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The List: Five Thoughts on Tribes Universe

By William Murphy on October 26, 2010 | Columns | Comments

Five Thoughts on Tribes Universe

While I know many of the visitors to our site are the die-hard MMORPG players of the world, I expect more than a few of you remember the days of old when Starsiege: Tribes was the game to play online. Its team versus team warfare was the stuff that led to the dominance of games like Halo today, if you ask me. It’s often overlooked as one of the precursors to the modern FPS movement, but with its jetpacks, setting, and multitude of game modes, there was no other shooter more addictive in the late 90s. The series sort of lulled along for the past ten or so years, with some very good sequels that seemingly no one cared about. But now Hi-Rez Studios has gone out and purchased the IP for Tribes and is motoring along in development on Tribes Universe: a massively multiplayer competitive shooter with hundreds of players competing on one map, across three factions, and with oodles of doodads to play with. Oh yes, there are quite a few reasons to be excited about this one. Let’s list a few this week, shall we?

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5.) Global Agenda 2?

When I first heard about this unknown little studio called Hi-Rez charging out and making an FPS-MMO hybrid, I was skeptical to say the least. When the game came out, and I got to play it for myself, I was impressed with just how solid the gameplay was, even if the content was somewhat lacking in those early days. It feels like Tribes in a lot of ways already, with the futuristic feel, the jetpacks, the focus on PvP and team-based mechanics. It’s almost as though Hi-Rez wanted to make a Tribes game when they came up with Global Agenda and now with their freshman effort’s success they can take that idea one step further into Tribes Universe. I’m not trying to belittle Global Agenda, it just feels a little like Tribes Universe is going to be Global Agenda 2, and that’s nothing to scoff at, truly.


4.) Territory Control, No Instances

One of the most intriguing aspects of Global Agenda was its territorial control campaign known as AvA (Alliance versus Alliance). The problem is, hardly anyone got to play it. Fundamental design decisions created a system that is pretty much enjoyed solely by the upper-class of GA’s populace. It’s also a very instanced and segmented affair. Tribes Universe is promising to change that. I don’t mean to keep harping on it, but it does seem like Hi-Rez’s take on Tribes could be a lot like Global Agenda 2 in ways, and this is one of them. Hundreds of players in a single fight, no instances, and three factions (which we’ll get to in a minute) fighting for control of territory. That’s the kind of stuff that can get any FPS fan’s trigger finger itching.

3.) Jetpacks, vehicles, and… skiing?

One thing that makes a good competitive game better is the addition of variables. One such variable in the shooter genre is doodads, vehicles… and skis apparently. I don’t even mean that in a remotely funny manor. While I’ll reserve full judgment until I know more, the idea of some sort of James Bond-esque downhill racing and shooting with jetpacks added for extra flavor sounds all kinds of awesome. Anyone who has picked up recent efforts with the Halo franchise, or Battlefield: Bad Company knows just how much vehicles and extra forms of transportation can add to the action. Toss this all into the hundreds of players at once in a non-instanced world and you have the trappings of some truly addictive mayhem. FPS games aren’t for everyone, but a good one needs this kind of flavor. Even someone as terrible at them as me knows that.

2.) Three Factions

I feel like in no less than four Lists I’ve written, I’ve put something in about a game needing three factions to truly work as a global PvP experience. My rule of thumb is Dark Age of Camelot. Say what you will of the game’s expansionary missteps, but DAoC was and is the epitome of how to make a globally PvP (or RvR) experience shine. The key to success isn’t wholly reliant on having three factions, with just a mere pairing you’re cutting your nose off to spite your face. The third faction is the decision-maker of sorts for a well-designed game. When one side is deemed too massive to contend with, the other two can join forces. Or, as often happens, the more massive side does some dirty deeds to ensure their victory by working out a deal with one of their lesser competitors. The opportunities for intrigue and drama abound! Stories write themselves in this scenario. Think of EVE’s ever ongoing stellar conflicts. Think of DAoC’s realm pride that many of its previous players still carry with them today. Then you start to understand why having the magic number of three factions is such a powerful decision.


1.) It’s About Time

Finally. Tribes was and always will be a dearly treasured example of the potential for PC competitive gaming. I was afraid this IP was lost to the annals of history. I’ll get a little more personal than usual here and call this last item an open letter to Erez Goren and his team at Hi-Rez: Consider this my official thank you to Hi-Rez Studios for putting stock into the property. Now, kindly and with all respect. Please don’t screw it up. You’ve done great things with Global Agenda, and I can barely wait to see where you take us with Tribes. Here’s to making it even greater.

William Murphy / Bill is the Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, and lover of all things gaming. He''s been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002. Be sure to follow him on Twitter for all of his pointless rambling.