Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tribes: Ascend

Well, I know it's been a little over a month now since my last post, but there's actually a reason for it. I've been playing a lot of Tribes: Ascend lately, and wishing that more people had an understanding of even the most basic of tactics. Now, for those of you that don't know, Tribes: Ascend is a game that had it's full release around mid-April of this year. It's made by a company called Hi-Rez Studios, a small place that started up in 2005, according to Wikipedia. Considering that this is only their second game published, I'd say they've done a decent job.

While I do know about the Starsiege: Tribes games, I have not played them unfortunately, so I don't really have a frame of reference to go by when comparing Tribes: Ascend to any of the older games. That aside, the gameplay of it is fun and engaging, and does require at least a certain amount of skill to be decent. I know that some veteran Tribes players are unhappy with there being a class system, but personally I like it, at least to an extent. I do agree with some of the veteran gripes that starting out naked would give the generator a much higher importance than what it currently has (which is not to say that it's useless, it's just not all important, and letting it die isn't make-or-break for a team). As it currently is, newer players just starting Tribes: Ascend tend to appear to be under the assumption that the generator must be kept up at all times, which can have the disastrous result of having nearly half your team down there when they could be helping guard the flag.

Which brings me to another bit, which is teams. Teams on Tribes: Ascend are divided between Blood Eagle and Diamond Sword, with each team getting a maximum of 16 people. Lately it feels like most games are running with around 12-14 people per side, but even then it's still fun. It's when you come across the times when there's only about 7 people on each team when the rounds are not really worth playing. One issue that tends to pop up is team stacking. For those who don't know that term, it's basically piling all the good people onto one team (intentionally) for an easy win against people of lesser capabilities. Doesn't happen too often, but it can be annoying when it does.

Time to get into a little greater detail, and also explain why the generator isn't all important anymore. Tribes: Ascend has a leveling system, with you get experience points every match based upon your performance. The experience points are then used to upgrade the weapons, armor, and perks of the different classes you have unlocked. Currently, the classes you have unlocked initially are the Pathfinder (generally used as flag capper/flag chaser), Soldier (the one that's supposed to be most balanced), and the Juggernaut (mortar spammer extraordinaire). Each class falls into one of three categories of armor. Classes like the Pathfinder are classified as light armor classes. They're lighter and have more maneuverability, but they also have less health. They're weapons also tend to do less damage. Medium armor classes, like the Soldier, have more health and only a bit less maneuverability, but their weapons hit harder than a Light armor. Juggernauts and other classes like it fall into the Heavy armor category. They have the most health and strongest hitting weapons. The downside is that they tend to be called fatties, and for good reason. They tend to be very plodding when it comes to movement. Now, when you join a game, you choose which class you want to play as at the beginning, and you spawn with your chosen payload. You can change classes in the middle of the game by going to the class menu and accessing an inventory station, but you can also achieve the same thing simply by dying or committing suicide and re-spawning as your new class. Herein lies the reason why the generator is no longer all important. Yes, it does run things like base turrets and player deployables such as shields and light turrets, but it isn't necessary for changing your class or your payload. So you can let your generator stay dead if it becomes apparent the other team is set on keeping it that way, and just go with classes that aren't dependent on a running generator to be effective. Many people seem to be unable to grasp this simple concept, even when it's bashed into their faces multiple times.

I suppose next I should discuss the movement itself. There's three basic modes of getting around. Walking, 'skiing', and jet-packing. Walking is the slowest and most likely to get you killed within a very short span of time. Skiing is a mechanic whereby your character basically gets frictionless shoes. Using this you can use slopes and mountains to gain large amounts of speed, something that's usually necessary if you want to be a good flag capper. Jet-packing is kind of self-explanatory. You have a jet pack that runs off of an energy pool that allows you to fly about for short periods of time. The energy doesn't last long, so don't expect to go halfway across even the smallest map on it unless you're already going fast from skiing. This is the part where I admit that I still need a little practice to get to the top speeds. Speed is measured in km/h on Tribes: Ascend, and currently my fastest is only around 230 km/h. Some of the really good Pathfinders I've seen easily reach over 300. So yeah, I still have a ways to go.

One thing I almost forgot to mention are the perks. You get two slots for perks, and what perks basically do is give you different abilities or protections. The ones I use most on my pathfinder are Reach and Egocentric, which allows me to grab the flag from further away as well as take less damage from my own weapons when 'disc-jumping', respectively.

I'm sure some people reading this will be curious as to how much Tribes: Ascend costs. The answer is; zero. It's a free-to-play game with a cash shop business model. You can gain VIP status with your first cash purchase, which will give you a 50% boost to your experience gain for the duration that you have an account on Tribes. The types of things you can buy currently are weapons, any classes you don't already have unlocked, as well as any perks you don't have. This may sound unfair, but those same weapons can be gained simply by playing the game and using experience to unlock them. Admittedly, some weapons take a lot of experience to unlock, but they are attainable regardless. Not only that, but the only way you can upgrade a weapon, even if you bought it with gold (which is what you buy with cash), is to use experience points, which you can gain through playing the game. You can gain experience by referring people to the game and such, but you kinda need friends and/or fans of some sort somewhere who want to play the game.

Overall, I think that Tribes: Ascend is fun and has a lot of potential. It does have its issues, but not enough to put me off of playing the game. That would be the players doing that. Not that the players are rude or anything, I just get a little annoyed at the lack of tactics and team play on a team based game. I'm sure I'm missing a few things in my post, but I'll probably think of those later and maybe edit them in.