Tribes: Ascend has put on a very active beta. Since it began on November 4—and really, we don't toss this kind of praise around thoughtlessly—Hi-Rez has held its ear to its community as well as any developer we've seen. They've steadily iterated on the game, updating and adding content what seems like every week. Here's the scoop on a the next patch, as well as a few of the new weapons being added.
Pre-Ascend, a core aspect of Tribes was players' ability to hand-pick equipment from inventory stations to create custom roles. When Ascend forewent that freedom in favor of 12 loadouts (classes) that each carried discrete, restricted equipment, many fans complained that loadouts didn't jive with the original spirit of the franchise. Seemingly in response to this, the next update finds a middle ground between full customization and rigid classes: each class will now unlock new weapons.
The Jumper, Scrambler and Ranger classes are also being absorbed by other classes, bringing the total number of loadouts to nine. The Jumper, for example, will now be part of the Pathfinder. When you level up the Pathfinder, you'll be unlocking and upgrading weapons and item sets that include the old Jumper arsenal, effectively making the Pathfinder a deeper and more interesting class for flag running and chasing. Likewise, the Scrambler will be merged with the Raider for assault on enemy defenses and the Ranger will combine with the Soldier making for a more well-rounded killing machine on assaults.
The existing skill tree system for unlocking skills and perks is taking a fusion mortar to the face. Hi-Rez has opted to remove them completely and move to a method where players acquire weapon or armor upgrades. This isn't a fundamental change to the way classes work, but it does make the class progression feel more involved with each player's choices. If you really want your spinfusor to do more damage to heavy targets, you'll spend XP on upgrading your spinfusor rather than in a generic skill tree on the class page.
The way unlocks are earned is being simplified too. "All class unlocks, weapon unlocks, and weapon upgrades happen via XP (gameplay) or Gold (real-money). There are no more Tokens," explains Todd Harris, Hi-Rez Studios' COO. "We will be preserving all player progression in the beta by giving back Gold, giving back XP, and giving back additional XP for any tokens earned. Then players can unlock as they choose, recreating previous loadouts or choosing a different unlock path this time."
To help populate the options for customization players will soon have access to, Hi-Rez is throwing 16 guns into the weapon roster. What's new:
We invite your speculation on the Stealth Spinfusor. Are the discs invisible? Wait, no, they're red—that can't be right. Maybe they're only visible to the player firing them? Anyway, it sounds very exciting. And potentially terrifying.
As expected, character skins are also coming to Ascend, although not with this major update. The old class menu had an "Armor" tab that constantly teased at the possibility of changing the look of your class and the new menu now has an option for skins. When I asked Harris about this he confirmed that "Skins are not yet available, but still planned as future content."
All of these changes are aligning to make Tribes: Ascend what it should be: a fast-paced dance between explosions and flight that ultimately rewards players with the ability to customize what roles they fill and how they fill them with the dismembered bits of their enemies.