As free-to-play games are constantly changing, traditional reviews can't really do them justice, so we rely on a series of unscored review diaries to record our experiences with them. Today brings part two of our Tribes: Ascend diaries.
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I gave in. I dropped $50 on Tribes: Ascend and haven't looked back. After three weeks of loving the game in its totally free form, I decided it was time to suck it up and unlock some other classes. And not only did that $50 get me a ton of Gold, but also a mess of bonus XP. Shopping time!

For the price of a full PC game, I unlocked seven of the game's nine classes, a variety of skins, and upgrades across all my classes, and increased the rate at which I earned in-game XP (the only currency that will upgrade weapons, packs, and armor, and which thankfully cannot be purchased with real dollars). I still have some gold coins to spare (the in-game currency that's converted from real dollars, which can't be earned), but I'm saving them for ... well, I don't really know. I'd feel weird spending them all.

Despite going on a virtual spending spree, I've only focused on one class across the past few weeks: the Infiltrator. He's not much of a fighter, but he's great at invisibly sneaking around enemy bases and destroying their generators. Also, he's great at placing invisible mines at the enemy base to enrage the other team. Built-in griefing? Now we're talkin'!

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As I've added to my Infiltrator, my strategy has changed dramatically. With the Soldier class, I could really do anything I wanted: defend my base, attack the enemy base, track down flag cappers or grab the enemy's flag, etc. But when I drilled down into the Infiltrator, my objectives were clearly defined at the hands of my enemies. In short, you will not win a lot of fights playing as the Infiltrator – at least not out in the open.

That said, crafty sneakers like myself can stay alive for a surprisingly long time while standing right in front of angry enemies. All you have to do is show a little restraint, a little patience, and a ton of confidence. It doesn't hurt if a buddy throws down a radar jammer as well.

ImageAs such, I've spent the majority of my Tribes time over the past two weeks hiding in generator rooms, trying to wring all the energy I can from my pack to stay invisible for as long as possible. Between carefully placing invisible mines and destroying the enemy's generators, hiding in dark corners is essential to staying alive. Direct confrontation as the Infiltrator isn't suggested, and energy packs only last so long, so I find myself carefully navigating edges of rooms to stay out of sight just long enough to go invisible once more.

This behavior turned my fleet of skiiers into something more nuanced than I've ever experienced in a shooter before – the specifications matter and offer major benefits (and drawbacks) to the Tribes formula.

The Infiltrator is a great example of how Ascend expands the role of light/medium/heavy from past games, offering far more specific roles through a variety of subclasses, and it reminded me that Hi-Rez's additions in Ascend are deserving of major praise.

Perhaps more importantly, my worry about "buying in" proved unfounded. I feel that the $50 asking price for the top tier of in-game gold is justified – especially after three weeks of playing Ascend for free – but it's a bit overwhelming after exploring how deep the free content goes. Buying all those gold coins meant I could access every class that was still locked away, but did I need all that stuff? Perhaps not, but the thousands of gold coins and bonus XP I bought needed to be spent somewhere. And while I may not want to explore every class just yet, my interest will assuredly grow as the weeks go on and I've worn out the Infiltrator.

I felt my anxiety increasing as I chose what to spend my converted cash on. Regardless of how much I had, the knowledge that it was real cash made each decision weightier than it would be with virtual currency. As I said before, I still have some coins leftover – just in case – but it's mostly because I had more than enough content to sate me at any given point. And because of crippling fear resulting in equivocation.

I'm happy that I waited to buy in to Tribes: Ascend, if only to see how much content was there from the jump (which is plenty). If you're thinking about jumping in and you want all the classes unlocked from the start (as well as a noticeable boost in XP for 60 days), the $50 option is certainly reasonable. Is it worth the price of a new game? For me, the answer is an easy yes. Should that answer not be so clear for you, several less expensive options exist. Of course, you get the best deal with the most expensive package, so choose wisely.

And considering the other option – slowly earning enough XP to unlock each class over the course of weeks (if not months) – those paid options are all the more appealing.


Sound fun? Try it yourself at the Tribes: Ascend website. You can also read part one of Joystiq's Tribes Ascend review diary right here.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.