Tribes 2 Review by Nips
Almost 19 years ago, developer Dynamix released Tribes 2, a science-fiction multiplayer first-person-shooter with more to separate itself from its contemporaries than it had in common with them. With unique gunplay, player movement mechanics, and vehicular combat, Tribes 2 was pushing the envelope in a time when game developers were more willing to make risks to bring their visions to life. The game rocks. It is still fun to play, and the proof is that people are still playing it. Every day these warriors gather and do battle. Some have been at it for almost 20 years, and this unique version of Valhalla features skills and feats that make a spectacle that even the newest player can appreciate. The best part is that you can play with them too- and for free.
Tribes 2 is a first-person shooter, so you already know what to expect. There are a few tutorial missions, but there isn’t anything resembling a campaign or story mode. You’ll jump into matches against bots or humans. There’s a huge arsenal of weapons, from missile launchers to chain guns, and the vast majority are projectiles with few exceptions. This means that you’ll have to aim where your enemy is going to be, not where they are. The bullets move at different velocities, which means you’ll have to master the ones you want to use as you predictively aim for your foes. The big difference that sets Tribes 2 apart from other FPS games is the movement. The terrain for the maps is often hilly or straight mountainous, so you’ll have to ski downhill and jetpack uphill. Doing this well means you get to move very fast. The faster your move, the harder you are to hit. However, with a system of momentum inheritance, you need to aim your predictive shots in accordance with your current speed and direction. If you’re jetpacking upwards, you need to aim your shot extra low to account for your momentum. Between deathmatch, capture the flag, rabbit, and others, there is no shortage of game-types to play. Communicating with your team is easy, and almost everything you’ll need to say is done with a few intuitive keyboard shortcuts that all start with V. For example, to tell your team to retrieve your flag, you hit VFR (voice flag retrieve).
Multiplayer is the heart and soul of Tribes 2. The absolute meat of the game is found in the capture the flag mode. Two teams facing off to capture the enemy flag while maintaining possession of their own. It’s such a simple premise, but there are infinite variables at play in a single match. What weapons will you use? What armor class with you choose? Remember, light armor lets you move faster but you’ll die easier. Heavy moves like molasses but you’re effectively a tank. Once you know what you want to use, you need to coordinate your role with your teammates. If everyone is gunning for the flag, there is no one protecting your own. If no one is protecting your base, someone will come in and destroy your generators, turrets, and inventory stations which will all prevent you from mounting an effective strategy of any kind. Once you’ve mastered movement and aim, you still need to learn the basic ebb and flow of capture the flag matches before your skills will actually amount to anything. It is a team effort from start to finish, and it’s good to play a role that maximizes your strengths. The sheer variety between maps, loadouts, and team compositions is truly a thing of beauty that remains unmatched.
If Capture the Flag sounds a bit intense, it is in the best possible way. Don’t forget you can count on your teammates to help you out though. Rabbit is a mode where everyone tries to grab a single flag, and they are the target of everyone else until they die. This is a great interactive version of target practice, and it puts far less pressure on you as a player and lets you enjoy committing the different velocities of shots to muscle memory. Expect your fellow players to cheer on your amazing midair hits, and you should do the same for them.
Tribes 2 didn’t ship with a small number of maps for each of its game-types, but it wasn’t enough for the community. They hungered for more, and they built more. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of maps and variants available in packs from Tribes 2 fan sites all free to download. Installation of these is as simple as dragging and dropping into your game folder. The same applies to skins. Thousands of skins are out there, so if you don’t care for the default appearances of the player models, you are free to change them. Voice packs, HUD modifiers, chat macros, and lag compensation scripts are all out there, waiting for you to come and experiment with them. There are also total conversion mods that transform the game entirely, including one that adds RPG stat growth to your characters.
Play this game. You can play as casually or as hardcore as you like, and you can use as many or as few modifications to the display or keyboard macros as you like. Tribes 2 in 2020 is a strange but incredibly alluring island kept afloat by the sheer force of wills from its community, and everyone is richer for it. You can get it for free (along with more map packs and mods than you’ll ever need) at TribesNext.com.
-Pulling off a midair shot is an extremely satisfying feeling
-Teamwork and communication are made easy with in-game chat commands
-Skiing around the environment feels amazing
-Depth of the gameplay is hard to match, and different map layouts require different tactics. This means that you can’t just run to Point A and get ready to fire a predetermined shot like in so many other shooters
-Helpful community wants to see new players and is more than willing to offer assistance in any aspect of gameplay or troubleshooting
-The learning curve is steep, and it will take a bit for someone to get used to the weapon’s momentum inheritance and skiing with ease
-Servers are hosted around the world, which means one with low ping might not be populated all the time. The general population of players isn’t huge (but there’s no reason for it not to get bigger)
-The original soundtrack, a somewhat generic mix of grungy sounding guitar and drums with light elements of techno, will grow old. I recommend you turn it off and play with your own selection of tunes for maximum enjoyment
-Some weapons have very little effective application, which means you might find those ones useless
-The graphics are simplistic. The game is 19 years old, but it’s a very graceful aging as far as graphics go. After a few hours you won’t notice, but it might turn some off