Originally Published: Tuesday, 13 March 2001 Author: Jeff Mrochuk
Published to: enhance_articles_games/General Page: 1/1 - [Std View]

Tribes 2: A Look at the Linux Beta

Jeff Mrochuk reviews the Tribes 2 beta, one of the all-time anticipated Linux games. Find out why there is no other game quite like it, especially in the Linux genre.

Note: All of the following information is based on the closed beta of Tribes 2 provided to the author by Dynamix and Loki Entertainment. Because the product is in beta, no bugs will be considered here, and any of the following details could be changed in the final version.

Tribes Screenshot


There's no doubt about it; Tribes 2 was hyped. Hyped more than any other games I can remember; it was one of those legendary sequels like Team Fortress 2 or Duke Nukem Forever. Tribes 2 -- unlike the others -- is not only ready for release, but its ready for a Linux release.

I remember signing a petition in July of 1999 with a desperate hope that Tribes 2 would be ported to Linux, and so did a few thousand others. Whether it had anything to do with a petition or not, a year and a half later, we're creeping towards a Linux release of Tribes 2. Loki is doing a simultaneous port, in hopes of a common release date.

Tribes 2 is a big deal for Linux gaming, right up there with the Quake series. It takes us a step above and beyond the slew of first person shooters for Linux and provides something original. Its uniqueness will appeal to a different crowd, broadening the Linux gaming community.

The Basics

Tribes 2 is essentially a team based, multiplayer, first person shooter. The majority of play is done on-line, piled on servers with as many as 64 players.

The game is not like other first person shooters. The idea here is part shooter and part tactical simulation. You can assign other team members tasks, and organize complicated attacks. A team leader can give orders for one group to take out the enemies large scale sensors, so their outdoor turrets become inactive, another group is assigned to take out the enemy generators, so their power dies, and the indoor turrets and force fields drop off, and a final group has orders to storm the base and capture the flag. You just don't see games like this every day. Considering the unpredictability of on-line gaming combined with a large variety of game types, this game won't get dusty.

When you start up Tribes 2 you'll notice right off the bat that they're aiming for a community-oriented game. The User Interface features a news page for developer postings, a public message board, and even in-game email. Its quick and very easy to use, a great UI.

Tribes Screenshot Tribes Screenshot

Game Modes

Tribes 2, as it stands, is shipping with 8 different game types, played on over 45 different maps, featuring bases, mountains, rivers, valleys, and more. A quick outline of the game types are as follows.

DM - Standard Death Match, that you'd find in almost any first person shooter; grab a weapon, and rack up as many kills as you can.

CTF - Standard capture the flag, with a twist. Like most capture the flag games there are two bases. In Tribes 2, however, the bases have automatic defense systems, and are often kilometers apart, which can require vehicle transport.

CnH - Capture and Hold. In one part of the map will be a control point, often contained in a central base. When a team touches the point, it becomes under their control, then they receive points until the other team takes control.

Hunters - Like a standard DM, but when someone dies, a flag appears. You collect as many flags as you can, and bring them to the "Nexus" to exchange them for points. If you die, you drop all of the flags you are carrying for someone else to pick up. Points increase rapidly depending on how many flags you're carrying.

Team Hunters - Just like hunters, but now there are two teams competing, instead of individuals.

Siege - In Siege there are two teams, attackers and defenders. The attackers will have a goal, usually break in to an enemy base and reach a certain point, or destroy something, and the defenders will have to hold them off. After the attackers win, or the defenders hold out long enough, the teams switch positions. Whoever can complete the goal faster wins.

Bounty - You are assigned a target to eliminate, while other players are of no concern for you. You do have to watch your back for the person who is after you. After eliminated your first target, you are assigned another, and so on.

Rabbit - There's one flag, and whoever grabs it first becomes the "Rabbit". Your points increase while you're carrying the flag, but you become the target for everyone else, who are trying to kill you and take the flag. The person who takes the flag after the Rabbit is killed becomes the new Rabbit.

Tribes Screenshot Tribes Screenshot

Who Am I?

Another unique thing about Tribes 2 is the weapon and armor system. Unlike most first person shooters, you don't just run around picking up weapons and armor. Tribes 2 features a set of "Favorite" configurations for your character. In these configurations you can pick from 3 armor types, 10 weapons and various types of grenades, mines, and a utility pack. All configurations feature a jet pack for traveling around.

The main control point is the armor type, featuring light, medium and heavy. Heavy can carry the most weapons and ammo, and has great protection, but is quite slow. Light is quick and fast, but can only carry three guns, of a limited type, and is very vulnerable to attack. Medium is somewhere in between.

Packs add various abilities to your character. There's ten packs in total: ammo packs, energy packs, repair packs, among others. Some work well with light armor, some with heavy.

You can configure up to 20 favorites, and select them using hot keys. After you select the favorite you wish to use, you enter a supply station, and a few moments later you're ready to rock. After death you will be equipped with the default weapons and armor until you find another supply station

There are a large variety of guns, but all are fairly standard video game flavor. You have your explosives, your lasers, your bullets, your plasma blasts, each good their own situations. I'm going to highlight one type that I found quite unique: the missile launcher. This behemoth requires a two-man team for long distance attacks, one to target and the other to fire. Not good for combat, but works quite well for turrets and sensors, and of course as an anti-aircraft weapon. Wait a minute; did I say aircraft?

Tribes Screenshot Tribes Screenshot

Hitchhiker's Guide To Tribes 2

Tribes 2 has vehicles. A whole pile of them, some fly, and some tread along on the ground. Ships like the scout are good for one man's fast transport across a map, while others can carry several passengers who can act as tail gunners.

There's nothing quite so cool as lining up your defenses to take down an enemy craft as they soar over your base. Take down the ship and watch in explode in the mountains, along with any passengers who failed to escape.

You create the vehicles with a machine found near your base on some maps, the interface is shown below. Be careful though, the larger ships can be quite tricky to fly.

Tribes Screenshot Tribes Screenshot


Now this is going to sound rash, but I say that Tribes 2 has the nicest graphics of any game I've played to date. Graphics aren't just colors and resolution; graphics are number one when it comes to bringing you into a game. I've never played a game where a 2d screen is quite as immerse as Tribes 2.

When you enter a map, what you'll see is rolling hills, maybe grassy, maybe covered in snow, maybe barren desert, or something different altogether. The levels have varying amounts of fog, some have precipitation, and lightning flashes that brighten up the whole map.

On a more technical note, the textures are really nice, and there's a lot of variety. Tribes 2 features an excellent terrain engine, which creates beautiful hills and valleys that surpass any other game worlds I've seen. The bases are not very complicated, and can be kind of bland inside, but that's not really a problem, as most of the action takes on in the outdoor terrain. The graphics are also very scalable. You can adjust everything from texture detail, to terrain detail, to overall resolution and much more. This makes the game more accessible to low end systems, but I'll get more into detail on that later.

Tribes Screenshot Tribes Screenshot


The sound is great, it suits the gameplay and atmosphere well, but there's nothing out of this world here. The guns and explosions sound like guns and explosions, and the voice acting, for radio commands, is quite good. Everything is as it should be, and it works well.

The music is your standard action game music: fast beats and a distorted guitar. Its quite good, but gets repetitive. If you're anything like me you'll turn it off shortly after starting, to hear the ever-important sounds of battle. Tribes 2 uses an MP3 system, which means you can drop any of your own MP3s into a folder, and it will play them as well.


My only qualms with this great game come here: accessibility, which is a game's ability to perform as intended on a wide variety of systems

The first major problem is that the beauty of this game comes at one heck of a price. The graphics require a lot of CPU and 3D horsepower, much more than Quake 3: Arena, even with the large amount of scalability I mentioned earlier. The minimum CPU specs are going to be floating somewhere around 400MHz, so buyer beware. At the time of this writing the only good hardware/driver combination is NVIDIA's Geforce series of cards, but ATI's Radeon and Rage 128 are usable with some tweaking and a CVS of the DRI drivers. The Voodoo 3,4, and 5 can work with a CVS of their DRI drivers as well, but your performance may vary.. The Matrox drivers may be near working at this moment, but even then such cards may have trouble with this beast. Keep this stuff in mind before buying the game, you don't want to be stuck with a game that is unplayable on your system.

The second point is not as crucial as the first. The game is designed for multiplayer only. It does feature some training missions and Bots for simulated games, but the real fun lies on the Internet. This being the case, a decent Internet connection is in order. I wouldn't recommend anything below a 56Kbit modem, and of course anything faster is better.

With those two points in mind the game should run great. You can control the game with the standard keyboard and mouse configuration, and it also supports all the joysticks your kernel does.

Tribes Screenshot Tribes Screenshot


Tribes 2 is great. If you have a system that can handle it, and you're into first person shooters, there is no reason you shouldn't buy this game. Its a healthy mix of action, strategy and utter originality. There's no other game like it, especially in your Linux game collection. Hats off to Loki, for another job well done.

Tribes Screenshot

Do not miss this title.

Jeff Mrochuk judecca@linux.com