In 2006 having tribes published on the tech is not really a plus. What is a plus is well documented and well laid out code. I know it’s only $100 but it can cause a bucket load of headaches.
Plus it’s $100 per programmer on the team. The RTS is another $50 and Torque Shader is another $150. So before you are done, you could have spent $300 easy. Not too mention other elements.
If you look at Torques track record in respect to community released projects you will see a far less success rate than with other engines. The main reason for this is shoddy code, and crap documentation. Granted it’s network code is still good, but you really need to be careful about your engine selection.
Let’s tale Nebula Device 2 (http://nebuladevice.cubik.org/) This is developed by Radon Labs, who are also using this for their current projects (http://www.drakensang.com). There code is well laid out, well documented and very powerful. The tools are not as easy to use as other engines but if you buy the Maya toolkit it makes things far easier.
The engine itself is free and apart from the initial learning curve you will find far less headaches caused because of the engine than you would with torque.
If you want to take Ogre as another example, fine it’s only a graphics engine but if you look into: http://www.ogre3d.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=17&Itemid=70
The most notable one is FragFist which was developed by a group of German Students doing a similar course to yourself it was achieved within 6 months and is a pretty impressive demonstration of what Ogre can do quickly. I would not personally recommend it for commercial projects but if you use it right and have the correct expectations you will find far more than what Torque offers.
You have roughly 6 months to develop this game, and I would assume that by January you will be over your first major hurdle which is getting the design sorted and having a test in engine. Which really leaves you with 2 – 3 months development depending on the end of year. Your time is limited and you don’t need to be fighting against the tool set.
Take your time in settling for an engine, as pre-production is everything for turning around these small projects without hitting too many stumbling blocks.