What’s in a name? Well, it depends. If the name is Tribes, then there’s quite a bit of history and emotion. With a back story written by Greg Rucka (of crime novel and comic book fame), the Tribes universe has a rather interesting history, but that’s not what we’re referring to. Starsiege: Tribes came out during the age of Quakeworld Team Fortress, which is one of the pioneers of online team-based play, and began trying to corner the market. With graphics that were leaps and bounds above those offered by Quake, Tribes managed to garner quite a few sales as well as fans that hadn’t really seen an online-only game. Couple that with the gigantic scale of Tribes and it’s a recipe for success, or well, it should have been.
Dynamix didn’t really do such a great job with Tribes 2. The game was released too early with too many bugs and ended up souring a lot of people to the experience. Once the game was patched and there were a few mods released, it turned out to be a great experience but was a little too late. What would fans of Tribes do? Up until recently, they had to make do playing either of the older games. Then came Irrational Games.
Irrational Games is the company that made System Shock 2 and Freedom Force, not too shabby of a lineup, and now Tribes: Vengeance. Vengeance is a prequel and is set more towards the inner parts of the universe which has access to newer and better equipment, which being a prequel, makes it about the same equipment as was seen before, but it’s never looked this good.
Irrational licensed the Unreal Engine for the development of Vengeance and it definitely shows. The graphics in the game are really nice, and on certain worlds help set the mood for whichever map you may be on. Seeing as how the game is based upon the Unreal technology, it has also taken on the same sort of feel. Whereas in the earlier games the maps seemed so huge and desolate, they feel a little smaller and somehow more maneuverable. That’s not to say that the area to be covered isn’t large, it by all means is, it just doesn’t feel as large as it once did. This can be considered either good or bad depending how one would look at it.
The sound is nice as well, with the soundtrack fitting the elements of the game perfectly. During each fight the music will swell and then fade back once combat has been resolved. This, when coupled with the decent voice acting, makes for interesting cut scenes. The cuts are pretty good overall, but some of the animation is a tad off. It’s not that they don’t look good, they do, it’s just they don’t seem right in some small way.
The cut scenes bring us to the most interesting addition to the Tribes series of games: a single player campaign. On top of the actual novel concept of having a single player game, it’s actually really good, if not a bit convoluted. During the course of the game you’ll play as Julia (as a child and adult), Victoria (Julia’s mother), Daniel, Mercury and Jericho. The story takes place at different points in time and moves between the two different time ranges liberally, which is used as a form of storytelling to give the player an idea of the background for the main character: Julia.
Julia is the princess of the empire who is hell-bent on revenge against those who killed her mother when she was a child. Everything involved in the storyline somehow revolves around Julia in either a direct or abstract way. You may end up playing her mother or you may end up playing as the man who killed her.
Now, what people want to know is if the multiplayer is as good as its predecessors. Honestly, it depends on what you like. The maps aren’t as big and skiing has been added as a key you can hold and not just a peculiarity of the maps. The action feels a lot more fast-paced than before. There have also been a few vehicles added which are fun, if not that incredibly useful or game affecting. It almost feels like a cross of Unreal Tournament and Tribes. Whether this is a good or bad thing would be up to the individual to decide. As for this reviewer, I found it to be quite a bit more fun than the older Tribes titles, but experiences may vary. Due to the gap between the releases of the games, Tribes: Vengeance also gives the multiplayer new life with a giant influx of players new to the franchise, which is always welcome.
Overall, the graphics and sound are impressive and engaging. The multiplayer is fun, which is fortunate because that’s the draw of the Tribes series, and what’s even better is the inclusion of the single player campaign, which serves as a bonus for fans and a reason to attract new players. In the end, if you really like online CTF style play or a good single player FPS then you can’t do much better than Tribes: Vengeance.