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Review by: Chris Harding
Published: January 16, 1999
The formula for success in computer game design has been and continues to be fairly consistent. While there are a few rogues really pushing the envelope, most seem somewhat content with making games that refine rather than innovate. Sometimes, however, the refinement process can get out of hand. Expunging all that is valuable from a title or series has raided a few tombs of their precious materials, leaving nothing more than emptiness. Some call it an unfortunate trend, and one, I would add, that has become all too common. But don’t forget about the rogues — those not willing to take up shop in the comfort zone of sequel this, or copy-cat that. These are the companies gamers trust, believing that amidst all the muck they will find one or two games that renew their passion and keep them playing. One of the many struggles faced by gamers, bored from sameness and starved for originality, is finding those precious few games that even after six months of ownership still seem cool and fun to play. Well soldier, put your jetpack on — one such gem has just arrived.
While you’re at it, grab a targeting laser, a laser rifle, a plasma gun, a shield, an ammo pack, and about 20 friends — then get ready for a rumble. At first glance you might think Dynamix’s Starsiege: Tribes is just another 3D shooter with a robust multiplayer option, and at first glance you’d be right. As you may or may not be aware of, Tribes is a multiplayer only game; the less-than-thrilling training missions don’t constitute a single-player game, and in truth aren’t intended to. The designers intended this to appeal to the online crowd, and it delivers with a vengeance.
In a move that is bound to become more and more popular, Tribes marks a pivotal moment in computer gaming for many reasons. Initial announcements that the next rendition of Quake would be multiplayer only, coupled with Valve’s acquisition of Team Fortress, are strong evidence that an era of online-only games is closer than you may think. There may be many that draw strong comparisons to the announced Quake 3 and the forthcoming Team Fortress 2, but the facts remain that Tribes is here, and those other games are currently nothing more than speculation, or at least their features are.
Tribes is a landmark game, but out of the box you probably won’t think so. It lacks an introduction sequence, and for that matter doesn’t contain any sort of multimedia throughout the entire game. There is a great story that accompanies it, but you’ll have to read about it in the manual. It’s too bad too, because the fiction is fabulous, and is perfect material for a powerful introduction sequence. But credit needs to be given to Dynamix for knowing their audience. Those who crave the multiplayer insanity that Tribes offers probably wouldn’t watch cinematics anyway. Multiplayer mayhem is what this game is all about, and most of its players will tell you they wouldn’t have it any other way.
The pre-game interface will be familiar to players of most 3D multiplayer games. The “find server” interface is very similar to Gamespy and even improves on that design in a few areas, providing a more detailed description about the server’s hardware configuration. First impressions are always lasting ones, and mine was good enough to hook me for good. After configuring my profile, selecting skins and the like, I started the search for a good CTF (capture the flag) server with low ping times and a lot of players. Much to my surprise I not only found one, but over fifteen that fit my criteria. Sceptical of all the games’ reported low pings, I tried each and every one. My skepticism quickly turned to respect as I found gameplay to be fast and lag-free on all fifteen.
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