NC Soft Tabula Rasa
- Great tutorial, Logos-hunting is the most fulfilling part of the game
- Controls stutter badly, resulting in way too many deaths; ammunition is expensive, and you need a <i>lot</i> of it to get through the game; constant, frenetic action becomes boring after a while, almost no multiplayer interaction in an MMO
Tabula Rasa is a fun game, but frustrating enough that you are left with a feeling that the fun parts are mocking you from their inaccessible tower guarded by the lag monsters, poorly designed controls and the never ending kill-or-be-killed pacing.
Price$ 89.95 (AUD)
Not being a regular worshipper at the temple of Ultima Online's Richard Garriott, we sat down with our own set of reservations as we began to play Tabula Rasa. We weren't really in the mood to be summoned from up high into a sci-fi environment to do the bidding of some eccentric commander.
We weren't really in the mood to be summoned from up high into a sci-fi environment to do the bidding of some eccentric commander. As it turns out, our interaction with General British was at an all-time low for one of his games, and for that we were grateful.
First things first
At the start of the game, you are submerged face-first into Tabula Rasa's world via the best MMO tutorial we've ever experienced. You're taught the basics of gameplay while fighting it out with a squad of soldiers to take back a control point and take on some aliens to claim your first logos. Logos fuel the magic system in the game, and before you sci-fi diehards start screaming, "You got magic in my sci-fi!", know that your powers are unlocked through manipulation of alien technology: the logos.
By far, Logos-hunting is our favourite part of this game. With each new Logos word learned, you gather a little more information about who the Eloh were and what they were doing with all of those massive powers at their disposal. Like any language, Logos are combined in particular ways for you to cast spells. For instance, our Specialist had to find the Time and Damage Logos in order to perform her ability Decay:Degeneration, a damage-over-time ability. It's a simple but effective magic language of sorts, and each class uses them to their advantage.
There are plenty of collection and escort missions in the game, and each time you level, you get points that you can spend immediately to beef up a power or save them up to attain a new rank.
That's what the game has going for it at the bottom levels, but I'd be remiss if I didn't mention a few things the game is remiss in.
It just keeps going and going and going...
As far as we can tell from our experience on the starter island, there are no cities that are safe from conflict. From the time we started the game all the way until level 10, we were fighting for our life, running from the Bane, searching for Logos and just trying to survive. While this is fun for a certain period of time, anything -- even frenetic gun battles -- will become boring if there is nothing to form a counterpoint to it. By virtue of only having one thing to do - fight -- we found ourselves losing interest quickly. Every soldier needs R&R; it's what keeps them from going loony and turning on their platoon with a machete.
Shockingly for an MMO, the social interaction in Tabula Rasa is sorely lacking. With no cities to exchange goods, talk, emote, interact or even just relax in, the game feels like a single-player game that just happens to have other players running around on the map. At no time does a player come by to assist you, and if they do, chances are they will steal credit for the kill anyway so there really isn't any motivation to accept help from other players.
In fact, many times, Tabula Rasa feels exactly like a single-player shooter. Unfortunately, the controls often stutter so badly that by the time we clicked on the medpack, we were already dead. The FPS control style seems to be the only scheme that works, and even that has the response time of a turtle on valium.
After repeated deaths because ammunition loading and switching between powers was too slow, we would eventually have to retreat to a control point to raise enough cash and replenish our needlessly wasted -- and might we add, expensive --ammunition.
In the end, Tabula Rasa is a fun game, but frustrating enough that you are left with a feeling that the fun parts are mocking you from their inaccessible tower guarded by the lag monsters, poorly designed controls and the never ending kill-or-be-killed pacing. When the 30 days expire on our free play period, we will happily close this chapter in our MMO experience and move on to greener, and less annoying pastures.
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