Tabula Rasa Beta Preview
Corey Roon Conley
For the last few years, weve been hearing about Richard Lord British Garriotts latest venture into the mmorpg realm, Tabula Rasa. Originally just a working title, Tabula Rasa (meaning blank slate) has come to epitomize everything Garriott is going for this time out.
I first got to play Tabula Rasa at E3 2005 and was immediately impressed. From what I saw this was going to be an amazing online shooter. The game play seemed solid, the AI was almost frightening, and the possibilities seemed limitless. Well guess what? Its evolved to much more. Now, Tabula Rasa is not only a great online shooter, but a fantastic mmorpg as well.
Logging in, I was pleased to see a fairly extensive character creation screen. Its still not on the same level as, say, City of Heroes, but much more satisfying than World of Warcraft or Vanguard. I was quite happy with my rather pleasing looking pink haired vixen .all the better to destroy aliens, right?
The back story is fairly extensive, as well. You are a human military recruit joining the battle against the evil scourge of the Bane. As of now, everyone can only join the same side in a PVE setting, although you can count on PVP aspects such as clan vs. clan battles in the near future.
Anyone familiar with the established mmorpgs out there today will feel comfortable starting off in Tabula Rasa. Many of the usual controls are there. WASD movement combined with the mouse, hotlinks on the number keys (though the most common can be easily bound to mouse buttons). Even the quest interface and backpacks will seem very familiar.
I started out in Boot Camp, which is a nice way of saying tutorial. Right off I learned the basics of movement, crouching (yes, youll want to hide behind objects while in battle), and shooting. Then I was off on the usual go talk to this person quest.
But that is where things changed. As I was running off to a nearby village, the Bane attacked. This is where you suddenly see how Tabula Rasa differs from any other mmorpg. A drop ship swooped in, transporting down 4 alien Thraxs (big ugly things straight out of Starship Troopers). Immediately, players and npcs alike converged. At this moment I had to stop and just look around, because for the first time in any game, I felt like I was in a real battle. And as suddenly as it began, it was over
.and I was sporting some more XP and new found weapons.
Tabula Rasa is full of weapons, armor, and magic. Yes, thats right magic. The game has what is called the Logos system. You gain logos abilities by finding various shrines around the world. Ultimately you can string these Logos words together to make more and more powerful spells and abilities. Theres something quite satisfying about nailing an alien a few times with a shotgun and finishing him off with a lightning bolt!
Tabula Rasa may not be as well known as Star Wars or World of Warcraft, but I think thats an advantage. Its not tied to a long established mythos or cannon. With the infamous Lord British behind it, though, you can count on a detailed story unfolding over time.
Graphically, the game looks great. I played it on an Alienware laptop (full review coming soon!) on maximum settings with a small loss in frame rate. Turning it down to Very high ran very smoothly and looked still amazing. The world really seems alive with all the life forms, players, and npcs around.
Overall, Tabula Rasa wont be the WoW killer people have been looking for. But I doubt thats the goal of Garriott. This is an original game in an original setting that I think will satisfy anyone looking for a great hybrid between an action shooter and an online rpg.