gadg-et-oid [gaj-it-oid]


1. having the characteristics or form of a gadget;
resembling a mechanical contrivance or device.

Tribes Ascend

Cast your mind back some 10 years or more and you might remember a unique FPS experience which may well have been the gaming debut of jet packs and deployable turrets. I’m talking about Starsiege: Tribes. A little multiplayer FPS spin-off of the Starsiege series which blew up in popularity and must have easily been one of the greatest FPS games of all time.

My nostalgia for Tribes runs deep, I’ve still got it installed and fire it up now and again just to hear the ambient sound on the Raindance map, and listen to the idle pulse of the Spinfusor. Tribes had everything you could ever want from an FPS title, from fast paced action, to drivable vehicles, jet packs, a mind-boggling array of weapons, different player classes from light scout armour to survivable heavies and the ability to create any permutation of armour class and weapons, within limitations, that your heart desired.

With mods, Tribes became even better. Whilst many of these focused on making the game an absurdly fast-paced weapons fest, there were a few that made for great gaming experiences. “TAC” challenged players to keep combat off the ground, relying heavily on jet packs, bases and vehicles and instagibbing anyone who landed. A certain combination of “Minimod” mods would allow players to quite literally build floating sky bases entirely out of deployable items, and this took flag defence to ridiculous extremes where the whole opposing team would have to muster an attack to punch through blast walls and force fields before the flag could be touched.

Skip a few years forward and a new Tribes is in town, bringing a freemium model that makes the game free-to-play and incentivises the continual creation of new content by the developers. I’m talking, of course, about the shiny new Tribes: Ascend.

Ascend is a game touted to be for Tribes fans, by Tribes fans, and you don’t have to look far to see the amazing amount of work that has gone into this sequel which aims to deliver the old Tribes formula to a new, somewhat more restless generation of gamers.

Although it lacks the cluster of mods that kept the original Tribes fresh and exciting for so long, it doesn’t yet need them. The brand, shiny new appeal of Tribes: Ascend is enough of a hook, and is practically bursting at the seams with content… although you’re going to have to toil long and hard, or part with some of your hard-earned cash, in order to unlock it all.

Freemium games are becoming more popular, and raising the hackles of more gamers who fear the game will descend into a Pay-to-Win format where those most willing to part with their money will be the most successful. I haven’t seen any evidence of this in Tribes: Ascend, and found that a reasonable level of skill allowed me to compete quite reasonably against the most teched-up of opponents.

Ultimately freemium seems to be the logical progression for FPS games which have long since been saddled with somewhat irritating level-up mechanisms. This both frustrated and encouraged me in the likes of Battlefield Bad Company 2, and I’m somewhat happier that I can opt to pay absolutely nothing for this same mechanic, and even choose to subvert it with a little cash if I get bored or frustrated. Indeed, freemium is a good thing for Tribes, lending it a graceful learning and interest curve that should keep you interested. And if you want to put it down and not play; do so! With no initial investment to justify, you’re really under no pressure to get your monies worth and can stray elsewhere on a whim.

I’ll spare you the gameplay details of Tribes: Ascend. It’s free, try it yourself. But I will say that I’ve had an absolute blast playing it and am eager to see how it evolves in future. After a handful of seemingly lacklustre sequels ( although they did have a reasonable following ) I’m happy to see the franchise back in full force.

Thursday, April 12th, 2012, Blog.