The Firing Line: Five reasons to love Tribes: Ascend

The Firing Line - Five reasons to love Tribes: Ascend

Oh, Tribes: Ascend, if only you were an MMO.

Actually, wait a minute. When I think on it, if Hi-Rez Studios' new free-to-play sci-fi shooter were an MMO, I probably wouldn't like it as much. There's something to be said for frequent updates and instant gameplay gratification, and Tribes provides those things (and more) in spades.

Tribes: Ascend - the Griever skin
Tribes: Ascend - updates

If Tribes has dropped off your gaming radar lately, you should know that Hi-Rez is continuing its frequent update tradition that was established in beta. The firm is clearly bent on devoting a lot of time and energy to Tribes, as the game just launched on April 12th and is already seeing its first content upgrade.

The patch is called Raid and Pillage, and thank funk it has nothing to do with traditional MMO raiding. No sir, instead it focuses on the Raider class, a brutal base-destroyer who is now even more brutal thanks to the addition of a plasma gun, cluster grenades, the NJ5-B SMG, and two cosmetic skins.

Hi-Rez's Raid and Pillage video gives you a good look at the new skins, and I defy you to tell me you don't want one of those Grievers with their gruesome tribal helmet trophies and enough attitude to make B.A. Baracus look like Mother Teresa. And yes, Tribes vets, the plasma gun also ups Ascend's nostalgia quotient quite a bit. I've already seen more than a few of them in random matches this week, so get ready to appreciate the familiar firing sounds and old-school-yet-updated look of the gun.

Tribes: Ascend - server browser
Tribes: Ascend - private servers

Even though Tribes: Ascend is one of my favorite multiplayer titles, I've made no secret of the fact that I'm pretty bad at it. I don't know whether my reflexes are dimming as I get older or four to five matches per week simply isn't enough practice. Either way, I'm constantly amazed at the skill of some of the players in the game's public queues.

This week, Hi-Rez has thrown a bone to casual Tribes fans in the form of custom server functionality. No longer must we suffer the (hilarious) indignities of the llama grab badge or a headshot from kilometers away. Now we can congregate (and hopefully practice) on private servers with our equally terrible friends. These shards should also appeal to pro Tribers and their clans, since Hi-Rez is offering a huge selection of customization options including game type, map rotation, and various player, vehicle, base, and team settings (including friendly fire functionality).

Servers are rentable in 10-, 30-, and 90- day increments. The cost is pretty reasonable too, with each option setting you back 800, 1600, and 4000 gold, respectively.

Tribes: Ascend - Blood Eagle vs. Diamond Sword
Tribes: Ascend - F2P done right

That leads to the third reason why Tribes: Ascend is worthy of your adulation. The game's free-to-play implementation should serve as the standard for other F2P shooters going forward. This is no surprise, because Hi-Rez's Global Agenda boasts a similar fan-friendly business model. I won't spend a lot of time on either here because they're really quite simple. Everything in the game is accessible to you for free (if you play a lot, for a long time). Elsewise, you can unlock classes, gear, and fluff items by supporting the game's cash shop.

Tribes: Ascend - buddies
Tribes: Ascend - referrals

Many MMOs have some sort of ongoing refer-a-friend initiative. Tribes: Ascend takes the concept to another level, though. How does the chance to name an in-game weapon or co-author a new map sound? Yeah, I thought you'd like that. Those are two of the top prizes, of course, so you'll need to refer a hefty 1,000 and 10,000 players to claim them. Some of the more manageable goals include 10 referrals (which Hi-Rez calls the Friends with Benefits tier and for which it pays out 500 in-game gold). There are also 25- and 100-player referrals, which net you 1,000 gold and a $50 premium pack, respectively.

Tribes: Ascend - Diamond Sword skiing
Tribes: Ascend - skiing

This is the no-brainer of the bunch. If you don't know what I'm talking about because you haven't tried Tribes: Ascend yet, well, for shame. Multiplayer shooters are a dime a dozen these days, but none of them can match Tribes' frenetic movement and balletic aerial combat, both of which begin and end with the ability to ski at ludicrous speed across the game's expansive maps. Don't take my word for it, though. Have a look at a couple of video tutorials to see for yourself.

World of Warplanes - playing chicken
The Firing Line - If you missed it

Much as I'd like The Firing Line to be all Tribes all the time, there were some other interesting happenings in the online shooter space this week. Chief among them were a new development blog entry focusing on World of Warplanes, a live IRC chat with DUST 514 bigwigs, and a brief video teaser for one of DUST's gauss rifle weapons.

The WoWP bit was particularly noteworthy because it featured a user-driven Q&A session. The devs claim that the game's "skill level will be higher than in World of Tanks by all means," and the firm also details plans to overhaul some of the "rough spots" in WoT's match-making mechanics.

Until next week.

The Firing Line's Jef Reahard has a twitchy trigger finger, a love of online shooters, and an uncanny resemblance to Malcolm Reynolds. OK, maybe not, but at least if he ever kills you, you'll be awake, you'll be facing him, and you'll be armed.