A new Tribes game is coming next year and it’s not free to play: ‘We made some mistakes in how we monetized Ascend’

Video credit: Colonelblair, composer: Leva

It’s been 25 years since the original Tribes—formally known as Starsiege: Tribes—made a splash in the world of online shooters, and more than a decade since the release of the most recent entry in the series, the ill-fated Tribes: Ascend. Now a new one is on the way called Tribes 3: Rivals, which is taking signups for “limited playtests” planned to be held over the next several months.

Historically, Tribes games have supported various multiplayer modes, but they’re really all about Capture the Flag: Two teams battling to snatch each other’s banners and hustle them back to their own base without getting wasted. What set it apart from the crowd were its large, wide-open battlefields and high-speed mobility. One of the series’ most distinguishing features is “skiing,” which began as an exploit in the original game and was then added as an official feature in Tribes 2: It allows players to pick up an incredible amount of speed by sliding down slopes, which combined with a jetpack and a good route, lets them soar and glide across the large maps in seconds, snatching the enemy flag like a bird of prey swooping down from the sky.

The Tribes series peaked with Tribes 2, which was a significant success when it came out in 2001. Tribes: Vengeance followed in 2004 with a full-on singleplayer campaign, but it didn’t do so well (although I liked it a lot), and after that the series sat until 2012, when Hi-Rez Studios took a run at the free-to-play market with Tribes: Ascend. We rated it very highly but it struggled to find an audience: The final update was released in 2016, and it was removed from sale on Steam a couple years later.

But now it’s back, and yeah, it sure sounds like a Tribes game: “Players ski, jetpack, battle, and race to capture the enemy team’s flag, all while ferociously defending their own,” the Tribes 3: Rivals Steam listing says. “Players can choose from unique classes to customize their abilities, perks, and weapon loadouts, while moving across epic terrains from snow covered peaks to haunting deserts. Teamwork, tactics, high speed, and intense combat reign supreme in this rebirth of the world’s fastest shooter.”

In a chat with PC Gamer, developer Prophecy Games said it’s wanted to bring Tribes back for a while, and the time seems right. “High movement team shooters have become more popular in the last decade, and we’ve recently seen strong signs that fans were nostalgic for a return of the franchise,” the studio said. “Plus, we have many of the original Tribes: Ascend leads on our team at Prophecy Games, including designers and developers for physics, arts, maps, and level design, and we all felt like it would be a lot of fun to put a new Tribes title out together.”

My first-glance impression was that Tribes 3 looks an awful lot like Tribes: Ascend, and Prophecy said that game is the “starting point” for the new one: “The movement, maps, weapons, classes, and art in Tribes 3 should all feel similar to what players enjoyed before.” 

Where Tribes: Ascend fell short was in its monetization model, according to Prophecy: “We made some mistakes in how we monetized Ascend in the past, and have learned from them.” To address that, it’s taking a much simpler approach with Tribes 3. The base game will cost $20, with all “gameplay items” like weapons, perks, and abilities available to everyone from the start, while cosmetic items, emotes, and voice packs will be available for purchase and in some cases unlockable through gameplay.

“Another important new area for the game is matchmaking and ranked gameplay, which were not available in Ascend, but will be a core component of Tribes 3,” Prophecy said. “This updated approach will keep matches more competitive and fair, and will allow players to compete for the highest ranks. Additionally, we’ll make Tribes 3 more approachable for new players and their friends from the start through an in-game practice lobby, tutorial videos, and how-to guides.”

To me, that focus on easing new players into the experience is a big deal. Tribes isn’t particularly difficult but it is different, and getting accustomed to its ways takes time, especially when people are shooting at you. Myself, I never really got the hang of skiing: I could do it but my consistency wasn’t great, especially when I was chasing some guy while some guy was chasing me and bullets are flying and stuff is exploding and I don’t know where I am or where the flag is but I know I’ve got about three seconds to figure it out before I get plugged. A more forgiving environment in which to get smooth with the basics could go a long way toward helping newcomers avoid giving up in frustration.

Image 1 of 11

(Image credit: Prophecy Games)

Image 2 of 11

(Image credit: Prophecy Games)

Image 3 of 11

(Image credit: Prophecy Games)

Image 4 of 11

(Image credit: Prophecy Games)

Image 5 of 11

(Image credit: Prophecy Games)

Image 6 of 11

(Image credit: Prophecy Games)

Image 7 of 11

(Image credit: Prophecy Games)

Image 8 of 11

(Image credit: Prophecy Games)

Image 9 of 11

(Image credit: Prophecy Games)

Image 10 of 11

(Image credit: Prophecy Games)

Image 11 of 11

(Image credit: Prophecy Games)

Playtests have thus far been restricted to a 5v5 format, but the plan is to support 64-player matches in both casual and ranked play in the full game, along with custom matches and modes, and support for user-generated content. Vehicles are not currently supported but are expected to be added at some point in the future, and a singleplayer campaign is not planned, which is undoubtedly disappointing for fans of Tribes: Vengeance (yes, we exist), but Prophecy said its goal “is to release enough tools for the community to create a campaign of their own one day.”

The public reveal of Tribes 3 started quietly with the launch of a Discord server in November to support the first alpha playtest, but it took off quickly: Prophecy said the Discord surpassed 5,000 members in its first week, and more than 10,000 people have signed up for playtesting. 

The next Tribes 3 playtest is set to run from the evening (ET) of December 7 to December 8, and will feature matches larger than 5v5 (specific sizes still to be determined) and other new content. Prophecy said it expects to send out “significantly more” access keys than it did for the last playtest: For a shot at access, wishlist the game on Steam and sign up at tribes3rivals.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Previous post Top 10 Things to Do in GTA 5 Before Beginning Your Life of Crime in GTA 6
Next post 10 Best Deck Building Video Games of 2023