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Tribes: Ascend Launch Day Impressions

Updated Mon, Apr 30, 2012 by Ethec

by Jeff "Ethec" Woleslagle, Editor-in-Chief of TenTonHammer.com

The launch build of Tribes: Ascend was available at PAX East 2012, so who were we not to give the "world's fastest shooter" a vigorous playthrough before today's launch? With Hi-Rez CEO Todd Harris looking over our shoulders and explaining the intricacies of the game and its newest (oldest) map, Raindance, we offer our launch day impressions of Tribes: Ascend.

Tribes: Ascend Gameplay

The new map revealed at PAX East 2012 was Raindance, a map that's no stranger to series afficionados. "It's been in every Tribes game, but hasn't been shown in Ascend. It's a really popular map - massive hills, pretty big.  This is pretty much a faithful 1:1 interpretation of the original, though the original wasn't symmetrical. We added that in, but other than that, this is the original map."

The hallmark of Tribes is maps lots of open space and verticality, and Raindance doesn't disappoint. I perched myself atop a peak as a Juggernaut armed with a Fusion Mortar, raining death down on the valley below. Like many weapons in the T:A arsenal, the Fusion Mortar has nearly divine range, though it's projectile arcs and must bounce a few times before exploding. Like Zeus on Mt. Olympus, I laughingly hurled down green bursts of AoE destruction until an enemy Pathfinder floated upwards and knifed me in the back a time or two.

Tribes: Ascend Raindance map.

Raindance is Tribes: Ascend's newest map, and utilizes the game's new Capture and Hold match type.

With a new understanding that movement is essential in the “world’s fastest shooter”, I had a battlefield introduction (literally) to skiing. Skiing might seem as anachronous as tribal overtones to a futuristic shooter, , but frictionlessly gliding across the ground is crucial to efficient movement across Tribes: Ascend's huge maps. Unlike jumping, skiing requires no energy and allows you to build speed going downhill and maintain that speed on the flat.

Alternating between right mouse button (for jets, to jump over obstacles) and holding down spacebar to ski, then releasing spacebar to jump again - not to mention the occasional aiming and shooting - it all makes Tribes: Ascend the fastest and most finger fuddling shooter I've ever played. Todd laughed as I expressed my frustration.  "The nice thing about Tribes: Ascend is that it's different. It may be your type of game or not your type of game, but it is different."

Skiing and jumping aren’t the only ways to get around in Tribes: Ascend. Regardless of match type, players can call in gravcycles, two-seater tanks, and a shrike (a one seater flying vehicle), as well as call-in inventory stations, tactical strikes, and larger orbital strikes.  CTF mode allows players to upgrade base defenses, such as generators and sensors- with credits as well. All of these options tend to be mid- to end-of-match features, for when the single-match credits really begin to pile up in individual players' accounts.

Tribes: Ascend Maps and Match Types

I was mortaring away on a newly introduced game mode called Capture and Hold. It's a map type familiar to anyone who's played capture points or League of Legends: Dominion style maps, and will have a three, four, and five point variation at launch complete with ticket count to 300. I didn't play enough of the map to venture an opinion, but Todd felt Capture and Hold will take it's place in the Tribes pantheon:"It's been well received; I think its going to be a popular one."

Tribes: Ascend Inferno Tribes: Ascend Crossfire

Inferno (left) and Crossfire show off some of the variety of Tribes: Ascend's Capture the Flag maps. Inferno has environmental hazards, such as lava and tar pools.

Tribes: Ascend has 15 maps total. These range from craggy to relatively flat and large to… not-so-large, but all are imaginitively sci-fi / fantasy colored and flavored. The game will boast four match types at launch: Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag (main one), Rabbit (a capture the flag mode where points are accrued only for flag possession - this one is only for custom servers), and Capture and Hold.

Another interesting feature (or non-feature) of Tribes: Ascend is the lack of built-in voicechat. "There's different opinions about [built-in voicechat], but Tribes already has the VGS system built in." In a system employed by a lot of tween-and-under games as well as shooters, players have a predefined list of vocalized phrases they can trigger. InTribes: Ascend this works by hitting a string of key( VGS, the key combo that started it all, triggers "Shazbot!", for example. Shazbot is an expression of surprise coined by Robin Williams on the Mork and Mindy show, and was resuscitated in the original Tribes games.)

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