The launch of Overwatch got me thinking about first person shooters that I have enjoyed over the years, a list that is pretty short relative the number of titles in the genre. In fact, I can only really come up with four titles that I was ever really into in any significant way.
At the far end of the list is Marathon, the classic from Bungie, now more than 20 years old, which we used to play on the network at the office after hours… back when companies let you play video games after hours and issued employees machines capable of running them.
Maybe I just work for the wrong company these days.
At the near end is the Desert Combat, which isn’t even a game, just a mod for Battlefield 1942, which is more than a decade away in time. Yet it was a hell of a mod. Just listening to the music from the opening credits brings back memories. That is not the last FPS I played, but the last one I really enjoyed.
And then there were two just about in the middle of that range. One was Nova Logic’s Delta Force, which I have written about already.
And the other was Starsiege: Tribes.
The problem is that Tribes came out during a time when I was playing a lot of memorable games. Diablo and Civilization II were still hot properties, while their successors were being actively discussed. I loved me some Total Annihilation back then. We were playing StarCraft and Age of Empires at the office a lot. Sojourn MUD had become TorilMUD and was about at its peak. The aforementioned Delta Force was on the scene and we were trying to play that using Roger Wilco, and early gaming voice coms package. And, of course, EverQuest was looming, soon to launch and steal away all my play time for a year or two.
And in the midst of all of this, I played Tribes.
I cannot recall considering buying it or having somebody suggest it to me. Some part of me thinks I must have read about it over at Firing Squad, the gaming site of Dennis Fong, who later went on the create XFire and then Raptr, but only because I used to read the site regularly. I could have heard about it on GameSpot for all I know.
I cannot even remember if I actually bought the game. I don’t have the box any more, but I have tossed most of my game boxes over the years. I have an old Memorex CD-R with “Starsiege Tribes” written on it in Sharpie, so I suppose I could have pirated it. But that would have been unlike me at the time as I had a good job and the mortgage on my soon-to-be wife’s condo was what one would call laughably cheap these days, so I wasn’t skimping on expenses. That would come later when my wife stopped working and we bought a house in a good school district.
Besides which, I used to make backup copies of most of my game CDs back then. I still have copies for StarCraft and Diablo II along with the original disks still in the jewel cases.
And I can barely remember the game itself. On the list of things I don’t have left from the game is any screen shots. Looking at the Wikipedia linked article above yielded several, “Oh yeah, I remember that!” moments.
At one point I was convinced that Tribes was the reason that I bought that Voodoo2 3D graphics acceleration card for my computer. I had the card when I bought EverQuest at Fry’s back on March 16, 1999 (that disk I still have, along with the receipt) so something prompted me to buy it.
But then I found the specs online and saw that it didn’t actually require that. Plus the name “3dfx” sparked a memory about Blizzard’s early announcements about Diablo II saying that to get the full graphical experience, players would need a card that supported 3dfx’s Glide API. I am pretty sure that is the reason I got the Voodoo2 card, though by the time Diablo II came out 3dfx had ceased to be the dominate player in the 3D accelerated video card market and Blizz was obliged to support a more universal API. (Open GL if I recall right.) That is all pretty fuzzy though, and I could have bought the card to speed up Delta Force, only to find out that its voxel based engine could not/would not take advantage of 3D acceleration. Maybe. Or maybe that was something that annoyed me later, when Delta Force 2 came out. Getting old and the persistent march of time sucks.
So what the hell do I remember then?
I remember the rattle of the Gatling gun as it spun up when you tapped the trigger.
I remember the 3D terrain with low res texture mapping, though that memory starts to bleed in with EverQuest memories a bit. Am I imagining Tribes or West Karana in my mind?
I remember shooting the disk launcher into the fog where I had just seen somebody disappear, hoping for a lucky hit.
I remember the idea of “skiing” as a scout, using your jet pack to essentially glide at very high speed if done right.
I remember that map with the bridge overhead between the two bases, the distance being shrouded in mist. Though, if I concentrate, I can’t really tell you if that was Tribes or Tribes 2, which I remember even less of, aside from the vague sense that I owned and played that as well.
Mostly though I just have this feeling that it was a really good game for its time. But then EverQuest came out and eclipsed it. Was it as good as I remember it, as good for the time?
I suppose I could grab the game and find out. Hi-Rez Studio made it and its companion games available for free on their Tribes Universe site.
However, I suspect that doing so would burst the bubble. It is difficult to bring your 2016 sensibilities back in time to look at an older game.