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Game Over Online ~ Starsiege Tribes

GameOver Game Reviews - Starsiege Tribes (c) Sierra, Reviewed by - TraderX

Game & Publisher Starsiege Tribes (c) Sierra
System Requirements Pentium 200, 32 MB RAM (P166 w/3D card)
Overall Rating 79%
Date Published Wednesday, December 23rd, 1998 at 10:46 AM


Divider Left By: TraderX Divider Right

The gaming industry is taking a turn for the better as new genres are being introduced (or, you could say, tested) right now which are hoped to become accepted by future, and current gamers. Starsiege Tribes is somewhat of a pioneer in the multiplayer-only capable genre. There have been a few games in the past which are similar, but Tribes takes full advantage of todays networking technology. The game could be categorized as a First person shooter, but to date there haven't really been any succesful multiplayer-only FPS games. Sure, there is Quake and Half-Life, but, in Tribes' case, the team at Dynamix focused on what people use the most in this genre, and that is the networking features which allow players from around the world to battle each other.

Tribes takes place 1100 years after the events of the third Earthsiege. Mankind has spread across the galaxy, inhabiting hundreds of worlds. Being so far from Terra, they have deevolved, becoming barbaric in their fights over land and resources. (thanks James!)

It is truly a unique experience, since there is nearly everything a multiplayer fan could wish for. By passing through already existing master servers, Tribes players can join Internet games with a click of a button. I found it simple to use, much like the Gamespy interface and refreshing the server list took little time. Since the network engine is Client/Server Based (meaning one computer is the server and all the clients connect to it), players can join games while they are in progress and leave whenever they wish to. It creates a very large environment to play amongst and since they are multiple servers, you'll never have to worry about not finding a game to join.

There are many built-in variants to play in, including Deathmatch, Teamplay, Capture the Flag and even Objective-based multiplayer missions. My personal favourite was Capture the Flag because it required the most interaction between everyone on your team. One or two people would co-ordinate attacks, while others stood post defending the base entrance. Snipers would be positioned in key areas and pilots would be flying around in HPC's picking up fellow soldiers to invade the enemy base. So much action was going on, it would make me forget I am playing a game since I became so involved with the missions.

There are enough features to make even the veteran Quake player dizzy. I'll start off with the weapons, which I must say were one of the weaker aspects of Tribes. There are only 5-6 handheld weapons you can utilize, I suppose designers had realism in mind when they decided this, but I would have preferred more variety. You start off with a standard Laser rifle which is quite powerful alone, but once you discover the Utilities stations, the need for power is increased ten fold. Within the bases there are multiple Stations where you can purchase new weapons, ammunition, utilities, kits and armour. I found it quite amusing watching a wimpy soldier go to a station, and then suddenly becoming a giant slow-paced killing machine because he had upgraded. There are a couple other stations available in the game (depending on the variant you are playing). One station fully resupplies your ammunition and health, the other is a building station designed for teammates to create passenger and assault vehicles. You can create scout and assault vehicles which hover high above the ground, the sad part is if you don't jump into your vehicle in time, a fellow team member can take it before you. Personally, I did this a lot to my fellow Squad members since so much action was going on outside our bases that there was no time to think. But after gaining more experience, ALL players on a team learn that decisions have to be made properly in order to be sucessful. To add to the fun, every player is equipped with a standard Jet pack, so expect to see many aerial assaults as well as obstacles which require the use of this feature.

To increase this communication between players, there is an entire array of pre-recorded voice messages at your disposal. In order to keep interest in this feature, the designers made 10 types of voices available (5 male, 5 female) in the Character customization. That way, you don't always hear the same voice over and over again. Along with this feature are some animations as well (Quake 2 players know what I'm talking about.. the Salute, the Point, the Wave... the Finger :), but unlike Quake 2's lack of usefulness, these animations do become useful in pointing out key areas to your team. Also for easier recognition, when you aim at a player, their name shows up beside the crosshair so you know who is who. Overall, the designers have paid attention to every aspect the players need to communicate effectively with each other.

Now Tribes is not just about shooting, it also takes tactics to a new level. Much like the game Wargasm, there is a "Commander" mode in which you can take a satellite view of the entire battlefield and coordinate your attacks more efficiently. When the game starts, one player is chosen as the Commander, but he is not the only one who may issue orders. Inside each base is a Commanding Station, if you link up to one you can see all of the soldiers on the map and assign them to attack or defend certain targets. When they are assigned a target, they see a Waypoint marker on their Heads-Up Displays (aka HUDs) and can easily take on the tasks at hand. I enjoyed this mode because I could coordinate such a well-balanced attack, it was as if I were playing a Real Time Strategy game at the same time. However, the soldiers do have a choice of Acknowledging or Declining a command, so you're not completely in control. The more sensors and radars your team sets up, the more control the Commander can get over the situation, thus adding to the interaction level between the entire team. This new mode of play offers a feature which may draw fans of other genres to play Tribes.

Visually, Tribes lacks the flare and innovation that the gameplay sports. They used the "True Terrain 3D" engine to render the landscapes, which in themselves appear quite realistic, but lack creativity. Nearly every level seems like this: an endless landscape which is generated by the 3D engine, and then 2 bases and maybe some key areas/turrets. If you play any other FPS game in Deathmatch, levels are beautifully designed and time is taken to create each and every one. In the case of Tribes, it seems like they were rushed and not really cared for. One would think if the design team took so much time to perfect the gameplay and networking capabilities, the levels would have had equal attention. To add to the dissappointment, the game engine only supports Glide and Software Rendering, which means only players with 3Dfx cards will experience the benefit of 3D acceleration, everyone with new TNT or other Direct3D Cards are at a dead end with this one. However, I do have a Glide capable card and tested the game in both modes. As far as special effects go, the engine doesn't really take advantage of the capabilites 3D acceleration can offer. There is occasional coloured lighting and nice explosions, but that's about it, not much eye-candy at all. Since the graphics stay pretty simple throughout every aspect of the missions, you experience high framerates and no slowdowns. All in all, I found the graphics uninspiring and bland both visually and in the design.

The sound also lacks in a few areas, mainly in variety. During missions there are a lot of gunfire and explosions sounds going off, but most of them just sound the same. To make up for this is the great voice acting which the speech offers. The stereo becomes a useful realism element, since you can use your ears to hear exactly where battles are taking place. Even though you have a map to locate positions, using your hearing can become a more simplistic way of locating enemy snipers and large battles.

In conclusion, graphics issues aside, Tribes is honestly a great game. You'll have great fun playing over Lans and the Internet. Lag did not become an issue since I recently upgraded to a DSL connection, but from looking at ping times and playing with friends who have modems, modem users should be fine in 16 player games. I was pleased with the effort taken to perfect the multiplayer experience, and it sure paid off. Maybe now we can understand how Quake 3 and other network-only games will become in terms of popularity and replay value. So if you are an avid FPS player who always finds themselves battling it out on network servers, and you're also looking for more interaction in multiplayer mode, take Starsiege Tribes for a test drive. Remember this though, there is no single player element to this game (with the exception of the 30 minute training session). This shouldn't be a disclaimer since the product was designed for multiplayer only anyways.

 

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Rating
79%
 

 

 
 

 

 

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