Tribes: Ascend review
Cost of living
Tribes’ free-to-play model is pretty fair, as those things go. Pricing is tiered: spending more gets you proportionately more in-game currency. For $50, you get 5,500 gold, or 110 gold/dollar. For $20, you get 1,800 gold, or 90 gold/dollar. $30 (3,000 gold) is enough to try every class and specialize in two or three. The six paid classes (everyone gets the Pathfinder, Soldier, and Juggernaut free) cost between 160 and 280 gold each. All six is 1,360 gold, or about $13.
That’s reasonable—the barrier to finding your favorite class is low. Owning more classes opens more gateways to player purchasing of weapons, perks, skins and equipment, most of which cost more. The most expensive weapons are about $8, and that does include attractive guns such as the MIRV (a cluster-mortar that fires a shell that splits in mid-air) and the Infiltrator’s Jackal, the only remote detonation weapon in Tribes. The two currently-available skins are $6.75 and $9.75—high, but comparable to cosmetic equivalents in League of Legends, for example.
Paid (“VIP”) players are awarded bonus XP after each match, but skill still absolutely overrides those boons. At the time of writing, all weapons and perks can also be purchased with that freely earned XP. Most importantly, the payment model doesn’t replace the need to master Tribes’ weapons and movement. You still have to aim where enemies will be, not where they are.
The great feedback the guns give facilitates this. Nearly all project their firing path and velocity, either with a tracer or a colored comet tail. Admiring a shot in the air that you know will connect with an enemy’s face is one of Tribes’ unique joys.
My gripes don’t end with the sparse teamwork, however. Base interiors are simplistic. The menu UI feels a little bulky and nested. I also don’t like how ancillary vehicles are to victory; they’re an expensive way of attracting attention to yourself and getting killed. The most useful—an air fighter called the Shrike—is a pricey, hard-to-handle mosquito in the hands of anyone other than a pro pilot.
Little of this, however, gets in the way of the primal, potent feelings of chasing and being chased. There’s a thing that happens often in the middle of most maps: you pass a foe at high speed en route to each other’s base. Usually you’re going too fast to even bother attacking—you both silently tip your hats and hope the other guy gets killed by your team. One time I blazed past a light-armored player in the center like this. My brain took over, reflexively telling my hand to left-click. I flicked a Spinfusor disc over my shoulder. Through no will of my own, it connected. He died, and I slid on unmolested, yelling only the word “WHAT” over and over at my monitor.
This Venn overlap of intuition and speed is where Tribes’ magic takes place: it produces hair-raising hole-in-one shots in a way that no other modern FPS can match.
A brilliant resurrection of a classic. Speed and skill-driven mechanics separate Tribes from other modern shooters.