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June 3, 2012 / jwaxo

Tribes (And Tribes Ascend)

You may remember Joel from his last little write-up on his discovery of StarCraft and how it changed his life (or not). I asked him to write up something new for me, and so he hand-delivered this manuscript to me from a camouflaged Jeep before disappearing into the jungle again.

Must go faster.

It wasn’t too long ago that I was introduced to Tribes. I was in high school at the time and every weekend I would join some friends in a garage to play various computer games. Now, meeting a bunch of people in a garage to play video games was, at the time, one of the nerdiest things I could do. Everyone brought their custom built, glow in the dark, liquid cooled tower computers and we drained more power in one night than that entire neighborhood did all week. We had to run extension cords to various circuits in the house and sometimes we even ran extensions to the neighbor’s house when there were enough of us.

One night, though it was a particularly small group, we played Tribes. Not because it was a new game, but because it was old and fun. I had never heard of it, but install it I did. Tribes was so unlike any other game that I had no idea what was going on. The map was huge and there were only a few players. I never even saw my team and no one ever mentioned various game features to me such as a “ski” button. At least until someone took pity on me walking between bases, though the jet packs were a nice touch. That’s when I realized why I never saw my team, because they were flying above me at mach eight. Once I realized I could “ski” around the map, I started to get the idea of the game. Well, at least I thought I did. I saw this rock off in the distance between me and the enemy base and thought “that would make good cover.” I exploded and came to the realization that rock was a tank.

Okay then, Tribes has vehicles. Check.

That was the first and last time I played the game series. The Tribes disk was stacked with other various games in the closet to collect dust, forgotten. Until Tribes: Ascend, which is a newly created free-to-play version of Tribes. As if “free” has anything to do with it. The business model would not be used if there was no profit in it.

That being said, I have found myself spending way too much time gliding through the skies, being shot at because I took someone’s flag. I enjoy playing Tribes, because it allows me to play to my own style. That style being: “tricky bastard”. Remember the scene in Jurassic Park just before the velociraptor attacks Muldoon and he says “clever girl,” which was followed by his immediate death? That’s me, the Infiltrator, the scourge of your generator room.


The downfall of the game is that it is very difficult to work as a team and requires a direct effort, which is hard to come by in the public servers. Especially when the guy you’re going to protect is likely to fly himself into a wall before you can even go to defend him. One does not simply change direction at 200km/h.

The other downfall of the game is simple economics. Because the game is free, expect to see a lot of players who, like I once was, do not know the game features and do not know how to play as a team. Working with the team comes with experience and familiarity with the game, which takes time. Overall though, it is still a lot of fun.

Playing this game, speeding around mountains going as fast as I can, gets my adrenalin going and gives me butterflies in my stomach. When the team does come together, and tensions are high I actually find myself expressing my joy or anger out loud, as if my team could hear me. This always makes me laugh as I flash back, watching my parents watching football and yelling at the TV. I always found that yelling at the TV bizarre behavior, as I had already taken it apart and was quite sure there were no microphones inside.“What’s the purpose?”

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