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Tribes: Ascend entering open beta on Friday, adding Arena Deathmatch and new maps

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Good news, everyone! Starting this Friday, February 24 at 12 p.m. EST, Tribes: Ascend will leave closed beta and open its free-to-play doors to the greater public. The game won't launch officially until later this year, but with F2P games, the difference between an open beta and a "launch" is debatable. Perhaps the beta comes with an asterisk acknowledging that bugs happen, things get nerfed, and there's still polishing to do, but Ascend is already pretty shiny. It started strong, and developer Hi-Rez has made substantial improvements during the closed beta, which CEO Todd Harris says "exceeded expectations" with over 300,000 players.

Ascend currently features five maps, nine customizable classes, and three modes: Rabbit, a free-for-all mode which awards points to the flag carrier; Team Deathmatch, which awards double points to kills scored by the flag-holding team; and traditional Capture the Flag.

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Before the game opens to all on Friday, a major update will add a new mode called Arena Deathmatch, which will include two maps specifically designed for it; a new CTF map, Temple Ruins; a new Team Deathmatch map, Inferno; two new Soldier class unlocks; as well as several interface changes, balance tweaks, and bug fixes. Existing players will retain all progress and unlocks, and Hi-Rez doesn't plan for any character wipes.

If you're not in the closed beta, the upcoming public release will cost you nothing but time to check out. Purchasing gold gives you immediate access to additional classes and weapons, but those can also be acquired with experience earned in-game, and upgrades like larger clips and reduced reload times can only be earned with XP, so lacking funds won't put you at a serious disadvantage. (Those with the cash can speed things up by purchasing XP boosters, but even so, the game's balanced well enough that upgrades or no upgrades, you'll never be a helpless weakling.)

Being the camping jerk I am, my current go-to class is the pesky, sniping Sentinel. For me, nothing beats picking a skiing flag carrier out of the air, but the game accommodates a ton of play styles. Gavin, for example, takes a bulkier approach, as seen in the Juggernaut class video we put together a while back:

For more on Hi-Rez's approach to the series, check out our interview with Executive Producer Todd Harris , which was recorded prior to November's closed beta launch, and scroll down for more screenshots of the new additions. Oh, and check back later this week for a very relevant giveaway!

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Tyler grew up in Silicon Valley alongside Apple and Microsoft, playing games like Zork and Arkanoid on the early personal computers his parents brought home. He was later captivated by Myst, SimCity, Civilization, Command & Conquer, Bushido Blade (yeah, he had Bleem!), and all the shooters they call "boomer shooters" now. In 2006, Tyler wrote his first professional review of a videogame: Super Dragon Ball Z for the PS2. He thought it was OK. In 2011, he joined PC Gamer, and today he's focused on the site's news coverage. After work, he practices boxing and adds to his 1,200 hours in Rocket League.