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Tribes: Ascend Beta Preview

The market for competitive arena based FPS games has been somewhat barren in recent years; since the world went Call of Duty crazy nigh on all the major multiplayer games have been military-themed, be it with a World War 2, modern or near-future background. Other than moments within the brilliant (if now somewhat cluttered) Team Fortress 2, nothing has come close to matching the frantic, all-action madness of Quake 3 Arena, not even Quake 4 itself (no, Quake Live doesn't count due to it being a remake).

Tribes Ascend Beta Screenshots

Whilst not strictly a deathmatch arena style game in the same vein as Q3, at its core, Tribes: Ascend contains all the elements that made Q3 so popular: fast action, mid-air combat and pixel perfect twitch shooting. As anyone with knowledge of the gaming landscape at the turn of the century will be aware, it's unfair to suggest that Tribes: Ascend has taken its influence directly from Quake; the original Starsiege: Tribes predates Q3 by a year.

Being developed by Hi-Rez Studios, the game initially started life as an MMO (Tribes Universe), a version of which may or may not see the light of day at a later date. Development eventually switched back to a more traditional individual map approach, thankfully retaining all of the key Tribes features: wide open maps, spinfusors, jetpacks, and most importantly, skiing. Skiing began in the original Tribes as a glitch in the physics that allowed players to accelerate to speeds far beyond initially intended. Rather than patch out this exploit, skiing was quickly adopted and implemented for the sequels; mastering skiing is now a major part of any serious Tribes player's skill set.

Tribes Ascend Beta Screenshots

Jumping into the action, players get a choice of nine classes, split across three armour types; light, medium and heavy; each with a handful of unlockable items and upgrades. Being a Free-To-Play title, unlocks can be purchased using in-game experience or by spending money on Tribes Gold; in order to prevent the game from turning into Pay-To-Win, items can only be upgraded using experience. In addition, players earn non-persistent credits during the cause of matches that can be spent on vehicles, defensive base upgrades and artillery strikes.

Tribes Ascend Beta Screenshots

The game is rapidly approaching the Open Beta stage, with Hi-Rez having taken on a lot of feedback from the community; recent patches have seen the number of classes streamlined to its current total, as well as the conversion of the majority of the automatic weapons from hitscan to projectile, much to the delight of Tribes purists. At the current stage everything is working exceptionally; the matchmaking takes a matter of seconds to find a game and we've yet to encounter any bugs, all whilst happily bouncing around the landscape like a Gummi Bear after a gallon of Red Bull.

Tribes Ascend Beta Screenshots

It still remains to be seen whether Tribes: Ascend will be able to launch itself towards the forefront of the e-sports scene, however it's likely to face some stiff competition for mainstream players from Firefall and Planetside 2; both adopting the Free-To-Play, futuristic, team-based shooter approach, but are also pitching themselves as MMOs - abandoning Tribes Universe could turn out to be one of Hi-Rez's best decisions in recent years.

Beanz | 23rd February, 2012

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