Tabula Rasa PC Review

A lot of people have probably heard the words Massively Multiplayer Online (MMO) thrown around quite a bit, especially in recent times where a lot of companies seem to be jumping on the bandwagon to cash in on the craze. There’s one person we have to thank for kick starting the genre and that guy would be Richard Garriott. He was the mind behind moving a pretty popular role playing game into new grounds. Ultima had already spawned eight games and he was keen on new ways to spice it up and thus the genre MMORPG was born. It was a pretty ambitious project back then. They hadn’t really been much in the same vein before it. Now 10 years later Richard Garriott is bringing us his newest project in the form of Tabula Rasa.

Tabula Rasa is set in a future where Earth has been attacked and mankind nearly wiped out. Gamers take control of their character as a new recruit of the Allied Free Sentient (AFS) and as one of the last few humans alive, it’s your job to go kick some alien scum for setting ablaze our beautiful planet. The aliens in particular are called “The Bane” who travel the galaxy hunting down another group of aliens called the Eloh. Humanity was lucky enough to find some technology left behind on Earth by the Eloh and using this they teleported some survivors to another planet. There they met up with other species that were also fighting the Bane and thus the AFS was born.

In a genre that is usually full of Orcs, swords, bows and scantily-clad Elven ladies, it’s nice to see a fresh change on the subject matter. It’s not like sci-fi or aliens haven’t featured in the genre before, it is just that they are few and far between compared to the rest. Also Tabula Rasa has gameplay mechanics that differ a lot compared to everything else out there and that helps it stand out, and also pushes the genre into new areas.

The first thing you notice as soon as you start playing is that you control the game like a shooter. The standard controls have you moving using the WASD keys and aiming with the mouse. That’s correct, there is aiming in this game, so to speak anyway. The game is full of guns and guns require you to target enemies and shoot. It works by aiming the cursor onto an opponent and pressing the mouse button to shoot. It isn’t precise because if you are somewhat close to it, it will count as a hit, so the game doesn’t play like a pure shooter. It may seem silly that you miss sometimes when you are perfectly aiming at someone but at the end of it all it is a RPG and it is fully understandable what is going on. It still manages to make you feel like you are aiming and blowing away aliens and that is what matters most, it also makes the game feel very different compared to most other MMORPGs on the market.

Fighting is a major part of the genre and the combat really does play a great part in keeping the player engaged. Battles are all fast paced because of the shooting style gameplay and there are plenty of enemies to fight off against. What’s even more interesting is how enemies keep coming down from drop ships from time to time. You might find yourself exploring an area and all of a sudden the Bane carrier ship arrives and drops some soldiers off for you to blast away. It actually keeps you on your toes when these surprise attacks start coming from nowhere. If you manage to stay in battle for long enough your XP gained begins to multiply upwards, increasing by 25% every time you kill a certain amount. It’s a great incentive to make you battle hard and fast to increase those experience points, as we all know grinding usually ends up as a big chore.

Since Tabula Rasa is heavily based on shooting, they are plenty of guns to pick up and play with. Shooting isn’t the only way to attack though as the human race has somehow manage to inherit Logos; basically the name for the magic aspect of the game. Throughout the course of playing, you’ll come across pictographic languages of Logos that you’ll be able to interact with and learn the magic. Like pretty much every other MMORPG out there, there’s plenty to learn, some for general purposes, while others will be locked to a certain class. Magic is used by pressing the right mouse button. The game allows you to have both weapons and magic linked to boxes on the screen. Using the Q and E keys, nicely placed next to the movement ones, you can quickly switch weapons and magic on the fly.

Tabula Rasa has some nice ideas about how you go about getting your classes. When you first create your character there is no option of what class to have. Everyone who starts the game is down as a recruit. From then on as you progress through the story and level up, you can start branching off into different sections. It starts off with an option of either Soldier or Specialist. Soldier is the side that is all about combat and fighting, while Specialist is the support side of things. Carrying on from these tiers makes them split into even more, where finally at level 30 you choose the final class you want to be, depending on which side of the tier tree you went down.

A clever feature which has been implemented into Tabula Rasa is the ability to clone your character. If you clone your character you retain your skill points and level but start with no class again. From there you can go and test the other classes that you might be interested in. It’s a fantastic idea that I’m surprised hasn’t been around already. It really does help to keep interest in the game when you don’t have to start from scratch to try out all the other game’s classes.

Everything else is pretty much your standard MMORPG affair. Quests are given out by non-player characters (NPCs) and are the usual killing things, collecting things, meeting characters and so on. Some aren’t as simple because the game gives you options in some situations on what to do. One of the earlier ones is letting an alien go free or arresting him and taking him back to headquarters. I was a butt kisser so I did what I was told and arrested him. It didn’t really seem to do all that much in the story. I guess it’s just experience, character responses and items that you acquire that change from these situations.

Apart from quests they are also control points scattered around the planets you explore. Because of the constant enemy drop ship attacks that happen throughout the game, these control points, or bases would be better calling them, are always under attack and changing sides through your gaming session. Losing them cuts off been able to use facilities in those areas, things like hospitals, shops and so fourth. They even change when you aren’t playing, so expect some nasty surprises if you think you’re close to safety one day, only to log back in and find your new home has been overrun by alien scum. It’s another thing that just shows how Richard Garriott was trying to change how combat works in MMORPGs.

Other things to do include player Vs player, which is a bog standard featured mostly every other game contains, and crafting. Crafting was a little confusing to get to grips with so I never really got into that part of the game. It doesn’t just seem to be me having this problem as looking around on the forums; it seems a fair few people aren’t “getting” the idea of it. You are suppose to take things off weapons and find certain components and use them to craft them, but it just felt like too much hassle.

Graphically the game looks good enough. It has some nice design for characters and monsters, but other aspects get a bit bland. It looks like a lot of action games that have been coming out recently. That brown, gray feeling you get, basically full of dull colours. Performance wise is also a mix bag. The game seems to require a decent PC to get the most out of it. Running it on full specs somehow caused the game to stutter around every so often, but not because of the strain, as the frames per second counter was in the 30s. It just seems to be some sort of bug that’s in the game at the moment. It seems to hog the memory of your system. Audio wise the game has a nice soundtrack, mostly rock inspired. Weapons are fine too; they are just missing that oomph noise for the added impact.

With the MMORPG market getting so overcrowded nowadays, it’s hard to choose what game you should be handing over your hard earned money for that monthly subscription. I can say that Tabula Rasa is certainly one of them you should have a good look into. Problems aside (I’m sure things will be fixed with patches) the game is a lot of joy to play, and it’s all because how fresh the combat feels. They say certain aspects of games can make or break them and its noticeable here that the combat has made this game. At the end of it all you want to be having fun and Tabula Rasa supplies this fun, fast fun at that through its uniqueness.

Tabula Rasa is fast, frantic, online fun with a great combat system that’s worth your time.

8 out of 10
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