Players: 1+ Player Game | Release Date: 03/28/01 | Genre: FPS
It seemed to come out of nowhere to become the leading squad-based first-person shooter. The following Starsiege Tribes developed was proof enough that a well-made team game was something a lot of gamers wanted. It had no appreciable off-line play, offering mainly a great game of capture the flag, although it did have a few other modes on offer. After more than two years, the game has remained essentially peerless, despite the release of FPS titles which featured more team play and online elements than ever before. With the release of Tribes 2, which drops the Starsiege name, the original can finally finally pass the torch.
One of the most valuable elements of Tribes is the player's ability to equip one of three different armors - slow but powerful heavy armor, fast but relatively fragile light armor, and medium armor, which combines some of the advantages of each into a respectably fast suit. In the team game, generators, turrets and inventory stations are also of major importance to the game's success. Protecting them (or destroying them) is a secondary objective in the game - a team with no power or no operational inventory stations can quickly find itself at a disadvantage. These issues lend a new importance to defense that is hard to ignore.
Tribes 2 offers numerous gameplay options, some which emphasize team play and others that are neat variations on the deathmatch experience, but the core of Tribes 2 is again the capture the flag mode. What makes the capture the flag experience so rewarding is that, on most servers, while there are always wannabe superstars, you'll generally find a spirit of team and a core group of players who act in the best interests of their team, rather than in the interest of accumulating points. So while you'll never escape the players who want to run for glory and capture the flag, there are also players who take the time and energy to suit up in heavy armor and play defense, or run around a base under siege repairing defenses and inventory stations.
Weapons are a bit different from the norm (almost all weapons have a delay from the time they're used to the time they hit their target) help make Tribes 2 something of a unique challenge, where leading a target is of the utmost importance. The game features a large arsenal, ranging from blasters to disc shooters and rocket launchers. Some weapons, such as a sniper rifle, are tied to certain types of armor, which makes equipping your character that much more strategic a decision. Water adds an interesting dimension to the game, as it modifies the way many of the game's weapons behave.
Tribes 2 uses typical first-person shooter conventions for control, so most PC gamers will be very familiar with how it feels. They're fully customizable and responsive, although it may take some players a short while to get used to having a mouse button mapped to a jetpack rather than a secondary fire option. Controlling vehicles will take a while longer to get used to. The vehicles have much different physics and it will take a while, even for a Tribes veteran, to get used to each vehicles peculiarities.Visually, Tribes 2 is a major step above the original. Excellent new explosion effects, as well as new character models and vehicle designs all stand out. The game takes much of the best design from the original and updates it to look even better. New to the game are levels made with heavy fog. These are a new addition, and take a while to appreciate. In fact, the first level I played was a fog level, and I thought this was a new addition to help the engine maintain a reasonable frame rate. And while that was not the case, it very well could have been - the game's engine is surprisingly power hungry, and will bring many once mighty PCs back to earth.
The game's music is a fairly good mix of industrial-style rock, but this reviewer prefers playing the game with no music at all. The sounds of the battlefield, as well as the voices of your friends and foes are dynamic and interesting enough that music seems unnecessary. Hearing the sounds of war all around you increases your immersion into the game. Tribes 2 is an excellent successor to Starsiege: Tribes. While it may take a while for Tribes veterans (or veterans of other games) to adapt to the sequel, it's well worth the time investment. The game has almost limitless replay value, as it almost instantly developed an excellent on-line community. The game is great fun and, on the right server, can offer nail biting intensity. Highly recommended.