Wednesday, April 16, 2008

More Tabula Rasa

You can currently get Tabula Rasa dirt cheap on Amazon. If you were on the fence but didn’t want to plop down the money for the initial purchase it should be a no brainer now.

I'm definitely still enjoying it. I'm currently at level 35, which means I've made my final class selection (Grenadier) and have had a few levels to play around with it. I don't have a flamethrower, but I do have a cryogenic disperser (or as I call it, "The Popsicle Maker"), which is equally awesome. That combined with rockets, chainguns, and some area of effect based Logos abilities makes me obscenely good at taking down large squads of enemies. I'm currently working on tracking down the Logos to unlock my class' signature Concussion Wave ability.

The development team is doing a great job of regularly making improvements to the game. The latest update made holding a crazy combo even more compelling and added some great rewards for attacking/defending control points. I hope they're able to keep up this agile development pace, because they have some really cool ideas in the pipeline. Tabula Rasa has a lot to teach the MMO genre at large, so I thought I'd compile a list of its strengths and weaknesses.

Things Tabula Rasa could teach other MMOs:

  • Quick Travel: Less time wasted due to instant and free travel between waypoints. Better connectivity due to multiple waypoints per zone
  • Play-Style Flexibility: Less rigid about grouping because instances scale to squad size
  • Feels Heroic: Multiple enemies instead of single targets that take a long time to kill. You are stronger than most individual targets, so you feel like a bad ass.
  • Risk: Incentive to play aggressively due to combo XP modifiers
  • Dynamic Environments: Control points provide a constantly moving PVE target. A mix of allied and enemy NPCs dropping in randomly creates a real warzone feeling.
  • Achievements: Per zone rewards for various accomplishments (Targets of Opportunity). Logos provide exploration oriented goals.
  • Informed Decisions: The most important decision for your character (class) is made after you've already had time to play and figure out what you like and don't.
  • Don't Make Me Start Over: Cloning lets you branch your character to try something different without having to start over from scratch
  • Levels Are Less Important: Less rigidness in the level strata means you can take on enemies well above your level. There's still a point beyond which you're screwed, but it's not as tight of a level band as WoW or LotRO.
  • Informal Cooperation: Kill credit is shared even if you're not in a squad, provoking more impromptu grouping
  • Share: Built-in support for sharing resources between your characters
  • Unlockables: The hybrid races are only available after completing quests, making them somewhat of a prestige item.
  • Community: Regular and frank Feedback Fridays let you know what the development team is up to
  • Development: Small updates with a short development cycle

Things Tabula Rasa could learn from other MMOs:

  • Casual Play: Rest XP bonus rewards you for having self control
  • Items Have Value: Interesting rewards for running instances (especially since instances are available for all play styles now). The lack of soulbound items in Tabula Rasa makes getting gear a little too easy (and thus less rewarding)
  • Epic Boss Battles: Interesting scripted encounters that make you poo your pants
  • Customization: Any shortcomings in WoW's user interface can be overcome with UI mods. Empowering the community to do work for you is a good thing.
  • More Locales: There are currently two planets in Tabula Rasa, with each planet having multiple zones. Unfortunately this only really amounts to two different palettes. It's sad when a game with interstellar possibilities has less variety than Middle Earth.

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