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Tabula Abicio (Slate Discarded)

As I was invited to give it a spin for free, I went ahead and logged into Tabula Rasa today. Apparently, the patches since I last played required my characters were reset, keeping their levels and equipment but leaving the skill and attribute points uninvested. Having not played the game for months, I misspent them. However, this common snafu aside, what could be said about the game now that it's been out 6-7 months?

Though it plays pretty identically on the surface, Tabula Rasa has definitely improved since release. The areas that I visited (the Divide and Palisades) were granted a ton of new quests and otherwise refined to a smooth experience of quest grinding with guns. The balance has improved as well, leaving me quite satisfied with the interplay of my Sapper's firearms and proximity mines against the (at times annoyingly) tenacious Bane horde. This is the game Tabula Rasa should have been when it was released.

Picture Caption: Defending a base against the Bane while alone is ill-advised, but fun.

However, as will probably be the case for Age of Conan, these improvements may have come too little, too late. The overall feeling I had after wandering around for hours shooting things could be summed up with one sentence:

"Where is everyone?"

While there were a handful of players to be found, the game feels like a ghost town. Even the Auction House had barely over a page of any given kind of item for sale on it. Of the players I did find, how many were on their free week like me? It's sort of hard to verify because Tabula Rasa is big, with dozens of zones, and also because the player search tools suck. There could be 10,000 players per server or there could be 500 but, for all the good it did my game experience, the ghost town observation works.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'll mention I did manage to get into a team and we busied ourselves taking back and holding some of the firebases in the Palisades. A good time was had by all. However, if I were to use the "general" channel as a guide, it seems like we were the only team formed on the entire server at the time. This during their "double experience when teamed" promotion. According to the other players on the channel, the finely crafted "instanced" scenarios - balanced as team content - are rarely ever done at all anymore.

So I'm left very much with the impression that, were I to subscribe to this game, I'd have to accept that I'm going to spend a lot of time soloing. Tabula Rasa makes it easy to solo by providing lots of friendly NPCs to team up with - the NPC life is one of the game's neater features. However, the whole thing sort of loses that massively multiplayer significance when I'm aware I'm spending most of the time without so much as another player witness, let alone a team member. Tabula Rasa would make an awesome Guild Wars payment model game, but I can't see why I'd want to spend a monthly subscription on something one mostly plays alone.


Pixels said…
I played this game during the beta and had one of the more interesting experiences I've ever had in an MMO.

I logged in and was wowed. I loved it more and more. I shot things with my gun...helped defend a base...and was quickly deciding it was the game for me. I saw a few glitches but they paled in comparison to the fun I was having, the immersion I was feeling.

Then it happened.

Then my character learned to shoot lightning bolts.

I must have sat there for like 2 minutes with my mouth open.

So....err....I am a gun-toteing super shooting sci-fi bag 'o yummy goodness. And now I shoot lightning bolts from my hands? So..I have magic? (I realize it wasn't magic but...cmon!)

All at once the immersion evaporated. I poked around to see if this was just an option that some people could take. To see if I could a gun toting person. But no...everyone took this. Or so I was told by all the other players. I was like, what's the point in this?

I tried to continue to play it anyways...but the game was suddenly insanely easy. All the stuff I was dancing around fighting before I could just one-shot kill with my lightning.

Now..I realize that it would have changed more if I had played to a higher level...but I don't think it would have changed to the good for me.

I loved it until the system of sneaking in a magic-style system of abilities was thrown at me. Then I logged out and never played again.

Shallow of me? I guess. I dunno. I just couldn't do it.
You do have the option not to take that lightning attack. Although it is a handy ability to have, in many ways it might be made obsolete by later abilities such as Decay or Shrapnel.

However, that probably won't bring the immersion back for you. You bring up a good point that Tabula Rasa might have seemed a lot more compelling if they didn't decide to add their own kind of "magic" to it. Alien technology magic, but magic nonetheless.

This is just one of many ways in which the developers of Tabula Rasa probably should have believed in themselves and truly have gone for a "Clean Slate" instead of emulating the other MMORPGs out there.

To a large extent, the reason why Tabula Rasa has a hard time retaining players is because it's a game about quest grinding for experience points, and there's really not shortage of those games.

If I were in their shoes, I'd have focused a lot more on the dynamic content. They have bases which are captured by Bane and recaptuable by players. Center the entire game on the concept of driving back the Bane like this. Now, that would be interesting, a real alien warfare simulation.

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