Windows - 2001
Also available on: Linux
Description of Tribes 2
Computer games sure attract a lot of attention these days. For the last two years, the media hypemeisters at Sierra have been churning out screenshot after screenshot of their beloved multiplayer extravaganza, Tribes 2. But now we'll finally be able to put the real game under a microscope and peel back its eye-candy cover. How does it compare to other multiplayer shooters? How is it different from the original? And can a new player really get a rewarding experience without the frustration of the predecessor's steep learning curve?
The game takes place in the year 3941, and the entire universe is at war with itself. Neo-barbarian tribes have been colonizing as many enemy planets as possible, waging an epic battle for galactic dominance. Without warning, a non-human entity has emerged from the edges of the wilderzone with an agenda for retaliation against their one-time slave masters. Now the human aggressors have a new enemy, and only the fiercest warriors will survive the frenetic onslaught. Better turn in those draft applications! This is going to be a long and fierce battle.
While the backstory helps set the stage, it's merely a setup for the online battle where combatants only look different, but act exactly the same. For example, members of the mysterious and quasi-spiritual Starwolf tribe carry the same weapons and deployable objects as everyone else. The only real connection between the plot and the gameplay is that the maps take place on the colonized planets of various tribes and each planet has distinguishing characteristics. You can spot the Starwolf colonies a mile away because they feature snow-capped mountains and icy terrain. Unfortunately, even this location is just for looks because the ice doesn't seem to affect gameplay at all.
Not that the story really should have much to do with the battles. This is not about scripted missions where you must find a key that unlocks some hidden doorway at the end of a deserted hallway. Most of the game takes place outdoors, and the only scripting is in how you work as a team to defeat your opponent. In this sense, a script develops naturally, especially when one player assumes a commander role and assigns duties.
There's a cool science-fiction look to the menus and configuration screens one of those games that's fun to mess around with before you start playing it. You can configure your persona, chat online with friends, check a news section for official game info, and even browse through some tribal links. There's an e-mail client where you can leave messages for teammates all built right into the game and multitasked so you can download servers in the background while you read through a tips and tricks forum. The overall effect is that you'll feel part of a thriving community, a place to hang out before and after your galactic conquests.
The real battle
As with any large multiplayer universe, learning the game can be quite a battle itself. Ultimately, there's no way to avoid this newbie orientation factor because the eventual pay-off comes when you learn all that there is to do. So with complexity comes confusion. Fortunately, the Training mode helps, mostly because it simulates a real online experience. In the original Tribes, the training mode was practically worthless because it was simply a teaching tool, not a simulation; in Tribes 2, the training mode is more like a single-player experience (though not exactly the "single-player campaign" the box claims) with objectives, opponents, and just the right amount of newcomer angst in five complete missions. You can also play most (but not all) of the online maps against bots, although they're not terribly intelligent even at higher difficulty settings. Of course, this can never really prepare you adequately for the real online game, but at least you'll understand more about the environment and basic tactics.
Tribes 2 is not exactly a finesse game. Generally, if you can fly and traverse the rolling terrain, the trick is to barrage the enemy with proximity gunfire and grenades once you spot them. There's not a lot of cat and mouse pursuit because the maps are all outdoors. Also, learning the jumpjet/shoot skill is tantamount to being successful in the game, and it takes some practice. You can't really pick off an enemy like you can in Counterstike because everyone moves too fast. And, it's not like Quakeor Half-Life where you can run around and pick someone off with a headshot. This lack of finesse may be a detriment to some players who prefer a cunning strategic game. However, with a little patience, even strategy-minded players can find hiding spots or control points like turret towers, lure their enemy in and go for the kill.
Deathmatch is frantic and can be fun, but the other game modes are, not surprisingly, much more interesting. The basic Capture the Flag mode is obviously the most popular on the game servers. There's no other game that offers the excitement of trudging over virtual miles of terrain, sneaking into the enemy camp, and stealing the flag for your team. The experience is even more fun when you can do that as a unit. Tribes 2 offers some of the same variations of CTF as the original, including Capture and Hold, Hunters, and Siege, which have several flags that must be captured or a switch that must be flipped. The new Rabbit mode is the least interesting, mostly because it forces you to find one player who is carrying a flag and accumulating points on these large, rolling maps.
In some ways, most of these modes are not all that different from your typical Quake fragfest, but they also only tell half the story. The real excitement comes through all the different roles you can play during battle. Before you take on a role, you have to think about your weapons loadout. Press the numeric pad Enter key at any time and a default loadout screen appears. Here, you can select whether you want to be a sniper, a defender, a quick attacker, or one of several other roles, by choosing from three armor types and a variety of weapons and service packs. For example, you could decide to maintain the base camp and repair the generators with heavy armor and a repair pack. Inventory Stations are spread around the map and allow you to instantly restock with your current configuration.Tribes 1 had Inventory Stations, but newbies would often sit idly at the station and add weapons manually. Now, the station dispenses your already chosen loadout and then kicks you out.
Once you find your role, the challenge comes with learning how to perform that role better than the next guy. If you're a sniper, you can spend your time learning where the best sniper locations are on the map. Those who want a quick rush can attack the enemy base repeatedly for the flag and learn how to best use jumpjets for the quickest attack. Another great role to play is as a mine-deployment expert, especially if you figure out where extra mine packs are located on the maps and more importantly the best places to lay them.
So far, these descriptions of the game generally apply to both the original and sequel. Tribes 2offers some interesting improvements, starting with some new vehicles that really do change the basic gameplay. On most maps, a vehicle station can be used to create everything from a single-unit Grav Cycle to a huge bomber. These new vehicles are different from the ones included in the original in that they have more firepower and variation. For example, the Strike-Fighter is a much more versatile aircraft that packs a heavier punch than some of the lesser ground vehicles. The Jericho Forward Base is the coolest new vehicle it can be used as a transport and then becomes a remote base with an inventory station and sensors. The only complaint with all the vehicles is that they are very difficult to control, but they're useful if you use them for their intended purpose (e.g., remote deployment or quick movement across the map).
Deployable objects change the gameplay as well. Turrets can now be set up anywhere on the map, which can seriously affect the battle. Some turrets can only be deployed on terrain, others require a metallic surface like a remote base. You can also deploy health stations, sensors used for tracking other players, and a detonation satchel. These are all significant additions to the game that increase the excitement of the battle and add another whole layer of strategy. New armor packs add greatly to the game. A cloaking armor is useful for sneaking up on the enemy base. The shield pack reminded me of the armor from Counterstrike in that, if you use it effectively, you can really get an edge in face-to-face battle. Most of the armor add-ons didn't last long enough, which might have been by design in order to retain good game balance. It was almost better to avoid them altogether, which sort of defeats the purpose of them being available!
Weapons haven't changed much from the original, although they are better looking and cause a bit more damage. The new Shocklance was pretty worthless for the most part because you can rarely get close enough to another player to zap them. A new flare grenade that temporarily blinds nearby attackers is useful, although it's borrowed right from the weapons arsenal in Counterstrike.
One huge improvement for advanced players is that the commander screen can be activated anywhere on the map the Command Stations are now history. In some ways, this commander screen is similar to the command function in Microsoft's Allegiance in that only a few select players will even try to assign orders to other players. However, tight knit clans will almost always have someone running the show and directing the troops. It also gives you a great overhead view of the battle scene and your units, and allows you to control turrets without having to be anywhere near them. Okay this might not be all that realistic unless you figure the future warriors have some sort of biogenetic ability they borrowed from the Borg, but it's still cool. For newbies who want to be productive, jumping on a turret is the least they can do.
Compare and compete
In an ideal situation (ie. a fast server, no crashes and experienced players), the multiplayer experience in Tribes 2 beats the competition hands down, thanks mostly to the wide-open playing arena, creating the feel of an epic battle. You can always find something to do other than just running around shooting people. Counterstrike has an edge on realism, but it doesn't even come close to the other-worldliness of Tribes 2, and the game's team aspects make CS seem limiting.
As ever, the overall experience isn't perfect. One of the most frustrating aspects to the game is just learning the rules of the road. Online players are not a forgiving, patient group of people. If you happen to jump into a vehicle when there was another player waiting to drive, expect to get a string of obscenities or outright removal from the game. And if all you do is run around and shoot at other players, you might get berated for your lack of cooperation.
Graphics in Tribes 2 are generally excellent, if you have the system for it. Some of the buildings in this sequel are flat-out amazing, although the terrain still leaves a lot to be desired. Some maps do have an assortment of vegetation to spice things up, but mostly it's just rolling hills and buildings. You'll also need a high-end system to see everything at high-resolution. Fog is a bit of an annoying problem with the game. There's just too much of it, and it makes sniping very difficult although that might have been intentional. It does affect gameplay and make for a greater challenge, but in some ways it adds a blinding element that lessens the overall experience.
Additionally, a slow system or a sub-standard graphics card isn't what will cause most of the chugging - my PII-450 with a Geforce2 MX ran the game just fine at medium detail when the server wasn't stalling. That's right: as with Tribes 1, latency is a serious issue in the sequel. A 56K modem can generally handle things but certain maps, the number of players connected, and the server running the game all drastically affect performance. On a speedy 1.3Ghz server with eight players, the game ran perfectly fine without a hiccup. However, on a large map like Thin Ice connected to a slow server with 16 players, there were a lot of pauses, jerks, and outright disconnects. One plus, however: with servers approaching 800 just in the first week you'll undoubtedly find the perfect one for your playing style.
Mostly, Tribes 2 doesn't differ all that greatly from the original in that it requires a certain demeanor that is looking to socialize and battle online. If you loved Half-Life for the story and single-player experience, Tribes 2 might not be your game. There is, though, a certain amount of story and scripting that occurs naturally as the battle unfolds and there's nothing quite like it. Counterstrike might have 5000 servers and legions of fanatics, but I wouldn't be surprised to see Tribes 2 become the new de facto team multiplayer game. It's hard to offer an outright recommendation because the first few weeks with online games are never pretty (we're already on our fourth post-release patch and counting). There's a playable game in there, but also a lot of gamers having problems. We'll of course be sticking with it, so check back for updates on the game's progress over the coming months.
Overall, this is one fantastically exciting shooter with a richly detailed game environment and varied gameplay. Be warned, you will need a) the patience to learn the rules and tricks, b) the system to handle the graphics and latency issues, and c) the demeanor to become immersed in a chaotic and sometimes uncontrolled environment, but the rewards are well worth it.
Review By GamesDomain
How to play Tribes 2 Windows
Install the official patch available on this page, then the TribesNext Patch available on this page or from the following website.
To play online, go to https://www.tribesnext.com/.
Comments and reviews
Robert 2020-05-14 0 point Windows version
If anyone wants vastly improved Tribes 2 bots and the ability to play against 64 bots instead of 16 then you must try these bot mods. You can either get Base bots which is the default gamemode, or Classic bots which is a faster paced mod for Tribes 2. Get it from here:
TribesGamer 2019-08-24 0 point Windows version
UPGRADE PATCH DOES NOT WORK!
i downloaded the game and patches from this site, upon trying to run the 1st patch i get this error
tribes2 readme.txt is not a valid previous version and could not be upgraded
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