Tribes: Ascend — First Impressions

Tribes: Ascend has taught me one thing and taught it repeatedly: I’m getting old.  My reaction times aren’t what they used to be, my thoughts are just a little more muddy in unfamiliar situations.  I’ve slowed down.

But Tribes hasn’t — it’s as fast-paced as when I played the original oh so many years ago, though it has been long enough since a Tribes game released, and even longer since a Tribes game I liked released, that if someone tells me it is faster or slower than the original I’ll accept it.

Tribes is hands down the most fun I have had getting my ass kicked in a video game in a long time.  Oh sure, sometimes I hold my own, sometimes I even contribute to a win — but even when I lose and someone repeatedly uses my face to wipe down the virtual landscape, I have fun.  It’s probably the skiing.

For those unfamiliar, in Tribes, walking is out of the question, most of the time.  Not only does everyone have a jet pack, but players can also use a “frictionless ski mode” to slide down slopes, building momentum.  Although I still find the timing a little bit tricky, players can use their jetpacks to scale up slopes without sapping momentum and release the jet pack to land at the peak, using each downhill ski to increase speed.

That’s where my reaction times come in — it’s really hard to hit an enemy in the face with something resembling an explosive frisbee, especially when that enemy is traveling around 200 km/hr, especially when that enemy can suddenly add vertical movement to slip your line of fire.  With these types of speeds and movement, predicting where a target will be when your shot reaches them involves as much luck as skill.  Skill helps though — I’m still working on that bit.

As with most free-to-play games, one of my first concerns was the cash shop.  I didn’t find it that bad — in fact, I found it very much in the vein of the League of Legends cash shop, with only skins (though not many of these available at this time) and XP boosters exclusively purchasable by cash.   Only 3 of the 9 classes are available to new accounts, but after only a weekend of irregular playing, maybe one to two hours over three days, I almost have enough XP to unlock the most expensive classes.  Upgrades to weapons are also rather reasonable to earn without spending money.  The only thing that seems like an irritating grind is the XP costs for alternate weapons, which are 5 to 10 times higher than the costs for classes.  Still, even that is not a deterrent — from what I’ve read only one alternate weapon is clearly more useful than the default; the rest are a matter of taste and style.  I suppose if I keep playing the game long enough to want alternate weapons, I’ll be playing the game enough to unlock the weapons without spending money.  And I have no objection to paying $10 – $20 for the game — it’s certainly worth that much at least.

I’ll keep playing, and maybe write some more if any of the game modes seem to particularly stand out.  But the Tribes games have always been focused on Capture the Flag, and this Tribes game really does that well.  For the most part, I’ll be playing Capture.

I’ve decided to hold off on talking about the last release for Glitch, sloths and foxes, until the release of imagination.  The last word was sometime right about now, so it’s possible I’ll be getting to that review this week.  I’ve also been putting some time into Spiral Knights, so I’ll try to write something up on that later as well.

ETA: Glitch’s Imagination release is now looking about two weeks out.

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