It has been eight years since a Tribes game was last released. It’s also been about that long since I’ve played a Tribes game, dabbling a little bit in Tribes 2 when it was made free (as well as the original game, Starseige: Tribes) in an effort to hype the release of Tribes: Vengeance in 2004. I didn’t get along with it at the time, mostly because I was too wrapped up in Medal of Honor: Allied Assault (which had released two years prior) to learn another, vastly different FPS.
However, after playing Tribes: Ascend I look back upon my 14 year old self and curse my MOHAA-obsessed mind. Whilst I spent the better part of half a decade playing Allied Assault, I can’t help but think that I should have invested time into Tribes 2. I mean – it was free at this point, and if Ascend is anything to judge by, it must have been superb.[drop]Quite simply Tribes: Ascend is one of the best multiplayer FPSs I’ve played in a long time. It’s a fast-paced, arcade-y shooter that features, amongst other things, jetpacks, skiing, and spinning explosive disks. It’s free to play and multiplayer only, meaning you can go ahead and see how good it is for yourself.
There are a few important things you need to know though. Ascend is much more in the vein of Quake than it is Call of Duty, and there are a few skills you’re going to have to develop. The first, and possibly the most important, is skiing. Hold down the space bar and you will ski across the ground like you’re on, well skis, in a pseudo-realistic fashion. You will accelerate down slopes and decelerate as you ascend them, just as you might expect.
Your jetpack (activated by holding the right mouse button down) is an integral part of skiing, too, as you can use it to not only build up speed by dropping yourself onto a slope (not to mention controlling the angle at which you land on flat ground), but to launch yourself off the top of a hill to get some serious air, which can only be a good thing. Well, it is if you can control your fall. The general usefulness of the jetpack means you’d better watch your energy levels, which will deplete as you use it and regenerate when you give it time to do so.
The second important thing you need to know about Tribes: Ascend is how the weaponry works. There are very few hitscan weapons in the game. Hitscan is used in Call of Duty for pretty much all guns – it means there are no projectiles involved. You point your gun at an enemy and the game calculate whether or not it should hit – it it should, it does, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. It’s as simple as that.
In Ascend, this is not used – weaponry shoots actual projectiles and, as such, must be aimed considerably more realistically. If an enemy is moving from one side of the screen to the other and you aim directly at them and shoot, you will miss. Think of it like playing Space Invaders – you are supposed to aim where they’re going. You account for their speed, your weapon’s bullet speed and your own trajectory, then shoot.
It’s easier than you might expect from that description. The more you play the more you’ll find yourself correcting your aim automatically. That’s not to say you’ll be good at it, it certainly takes practice, but since you’re having so much fun it probably doesn’t matter too much.
After some practice, you’ll soon be drifting around the maps at ridiculous speeds and making shots that you more than likely thought were impossible when you first started playing. Suddenly, you’re pursuing the flag at high speeds surrounded by half of your team, all of you aiming for one guy who is inexplicably dodging everything you throw at him. Meanwhile, the enemies guarding the flag carrier are circling around him, shooting back at your team as they defend the flag. You start to realise it’s teamwork like you’ve never seen before and it’s with people you’ve never even met.
It’s completely inadvertent, but you’re suddenly in a team assaulting an enemy as one unit, and that’s when the game just clicks. You realise you’re having more fun than you can remember having elsewhere. Explosions and projectiles surround you switch to your shotgun, skiing directly at the flag carrier in a deadly push through the treacherous circle of enemies around him.
Detaching yourself from the pack, you charge straight at him and, as you approach he turns to see you and you just know that he’s thinking ‘oh shi-‘ as your launch one shotgun blast into his open mouth on your way through. He drops to the floor and the flag falls clear, one of your team mates immediately picking it up – he’d either anticipated what you were doing or you’d both gotten lucky, but either way, it was fantastic.[drop2]And this is how I experience Tribes: Ascend. It’s bigger than just an FPS once you get used to the mechanics. The feeling you get as you see the line you find yourself skiing on is exactly the one you wanted, as you realise that the last minute or two of chasing has built up to this perfect assault in which you are the hero, is like nothing else I’ve experienced in an FPS in my decade and a half of playing games, and it’s certainly much more of a rush that anything I’ve experienced in recent years.
It is exciting, I feel myself moving left and right in my seat as I’m speeding around the map, suddenly jerking to the right as I see a spinfusor pass to my left. I often have to remember to start breathing again after an intense firefight.
T:A is perhaps one of the best multiplayer FPS’ to release for a long time. Yes, it’s free to play, but it’s also perfectly enjoyable without paying a single penny. Having said that, it may well be the first free to play game that I’ll put actual, real life money into. If that isn’t a shining recommendation then I am unsure of what could be. I’ll try this: If you have a PC capable of playing it and even a passing interest you must go and try Tribes: Ascend. There, that should do it.
Tribes: Ascend is available for Windows only and is available on a free to play basis from the official website. Note that, whilst the Minimum specs below say 3gb minimum RAM for Vista/Windows 7, my own PC (running Windows 7 Ultimate) only has 2GB and is perfectly fine running the game.
- OS: Windows XP SP2, Windows Vista or Windows 7
- Processor: Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHz or Althon X2 2.7 GHz
- RAM: 2GB (XP), 3GB (Vista, Win7)
- Graphic card: ATI or Nvidia graphics card with 512MB video ram or better and Shader Model 3.0+ support. (ATI Radeon 3870 or higher, Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT or higher).
- Sound card: DirectX compatible sound card
- Hard drive: 10 GB free