Note: Apparently I wrote this quite a while ago, didn’t publish it, and totally forgot it existed until now. So, I’m publishing it now even though this was written during an earlier phase of this games development and doesn’t necessarily accurately represent what the game is like today.
The original Tribes is revered as a classic among team-based first-person shooters and was one of the earlier games to feature large, open maps and player-controlled vehicles. It was followed by Tribes 2, which was somewhat panned by overzealous fans of the original (who were later sated by mods fixing things they felt were left out) and was generally well received by others. Dynamix, the creators of the series, closed down not long after the release of Tribes 2 and three years later the series was brought back in the form of Tribes: Vengeance developed by Irrational Games. Irrational had hoped to reboot the series, keeping the core gameplay mechanics while trying to retool aspects of the game to reach a wider audience. Series veterans found Vengeance to be unsatisfying due to it’s more confined levels and some scaled-back gameplay mechanics while garnering a mostly positive response from a more general audience.
After stagnating for several years the intellectual property rights to Tribes was purchased by Garage Games, a company made up of former Dynamix staff who sell an engine which evolved from what powered Tribes 2. Following their acquisition of the license from Vivendi Universal they announced plans to create a new game set in the Tribes universe; unfortunately, financial troubles resulted in them having to re-sell the IP, which is now in the hands of the creators of Tribes: Ascend, Hi-Rez Studios. Garage Games did eventually release a Tribes-esque game called Legions Overdrive, which is also free-to-play.
Ascend invokes much of what you’d want in a Tribes game; skiing across its eight maps with hills and valleys while trying to gauge the right amount of distance to lead the target you’re tailing so you can nail them with a Spinfusor disk is as good as ever, as is the feeling of satisfaction when you pull it off. The capture the flag maps feature vehicles and bases with generators and turret emplacements while the Team Deathmatch maps go for more of an arena feel while still allowing for freedom of movement. Sadly, base defense is less important than in previous games in the series which leads to games favoring offensive play than a mix of offense and defense.
The way Hi-Rez has chosen to monetize the game is by giving players the option of spending cash to unlock new classes, weapons, various upgrades, and cosmetic features. These things can be unlocked using experience points earned through simply playing the game, although depending on how much a person plays and how patient they are it’s possible that just paying to unlock something would be the “better deal”. Of course, this does bring up the question of the game being “pay-to-win”. If you took two players of similar skill, one who was unlocking things without paying and one who just bought everything, the person who paid would have an advantage; however, at this time I don’t feel like that advantage is so much so that it negatively impacts the non-paying customers experience in a significant way.
In the end it’s a respectable attempt at bringing back a classic PC gaming franchise. It’s not free of fault, but I’d say the good outweighs the bad, and one would hope that the bad gets fixed as the game matures.