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[Review] Gaming for Free – Tribes: Ascend

A few weeks ago there was a very quiet shift in the online gaming scene, barely noticed but highly significant. The latest instalment of the Tribes franchise, Tribes: Ascend (Tribes), was released for open beta.


Tribes is essentially the latest in a long line of free-to-play multiplayer games. It takes the standard pay-or-play format, allowing you to access all content without paying a cent, though it would take considerably longer. Over the last couple of weeks I have been investing some serious time into Tribes and so far I think it is completely and utterly fantastic.

Upon downloading the very reasonable 2GB required to play this game from the Hi-Rez Studios website, the first thing you’ll notice is the stylistic art displayed throughout the menu. Before you even start a match the menu creates an atmosphere of fun mixed with drama.

This atmosphere continues into the gameplay. If I had to simplify the gameplay I would describe it as a more serious version of Team Fortress… on crack!

This game is insane. There’s a slight back story but essentially you’re an armoured soldier of the future who can shoot explosive goodness all over the place, while flying around on your jet pack and ‘skiing’ across the map at over 160mph (at least I think that’s what the numbers on my screen mean).

Be Quick

You won’t play this game like any other shooter. There’s no camping here, no using cover, if you stay still you’re dead.

The key to not dying in the arse is to be able to maintain momentum and predict enemy movement to effectively place your shots. It’ll take a bit of adjustment from other shooting games to get into the swing of the frenzied combat of Tribes.

I can only play it for short periods before my fingers are raw and I realise I haven’t breathed in a couple of minutes. It’s sometimes nice to just to stand back from the combat and watch 30 distant combatants leaping and twirling madly through the air with explosions going off everywhere.

There are currently two game types to Tribes; Deathmatch and Capture the Flag.

Team Deathmatch

Deathmatch is self explanatory with the team holding the flag (there’s a flag in both match types actually) gaining double points for their kills, eating away at the 100 lives the opposing team has. Capture the Flag involves team bases, turrets and vehicles.

So far I’ve invested most of my time into Deathmatches as I want to master the basic combat techniques before adding in a bunch of other aspects.

Capture the Flag

Have you ever thought why we always have to capture a flag? Why not a trophy? Or a trembling raccoon? The tradition probably comes from the importance of standards (later known as colours) as rallying points and representations of a force’s martial pride from pre industrial warfare. But it’s 2012 people, get with the times.

I can’t even remember the last time I stole someone’s flag. OK. I can. It was April 2006 but that’s another story and they never found me.

In Afghanistan, their National sport is played with a sand packed limbless goat, which riders have to pull onto their horses before taking it back into a circle…while whipping each other.

Cooler than a ball right? I could definitely get involved in a game of Tribes where I had to throw an animal carcass onto my shoulders and run away from the greedy carcass stealing enemy. But I digress.

Where was I? Kind of lost my train of thought there. Tribes. Great game. Yeeeaaah. Ok, I’ve looked at my notes. We’re good to go.

Select Class

There are three classes in Tribes; light medium and heavy. Each class has three sub-classes that focus on a different aspect of the game. The light Sentinel attempts to use a sniper, not easy when people are moving at breakneck speed over hilly terrain. The medium Raider who focuses on shields and carpeting the area with explosions – better than an American precision bomb strike. The heavy Juggernaut is a slow moving beast with a gun that makes boom good and soaks up damage like a boss. Cause he’s the Juggernaut, bitch! Ahem.

The different classes add variety and all have their role to play both in Deathmatches and Capture the Flag. The class you choose really depends on your play style.


I like to be able to handle all situations so I’ve been working on the medium Soldier class. By working I mean playing matches, gaining XP and utilising it to unlock the Soldier’s gear upgrades. The upgrades are nice to mix things up but certainly don’t radically over power players.

In my opinion Tribes has found the best balance between paying and non paying players yet in a ‘free’ game.

The best thing I can say about Tribes is that, while all unlocks in the game can be achieved without paying a cent, this is the first free game I’ve actually paid money towards. And I haven’t even had the regret I usually get after making snap decisions to throw my credit card number at the Internet.

Paying for gold helps you upgrade gear that would otherwise take hours of gameplay and also gives an XP boost from matches.  There are a few ‘gold only’ purchases but these are strictly aesthetic.



With Tribes being essentially free and full of a whole bunch of fantastic content, and still only in the open beta phase, you have no excuse to not be playing it. For a measly 2GB you can soon be enjoying the out of control, supersonic-paced destruction that only Tribes seems to offer.

Get downloading, fool! And look me up. Chazz was taken (one day I will hunt this person down and take sweet name-related vengeance) so you can find me in the friends searcher as Chuckmister.

Chazz’ Tips:

Keep moving and spend some time in the training arena before braving the online scene.




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