Let’s Spin Again: Tribes Ascend V1.1 Released

Hi-Rez Studios gave up on Tribes Ascend [official site] for a couple of years, but a few months back made the unexpected announcement that they we working on a big ole update for their F2P jetpacking FPS. And they did release it! The ‘Out of the Blue’ update (or version 1.1, if you have no romance in your heart – if you wouldn’t pash with a plasma rifle) arrived last week, with new maps, new weapons, exploit fixes, and a whole hovershedload of balance tweaks.

One big change is an overhaul of the class system, going from nine distinct classes to three armour types – light, medium, and heavy – with customisable loadouts. New battle arenas come in maps inspired by Tribes 1’s Rollercoaster, Tribes 2’s Damnation, and Ascend’s own Katabatic and Arx Novena, which are all playable in CTF mode and in either Blitz or TDM on the side. And… yeah, it adds and changes a whole load more. Check out the full notes over here for all the numbers on balance tweaks and whatnot.

As the update changes a whole load, Hi-Rez have undone all in-game purchases:

“Due to the dramatic changes to the underlying game, all in-game purchases have been reverted and all Tribes Gold and XP refunded to your account. If you have previously purchased the Ultimate Weapon Pack or Game of the Year it will be re-added to your account. If there is any Tribes Gold on your account you will be automatically gifted the Ultimate Weapon Pack.”

I suspect this update is partially to assuage some fan concerns that Hi-Rez might abandon their MOBA Smite for new MOBA shooter Paladins, like they stopped working on Tribes to focus on Smite. After the Tribes patches stopped, Hi-Rez said that Tribes had been “break-even at best“, but Smite does seem to be doing better so I wouldn’t worry about that. Anyway, they say they’d like to keep this revived small Tribes team going for a while, so that’s grand?

If you fancy a bash, you can download Tribes Ascend free-to-play over here or through Steam. Oh hey, and Hi-Rez recently set all of the old Tribes games free too.

16 Comments

  1. Hunchback says:

    Wow, didn’t expect that to happen! Is it because of Overwatch rising some racket ?

    I’ve always loved Tribes, was sad to see it go…

    • Baines says:

      I’m more likely to side with Alice’s comment. It feels a lot like damage control for their original decision to abandon Tribes, and is coming now because they might be worried that players might think that they will abandon Smite in a similar fashion.

  2. El_Emmental says:

    There’s certainly some truth in that hypothesis, but some Hi-Rez employees also worry about the Tribes IP being completely dead after Tribes: Ascend failed to convince over time. Maybe one of them care about Tribes, and a few care about the IP itself.

    Tribes: Ascend wasn’t so much abandoned by the developers, it’s mostly the players who progressively abandoned it because the overall game design structure wasn’t compatible with the 2013-2014 audience.

    The developers tried to apply some band-aids here and there, but chasing was always broken, air strikes were too often off-topic, casual public players never really realized the point of teamplay roles (such as the HoF or Heavy-on-Flag ; along with flag base disrupter, chaser, capper, etc). The game needed massive changes, but it was already out of beta so the devs’ hands were tied.

    Note : link to tribes.wikia.com

    The developers couldn’t make the kind of massive change back then : despite being dead nowadays, some veterans of T:A are already mad at the 1.1 changes. Now imagine that kind of update when there were still 1 000+ players : it would have been a massive PR situation.

    Now, regarding that update, it is indeed very interesting and we need to see how it works in a live situation.

    However, I have some serious doubts about the issues affecting casual and newcomers : there isn’t anything new added (I reckon it requires a fair amount of work), and beginners will still wander around the “midfield” (the middle of the map, lacking any significant tactical value), while flag bases will remain unguarded.

    Sadly video game studios still fail to understand how crucial is pedagogy, especially when dealing with niche genres or niche gameplay (such as skiing, in the case of Tribes).

    • EhexT says:

      If they really cared about the Tribes IP they would have made the game standalone, with an offline mode, bots, LAN functionality and moddable.

      In other words, a better more high quality upgrade for Tribes 2, instead of a F2P grind (that they eventually patched out I guess – too little, too late).

      • El_Emmental says:

        Like I said, maybe 1 employee cares about it. If that employee isn’t the CEO, or is the CEO but (s)he can’t force such decisions upon its investors, all they can do is making small adjustments.

        Now onto the business model, T:A was released during a certain era of the video game industry, where F2P games seemed to be the way to go to grow a large audience.

        Given how terrible were the sales numbers of the latest Tribes titles and how small the fanbase was, going for a classic model of “sell initial copy at 50 bucks” (that would allow offline mode, LAN games and all) would be commercial suicide : at that price only the hardcore Tribes fans would get it, servers would remain empty, and game would be dead in 3 months. Reducing the price to $30? Not certain at all it would result in enough sales either, most people will see it as a budget shooter.

        Unless you have 2+ millions of dollars to burn to release a free game, you need to at least break even. Going for a F2P model wasn’t a completely bad idea, it’s just that making people *try* the game isn’t enough, you need to make people *understand* the game to keep them there, so they can bring in even more people.

    • Unruly says:

      I think the lack of any decent tutorial on different roles was probably one of the bigger issues with T:A. They had a brief one that taught you how to do basic skiing, but that was about it. If I hadn’t been familiar with the franchise from Tribes and Tribes 2, I wouldn’t have known about staying out of midfield, or base repair, or anything at all relating to any of the non-capper roles.

      Of course, since I never quite could get my skiing ability beyond “passable” I always played the base disrupter and HoF roles, since they relied less on mobility and more on shooting and being a nuisance to the enemy team. One thing I was sad to see go away was the heavy mortar bombardment, since it was replaced by the lackluster orbital strikes. I loved the targeting laser in Tribes 2, and it was incredibly satisfying to point at something and then watch 3 or 4 mortars drop down on it with nearly pinpoint accuracy. It was a way to make the HoF still have a bit of offensive utility as well, because that mortar had such an extreme range. The mortar in T:A just sucked…

    • SomeDuder says:

      IMHO new players need to get the hell out and people that played Tribes 1 and 2 back in the day need to get the hell in. If a new player doesn’t understand he needs to play as part of a team, then that’s his problem lmao, back to the calls of the duties et cetera.

      But I’m curious. I did actually spend a bit of real cash on this, so I’mna reinstall and see what changed over the years. Hope the restitution of the gold worked fine.

  3. Calculon says:

    The physics issues (when I last I checked 2 months ago) still persists, serious weapon balance issues are still a problem, and generally the whole design is pretty much broken.

    I spoke to a few players on the Dev/Test system and they basically said that Hi-Rez was well aware of the broken physics issues, but it would take a HUGE effort to fix that given they have kind of designed their maps around it, which would mean then of course they need to re-design all of the maps (which isnt going to happen). So the end result is – its still pretty much crap imo.

  4. Fromage says:

    Well, very happy to see all the clearly fremium suits dropped in favor of the original flavor of light medium and heavy suits…but seems like that was the main drive for people to spend money on this thing, right?