Free to play and cheap to play (iOS) continues to dominate my free time, with Skyrim being the only big full price game I’ve put any significant time into all this year. Latest “I can’t believe it’s free” treat is Hi-Rez Studios (Global Agenda) Tribes Ascend. It’s just like I remember Tribes 2 being like, a decade ago, except prettier – and less smooth on my aging PC.
It’s really good. If you were ever at all into capture the flag (“CTF”) gameplay, Tribes Ascend is the ultimate form of the sport.
It’s class based, so there’s a lot to sink your teeth into, getting to know the various classes, and finding out what you’re good at. Even if your reflexes aren’t up to capturing flags, you can still be of use in a more tactical role, building and repairing base defenses, or providing artillery support.
The one thing that sets Tribes apart from other class based team online shooters is movement. It is difficult and very satisfying to get around in Tribes. You should almost never walk. Instead, you’re skiing and flying with jetpacks, looking for optimal hills to gain momentum from towards your target. There’s also a variety of vehicles to mix things up. The joy of a good, flowing attack and escape vector with the flag in hand, reaching a speed so high the defenders have no chance of targeting you, is something I haven’t got out of any other game. It’s kinetic in a way only Tribes delivers. Mount & Blade has some of the same qualities in a successful cavalry attack.
The other thing that’s different from the compeition is the shooting. Few guns hit their targets immediately, requiring the operator to estimate lead time and projectile dropoff over long distances, against airborne targets in ridiculous speeds. The 150 kph airborne joust is a very enticing proposition once you get your head around it. It can resemble trying to hit flying, hostile targets with thrown frisbees. Immensely satisfying when you manage to land a direct hit.
There’s nothing like it.