Like most gamers of my generation, i occasion the odd LAN party. The reason for this is four fold-
- It allows me to blow up people i know in a highly amusing fashion
- It allows me to scream and swear at them with no questions asked
- It allows me to consume incredible amounts of food at other’s expense
- It allows me to find and grab new games off other people’s externals.
Suffice to say, this particular LAN party managed to forfill each of these amply.
However, as i walked in i found three of them playing a brand new game- an online FPS. of course things like this happen, and i always look at one point, but this one in particular caught my eye. Why?
- It had power armour
- It had jet packs
- It had some wicked looking maps.
- And unless i was mistaken… they were skiing.
Yes that’s right, skiing. After watching my friend managed to end a intense duel with another player with a well placed thumper shot to the head when both players where moving at some 120kmph and frequently jumped several hundred meters in the air. And that was relatively slow and low.
For anyone that’s played Tiny Wings on the Ipod, it’s a similar concept. You use your combination of jet packs and skis to traverse the terrain at up to about 220kmph, and then jump about 500 meters if you get a good run up. All the while shooting at each other with things varying from chain guns to nuclear fusion mortars.
It’s compact at below 4GB or so, it has graphics that are easily equal to other science fiction shooters, the physics for a game that has such outrageous movement dynamics are excellent, the maps are beyond excellent, the class system while still lacking the detail and diversity of other class based FPSs such as TF2 still has the bones of it, and even though base defenses are currently underpowered, the game is one of the best things to come out in the genre, period ,in years. The exceptional gameplay with revolutionary and innovative game mechanics make it a winner.
Oh- and it’s completely Free to Play. Adopting something grossly similar to the LOL business model where players only HAVE to pay for skins and other cosmetics, the game is set to be a winner.
And it’s only in Beta.
Sure it doesn’t feel anything like a Beta. For example there’s yet to be a bug I’ve come across, my crummy laptop handles the game beautifully, and there are no cases of monstrous unbalance. It has the feel of a game where the devs decided to get the fundamental gameplay, lag, and mechanics down before they add in 5000 different types of weapon options. As it is though between the 9 different classes, there is already more equipment then you see in lesser games, including the option to spend in-match currency on an orbital bombardment.
The maps themselves are probably the best example of this care. all beautifully designed to get the best of the ski-mechanic, these maps end up being larger than most halo reach ones, with everything from sniper nests to base interiors to massive mid fields, all lovingly rendered so that on high they challenge contemporaries but will run flawlessly on just about anything.
If there was any more reason to play, Tribes has servers all around the globe. What really won my heart was when i realised that under the various different options “Oceania/Australia” was an option. Us Aussies will understand the feeling of playing an FPS on lower than 150 ping.
It’s not all perfect though, and this game thankfully has plenty of room for improvement. At the moment there are only three game types, TDM (each team begins with 100 lives, and there’s a single flag in the centre- whichever team has the flag does double lives in damage)- which is a good introduction into the gameplay of pathfinders, soldiers and brutes- the much more heavily detailed CTF (big bases, big guns, big tanks, james bond like flag chases) and Arena (which i haven’t unlocked yet- admitably). Each of these gametypes have their own problems, which i’ll go onto detail.
- TDM: The problem here is that only 3 out of the 9 classes are viable. Granted, two of those classes, pathfinders and soldiers, are default classes, but the simple fact is that every other class (with the possible exception of the brute) simply does not work. Infiltrators (spies), technicians, sentinels (snipers), Raiders (demomen), Juggernauts (anti-base mortar holders), Doombringers (defensive heavies designed to defend flags/generators), are all by and large useless on this game type, with doombringers and brutes being the best of the worst. As it is a sniper has chance when everything is moving at 100KMPH, an engi is useless when there is no strategic positions to turret plant, and TDM is fun, but limited compared to the other game types.
- CTF: the best of the game types, and a general rule here is the underpowered nature of base and base defenses. The CTF bases are large, have impressive looking upgradeable guns, radar to mark incoming enemies and offer a host of services from resupply to tank/plane/bike shop, and are all (logically) powered by a pivotal generator deep within the base in a highly defensible position. The problem is that each of these thoughtful base defenses are laughably easy to destroy, but they take about 30 seconds to repair. I’m serious here. a guy with a mortar can make light work of any turret. However in order to fix the bloody thing, one needs to stand right on top of the thing, not moving, helpless for about thirty seconds. And not moving in this game means dead to anyone that cares to shoot. If the guns were effective then this would make it worth it, but even though the turret AI is fairly good, the slow moving projectiles are simply too easy to dodge, and don’t do enough damage. On top of all of this in order for anything to work, the Generator needs to be online. About that…. The generator suffers from the same problem as the turrets- namely it is far easier to destroy than it is to fix. Generator rooms frequently turn into deathtraps, and due to the general weakness of the technician class (which i’ll talk about later) they are nearly impossible to hold if a single infiltrators decides to go “nope!”. Besides from that CTF is generally excellent- but at the moment the game is not “Capture the flag”- but “Kill the enemy flag bearer and cap before they can steal it again- usually about a 5 second window”. Hopefully a change to base structures natural regenerative repair would be nice, as well as increased durability and firepower, should change the game from “wow their turrets are actually up?” to “the Generator is down for 30 seconds! GO ! GO! GO!”. That’s a bit of a spiel but worth it.
Now moving onto the problem with the classes. At the moment the Sniper and the Engineer classes are by and large useless, while soldier and pathfinder work in just about every situation.
- Pathfinder- The flag capper. That’s his goal his purpose, his raison d’etat. The fastest class, often breaking 220kmph, and having enormous mobility. In CTF the role is to make sure that this guy can make it out alive- the team is about supporting your pathfinder. The problem is these guys don’t need supporting In tribes if you’re hitting them at all it’s 95% of the battle, and hitting a pathfinder at speed is like decapitating a fly with a kitchen knife. Their weapons are also surprisingly good, packing a much greater punch than the other two light classes. Rare is the situation where a pathfinder can not handle himself speed, killing power, range and even shotguns all combine into a class that is not just needed to win the game, but stop the other guy from winning too. A more clear separation of roles is needed here- Pathfinders are designed to flag cap and kill the flag bearer other pathfinders.
- Technician- I love playing the engi in TF2. It was a sad and depressing moment when i realised that Tribe’s Technician was not comparable at all. The Techy can deploy a single, rather pathetic turret a time, which can not be upgraded at all and will stop working if the generator fails (so almost all the time). After that…. Well let’s just say that he’s worse than useless. Nothing he does can not be done better than any other class, even at base repair and defense. This is partially due to the fact that around your base is all bunch of repair guns which any class can pick up and use. So while every other class has two powerful weapons, you have a second rate SMG (not completely crap but not at all comparable the assault rifle or other projectiles) and a tool that everyone can use. To add insult to injury, you repair no faster than anyone else. At one point i got so frustrated with the class while trying to keep my generator alive that i just went Jug and wiped out that pesky infiltrator with a mortar- then got a repair gun and finished the job. While the game does have the option to deploy ammo dispensers, these are part of the Call in mechanic, and can be done by anyone. In short the underpowered, narrow and generally useless techy class needs a lot of tender love and care.
- Soldier- the Soldier is a class that was designed to be easy to play- well- it is. Fast, tough, and packing a sizeable punch with the second best projectile weapon in the game and what basically amounts a massive noob tube, the Soldier is very easy to play (relatively of course… nothing is truly easy in tribes ascend). Once again the problem here is just one class that can do much too well. the Thumper, despite being one of the weakest explosive weapons in the game, has a massive explosion radius, and excellent killing power on anything which isn’t in heavy armor. The soldier can take on anything with a reasonable chance of success, and is the fastest of the medium classes, with a ton of base energy. Making him slightly slower would go a long way.
- Sentinel: This is not so much a problem with the class, so much as the classes role in the game. Nothing is really still in this game- except inside sheltered bunkers. A sniper’s role in a game where everything moves faster than a car and can shift direction suddenly was always going to be dubious. Add that to the huge size of the maps, and casualties from sentinels are exceedingly rare. Something needs to be done here- the sniper mechanics needs to be re-examined, or some maps designed where people have to defend static positions out in the open. The sentinel’s use of claymore’s however does have great base and counter flag carrier potential (you never see them while moving at 200kmph), although it’s a pebble beside a mountain.
I’m giving this one an 8.5, and it’s still in Beta.
I strongly suggest you play. Provided you have the tenacity to read through this now monstrous text. My in game name is Forrestal, as always.
Download, laugh, cry and have fun.