Tribes 3: Rivals Early Access Review In Progress

Tribes 3: Rivals Early Access Review In Progress

After spending six hours with Tribes 3: Rivals at its early access release, I could really get used to skiing around at 200 miles per hour while firing a grenade launcher at weaklings with no mind for speed. Channeling all of the silliness and style the series is known for, this lethal game of capture the flag is packed with moments of satisfying exhilaration and devastating defeat, and it largely nails everything I’ve loved about the Tribes games of yore. The trouble is that it only takes a matter of minutes to see all the maps and try out all the classes and weapons currently available, with no alternate game modes or other distractions beyond an extremely long and demanding ranked skill grind for those truly dedicated to their deadly craft. I fear Tribes 3 may be fated to fizzle out as quickly as some of its predecessors due to that lack of longevity, but the potential here is at least clear from moment one – I’m still excited to play more before I put a final score on this review, even if there’s already little left for me to see.

Tribes 3 pits two teams of up to 32 players against one another in a stupidly fun game of capture the flag to the death, giving you and your friends a pair of skis and a jetpack to help you move across its large maps lightning fast, and an arsenal of futuristic weapons to maim those who get in your way. Maintaining momentum is key to your success, as you’re rewarded for timing your landings at the edge of a slope or boosting up hills to gather speed every bit as much as you are for having good aim. Learning to shred on skis and soar through the air makes all the difference between becoming an unkillable blur and watching someone glide overhead as they take you out with heavy weaponry like the sorry mook that you are – and spending my time somewhere in between those two extremes has been a blast so far.

Classes feel pretty unique, and each has some game-changing options.

Capturing the enemy flag while protecting your own requires attackers and defenders of varying expertise, and with six playable classes (three offensive and three defensive), you’re given a solid number of options for how to approach each side of things. I have a natural affinity for throwing myself at the enemy flag and doing everything I can to break the sound barrier, so I have tended to select the lightly armored and minimally armed Pathfinder class, which allows for deviously delightful teleportation and faster movement at the cost of being both short on explosive weaponry and very easy to explode. If you’re feeling lethargic, there’s also lots to do while remaining slightly more stationary as the Juggernaut, a heavily armored defender that is armed to the gills and can withstand quite a bit of punishment – they have also pretty much been the bane of my existence, all too happy to turn my squishy face into blood broth as I rush toward the flag. All six classes feel pretty unique, and each has some game-changing options, like the technician class, which can throw down defensive turrets and keep the base well-guarded alongside its pre-built protective structures.

The magic of Tribes 3 is in moments where you hit a slope just right, take out an enemy right before scooping up the enemy flag, then go flying across the map to score a point for your team. I can’t claim to be anything more than middling in this incredibly demanding shooter, and even I found myself overcome with feelings of godlike might – screaming into my monitor, absolutely shocked by what I was able to pull off. There were also plenty of times where I was brought low and reminded of my mortal limitations, like when a real expert blasted me to pieces and tore through my base like a lightning bolt, making off with my treasured flag. But those humbling encounters have only pushed me to hone my skill, and are easily drowned out by the satisfaction of victory. There just aren’t many better feelings than those moments of pure PvP triumph, which are made uniquely epic by Tribes’ blazingly fast, ridiculously over-the-top style.

There are interesting strategies to consider outside of the flag itself.

Aside from the usual tug-of-war involved in a game of capture the flag, there are also some interesting strategies to consider, like how you can fight over smaller bases located strategically throughout levels, which give a minor edge to the controlling team by turning turrets in those areas into your allies. Each team also has a generator located in their base that, if damaged, can shut down every defensive asset on your side of the map, leaving you extremely vulnerable to getting steamrolled by the enemy’s offensive players, which gives you another thing to defend or attack if the flag proves too well-guarded. Unfortunately, my experience so far is that neither of these elements matter all that much in the larger fight, since bum-rushing the enemy flag almost always proves the best path to victory.

The main issue I’m already encountering with Tribes 3 is that, despite providing a very entertaining handful of hours, there just doesn’t seem to be much to it right now. As an Early Access game, that’s hardly surprising, and developer Prophecy Games has already announced an ambitious roadmap that aims to inject some much-needed variety into the 10 maps and single game mode currently available – but in its current form at least, I foresee all but the most dedicated jetpackers running out of things to do in short order. We’ll see how much longer it takes me to come down from the initial high of this fast-paced sweatfest, but for the moment I’m excited to play more.

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