The Frag Limit


Tribes: Ascend – Review
April 15, 2012, 2:08 pm
Filed under: Hit Scan | Tags: , , , , ,

Review Score:   92 / 100

Review Stats:

  • Gameplay – 9
  • Fun Factor – 10
  • Competition Value – 8
  • Replay Value – 9
  • Intangibles – 10
  • Total Score – 46 (x2) = 92

Game Information:

  • Platform(s) – PC
  • Release Date – April 12, 2012
  • Game Modes – DM, CTF, Arena

The Nitty Gritty:

Hello everyone and welcome to the first Hit Scan review here at The Frag Limit.

Today, we will be taking a look at the recently released multiplayer FPS game, Tribes: Ascend (T:A).

Tribes: Ascend is a game which continues a long legacy of the Tribes franchise – a franchise that was once (as many consider) to be one of the four major pillars of the competitive-based FPS world about a decade ago (with the other three being Unreal Tournament, Quake 3 and Counter-Strike). 

Tribes: Ascend continues this brave lineage rather well.  While maintaining some of the much beloved original elements in the earlier Tribes series (such as large open maps and the use of jetpacks) the game also utilizes updated graphics (which are based on the licensed Unreal 3 engine), improved sound quality, improved mechanics and a whole host of other updated and well-implemented technical elements.  

This combination of keeping the good bits from the past while improving on the cosmetic aspects (and also adding a good amount of depth to certain areas) makes Tribes: Ascend a great game.  It wins on almost all accounts and delivers an action-packed, fun-filled, adrenaline-pumping FPS experience.  While it is not a “new game”, in that, it is not a new franchise, it does represent a revival of some of the best aspects of the fast-paced, frenetic action that was common in the FPS games of yesteryear.

Gameplay:

The gameplay in Tribes: Ascend is excellent.  There are certain advantages to using a popular, highly-refined, modern game engine (such as the Unreal 3 Engine that was used for T:A).  And the smooth movements, tight game controls and responsive physics found in Tribes: Ascend are all evidence that this particular level of quality found in the game comes directly from using Epic’s excellent technology.  Here, in Tribes: Ascend, the Unreal 3 Engine really shines.  The action is quick and tight and no local latency or hardware drag is apparent (this is, of course, when using an optimal machine at reasonable option and graphic settings).

Getting on to the actual balance of the game, the design and execution of the classes, weapons or other items in Tribes: Ascend all help distinguish and highlight the excellence of the gameplay in this offering.  Each tribe consists of nine different playable classes which each have their own unique advantages and disadvantages. Some classes are fast, but have weak armor and some classes are slow, but have heavy armor. Some classes represent a middle range and are well-balanced, but lack real strengths in any area. Some classes are well suited for offense (such as capturing and returning the flag) and some classes are well-suited for defense (such as defending the generator and flag stand).   The weapons are also well designed in T:A, as are the slew of unlockable assets, and nothing in the game seems to overpower any other thing (note: this only applies to players of equal rank – gameplay imbalance is an issue for highly differentiated players).

Fun Factor:

Tribes: Ascend is a blast to play.  And for this fact, it rates as high as it possibly can in this category (10).  The action, which held in tension by the two warring tribes in this game (the Blood Eagle and the Diamond Sword), is paramount.  This game has more fun, “wow that was cool” moments than one can shake a stick at.  This is primarily due to the two most important game mechanics of T:A – skiing and using a jetpack.

Skiing allows gamers to reach incredible speeds while going downhill, or across horizontal surfaces, and jetpacks allow gamers to reach impossible heights, which are inaccessible in most other games. These mechanics change the dynamic of the overall experience and give gamers a whole new dimension to do battle. In any given match, players will be blazing over terrain at breakneck speeds to mercilessly hunt down the enemy, flying high over the hilltops to reach the enemy flag or using a combination of both gameplay mechanics to bring victory for their team. This wild and crazy scene of frenetic energy may seem chaotic and out-of-control for some players, but the beauty of this game is that these controls can be tamed and brought to order.

Competition Value:

Tribes: Ascend is a “free-to-play” game – meaning that it can be downloaded and played for free (and without limitation).  However, the game also offers a deep, unlockable economy of assets which lends itself well for those who are more interested in just paying a few bucks up front in order to purchase “Tribes Gold” which will help unlock these assets quicker.

Given the nature of this type of highly customizable economy of assets (which includes unlocks for weapons, belt items, packs, deployables, armor, skins and perks), the value of competitive gameplay can be affected.  Players who have unlocked copious amounts of assets via experience points, or by purchasing their way to the top, have a notable advantage over those who do not have a stellar inventory of assets.  This imbalance between players of a high rank and players of low rank is a serious problem for conducting fair and pragmatic clan-based, competitive multiplayer gaming.

In spite of these things, however, Tribes: Ascend still provides an awesome platform to host some kick-ass clan battles.  And perhaps advantages in asset inventories are not that much of a concern for league play as those truly dedicated players will always find ways in which to improve their skills (either by grinding or paying their way to the top).

Replay Value:

There are two major incentives for players to play Tribes: Ascend over and over. The first obviously comes from having the ridiculous amounts of assets available to unlock as the game progresses.  This deep inventory goads players to come back again and again in order to progress through the game experience.

The other major incentive that keeps players playing Tribes: Ascend is the repeat value of the game experience itself. Tribes: Ascend is just too much damned fun to play! The gameplay is extremely addicting and there almost a million different ways to play the game. While there are only a dozen maps (at this point in time), the maps never really become stale as there are tons of different tactics and strategies which can be used. The open-endedness of the game creates a wide diversity of play styles and interactions (especially as one unlocks more stuff) that one will find in the game.

Intangibles:

Tribes: Ascend is a free game!  That in and of itself should be reason enough for scoring a 10 in this category.  What’s even more impressive than that is that Tribes: Ascend also delivers a hell of an experience.  As already noted several times in this review, Tribes: Ascend is a blast to play.  With the tight gameplay, solid graphics and sound, a robust economy, engaging and complex matches, fun battles and a wide variety of classes and upgrades to continually unlock and strive for, T:A delivers a multiplayer experience comparable to nearly any leading FPS game on the market.  And did we mention that it was free?

Another big thing that Tribes: Ascend has going for it is that it is a game that harkens back to the glory days of multiplayer FPS gaming.  Around the turn of the century there were a whole host of games that featured fast, in-your-face, on-the-edge-of-chaos type gameplay – games such as Quake 3, Unreal Tournament and yes Tribes and Tribes 2.  All of these games put the gamer in whirlwind state of violently fast and frantic fragging and gibbing.  Tribes: Ascend is one of the few games now-a-days that nods back to that previous by-gone era with respect and acknowledgement for the goodness that those games brought to the world.  And T:A is one of the few games today with a commitment to restore and revive that goodness for a new generation of gamers.  For this, and for the many other things it offers, Tribes: Ascend is a winner.  Now go download the game and start fragging immediately!

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