Scoping Out The Best Video Card To Equip For Tribes: Ascend

Most of our game performance reviews feature triple-A blockbusters, but we're changing pace for this write-up as we examine Tribes: Ascend, a free-to-play shooter released by Hi-Rez Studios on April 12. The Tribes franchise has deep roots in multiplayer shooter history, with Starsiege: Tribes making huge waves in the late '90s and two other PC entries following in 2001 and 2004. The series has lain dormant since, but Hi-Rez hopes to revive the classic shooter with a 21st century monetization scheme.

Considered a successor to Tribes 2, Tribes: Ascend embraces its heritage by incorporating the same fast-paced combat, tons of maps, weapons, vehicles and unique traversal mechanics. At the same time, it adds a new class-based system. There are nine classes spread across three armour tiers (light, medium and heavy) with switchable load-outs that have different gear and deployables. Players can either unlock weapons and such through in-game experience, or by purchasing them outright with real money.

Despite its freemium additions, reviews from both users and critics seem to be overwhelmingly positive -- glowing, even. The title has straight positive feedback on Metacritic and our own Product Finder. We imagine nostalgia-enamored old school gamers wrote some of the reviews, but they can't all be wrong. Feel free to share your opinions in the comments, but we'll focus on the game's performance from here on.

Tribes: Ascend is built on a modified Unreal Engine 3 and interestingly, it shares some similarities with UT3. For instance, it lacks built-in voice communication though it lets players issue audible commands to each other. Anyhow, back on topic: the game only supports DirectX 9 graphics but the recommended specs are relatively high, calling for a GeForce GTX 560 or Radeon HD 6950 with a quad-core processor. Considering those requirements, we're hoping the game gives our test hardware a nice workout...

Testing Methodology

We'll spare you the trouble of counting the list below: we're testing 24 AMD and Nvidia graphics cards across all price ranges. The latest official drivers were used for each. We installed an overclocked Intel Core i7-2600K in our testbed to remove any CPU bottlenecks that could influence high-end GPU scores.

` We used Fraps to measure frame rates during a minute of gameplay from Tribes: Ascend Training, Target Practice mode. This ensured easily reproducible results versus testing in an actual multiplayer game, which wouldn't remain the same over testing two dozen graphics cards at three resolutions.

Test System Specs

  • AMD Radeon HD 7970 (3072MB)
  • Gigabyte Radeon HD 7950 (3072MB)
  • AMD Radeon HD 7870 (2048MB)
  • AMD Radeon HD 7850 (2048MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 7770 (1024MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 7750 (1024MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6970 (2048MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6950 (2048MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6870 (1024MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6850 (1024MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6790 (1024MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6770 (1024MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6750 (1024MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 6670 (1024MB)
  • AMD Radeon HD 5870 (2048MB)
  • AMD Radeon HD 5830 (1024MB)
  • HIS Radeon HD 5670 (1024MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 580 (1536MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 570 (1280MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 560 Ti (1024MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 560 (1024MB)
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 480 (1536MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 460 (1024MB)
  • Gigabyte GeForce GTX 550 Ti (1024MB)
  • Intel Core i7-2600K @ (3.90GHz)
  • x4 4GB G.Skill DDR3-1600(CAS 8-8-8-20)
  • Gigabyte G1.Assassin2 (Intel X79)
  • OCZ ZX Series (1250w)
  • Crucial m4 512GB (SATA 6Gb/s)
  • Microsoft Windows 7 Ultimate SP1 64-bit
  • Nvidia Forceware 296.10
  • AMD Catalyst 12.3

Tribes: Ascend is very customisable if you're into turning knobs and flipping switches, but there are also five quality presets: minimal, low, medium, high and very high. We ran all tests using very high quality settings. Finally, we tested at three common resolutions: 1680x1050, 1920x1200 and 2560x1600.

1680x1050 - Gaming Performance

Compared to Mass Effect 3 (another Unreal Engine 3 game), Tribes: Ascend is considerably more demanding. Whereas the Radeon HD 6670 averaged 42fps in ME3, it managed only 22fps in Tribes. The HD 6950 or greater is required to achieve 60fps or better, though the HD 6850 averaged 59fps.

The GTX 460 and 550 Ti also fared well with 54fps while the HD 6870 and GTX 560 averaged 63fps and 64fps, respectively, making them ideal choices at this resolution. The new HD 7850 was a fraction slower than the old HD 5870 -- disappointing for 7850 owners, but at 70fps+ it doesn't matter here.

Continue Reading

1920x1200 - Gaming Performance 2560x1600 - Gaming Performance CPU Performance Final Thoughts

Steven Walton is a writer at TechSpot. TechSpot is a computer technology publication serving PC enthusiasts, gamers and IT pros since 1998.

Republished with permission.


    Horribly balanced, pay to win.

      What utter BS. Any Tribes vet who has no unlocks will trounce anybody who has full unlocks that isn't that experienced. Give them a spinfusor and the pathfinder and watch them trounce you at 250kh/h+. Unlocks give you a bee's dick benefit like an extra 50 hp from 1200hp for example or some extra ammo or marginally better reload time.

      If you are losing it's because you suck because it's a heavily reliant on skill which not may games can prepare you for other than prior Tribes experience. New players don't have the energy management skills or the understanding of timing shots at the best opportunity and wonder why holding down m1 isn't making the other guy die.

      Granted that the plasma gun was completely broken and pay to win recently but that has thankfully been reigned in now.

        Skill vs Experience argument.

        Experienced skilled vet with no unlocks will get trounced by an experienced skilled vet with full unlocks.

          An experienced/skilled player by nature doesn't have rely on his equipment because the benefit they provide is negligible at that level of play. You can destroy a heavy class without taking a hit as a light if you can use your skills despite the potential of being one shotted as a light class by a blue plate special. If equipment was everything to go by heavy classes with higher damage weapons and more health would be the only classes played, however they aren't since skill is the determining factor in many if not all encounters.

            Except the firepower of heavy is countered by its lack of mobility. Also, this isn't deathmatch. A team with no unlocks or without the right unlocks will get destroyed by a team with them. It's not a matter of being better at different things, it's an exponential increase in power.

              Explain how a lack of unlocks affects the ability of a player to 250km to do a pass by cap of the flag? It doesn't. You can do the following without unlocks.
              - Cap the flag (at insane speeds)
              - Destroy base assets
              - Repair base assets and upgrade them
              - Kill other players (via one shot kills) and chase down flag carriers
              - Move at 250+
              - Buy vehicles
              - Destroy vehicles
              - Set up an active defense via players
              - Call in support bonuses.

              Hang on, that's pretty much the entire game that can be experienced without unlocking anything. As for exponential damage increase in power via unlocks? What good is that if you have trouble hitting somebody in the first place.

              Skill is the cornerstone of this game. Stop blaming your inadequacies on the unlocks and learn to play the bloody game!

                Still hilariously completely missing or choosing to ignore the actual point. Skill is a cornerstone. Skill + buying your way to a massive advantage is not. And if you say certain unlocks don't provide a massive advantages, you're deluding yourself.

                Guarantee i've played at a higher level than you in previous tribes games.

      I feel like you either haven't played for very long, or you just got beaten too often by skilled players. I could go on about all the ways this game is definitely not pay to win, but instead i will just recommend you give it another go.

        I noticed a massive boost to how good i was as a HOF (heavy on flag - defensive role) once i unlocked 'super heavy". Basically its a perk that makes pathfinders die just by running into you at high speed. So, yeah, unlocks can be pretty important.

        That said, i was able to unlock it fairly quickly just with xp earnt playng the game (as you can with everything obviously) so 'pay to win' isn't exactly right.

    I have spent a grand total of $10 on tribes so far, I have unlocked everything I have wanted to for the Pathfinder, Soldier, Raider and Juggernaut. All the weapons and gear I actually use are maxed out.
    The only thing you must spend actual cash instead of xp on is cosmetic skins. You don't need to Pay to win, you need to Play to win.

    How do I buy a load-out UI that doesn't look like a steaming pile of shit?

      Mine looks fine. They must have given you the douchebag special when they saw you coming.

    This may seem nitpicky... but why are they using they aprils fools images for tribes? For people who dont know tribes, they would get the wrong idea. Tribes is about moving fast. You can go prone like in the sniper image. That was a joke.

      Can you please expand on your views then so we can get a better understanding so we aren't just seeing "pay to win, it's crap".

      And curse typing on a tablet.

    Please explain what these "massive advantages" are because I would like to see your side of the argument better because I'm not at the moment.

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