Top critical review
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A great initial effort, but now an orphaned title.
on October 12, 2013
As a long time FPS gamer (since Wolfenstein 3D and Doom), and a veteran Tribes player (I still have my original Starsiege Tribes and Tribes 2 CDs from the mid 1990's), I was initially delighted that the franchise had made a comeback. Sure, there were a LOT of changes from the original Tribes, but the graphics were good, and they'd nailed the skiing mechanic, and had the jet packs at about 95%. (the original game had much better maneuverability while in flight, Ascend once you're airborne, you're more or less going in a straight arc, and they made some very questionable decisions with the physics model that severely limits acceleration and top speed)
The weapons balance, initially, was also good. The heavy armor classes packed the biggest punch, but were limited in mobility compared to the lights and mediums. I didn't particularly care for them having 3 variations of each armor class (light, medium, heavy), and sure as hell didn't care for the reduction in weapons loadout to a primary and secondary, and a belt item (i.e. a grenade or mine). I know it was an incentive to drive people to cough up real money via micro-transactions to skip the grind of unlocking each classes optional weapons and so forth, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. However, after they started releasing new weapons (well, some were genuinely new, others were variations of the freebie guns that were textured with different colors and with slightly tweaked range/damage/splash radius/whatever) that were MASSIVELY overpowered in some manner, then later "nerfed" (nerfing is a term for reducing something's overall effectiveness.) due to the high volume of complaints from the user base. Examples are the Raider's plasma gun. When it first came out, the range/speed of the projectile, and the relatively massive size of the hit box (the size that the game engine uses to determine how close to the enemy you're shooting at to decide if you hit or not) gave the Raider class (and those who'd whipped out the credit card to buy some Tribes Gold to purchase it) an overwhelming advantage for a couple of weeks, until a patch was pushed out to nerf the plasma gun. This pattern repeated with every single new unique weapon that was released for each class. And some classes never got any new weapons that weren't re-colored variants of their original day one weapons. Mostly the heavy armor classes. Definitely created an atmosphere of "pay to win" on a free to play game.
The lack of a map making tool is also a serious oversight. Hi Rez states that end users lack the necessary "talent" to make maps that pass muster, but I would disagree. Many of my all time favorite maps in online FPS were those created by the community by people who loved the game and knew what worked (and was fun) and what didn't (and wasn't). Hi Rez is a krill larvae of a game company when compared to the blue whales like Electronic Arts, Sony Online or Blizzard, so it's somewhat understandable that since they struggle to get just one game at a time out and update it in a timely fashion (they only have *1* coder, after all), that their judgement would be colored thus, but still a blatant mistake. Does every person playing Tribes have the skills to make a good map in UnrealEdit? No. But all it takes is a handful to invigorate the game with new maps.
Which leads us to the present state of Tribes Ascend: it's pretty well abandonware at this point. Hi Rez has already stated that no further development will be done on Tribes Ascend. This is a nontrivial matter. The game is NOT stable or optimized well. If you have the misfortune of having an internet connection that's more than a couple of hops away from the (over taxed) servers, your gaming experience will be frustrated by high latency (lag) and dropped connections to the server. Cheating is also relatively common, as there are numerous UnrealScript scripts that allow unethical players to exploit programming mistakes left in the game by Hi Rez. One example is the "hitscan impulse" script: most of the bullet type weapons are "hit scan" i.e. wherever your crosshair is pointing when you click the fire button, it instantly hits, instead of the game calculating a simulated projectile path where the target could have moved out of the way by the time the projectile arrives. In Tribes, the force of the impact is given to the server by the game running on the end user's PC. With a hack, the cheater can have the game tell the server that his/her projectile hits it's target with enough force to send the other player flying across the map. Hi Rez has known about this cheat for months, but hasn't (and won't) do anything to fix it.
So, the TL:DR (too long: didn't read) summary of Tribes Ascend: almost, but not quite, and not likely to get fixed by Hi Rez. Play it for free, and if you're really that jazzed by it and willing to accept the risk that Hi Rez may well pull the plug on the Tribes servers at any time in the near future, plunk down the $30 or so (or wait for a promo like the recent $0.01 Game Of The Year deal they offered to Amazon's German customers) and get the Game Of The Year which unlocks all the weapons and skins, and blast away. It's still a fun game, but it almost hurts knowing how much *BETTER* it could be if someone with actual talent had it.