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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.

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