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Tribes' Update Count Continues To Ascend With Tartarus

There were deer here once. But now, well... they're our intergalactic overlords, forcing us to wage constant and meaningless wars against each other for their own personal amusement.

Hmmm. Hrrrm. Ahhhh. Mmhmm. Huh? Oh, didn’t notice you there. I was busy pondering Tribes Ascend’s new Tartarus update, you see – because it’s caused my brain to pulsate and fire lightning down my spine, as is its custom. First, though, let’s get the basics out of the way: for zero of your pitiful gravity-obeying, jetpack-less dollars, you now have access to two new maps: the hilly, heavily forested Tartarus for CTF and the flatter, more enclosed Hinterlands for arena. You can also customize up to four loadouts that you can switch between on respawn mid-match.

Quick switch, meanwhile, allows you to map classes and loadouts to your keyboard’s number pad, so choosing what you’ll spawn as is literally as easy as 1, 2, 3 – unless you’re prone to mapping things in incredibly arbitrary fashions and then immediately forgetting, like me. Oh, and there’s a trailer. I’ve mapped it to the “read the rest of this entry” link… I think. Or maybe I put it in a single pixel on the image. Or, wait. Does RPS have any sacrificial podiums that summon spectral wolves? Actually, that one sounds most likely, now that I think about it.

So then, on to the interesting bit. The update also introduces personalized deals on store items. Here’s how it works:

“Users will now be presented with a customized DEAL OF THE DAY. This is a deal tailored to the individual and presents special pricing on an item that the user does not already own. The timer for the deal of the day resets at the same time as the timer for the First Win of the Day.”

The DEAL OF THE DAY – which I will refer to as Deal of the Day, because I cherish my inside voice – is fascinating on a number of levels. For one, I love that Hi-Rez seems so willing to experiment with its business model. F2P in general still has a Wild West quality to it; no one’s pinned down a single one-size-fits-all method for surefire success.

For now, though, deals seem to only extend to gold – not XP. Players have complained about the glacial pace at which unlocks roll in for free players, so occasionally dropping XP costs could put a few morale-boosting sprints in your 40-year trudge through a seemingly endless desert of stuff you can’t have.

And, of course, the fact that it singles out items you don’t already own is huge. If I’m, say, leveling a soldier and dying to finally get my hands on a simple spinfusor, I imagine even a fairly minor price drop would be enough to push me over the edge. In that respect, it’s sort of diabolical. If Hi-Rez opts to keep these deals restricted to gold, I could see plenty of free-playing purists begin to gradually slip toward the spendier end of the spectrum because of these things. Time, the spectral wolf has helpfully pointed out, will tell. And I trust his advice. He has a kind face.

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Nathan Grayson

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