      Despite all of that, I’m having a lot of fun with the game and play it every chance I get.

      January 5, 2012 at 2:16 am Reply
      • TheWolf #

        whaaaaat? they left out the transport and the bomber? WHY?

        Those vehicles did indeed add much depth and if my memory serves me correctly were unique to the game at the time.

        I still remember the first time i had a go piloting that transport. Needless to say I crashed – resulting in much abuse thrown my way. Though the sight of a full load of passengers turning to stare at me vindictively as I ploughed the transport into a hillside was priceless.

        January 16, 2012 at 1:17 am Reply
    • WerT #

      Tracking weapons? seriously? Tribes was about skill dude. Tracking weapons is why BF3 is boring compared to BC2.

      January 5, 2012 at 11:37 am Reply
  2. Renegades was garbage, Yes i know it was a popular crappy mod, but it was still a rediculus no skill joke of a mod. Unlimited power and weapons? what the hell would be the point? Light armored 12 year olds shooting mortar rounds lighting up an entire hillside green unrealistic crap fest. there was no challange no finess no skill just spam and be spammed…. NO renegades

    January 4, 2012 at 11:58 pm Reply
  3. Tribes1Junkie #

    I was/am a huge fan of the MODDED versions of Tribes 1. I believe if Dynamix somehow prevented the option for modding the game, not many people would have played it for as long as they did. Because of mods, even after the Tribes 1 master servers went down, the game kept on being played by people who paid to host their own servers (talk about devotion! Not because Tribes 1 was an amazing game off the shelf, but because of the modifications which truly unlocked its potential). Personally, if it weren’t for the customizations of people so dedicated to the game that they took it upon themselves to dive into the code and make the game far better than the stock release, I would have played it for about a month and then called it quits (instead I played it for ~5 years).

    After playing the Tribes: Ascend beta for 10 Ranks, I do like the feel of the game far far far far far more than I did Tribes Vengence (don’t get me started on that game…), and the game is fun, but I’m convinced that without Mods this game will definitely not fulfill the legacy of Tribes 1.

    I dislike the fact that Hi-Rez has seemingly tried to morph the success and style of Call of Duty into Tribes. I’d like to be able to pick my armor, then my guns, then my pack, and then my accessories, rather than be forced to choose a single armor with unlockable perks (Call of Duty style). However, this is where I see huge success for a modded version to come along and release the potential of Tribes: Ascend… I’ll even suggest a title: Tribes 1 Mod.

    I understand there should be money made for hard work, but I believe Tribes: Ascend will not “ascend” to Tribes 1 standards because of how the game is cleverly designed to make money. In my opinion, their “Call of Duty” style unlock and upgrade as you play (which takes quite a long time (which clearly implies they want you to use real money and buy the upgrades)) would suffer the company a loss in profits if they allowed people to mod their game. Why should I purchase armors if someone makes a mod that lets me use a variety of armors with a variety of weapons, packs, deployables, and accessories?

    All in all, I would have definitely paid the going rate of $60 for a game which was Tribes 1 (even Tribes 2) with upgraded graphics, 3 armors, 10 guns, 4 packs, grenades, health packs, and mines.. then I would have waited a few weeks for the mods to appear.. and then I’d be playing the most rad FPS computer game since Tribes 1. Instead, I have Tribes: Ascend, a FPS with jet packs.

    Since its only beta, perhaps the full release will surprise me.

    January 5, 2012 at 12:05 am Reply
  4. Citizenland #

    The game feels very much like a Tribes game. It captures the feel of the first two games even though the load-out system has changed. Its smooth, polished and quite fun. I’d love to see the game expanded a bit more to the level of Tribes 2′s tactical options but its still early so hopefully that’ll be something for the future.

    Either way, I don’t think Hi-Rez could have a done a better job in bringing back a game that has so many passionate fans while attempting to bring in new players and making the whole enterprise work as a F2P title. If its a choice between TA or no tribes at all, I’ll absolutely take TA.

    January 5, 2012 at 2:56 am Reply
  5. mooser #

    Don’t forget the boost and brake option in Ultra Renegades. It made aerial combat and speed capping a non-stop rush.

    I agree we need bigger and higher levels with floating bases in Ascend (like no-rail-no-fog map in T1 Ultra Renegades).

    Let’s hope modding will be as easy as in T1 so we can get some great Ultra mods and voice packs (with movie quotes ;)

    January 5, 2012 at 8:07 am Reply
  6. Liem #

    i think its a good game despite the fact that i havnt played it or read the article , its just me i cant be bothered buh i do want to win this just for the fun of it and experience it for my self , and probs get it if i enjoy it
    Toodles

    January 9, 2012 at 1:28 am Reply
  7. dave #

    Thanks for the key! Have been playing it nonstop for the last few days and I’m loving every second of it. And as much as i like the beagle/sandraker dynamic, I can’t wait until hirez adds the derms.

    January 11, 2012 at 12:17 am Reply
  8. Ben #

    I tried to post this in the ‘Inbox/letter of the month’ form but the form wouldn’t work for me.

    Quote Issue 202 p88 -Tribes: Ascend, a free-to-play shooter that will probably not suck.
    I know that is supposed to just be a throw-away line, but I have to respond.
    Tribes Ascend DOES suck. It has worse netcode than a game which were released 14 years ago. What game am I referring to? It’s own ancestor – Starseige: Tribes.
    TA focuses on limitations instead of variety and options.

    Starseige Tribes was brilliant, even if the game play did result from serendipity (i.e. a bug made the game great).
    The developers of T2 tried to alter Tribes to their own vision. It sucked, until the community modded the game to better match T1.
    The developers of Tribes: Vengeance tried to alter Tribes to their own vision. It sucked, until the community modded the game to better match T1 (and even then, the jury was out).
    Tribes Acsend’s developers have altered Tribes to their own vision. It sucks, and the community isn’t allowed to modify it in any way shape or form. We can’t even make maps for it.

    TA is hated more by jaded Tribes ‘veterans’ than TV was; and that is saying something!
    Everything that made Tribes different has been removed or reduced, while features from other shooters have been added.
    In summary: Tribes Ascend DOES suck. It took a game which stood out from the crowd and tried to make it look like part of the crowd instead.

    May 6, 2012 at 2:14 pm Reply
    • Daniel Hindes #

      Could you be more specific as to why TA sucks?

      May 8, 2012 at 7:18 am Reply

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