Tribes Ascend Review
Ascend is a great entry into the Tribes series. The fast team based gameplay is preserved and modern features make it feel fresh.
The aesthetic qualities fit perfectly with the franchise. Character designs for both Blood Eagle and Diamond Sword are awesome with consistent themes. Weapons have satisfying and identifiable explosions. Having ammo counts on the weapons is a delightfully simple, modern change. Even the inventory stations and generators are immediately recognisable. One visual problem is the noticeable LOD transitions between terrain and objects. Even on very high settings, trees and terrain changes jarringly. Map design survives against most scrutiny.
Map layout is kept fairly simple with good ski routes and emphasis on flag movement around the external edges of the map. Small details in the landscape have been added, including rocks and ruins just to break the rolling hills. The interior of bases is usually open enough for tense combat. Katabatic, recreated from Tribes 2, works well here with visually spectacular ice shards protruding from the surface. Arx Novena is surrounded by Aqueducts that can be skied along. Raindance is bigger than the original but the struggle to retake your own base remains. There is a good variety in size and setting and more maps will be appreciated. Regardless of map or mode there are plenty of truly exciting moments.
There is nothing quite like the rush of swooping onto the enemy flag stand and emerging from the chaos with the opposition flag at high speed. Not since the first two Tribes games have I felt as enthralled by the Generator battles. CTF games can be over in minutes but the most engrossing are the half hour battles where everybody plays an essential role. If both teams play with high numbers in offense it makes the generator less important. The game feels as much a sport as it does a game, with an emphasis on virtual athleticism, accuracy and teamwork. Teamwork is further encouraged with role specific classes.
Unlike the freeform loadout system in the series to date, Ascend implements nine unique classes. These are split into three armor groups: light, medium and heavy. The speedy Pathfinder is the perfect candidate for flag capping or chasing. Infiltrators can cloak through enemy defenses and take out key assets or personnel. Technicians wield a repair gun and deploy turrets to defend their generator. The heavy Doombringer places shields and unleashes a stream of bullets as he stands over the flag. The Brute can even create deadly disco parties with his lime green fractal grenades. The class system results in less choice but it focuses the experience with room to add more options. New players can quickly learn the role of each class without buying unlockable weapons.
As the first F2P game in the franchise, Ascend delicately balances items that can be purchased or earned. Players can unlock weapons, classes, perks and cosmetic skins. Classes are quick to unlock with earned experience, as are basic upgrades for belt items or weapons. You can’t upgrade armor or weapons with money. Some top tier upgrades, like extra health, might cost more experience than unlocking a class. Paying real money doesn’t usually mean you win, just that you’ll get more options to take into battle. The exception has been the two class specific packs for the Infiltrator and Raider. Both packs launched with overpowered primary weapons. Hopefully game balance isn’t hurt with every content release.
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