After such a long wait, let’s just jump right into it!
Players can choose from nine classes – three of which are available right off the bat – each with its own primary weapon, secondary weapon, belt weapon, and special ability. All of these can be upgraded by spending XP (more on that later). You also start with two passive abilities, more of which can be unlocked with XP.
I played for about four hours yesterday, the game’s first day as a live service. I chose the heavy-armor, heavy-weapons Juggernaut, capable of launching explosive shells over a wide distance. Given my lack of shooter skills, it seemed like a good choice, requiring little in the way of actual marksmanship.
It took a couple matches to get the hang of how my class played – far-away targets good, close-up bad – but within half an hour I was consistently ranking in the top third of my team in kills and score, even with that one guy mercilessly farming me — Hurricane27, I’m coming for you!
Until you reach level eight, the only match types available to you are deathmatch and capture-the-flag, which seem like decent enough options while you get your feet wet. There are also arena and capture-and-hold matches, or you can set up or join a server with custom rules.
In the space between levels, you can pat yourself on the back by earning the game’s multitudinous achievements or just admire your leetness during the post-match recap.
It’s not all just run-and-gun, either. Maps are huge, as befits the franchise’s ancestry, with turrets, vehicle drops, and all sorts of other goodies to shoot at – and get shot by.
Oh, and did I mention that you can call in orbital bombardments? Yeah, those are fun.
Graphics and sound effects were a bit tepid, but serviceable. Controls were fine, though managing your jet pack and “skiing” – a Tribes staple – definitely take some getting used to, especially for a noob like me. My time spent in Global Agenda definitely helped.
It was easy to navigate around the menus to select and customize my build. That’s a bigger matter than it might sound, but nothing turns me off from a game quicker than UI frustration.
Tribes Universe is free-to-play, so that brings us to the inevitable question of monetization. You earn XP for each battle and use that to buy upgrades for your character or to unlock new characters. The upgrades are relatively minor, so even a fully decked-out character won’t have a tremendous advantage over a beginning character – especially if the beginner is more skilled.
Even so, with just my four hours, I was able to unlock about half of the direct “power up” advantages for my Juggernaut. The other half cost more and will therefore take longer, but you easily can “max out” a class in just a few days.
If that’s too slow for you, you can buy gold. Making any purchase permanently flags your account as a VIP, gaining you +50% XP in matches, similar to other F2P MMOs’ premium accounts. You can also spend your good for limited-time boosters, which increase your XP gain by 100% while active.
You can also use your gold in place of XP to buy your character improvements.
Yes, technically, you can spend all your real-world money to buy power, but as mentioned previously:
- It’s not a huge improvement
- It’s easy enough to earn without money
- Everything in the game can be earned with XP; there are no “gold-exclusive” items, except for possibly cosmetic skins
My suggestion? If you like the game, spend a few bucks – the cheapest transaction is $10 – to at least get VIP status and improve your advancement rate.
Tribes Ascend will face stiff competition in the FPS space, with games like FireFall, Planetside 2, and DUST 514 on the horizon. But coming out first counts for something, and long-time Tribes fans – or even players who’ve never sampled the franchise – should find plenty to like.
If you’re looking for quick, no-strings-attached action, Tribes Universe should fulfill your needs.