The Frag Limit


Smite – Review
December 31, 2012, 10:41 am
Filed under: Hit Scan | Tags: , , , ,

Review Score: 94 / 100

Review Stats:

  • Gameplay – 10
  • Fun Factor – 10
  • Competition Value – 9
  • Replay Value – 9
  • Intangibles – 9
  • Total Score – 47 (x2) = 94

Game Information:

  • Platform(s) – PC
  • Release Date – Still in Beta as of 12/31/2012
  • Game Modes – Arena, Conquest, Domination, Joust

The Nitty Gritty:

Hi-Rez seems to have done it again. Hi-Rez has made another wonderful, original game which is completely free-to-play and not necessarily pay-to-win. This time the Hi-Rez team has put together a fancy MOBA title which is entirely set in the third-person perspective (as opposed to the traditional isometric perspective of most other MOBAs). This small twist on the camera position has created an entirely new gameplay experience for this beloved esports genre. The change in camera position has made the MOBA more appealing to “twitch” gamers – which is to say; those gamers who prefer quick, reflexive action as opposed to strategic action – and has also made it more appealing to those gamers who simply cannot “get into” the top-down isometric gameplay of traditional RTS games. This simple change in game design cannot be overstated enough as its importance is paramount in this latest offering from Hi-Rez.

Smite is the “Battleground of the Gods”, as its slogan states. In Smite, one can take on the role of many different “Gods” from classical mythology. Gods from five different pantheons (Greek, Norse, Egyptian, Chinese and Hindu) are available at present time and Hi-Rez has stated that more pantheons may be opened up in the future. At present time there are about 30 Gods which can be played from these five different pantheons. Smite players can battle it out with such well known deities like Zues and Thor, or play lesser known higher-beings like Bakasura and Xbalanque. Whatever God one chooses, it should be noted, that all are pretty well balanced in spite of each God have a unique set of skills and abilities from which to use. I will discuss more about this later.

Gameplay:

The gameplay in Smite is spot-on. Indeed, everything about it just makes the game a blast to play. Starting with the unique camera angle (for MOBAs) the game has a twitch-based aspect to it which makes almost every shot a “skill shot”. Many Gods have basic attacks and special skills which allow them to shoot or aim in a specific direction. This fact makes it so that if one can aim at one’s target, then one can also miss one’s target. Artemis, for example, shoots arrows for her basic attack. These arrows have to be aimed and shot correctly (judging for distance and lead time) to hit the opponant. If these basic attacks are executed carelessly then many shots will be missed – thereby rendering the entire exercise pointless. Many other attacks and abiliites operate in the same manner throughout the game. This aspect of the “skill shot” makes it so that game becomes quite fun and entertaining from a tactical perspective. One can never tell who may win a battle until the battle is completely over as the presence of skill shots in the game may influence who wins and who loses at any given time.

Another thing that makes the game really fun to play is how well balanced the game is. As noted earlier, in spite of each God having their own seperate and unique skills and abilites the game balances these differences rather well. While a newly released God may require some balancing (after being accused of being “OP” or “overpowered” by the players), most Gods that have been around for some time are not going to being superior to any other God. Most Gods are “equal” (although due to the complexity of the system, however, the balancing will never be perfect). Hi-Rez has shown some chops in balancing these Gods rather well so that the game is fun for everyone to play (which is to say; it is fun to play every God), while at the same time not making every God a carbon copy of every other God (each God is unique).

Fun Factor:

The well-balanced gameplay in Smite makes the game really fun to play. The different skills and abilities of the different Gods makes it feel like one has the ability to change the outcome of the battle (and one does have that power), but at the same time those unique skills and abilities never overwhelm the game. The game always balances at fine edge and it is at this edge which awesome battles and skirmishes occur.

While accounting for one’s own actions, one must also be dependant on one’s team as Smite is very much a team-oriented game. This team aspect is perhaps one of Smite’s greatest assests. The fact that each player has to depend on one’s teammates for success means that each player ought to play as a team member, or simply find a different game to play. Indeed, since all of the gamemodes in Smite are no more than 5 versus 5 players, it is paramount that one focus on aiding and serving the team. If one does not and “plays solo” if you will, then there is no doubt that one will catch flak for those actions. Diregarding the team will not only result in a loss, but also in shame and ridicule from other players.

How, one may be asking, is this fun? It is fun because heavily team-oriented games are difficult to find. Sure there may a number of different games out there that cater to multiplayer action, but most of these games are FPS games and have larger team sizes (up to 32 versus 32). In a setting such as that it doesn’t matter so much if a few people “go rogue” here and there. But for Smite, everyone needs to play as a team member. And it is this team focus which makes the game so fun to play. Before one’s knows it, one will be playing like a well-oiled team member constantly on the look out for one’s own teammates. Coming to the aid and rescue of a teammate being attacked by enemy players and being thanked by him is exetremely gratifying. Likewise, it is also extremely gratifying to coordinate a surprise attack on enemies with other teammates (such as in a “Gank” – or a flanking movement) and then hear the “Nice Job!” voice messages fly. Moreso, it is extremely fun when you can actually play with people you know via VOIP or in real life. Pairing up with a friend or in a five man team is perhaps one of the funnest gaming experiences one can have.

Competition Value:

Smite has a lot to offer in the area of competition. The game is well-balanced, fun to play, well-designed for team play and leans towards competitive action. The game’s most important gamemode (Conquest) is a team-focused 5 versus 5 match instance in which opposing teams must destroy the other team’s enemy towers, pheonixes, and minotaur to win. This gamemode is similar to other traditional MOBAs such as League of Legends and Defense of the Ancients and is rather simple and straightforward in its design. The mode consists of only one map in which three “lanes” or paths and two main jungle areas make up the entire playable area. This trim design may seem sparse for gamers from other genres, but for Smite (and other MOBAs) this simple, mirrored map acts as just a nice place to display the talent, teamwork and tension of the two opposing teams. It could be said that the map in Smite is like a basketball court or football field. Although it is simple in its design, it also provides the foundation from which all the action of the matches manifest. The elementary design of the map aids and brings forth the potential for great gameplay.

One thing to note about the competition value is that Hi-Rez has a somewhat strange relationship to it. They made this wonderful, well-balanced game that caters to competitive play, yet they don’t actually offer anything in the game itself (or on its website, or in any other form) that caters to competition. Hi-Rez has built the place where all of these great, exciting, team-based matches can happen, yet they have not built a place where people can actually compete. Hi-Rez has done nothing to encourage team-based competition outside of actually just playing the game in a casual manner (by pubbing). They offer no sort of official tournaments, nor leagues, nor even ladders. At the very least they could have an official ladder system to encourage team building and team gameplay. But nothing of the sort exists. Hi-Rez should take a cue from League of Legends and incorperate competitive opportunities directly into its marketing plan. Surely, if this competitive sector grows then the whole game will grow and Hi-Rez will stand to make some nice dough (just look at LoL). It is a wonder why they haven’t supported this area.

Replay Value:

The replay value for Smite is very high. Given the numerous Gods that one can play and the ever expanding gameplay options in this game, this game has a lot to offer. Getting accustomed to all of the different intricacies of just one God can take upwards of 20 matches alone – if not more. To be really good, it may require even more time with that God. Multiple this by the number of Gods available and you have yourself a game that can be played over and over and over agian. Furthermore the competitive nature of this game makes individual players strive to become better and better (for bragging rights of course). Also, if a player is on a team, he or she will often play with their team to practice or to do competitive battle. This greatly amplifies how much a player will come back time and again to play the game.

Intangibles:

Smite has a lot going for it, but one of the best things things that it has going for it is that it is free! Smite is completely free to download and play. Of course, there are only a limited number of Gods that one can choose to use once in the game, but different Gods rotate in and out to allow players who have not unlocked certain Gods to play those Gods. Furthermore, if one plays enough, they can get enough experience points to unlock a new God completely free of charge. One may be wondering how Hi-Rez makes any money at all. Well, they do sell “gems”, which is the in-game currency used to purchase skins (new models of a God) and new Gods themselves. If a player doesn’t want to wait for the God rotation and/or doesn’t want to grind it out to gain experience, he can just go to the Smite store and buy some gems. However, Smite can be played almost entirely without having to spend a dime – which makes it great for those gamers who are on a budget.

The other big thing Smite has going for it is that it is a FUN and UNIQUE GAME! While MOBAs have been around for awhile, the use of the third-person perspective creates almost an entirely new genre in and of itself (it is a sub-genre of sorts). The third-person perspective makes the game quick and “twitchy” and due to this draws in a entirely new crowd of gamers. Smite is also a lot of fun to play. If a player can get over the high learning curve, Smite has a lot to offer in depth of gameplay. This deep gameplay makes the game really exciting as players are always looking for ways to improve their Gods stats in every match by attempting to select the best “build” they can for their Gods. The gameplay itself is also very addicting. The combination of tactical and strategic elements in the game will always have gamers on the edge of their seats trying to get those minor advantages which add up over the course of the match into great advantages. There is never a dull moment or lull in the action. For these reasons, Smite is a game which should not be missed. Smite is a fantasic game!



Battlefield 3 – Review
July 1, 2012, 5:15 pm
Filed under: Hit Scan

Review Score:   84 / 100

Review Stats:

  • Gameplay – 8
  • Fun Factor – 9
  • Competition Value – 6
  • Replay Value – 10
  • Intangibles – 9
  • Total Score – 42 (x2) = 84

Game Information:

  • Platform(s) – PC, 360, Ps3
  • Release Date – October 25, 2011
  • Game Modes – Conquest, Rush, Squad Rush, Squad DM, TDM

The Nitty Gritty:

Hello everyone.  Today we are going to be taking a look at Battlefield 3 – Dice’s new heavy-duty modern-day, miltary shooter.

Dice spared no expense in the development of this game and it shows.  From the lush, crisp graphics to the loud, enrapturing sound to the tight, gritty battles, Battlefield 3 is a game that is meant to impress.  And it does.  Just like all the other games in the Battlefield legacy, Battlefield 3 has everything that one could expect from the franchise.  The big sprawling maps are back, as are the many different playable vechicles and the real-time destructable environments.   Additionally, the great host of weapons and personal araments introduced in Bad Company 2 also make a return (though this time the collection is even more comprehensive) and player/soldier customization again plays a huge role in compelling and enticing players to keep on playing time and again (often times for many, many hours in total).

In addition to all this epic goodness is a fairly extensive singleplayer campaign as well as a thorough Co-op experience.  In sum, the game is rather huge when considering all of its different parts and it gives players a lot of content to play with for a good, worthwhile period of time.  For our purposes here, however, we will not be considering the “total package” of Battlefield 3, but rather just focus on the multiplayer componant specifically.  And at any rate, the multiplayer componant will give us more than enough to discuss and critique for this review.  So let’s get started!

Gameplay:

Multiplayer is all about gameplay.  And with Battlefield 3 we have sort of a conundrum.  On one hand, bf3 offers a deep, challenging and fun gameplay environment which will keep gamers engaged and coming back for more for a long, long time.  On the other hand, bf3 dissappoints when considering gameplay balance and how well the game operates as a platform for competition.  To parse out these differences, I will be discussing the former aspect of “gameplay” here in this section.  And in the upcoming section called “Competition Value”, I will be discussing the latter aspect.  Hopefully, by seperating these two distinct areas of interest a clearer picture can be drawn about what Battlefield 3 really offers – both in a positive way and in a negative way.

So how does the gameplay in Battlefield 3 offer a deep, challenging and fun gameplay experience?  It does so primarily in two distinct ways.  The first way is through its offering of a huge sprawling world of options, customizations and player specializations.  In the world of Battlefield 3, there are over 55 different guns alone (9 assault rifles, 6 carbines, 7 light machine guns, 8 sniper rifles, 6 sub machine guns, 5 shotguns, 6 rocket launchers and 8 pistols to be specific – along with several faction variations).  There are also a whole host of weapon ”modifications” which allow players to tweak their weapon setups with scopes,  barrels, grips, lights, laser-guides and suppressors – among other things.  Additionally, there is also helping handful of grenades, mines, mortars and c4 explosives which add to the mix.  This gun-crazed and “armed to the teeth” environment makes the gameplay incredibly deep and challenging (challenging in that it can sometimes be quite difficult to fight, or contend with, a better armed or better equiped oppanant – or even just a smarter opponant who uses his resources well).  It can also be challenging for any given player to find a decent gun which he can feel comfortable with.  All of this nuiance and detail created by this sprawling world of weapons and armaments makes the game a real treat to play as one inevitably starts at the bottom of the food chain and has to work their way up through determination, skill and hard work (and a little luck).

The other way the gameplay succeeds is through the “Battlefield Experience” itself.  As we all know, the Battlefield series is known for its wild, intense and completely unrehersed “action-movie” type game scenarios.  And in Battlefield 3 we are heartily dealt more blockbuster, “wow that was cool – did that just really happen” moments that we can shake the proverbial stick at.  It is in these epic, winning moments that game really comes to life and it is in these moments that players want to play relentlessly, night and day, and non-stop, in the name and persuit of Fun and excitement.

Fun Factor:

Well, as I just noted, Battlefield 3 can be a real blast to play.  And the overwhelming majority of this “fun-ness” comes from the well-known and much-apprecitated “Battlefield Experience”.  No other franchise has yet offered any sort of competition, or clone, to this winning gameplay combination (which is a real puzzle) and the Battlefield games remain the sole providers of the chaotic, but controlled, and the random, but intentioned, pre-eminant “sandbox shooter” gameplay offering of the digital warfare arena.

So what exactly is this experience all about?  This experience is about a number of different things and it can be represent through a number of different actions or action sequences.  You may find yourself base-jumping from an impossibly high ledge one moment, shooting a plane out of the sky with a tank round the next moment and then spraying the enemy down with a mini-gun on a helicopter that your buddy is piloting after that.  The combinations available for these crazy action moments are incalculable as there are simply so many different ways to do something that is both really cool and also feels like it came directly out of an action movie.  Indeed, this is what the Battlefield 3 games have always been about: Creating an open world where one action will positively affect another action should the timing and the psychics of those actions be in conjunction with one another.  If you shoot a sniper round while lying prone in small shrubs on top of a distant mountain at a helicopter coming toward you, you might just kill the pilot with a head shot if your aim, trajectory, and accucracy are true.  The ballistics and in-game mechanics will not prevent this from happening, but instead, they will allow it (and promote it) and this is what this makes this game so darned fun to play.

Competition Value:

Let’s now get back to the other aspect of the “gameplay” that was mentioned above in the Gameplay section.  In that section I mentioned that Battlefield 3 suffers on the level of competition by failing to provide an adequate platform for competitive play. Battlefield 3, while damn impressive in many areas, does not really offer an even playing field for the benefit of tournament or league play.  Its sheer size and depth are exciting and compelling, but that really has no bearing on how great the actual competitive multiplayer experience really is.

Essentially, what prevents Battlefield 3 from being really great, is also what makes it “epic”.  The scale and immensity of the game are exactly what end up bogging down and imbalancing the general competitive gameplay experience on a broad and unforgivable level.  This problem underminds most everything that the game is trying to accomplish – at least for hardcore gamers.  For the console players and for the casual players, perhaps there are no issues and everything is hunky-dory, but for us hardcore PC players, who have been fragging for some time, these issues of gameplay imbalance cannot be forgiven.  The incredible arsenal of weapons, gadgets, customizations and specializations are fun and exciting, but unfortunately there are too many inherent advantages and exploitations in such an arsenal which can be used to skew the general competitive “setting” of the game.  If there were about a quarter as many weapons and customizations then perhaps this issue would be irrelevant.  But as it stands now, there is just too much lee-way in the technical functionality of the game itself to be considered a serious contender for competitive gamers.

Replay Value:

As already mentioned, Battlefield 3 offers a wide range of gameplay options through it’s vast and comprehensive weapon’s offering.  This offering gives players a lot of content to chew on – maybe more than necessary – and will keep gamers busy for many hours.  This aspect of the game is one of the strongest aspects – if not the strongest aspect – of the game in general.  Players can easily become addicted to the formula and wish to level up and unlock everything possible.  And this will take awhile.

Intagibles:

Battlefield 3 gets a solid rating in the area of intangibles because it just offers so much excellent content across the board.  From the stat-focused Battlelog.net program to the awesomeness of the near-chaos gameplay to the all-round fun factor, this game is just a blasst to play.  The game is greater than the sum of its parts – and being that it has a lot of parts, the sum total is quite great.  Even priced on the high-end of a modern day, triple-AAA title, this game still provides hours of worthwhile entertainment – despite its lack in the area of competitive gaming.



Quake Live – Review
May 6, 2012, 10:55 pm
Filed under: Hit Scan | Tags: , , ,

Review Score:   88 / 100

Review Stats:

  • Gameplay – 10
  • Fun Factor – 8
  • Competition Value – 10
  • Replay Value – 8
  • Intangibles – 8
  • Total Score – 44 (x2) = 88

Game Information:

  • Platform(s) – PC, OS X, Linux
  • Release Date – August  10, 2010
  • Game Modes – Duel, DM, TDM, CTF, Clan Arena, Freeze Tag, Harvester, Domination, Attack and Defend

The Nitty Gritty:

Hello everyone.  In this installment of Hit Scan, we are going to take a look at Quake Live – id software’s online competitive revamp of Quake 3 Arena.

So much has been said and so much as been written about Quake 3 and it’s derivitives over the course of the last 12 years that any new content about the game is surely going to rehash old material.  This begs the question of why even bother creating another review?  Well, since our specific focus is on multiplayer FPS gaming here at The Frag Limit, we feel that in this review we can offer a more tailored perspective of the pros and cons of this game for the dedicated/hardcore fps gamer.  We will look specifically at the details of how the game performs, what it offers competitive gamers and it’s overall impact and influence in the realm of professional gaming.

Quake Live is a “port” of Quake 3 Gold (the combination pack containing Quake 3 Arena and Quake 3 Team Arena released in 2000) and is based on the same engine (q3 or aka idtech3).  As such, Quake Live inherits many of its asthetic properities directly from q3 – the same original maps, sounds, gamemodes and gameplay mechanics are all used in QL as in the original.  Indeed, Quake Live is just about the same exact game as q3, except for some minor differences.  The biggest difference is that it is now a browser-based game that can be downloaded, accessed and played from any remote location as desired.  In this setup, players download the small, but robust, engine down to their local HDD and play online via the dedicated skill-based match-making master server.  The setup is nice and works as promised – though it can be a bit ad-heavy at times.  Other differences include the absence of blood, gibbing and satanic references (perhaps a notable betrayel from some players) and also the absence of dedicated servers and the ability to play any custom map as desired.  The HUD has also been changed – it is now more user friendly and easier to use or consume.

Alright, let’s now get into the details!

Gameplay:

As might be already known by most hardcore, competitive audiences, Quake Live really shines in the realm of gameplay.  Of course, the major advantage in this area obviously comes from the fact that QL uses the immensely popular and award-wining Quake 3 engine – which is a highly-polished, finely-tuned, quick, tight and nimble engine if there ever was one.  Engineered by the legendary John Carmack, this engine proves why it was (and still is) one of the major foundations for the world of competitive, hardcore, professional gaming.  The engine is fast, responsive and absolutely lag-free (client-side) and it is an undeniable  joy to play on.  Fortunaely, Quake Live inherits all of these outstanding physical properties from Quake 3 and nothing is lost in translation (in spite of the crossing of technology platforms and methodologies).

The other major aspect of the gameplay is the gameplay balance itself.  Like Q3, QL has no classes of any kind (although it does have model options) and only a handful of different weapons to chose from.  The lack of classes – despite the modern tendency for a wide array of class options – is not necessarily a bad thing.  The sameness of each player makes the game just that more fair and balanced.  Simiraly, unlike modern fps shooters, there are only a select number of weapons that can be used (depending on the map and gamemode).  This lack of weapons also aids fairness and makes the experience much more enjoyable from a purely skill-based standpoint.

Fun Factor:

Quake Live is a fun game.  But it’s an old game.  Essientally, it’s the same game as Quake 3 (except, of course, for the minor changes already noted above).  Given this, Quake Live feels like something that you have already played.  And if you are any sort of serious fps player than chances are relatively high that you already know what the Quake 3 experience is all about.

In spite of this, however, Quake Live can be a damn fun thing to play – regardless if it’s 1999 or 2012.  The tight gameplay, frantic battles, the matching of wits, and the general sense of just playing a good ole’ fanshioned deathmatch can be a real blast.  There is a reason why Quake 3/Quake Live was (and still is) so popular.  Gamers the world over love demonstrate their ass kicking skills and what better way to do that then through the ultimate platform for competition?  The even balance of the QL battlefield provides an equal and fair environment in which gamers can honestly display their raw, unadulterated gaming skills without the interference or distruption of overpowered weapons, items or player advantages.  And indeed, from the newest newbie to the most battle-hardened veteran, the game holds no favors and pulls no punches for anyone.  It is in this environment – whether it be old or new – where many fun and exciting battles for honor, glory, esteem and bragging rights plays out.

Competition Value:

Quake Live was built for competition – literally.  Much of the revamping and redesigning of the game, from Quake 3, was intended to make the game more paletable and more accessible to the hardcore, professional gaming audience.  The removal of blood, gibbing and satanic references all made the game more of a legitimate “e-sport”, instead of just a simply violent video game.  Additionally, the redesigning of the HUD, and many in-game icons, along with the decision to make all enimies one specific model, all make the game more easily consumed in a professional environment.  These changes all have made Quake Live one of the foremost choices in gaming where money is involved.

In addition to satisfying the professional gaming crowd, Quake Live also succeeds in satisfying the larger amuater clanning crowd.  While this crowd is not pulling in any money, per se, they still do have a strong tendency to take their games very seriously.  The fact that QL provides a fair, balanced and even playing field, only makes it that much more popular for those gamers who are looking for such important things.  In this regard, QL is a true winner.

 Replay Value:

While the basic gameplay hasn’t changed a bit from Quake 3, Quake Live does feature some added content to the experience outside of the actual gameplay itself.  Like many other modern games, QL features a slew of “medals” and awards that can be unlocked through actions acheived inside the game.  These awards are given for many different reasons (such as, for playing for a certain amount of time, for dealing out the most damage and for being the best player in a given round, etc.).  While these awards in no way affect the actual gameplay – meaning that you don’t unlock new weapons or upgrade your skills in any ways – these awards do make the game seem relevant and provide some incentive to keep playing.

The stronger reason to come back playing again and again is that it is just a damn fun thing to do.  This is especially true if you haven’t played Quake in awhile or any other game that is similar to it (meaning fast-paced, balanced and easy to learn/play).  The seminal shooters of yesteryear – the ones that came out around the turn of the century (like Quake, Unreal, Tribes, etc.) – are a dying breed, or, more likely, have long since been dead.  And in their place slower, more delibrate shooters have come along.  While these games are all good and well, perhaps gamers are pining for something with a little more… action?  Quake Live provides this much needed frenetic action, that has been missing for so long, and for that it scores well with gamers who see the game as being “a breathe of fresh air”.

Intangibles:

There are several different things that Quake Live does nicely.  The first thing is that the game loads quick and easily.  Anyone with a PC and an internet connection can download the game and play from any location of one’s choosing.  This is nice and handy if you are say at school – or maybe even work – and you want to get a quick 10-minute frag in just to relieve some stress or get your mind off other things.  The download is fast and often times wil go unnoticed (depending on connection speed).  This is a real advantage when time constraints are an issue as QL will get you in and out of the game as fast as you can possibly want to.

Additionally, the game is free.  If you just want to play some of the vanilla q3 maps (and a handful of popular custom maps), you can do so without dropping a dime.  There is no charge at all and you can play for as long as you like.  However, if you feel like you are getting bored with the standard fare and want to frag in some other arenas, the “pro” version will allow you to do just that as well as some other nice things.  For a small monthly fee, you can get access to some of the finest, user-made multiplayer maps and also the option to create your own “server”.  These additional things are nice as the original maps can become stale with multiple playthroughs.

Overall, Quake Live is a great classic multiplayer fps video game.  Indeed, it is not a game that should be missed.  Wether you are a newbie or a seasoned fps veteran, QL provides the quintessiential deathmatch experience.  An experience in which most other modern shooters have either directly evolved from or been strongly influenced by.  And it is with this pedigree that every serious gamer should at least take, in one point in their life, the time to play and appreciate the simple (though powerful) roots of the lasting legacy which is multiplayer gaming.



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!