Hi-Rez Studio’s Tribes: Ascend is a unique little beast. Seeing as I have never stepped foot into any game from the Tribes series, I was expecting your typical arena based shooter with jetpacks. Seeing as free-to-play games typically boil down to buying things to give you the huge upper hand, I really did not expect anything good to come out of Tribes: Ascend’s free-to-play model.
Boy, was I in for a damn surprise.
Tribes: Ascend is a first-person shooter that is fundamentally different from your typical shooter. The best way I can explain it is that you’re in a roller derby with slow moving weapons. Your mode of transportation is not so much fueled by your jetpack or by running but relying on skis that allows you to glide along the floor without much friction.
What started off as a glitch in the original Tribes, Skiing has now become the primary method of movement in Tribes: Ascend in combination with your jet pack. It does not take long to get used to this mechanic, and the game does offer methods of being able to practice the lay of the land of the various maps as you learn to quickly zoom from one end to another. One fantastic feature of these practice sessions is that you will be able to try out the various classes and weapons without having to pay for them. Not only is it free-to-play but it’s free-to-try, a practice that should be implemented in more games.
There are different classes that you can play as in Tribes: Ascend and each feature their own different sets of gear, upgrades and various bonuses. Unlocking the various classes and weapons will require you to either grind up the XP for them, or you can purchase them with real money using Tribes Gold. Purchasing some amount of Gold will net you VIP status which gives you additional XP per match. You can also choose to buy XP boost packages as well.
The real challenge comes in the form of actually landing your shots. Typically, you will come equip with a grenade launcher type weapon such as the Thumper or the Spinfusor. As you’re skiing and flying the air, you will be doing your damage by aiming down and hopefully going for a near direct hit on your enemies. This will require some mental calculation and mindgames as both you and your enemies will be zooming in various directions. The whole process makes for a slower game that let’s you concentrate on prediction and not reaction.
As with any shooter, Tribes: Ascend comes with its own set of game types but gives you opportunities to play the game under different conditions. Capture the Flag offers you some indoor areas for close combat and vehicles thrown into the mix. Capture & Hold and Deathmatch generally will bring you out to the open field. Arena, which requires that you play the game until you have reached rank 8, is a 5-on-5 competitive battle in which the area that you’re playing on is suspended high into the air and space is limited. Each of these different game types are of their own style, and a different mindset will be needed when going into these events.
Capture the Flag definitely holds itself as being the more unique experiences. You have a full list of things to be concerned about such as a power generator, defense of your flag, vehicles and pressing the offense. Going in with a deathmatch mentality just does not work as the ultimate goal is to capture the opponent’s flag and not so much racking up the kills. How to go about it can really be daunting and even a bit confusing when compared to other shooters. Coordination most certainly helps but be prepared to deal with complete silence when playing with public matchmaking. Thankfully, there are servers that can be rented out for friends or clans.
Then there is the question of if you can survive through this game without making a single payment. You very well could but that also puts you at the mercy of what is default. It isn’t so much that the selection is weak but rather you’re paying for q faster way to refine your classes and your play style. Some of the prices for straight up XP will require some long grinding and if you find yourself enjoying this type of shooter that you can play for long hours, you can definitely live without paying a single dime. However, if you do indeed enjoy this game that much, you probably would consider throwing down some money anyways. There are also referral programs in place to help you earn some Ascend Gold as well.
Tribes: Ascend ultimately is another competitive shooter with its own unique features. The free-to-play model balances well enough so that players do not have to feel so forced to have to fork out money to win. Skiing and shooting can take a while to learn, but the mechanics lend itself to a more rewarding and fair experience that will allow you to take time with your shots. Even if you do not think this is right for you, it is free-to-play so you can try it out before committing anything to it… And that’s just a nice feature, isn’t it?