As an avid fan of the original “Starsiege Tribes” that was released for the PC in 1998, The Free to play re-make by Hi-Rez Studios caught my eye. This was back when it was in closed beta and they were currently releasing keys in various ways to the public. I was eager to get my hands on one but sadly when I did? My laptop broke and I was PC-less. However I saved up, built a tower, and entered my key. Once the menu appeared I knew I was not going to be disappointed. For those who don’t know what Tribes is. It’s a simple game at first glance which could be branched out into an in-depth, fast paced, strategic shooter. Hi-Rez did not change the base game much from the original Starsiege Tribes which what I love about it most. It brings back memories of getting mid-air Spinfusor frags and traveling at 200+ km/h. However, Hi-Rez added new things such as perks, classes, levels, accolades, weapons, and more. Not to mention they, along with the Unreal 3 Engine, created probably one of the best looking Free to play games to date. The core of the game is Capture the flag, but there is also (as of now) an Arena mode (5v5 TDM) and Regular sized Team Death Match. Hi-Rez has plans to implement Custom Servers as well as Ranked Servers in the future. But let’s get on with the review shall we?
Graphics – 10/10
Like I mentioned before the graphics are top notch. I was fairly surprised as to what Hi-Rez pumped out with a Free to play game. I ran everything on highest settings but even on the lower settings the game looks fairly good compared to other titles out there. I would even go as far as saying these are AAA graphics that you would expect from a higher-budget title. The textures are amazing, the levels and backdrops are extremely well done, and Hi-Rez focused on the small things too such as making the menu screens pleasing to look at and also adding things such as Motion Blur. Overall, I saw nothing wrong with how the game looked.
The menu may not be part of the graphics but the look of the menu’s is worth talking about. The menu’s are organized well and each click will bring a new list of options. This helps in getting around to customizing your classes as well as changing your settings.
Again they perfected the little things. Even if you haven’t played the original Tribes to appreciate the sounds that come out of weapons such as the Spinfusor (The original Tribes weapon), you’ll appreciate how well they did the sound. Whether if be with every shot of your sniper, mortar, or chain gun. You’ll notice how well things come together. The music is also fairly fast paced but I prefer to use my own music. Hell, the sound’s so good, I didn’t even mind hearing that siren go off which led to an orbital strike exploding all around me.
Gameplay – 9/10
This is what PC shooters are all about, plain and simple. You’ll never ever find a shooter on the console that compares to something like Tribes Ascend. I’m not bashing on consoles but it’s just not physically possible. The game has a high learning curve but is extremely rewarding to get that Blue plate special (Spinfusor shot in mid-air). Not only that but the Tribes series is one of the more unique FPSs in the sense they have jetpacks. When you think about it, it doesn’t really seem that unique but the way it’s implemented along with the unique Tribes tech called “Skiing”, you’ll have loads of fun flying across the ground at 200+ kp/h while fighting off enemies chasing you. Even if you’re not a flag runner, being in a set of heavy armor and firing mortar’s at the enemy base can provide some very satisfactory results as well. I cannot stress enough that this is a TEAM GAME. There are positions for everyone. There are currently 9 classes (3 for each set of armor. Light, medium, and heavy) and all have their own unique sets of items/skills to get jobs done. The game is extremely fast paced and I can probably bet that you’ll never play any FPS that’s as fast as this one. In my opinion, it’s comparable to the speed of competitive Quake/Unreal Tournament but in it’s own way.
If you don’t fancy playing Capture the flag, the TDM modes provide a very nice way to hone your skills as well as get some experience a bit quicker. The TDM matches are shorter and involve a lot more pew pew. The TDM is your basic kill or be killed mode with a respawn based system meaning both teams have a set number of lives and whoever forces the other team’s respawn counter to 0, wins. There’s an added challenge of a single flag. The first death will spawn a flag in which players can fight for control of. The player holding the flag will gain points over time as well as kills resulting in double the score. If that mode’s not fast enough for you though, the Arena mode is a 5v5 brawl fest where the levels are tiny and the action is fast.
The game has a level up system where games will earn you exp based on multiple things such as performance, accolades, score, etc. Experience will be your currency in spending to unlock classes/weapons/perks, as well as upgrading said items. You will gain experience towards your level which is separate. However, there are microtransactions in the game as it is Free to play, but they still need to make money. You have the option of buying “Gold” and this is where Tribes lost a bit of love from me. Hi-Rez DID make the game free to play and EVERYTHING can be unlocked with EXP. However, it takes a long time and especially long if you’re just learning the game. Using gold unlocks items but it cannot upgrade skills/items. Buying gold also earns you VIP status which results in more experience gained per match and you can also buy boosts with real money which DOUBLES the experience you get per match. This system results in the impatient players (Like me) buying gold to get their items/classes, and leaving the other players having to earn their equipment. This is one of those systems where it IS free to play. However, be prepared to save up a lot of experience if you want that 100,000exp Sniper (To put this in perspective, without VIP status I earned 2500 exp in a single game in which I did VERY well). Luckily the game does start you out with 3 classes. The pathfinder (light armor), the soldier (medium armor), and the juggernaut (Heavy armor). This at least allows you to dabble in all the different armor sets to figure out what feels the best.
Overall I have nothing but good things to say about this game. Even if you’re not gonna try it for the nostalgia of the old days in Starsiege Tribes, at least try the game as it is one of the best FPS’s I’ve played in awhile. Plus you have no excuse as it just went into open beta recently and is open for everyone to play.
So start flying and start fragging.