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Tribes: Ascend

Tribes: Ascend is a science fiction themed FPS featuring exhilarating, fast paced combat thanks to a unique movement system. Engage in firefights across a variety of maps and game modes—including capture the flag and team deathmatch—to earn experience and unlock new classes and gear to frag players.

Publisher: Hi-Rez Studios
Type: FPS
Release Date: April 12, 2012
Shut Down: November 19, 2018
Pros: +Fast-paced combat. +Multiple classes to unlock. +Unique movement mechanics.
Cons: -Low server populations. -Steep skill curve. -Lacking developer support.


Tribes: Ascend Overview

Tribes: Ascend is a science fiction shooter developed by Hi-Rez studios. Upon release it was touted as the “World’s Fastest Shooter,” and earns its title. Combat is ludicrously fast-paced thanks to its gun gameplay and unique movement mechanics. Using a jetpack players can hop around maps with ease, firing down on enemy players from above. And futuristic jetskis let players slide across any terrain, using hills to propel themselves forward. Guns are easy to use but difficult to master. Life and death are decided in chaotic moments as players whirl around each other, firing off pulse rifle shots and grenades. Each match allots experience that can be used to unlock new classes and equipment to customize your play style. Become a camouflaged sniper fragging enemies from across the map, or choose the tankbuster Juggernaut and destroy vehicles with ease. There are nine classes to choose from, with three unlocked from the start. Earn kills in a variety of game modes, such as Capture the Flag, Team Deathmatch, and Arena. Maps are large, open areas with pockmarked structures for cover. Will you survive Tribes: Ascend?

Tribes: Ascend Key Features:

  • Intense FPS combat - engagements are fast-paced, and life and death are decided in chaotic firefights.
  • Unique movement system - combining jetpacks and antigravity skis, move across environments at high speeds.
  • Equipment customization - unlock armor, guns, perks, and more with accumulated experience to customize your play style.
  • Nine classes - classes span the spectrum of futuristic warriors, from rogue snipers to behemoth juggernauts capable of blowing up vehicles.
  • Various game modes - play classic game modes such as Capture the Flag, Arena, and Team Deathmatch in huge open areas.

Tribes: Ascend Screenshots

Tribes: Ascend Featured Video

Full Review

Tribes: Ascend Review

By, Sean Sullivan

I was too busy losing matches in Counter-Strike 1.6 to play Tribes: Ascend during its glory days, but now—three years after release—I became eager to play. After the release of SMITE Hi-Rez nearly abandoned Tribes: Ascend, throwing the game a bone or two every now and then. But a dedicated community remains, despite the lacking developer support. After an unsuccessful install through Steam I headed to Hi-Rez’s website to download the client and discover what’s so special about blending jetpacks, guns, and anti-gravity skis.


I haven’t played such a fast-paced FPS since installing Quake on school computers. Combat is fierce and unforgiving, reminiscent of days when half a dozen friends sat in a basement brimming with CRT monitors, to take part in a ritual fragfest fueled by Pepsi and Costco pretzels. My first Tribes: Ascend match was Capture the Flag between two towers situated on a dead, rolling plane. Armed with an assault rifle I charged at any player with a red arrow over their head, indicating their hostility. For the majority of weapons you won’t be firing bullets. Rather, pulse beams emanate from your gun, taking time to connect with their target. So it comes down to timing, and it is immediately evident that there is a huge skill curve to Tribes, with some players knowing where you’re moving before you do.

Battles are a fireworks display of multicolored plasma exploding in every direction. It’s chaotic and intense, as friend and foe dance through the air, firing at anything that moves. I spent more time swinging my crosshair to try and keep up with enemy movements than I did connecting. Eventually I settled for the Juggernaut class, electing to dish out high explosive rounds to try and chip away at enemy health with AOE attacks. In some matches I did okay, holding my own with an even ratio. Whereas in other games I was decimated by acrobatic veterans, picking me off before I could see them. It’s the game's ludicrously fast movement system that makes combat so intense, and acclimating to firing off rounds while moving at Mach-5 is no easy feat.

Run, Jump, Fly, and Ski

Controlling your sci-fi soldier is simple, building on the fast-paced actions featured in classic nineties shooters. WASD is used to navigate your character, running nearly as fast as the marine from Doom. Shift lets you zoom in with your binoculars to spot dotted opponents in the distance. While right-click is bound to your jetpack, making it easily accessible as you’ll be burning fuel flying around at nearly every chance you’ve got. Any FPS with a jetpack is a winner; it only took Call of Duty seven years to figure it out. But what sets Tribes apart is combining jetpacks with anti-gravity skis that no one in Breckenridge has the gall to take down a double-diamond trail. Holding spacebar turns every terrain into a slick ice rink, allowing you to glide across with ease. As long as you’ve built up inertia your avatar is going to move. Using elevated terrain and rolling hills, you can accelerate even faster, popping over hills and using the jetpack before rolling back across the environment like an L.A. skater.

The controls culminate into mind-boggingly fast-paced gameplay as players zip across the map. Why hasn’t any other shooter thrown skis on their character’s boots? The movement mechanics eliminate the trudgery of pushing your character along until you’ve found a fight. Right from your team’s tower you drop down a slope, and engage ballerina enemies who drank one too many coffees. But thanks to the movement mechanics, lining up shots is not easy. You have to determine your opponents momentum and shoot where they’re going to be, not where they are. World of Warships forces you to make the same judgment. And its the melange of movement plus gun mechanics that make the skill cap so high in Tribes.

Customized Kills

There are nine classes to choose from, with three available classes from the start—Pathfinder, Soldier, and Juggernaut. The rest have to be unlocked with earned experience after a match or the game’s cash currency, gold. And each class offers unique ways to approach combat, from the sneaky sniper to the tankbuster Doombringer. I stuck with the Soldier class for the majority of the time I played, because it was the only class I earned kills with, firing off the default Assault Rifle.

Beyond switching up play style through your class, there is an in depth customization system within each class. Not only can you switch up your weapons—typically 4-5 choices—but you can also customize your armor, perks, belt item, and your avatar’s voice. Everything has to be unlocked through experience, and it will take a while to accumulate enough points to unlock everything. It’s quite an in-depth system that mirrors customization found in MMORPG’s. And it's a level of customization lacking from more contemporary FPS’s, beyond a game like Planetside 2.

“I’d [Play] Me”

Tribes: Ascend released in 2012 but it still looks good. Some of the maps have endured time’s aging better than others—Stonehedge looking the most aged of all, perhaps due to the eternal fog shrouding its environment. But all of the lighting effects, from water reflections to exploding pulse lasers are pleasing to the eyes and entertaining, especially in the midst of an enormous firefight over your flag. Killed players spin in the air as if swept up by a tempest, thanks to hilarious ragdoll physics. And big open arena maps make you forget your constrained by invisible walls.

Rifle sounds elicit pew pew effects players have come to expect from every science fiction setting since Star Trek and Star Wars. The sound of a bullet sliding into place as you reload your gun is satisfying, but odd since your firing energy weapons not bullets; I’m sure it’s explained in the lore somewhere. And the fast-paced music fits the adrenaline rush gameplay. It’s a neatly tied package that can still be enjoyed even when compared to the crisp visuals of contemporary games like Ark: Survival Evolved.

A Dying Breed

While Tribes: Ascend did release with multiple game modes, such as Arena, Team Deathmatch, and Blitz, the only servers still active, at least in my area, are Capture the Flag. There’s a dedicated player base that continues to populate select servers, fragging all day long. And while CTF is fun, I do miss switching up game modes as a way to rejuvenate gameplay. Tribes: Ascend’s population loss owes itself to Hi-Rez’s mismanagement of post-release support, rather than intrinsic features of the game.

Final Verdict - Great

Tribes: Ascend is the perfect game for rekindling nostalgia of classic FPS games; for a LAN party where you frag each other throughout the night. It suffers due to its small population, but a hardcore player base keeps a small list of servers running. The exhilarating combat owes itself to movement mechanics that desperately need to be mirrored in future FPS games, combined with an in-depth customization system that makes for a constant sense of achievement as you unlock new gear. If you miss the science fiction environments and fast-paced mechanics of classic shooters then pick up Tribes: Ascend.


Tribes: Ascend Screenshots


Tribes: Ascend Videos

System Requirements

Tribes: Ascend System Requirements

Minimum Requirements:

Operating System: Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7
CPU: Core 2 Duo E4600 2.4GHz or Athlon 64 X2 Dual Core 5200+
Video Card: GeForce 8600 GTS 512MB or Radeon HD 5550 512MB
Hard Disk Space: 10 GB

Recommended Requirements:

Operating System: Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7
CPU: Core 2 Quad Q6400 2.13GHz or Phenom 9600B Quad-Core
Video Card: GeForce GTX 560 or Radeon HD 6950
Hard Disk Space: 10 GB


Tribes: Ascend Music & Soundtrack

Additional Info

Tribes: Ascend Additional Information

Developer(s): Hi-Rez Studios

Composer(s): Chris Rockwood
Artist(s): Adam Moore

Game Engine: Unreal Engine 3 (modified)

Announcement Date: March 11, 2011
Open Beta: February 24, 2012
Release Date: April 12, 2012
Steam Release: Date: June 27, 2012

Development History / Background:

Tribes: Ascend was developed by United States development company Hi-Rez Studios. It is part of the Tribes franchise, beginning with Starsiege: Tribes, which was released in November, 1998. Tribes: Ascend is the successor to Tribes 2, a PC game released on March 30, 2001. It received overwhelming critical acclaim, earning numerous positive reviews. But Hi-Rez ceased developing Tribes: Ascend as of July, 2013 to focus development on other titles. Before Tribes: Ascend the company had developed the science fiction MMO shooter Global Agenda. And after July, 2013 Hi-Rez focused development resources on the free-to-play MOBA SMITE. A patch released on November 19, 2018 made the game unavailable on any official launcher.