Game Review - by James Allen
One of the very first games developed solely for online play was Starsiege Tribes. I remember playing it several years ago, and I liked its team-based strategy and futuristic combat. Now, the wonderful folks at Sierra have brought us Tribes 2, which promises to expand on the great strides made in the original classic version. Many people may be wondering if Tribes 2 improves enough on the previous edition to warrant an upgrade. Will Tribes 2 capture the flag, or just be fragged?
Since Tribes 2 is an online game, an easy to use interface is needed to interact with available games and other players. This is an important feature of the game. With the community browser, you can scan for available games, chat with other players, create a clan, enter a forum, and check your e-mail. Everything you need in Tribes 2 is right at your fingertips, and it makes entering a contest that much easier. The game also automatically checks for updates whenever you login for Internet play. If need be, you can engage the bots in offline LAN games. Unfortunately, the bots cannot play on most of the levels included in the game, which is a shame, as the repetition of bot levels comes all to often. The bots come with varying skill level, so they can challenge even the most experienced Tribes player.
Each of the maps is specialized for one of the game types in Tribes 2: bounty, capture and hold, capture the flag, deathmatch, hunters, team hunters, rabbit, and siege. About 90% of the servers will be playing capture the flag, which is a shame, since some of the other game modes are actually quite fun. We all know capture the flag and deathmatch, and most of the other modes of play are just slight variations on these two themes. In bounty, you chase after only one other player at a time. Capture and Hold is the same as Domination in Unreal Tournament, where you try to control several points around the map. In hunters, every time someone is killed, they drop a flag, and you return these flags to a common location called a Nexus: it's a combination of deathmatch and capture the flag. Rabbit is a game of tag, and in siege, you defend a location inside your base from intruders. All of these game types, while maybe not original, do create a fun and exciting gaming experience.
The sound mostly consists of the sound bytes of players communicating with each other, and some explosions. Really, it's not all too impressive, but mainly just serves to support the gameplay. A blaring soundtrack would tend to distract from the strategy and shooting in the game. The sound isn't bad; it's just not a memorable experience. This may be the only moderate aspect of Tribes 2, and for that we are to be thankful.
Gameplay is an interesting array of innovations, which result in an unmatched gaming experience. The basics of movement within the Tribes 2 universe is the same as most first person shooters, with one ed change: the jetpack. You can use the jetpack to fly through the air, albeit for short periods of time, and this adds a very interesting twist to the usual formula of team based play. The use of packs is also an important aspect of play: you can don yourself with repair packs, shield packs, and even deployable turrets. Couple this with mines and grenades, and you have yourself an interesting game. The weapons are also a very good collection of situation-based firepower. Each weapon has its own specific place and time for the most effective use, and knowing which one to choose is half the puzzle in Tribes 2. You can arm yourself with chainguns, mortars, laser rifles, missle launchers, spinfusors, and plasma rifles. There are three levels of armor, and each comes with a tradeoff: the more armor you have, the slower you can move. And, only certain levels are armor are allowed to carry certain weapons. This stresses the importance of communication and team play in Tribes 2, as a band of similar fighters will never win a game.
Probably the most recognized aspect of Tribes 2 is the use of vehicles in the game. From one-person cycles to multi-person transports, any need you have as a Tribes 2 player is met through the use of a vehicle. And in some maps, it would take you quite a long time to traverse the terrain without use of vehicles. My personal favorite is the bomber, where you can drops loads of ordinance on the enemy base. Now that is fun for the whole family. To top it all off, a command circuit is available, which provides for an overhead map of all your stations and weapons, and any enemies in range of a motion sensor. These futuristic tones make for quite interesting little contests in the Tribes world, and an overall pleasant encounter.
The graphics in Tribes 2 are just an update of the original Tribes, and they are very good. The far distances in some of the maps are clear, and you really get a sense of the expansiveness of the levels. The models are great, the buildings are wonderful, it's just an overall excellent effort at the graphics. Although you need a slightly hefty system to run the game, it's well worth it, as some of the effects such as explosions and exhaust from the ships are very neat. Overall, the graphics are on par with those found in today's top-end games.
While Tribes 2 is a great game, for owners of the original Starsiege Tribes, it really isn't enough of an upgrade to necessitate purchasing the newer version. But you will anyway. For those of us that didn't experience the meaty goodness of Tribes 1, Tribes 2 is a great game to delve into the online first person shooter community. The combination of the gameplay elements make for an unique experience which honestly is not paralleled in any other game. Tribes 2 continues the tradition of excellence in the series, and is a game which should not be missed.