The 2012 release of Tribes: Ascend was Hi-Rez Studios’ attempt to revive a once-popular arena shooter with a free-to-play economy. The entire project slowly collapsed post-release despite the promising initial result, and support was eventually shelved in favor of the profitable third-person MOBA SMITE. In a surprise move, a patch was released Thursday to Tribes Ascend that converts it to an almost completely free game and completely retools the shooter as a result.
The Tribes: Ascend 1.1 “Out of the Blue” patch will be released Thursday, December 10 at approximately 10 a.m. ET / 7 a.m. PT. The game’s servers will be offline for around six hours during this time. All in-game purchases made at any point during the game’s lifespan will be refunded to player’s accounts. Additionally, players who purchased Tribes Gold or the “Game of the Year” version of Tribes will receive the “Ultimate Weapons Pack,” which grants every gun in the game.
The amount of changes listed in the patch notes is enough to fill a small book. The high-level overview though is a return to the game’s roots. The existing nine classes are being consolidated into the original Heavy, Medium, and Light classes. The distinction between the different classes includes the ability to carry three weapons for the Medium class and four for the Heavy.
Additionally, each class will have nine free loadouts to customize, and all perks have been completely removed from the game with some made part of the base stats of certain armor and weapons.
“Perks falsely offered customization to your class,” the Tribes: Ascend 1.1 patch notes explained. “There were only bad choices that a player could make by not equipping a specific perk. For example Quickdraw was required to duel another player and if you didn’t have it you were very likely going to lose the fight. It was the rock-paper-scissors type gameplay that perks promoted that did not fit with the new more flexible loadout choices.”
In addition to all the gameplay, class, and weapon changes, Hi-Rez Studios introduced three new Capture the Flag maps with the “Out of the Blue” update for Tribes: Ascend. “Ice Coaster” is a large map inspired by the original Tribes map “Rollercoaster,” while “Perdition” is small and based on the Tribes 2 map “Damnation.” Finally, “Terminus” is a medium-sized map that is a mix between “Katabatic” and “Arx Novena.”
This is the first patch to Tribes: Ascend since March 2013 and was described as a “passion project” for Hi-Rez Studios by President Stew Chisam in a Reddit post first hinting at the patch three months ago.
“If we are able to make any money from it, that is great — but it is not our expectation going in,” Chisam explained of the surprise Tribes: Ascend patch. “There is a group of us that still love playing the game regularly — and we want to leave the game in a better state than it is now, and provide something that all of us can keep playing for years to come.”
“Obviously, we can’t promise how long we will maintain the game — and given our history, I want to be very careful about oversetting expectations,” he continued. “If people don’t like and respond to the changes as we make them, obviously, we will have to stop maintaining the game at some point. But I am hopeful we can get the game to a better spot that our hardcore Tribes community will really love and appreciate for a long time.”
The continued support for Tribes: Ascend is surprising after being dormant for the past two years. As Chisam admits, Hi-Rez Studios receive plenty of grief from the game’s community over how the desire to inject a free-to-play economy with micro-transactions affected the game and split it from how the original Tribes releases were received.
Ultimately, it was the success of SMITE and the new hero shooter Paladins that allowed Hi-Rez Studios to revisit Tribes: Ascend. CEO Erez Goren explained in Twitter post that both have given the developer more resources that it ever had before.
Tribes: Ascend can be downloaded from the official site as well as Steam. Will you give the new and improved Tribes: Ascend a spin? Sound off in the comments below.
[Image via Hi-Rez Studios]
[Update: Added “Out of the Blue Patch Overview video.]