Tribes Ascend: Closed Beta Impressions
By Michael Sagoe (mikedot ), OnRPG Journalist
A legendary shooter series is coming back for a new generation, and it’s getting the F2P treatment. “Tribes Ascend”, developed by Hi-Rez Studios, is a multiplayer only FPS series that’s all about jetpacks, insane speed and blowing stuff up. While having a very sizeable fanbase, Tribes has always been considered to be a niche title. So many changes were made in order to appeal to a broader audience. An early access closed beta was opened to a select few, and I managed to get in on the action.
Straight from the log-in screen, different character classes were shown, each with alternative load-outs between light, medium and heavy movement types. This makes for a total of 12 playable classes. Unfortunately, only two medium movement types were available from the start: Soldier and Ranger. Ranger seemed like a good class for me, equipped with an assault rifle and grenade launcher. Since I tend to spray and pray when playing unfamiliar shooters, I selected Ranger and headed straight for the play button.
Play options during the early closed beta were a bit scarce, as only two maps were available and only two game modes: CTF and Rabbit. There was also no option to start your own rooms. I wasn’t sure what Rabbit mode was like, so selected CTF and was dumped into a game in progress.
The two warring teams were the Blood Eagles (Red) and the Diamond Swords (Blue), both classic clans from the Tribes series. The Blood Eagles had buff and bulky looking body armor while the Diamond Swords had a more slivery sleek design to theirs. I didn’t have a preference since I have never played a Tribes game before, so I went with the Blood Eagles.
Right away, I wanted to abuse the ability to ski so I could mow people down at high speeds, but it wasn’t as easy as it looked. Proper skiing requires holding down the spacebar while sliding down a sloped surface to pick up speed, and maintaining that speed required a light touch between jetpack boosting uphill, otherwise you’ll bleed your speed. I didn’t really figure that out until I discovered there was a tutorial for skiing in play menu. It’s a neat feature once you get the hang of it, but I felt like it missed something… (More speed and some tighter movement, perhaps?)
The first map I played on was Katabatic, a huge snowfield with tons of mountains to drop in from. It was also the perfect place to get some wicked ski battles going. My team and I were primarily fixated on rushing for the flag without setting up any defenses for our base. Luckily for my team, the enemy flag carrier kept trying to rush past us and always got shot down, allowing for an easy pick up.
After getting used to playing as Ranger, I switch to the Soldier class after a respawn. Soldiers were similar to Rangers, but instead of a generic assault rifles, they used Spinfusors, another classic Tribes weapon that fires spinning electric blades of exploding death. They’re single shot weapons and were best used in mid-close range. They weren’t my cup of tea, but it was a fan favorite.
Starting to get a real good feeling for the combat, I managed to get a nice killing spree going…
…that was until I walked backwards into an endless pit of nothingness.
Easy come, easy go.
Next map up was Crossfire, a map filled with smaller grassy hills that separate two huge drop ships. This time, I went with the Diamond Sword team. Both sides rushed out to the middle of the field and engaged in a chaotic fire fight. With my new found skiing skills, I snaked around enemies while picking off weaker ones for some assist points. I attempted to grab the enemy flag, but enemy turrets and some damn good snipers kept picking me off.
Going straight for the flag wasn’t such a great idea, so instead I decided to do some fancy covert action and go for the generator instead, thus disabling enemy turrets that were getting in me and my team’s way.
After a few more rounds, I decided to give this Rabbit mode a try. This game mode is a fan favorite and a true test of your skiing skills. The object is to grab the flag in the middle of the field and hold onto it as long as possible while other players try to kill you. First player to 30 points wins.
It was like a good ‘ol fashion cat and mouse chase, except the cats and mice were strapped with jet boosters and speeding around at 130+ kilometers an hour. I learned a thing or two about proper skiing routes from this mode as I tangoed with more Tribes vets. Some vets were nearly impossible to catch up with.
Even though I do not have any previous experience with the Tribes series, I had a whole lot of fun with this one. As long as they tweak the skiing a bit and go easy on the monetization process they’re planning, it could easily be one of the slickest F2P shooters out there.
Tribes Ascend is having a closed beta test that began on November 4th, 2011, with an Open Beta shortly after. For more information, stayed tuned to OnRPG for an upcoming video first impressions!