For many of you, the ultimate multiplayer gaming experience occurred when you first annihilated someone with a rocket launcher. For others, it was having their army of paladins charge into the orc encampment killing everyone in sight, including those aggravating sheep. For many of you, it was when you first took off someone’s head with a sniper rifle in Unreal Tournament. However, all of these moments were, more than likely, due to your individual skill and ingenuity. Sure, we’ve played Capture the Flag before, or joined forces with the neighboring Protoss to wipe clean the Zerg opposition, but for gamers, group cohesion is a rarity. In the end, multiplayer gaming is made up of individuals, and the whole ends up being less than the sum of its parts.
Enter Dynamix, an Oregon based game development company who has taken aim at the market for purely multiplayer games. Their weapon of choice? Starsiege: Tribes.
Tribes is not a particularly original game in terms of its concept. Like many action games, Tribes doesn’t do much in the way of explaining itself. There is not plot or background. The short and dirty of it are as follows: You must find and retrieve the enemy flag, and prevent the enemy from taking yours. Anyone with a green triangle over his head is a friend. Those with Red triangles must be killed. Simple enough. However, it is the execution, so to speak, of these hard and fast rules that are truly engaging.
Perhaps most interestingly, Tribes allows players to take on very specific roles. Individuals can choose roles that suit their skills. In other multiplayer team games the choice of roles has been limited to “Offense or Defense.” Tribes breaks this mold. Want to get a sniper rifle and pick off enemy attackers? How about getting in medium armor and placing turrets to defend your flag for you? Or perhaps you are inclined to take Juggernaut armor and sit on top of your flag waiting for someone to try to knock you off? The choice is yours.
Tribes 2, the newest release by Dynamix takes these roles even further. Players choose their load-out at an inventory station which automatically equips them with their choice of armor (Scout, Assault, and Juggernaut), weapons, and a single pack. These packs are perhaps the defining aspect of a player’s role in the game. With a repair pack, you can move around your base repairing turret emplacements and your fellow defenders. However, with that same repair pack, you can act as a support medic for an offensive squad, staying out of combat yourself but healing others. With the cloaking pack, you can turn temporarily invisible, an extremely useful tool for infiltrating an enemy base in an effort to destroy their generators which power their base defenses, or to cause a distraction that can allow your flag runner to get the prized goal and escape. However, capable folks can use that same cloaking pack as a defensive tool as well, popping up right behind an enemy who thinks he’s got a clear line on the flag.