Richard Garriott’s “TABULA RASA”
Release 10/19/07; pre-release 10/16/07
This review is for Richard Garriott’s brand new MMORPG “Tabula Rasa” which is now set for release on October 19th, 2007 (October 16th for pre-order folks). Before you cry “Foul,” I’m able to make this review for the simple fact that the Closed Beta NDA is now lifted. (cheer) This game is on the lower level of the hype-meter so I’m also going to be explaining a lot of the game along with dispensing opinion. Please forgive the length.
Before I go further, first a little bio. on myself:
I’ve been a member of TG since about 2003 (some of you I’ve met in person), near the tail-end of the glory days of Ghost Recon. For the most part I’ve kept my posts few and far between and have never done a review, so please forgive my newbsauce in this regard. Before my TG days I was the co-founder of a pretty successful Science-Fantasy themed guild named “Paradise Found.” We started with the now defunct game “Earth and Beyond,” and then moved to EVE, Planetside, and SWG where we were the most successful guild on the Ahazi server (before the NGE borked up the game). Since those days Paradise Found slowly morphed into other guilds and eventually died due to the lack of real effort by devs to produce a worthwhile Sci-Fi MMO. I’d tested and played Neocron, AA, MxO, Faces of Mankind, Auto Assault, and a million others and none of them quite got it right. With the immense growth of TG and my increasing time within its ranks in a myriad of different games the effort to maintain it was fruitless. So, here I am… a TG “vet” so to speak (although generally a quiet one). And here I am, trying my best to find a good Sci-Fantasy game worthy of the great community that is Tactical Gamer.
About 6 years ago Richard Garriott a.k.a. “Lord British” (inventor of the modern MMO - Ultima Online) took it upon himself to try and deliver us from Sci-Fantasy limbo and announced his project Tabula Rasa. Needless to say, I was extremely excited. This guy had yet to produce a bad game; his prints are all over City of Heroes, Lineage, and many others. You could see from Lord British’s goals that it wasn’t going to be easy. “Tabula Rasa” means “clean slate” or “fresh start” in Latin. Garriott intended to redefine the MMO genre (again), as much of his original vision(s) for the form were twisted since his Ultima days. He wanted to give the mmorpg industry a “fresh start.” Unfortunately, things didn’t go so well and the original vision was scrapped due to creative infighting. I’d thought TR had died totally until in ’05 it sported a total makeover and things started to ramp up again. Much of the NCSoft staff also transferred over from other projects (like City of Heroes) to aid in dev. of TR. In a way, it took two entirely different games to come up with today’s version which, if you study the timeframe, was produced in a respectable amount of time. They’ve had a LONG and robust beta for this game. I myself have been in it for about 6 months (they accepted me the moment I upgraded my computer) and I know others even longer. This beta was very intuitive, with Lord British himself showing up quite often to chat with us and dispense interesting info. I myself have talked to him a bit (the man is basically a celebrity after all). There was also plenty of in-game support from GMs and progress always seemed to be made from week to week. Suffice it to say the development in my eyes has gone pretty well and vast improvements have been made since alpha days (obviously). Their only ever published release date is firmly set at 10/16/07, and they’ll more then make it IMO. This in itself is a break from the norm.
Short Background (quoted from Wikipedia):
“There once was an advanced alien species known as the Eloh. They freely shared the knowledge of Logos, the power to convert between matter and energy with just the mind, to less advanced races. One of them, named the Thrax, used this power to wage war against the Eloh, a war that was won at great cost by the Eloh. This led to a great divide in the Eloh. One faction wanted to keep on spreading the knowledge as they had before. The other, called the Neph, sought to control the development of "lesser races" as to ensure they, the Neph, would always be the superior species. This inner conflict led the Neph faction to leave the Eloh and seek other allies, among them the defeated Thrax, this species along with others joined to form the Bane, which now exists under the control of the Neph. As one of their first acts, they attacked the Eloh world, the surviving Eloh fled and were scattered among the worlds they had previously visited. The Bane attacked Earth sometime in our near future. Humanity was hopelessly outmatched and the majority was completely wiped out. Luckily the Eloh had left behind some of their technology that had the ability to make wormholes to other worlds. There, humans found other species doing the same thing they had, fighting against the Bane just to survive. They banded together to form the Army of the Allied Free Sentients to fight against the Bane with their lives on the line.”
This is another metaphor to the phrase “Tabula Rasa.” Whereas the humans and other species of the AFS are given a “fresh start” to try and rebuild their cultures, first by defeating the Neph and their Bane. It gives a feeling of purpose to the game lacking in some others, along with a slight “claustrophobic” feeling of being trapped and fighting for your life.
What exactly IS “Tabula Rasa” the game?:
You may be looking at screenies and vids. of the game wondering just WTH is TR? Is it an FPS or a turn-based RPG? Squad-based? Raid oriented? PvP? Fact is, it’s all of the above. And it’s the first game to successfully implement both FPS and RPG styles of play. We’ll call it a TRUE Science-Fantasy “Tactical MMO.”
The TR gaming mechanic:
Fear not you number/button crunchers out there, the mechanics behind hit/dmg. ARE “turn-based” so to speak… but the modifiers to the results are MUCH MUCH more complex and happen much quicker. We’ll take a game like WoW; you cast a spell and it does “x” dmg… period, end of story. Only real modifiers to this are in place well before you fire your spell… things like armor, resistance, range, etc; creating a pretty monochromatic gaming experience rooted purely in strategy and not in fluid tactics (a lot of singular button-pushing). In TR the computer is tasked with calculating these modifiers “on-the-fly.” You still have your traditional modifiers of resistance and armor. BUT, things like range, line of sight, hit area and aiming all play a roll in real-time. Not to mention, your traditional values of armor, resistance, etc. are NOT static. That is to say, they evolve depending on the damage you take during an engagement. As you take and give damage, you’re also treated to the damage and modifiers popping up over you or your target (without fancy add-ons). So you can aptly adjust your strategy based on what you see.
For example, in WoW you have “x” value armor which washes away “x” value dmg you take to HP. In TR, you have “x” value armor which as the armor takes dmg. it loses effectiveness (armor is represented as a % of 100). The armor itself USUALLY has to be defeated even before getting to your HP (some types of damage can ignore it…. Everything has its weakness). If you’re getting wailed on in a fight, over time your armor will take a beating and be less able to soak damage. In WoW, this value is static until your armor breaks. Thereby making armor in TR EXTREMELY important to maintain even during engagements (you obviously always want it near 100%). That armor of course can have special abilities like resistances, buffs, debuffs, etc. added. Armor also recharges as health does depending on that particular skill level, so even if your armor is gone if you take cover or fall back eventually it’ll recharge, albeit usually at a less effective armor %. Once hit, the dmg. your health or your armor takes pops up over your head, along with the amount that’s soaked. Same with your target’s.
Moving on; line-of-sight plays perhaps the biggest role in the game. If you don’t have it you can’t fire at something. No more fireballs through the walls. If a creature does have a bead on you and you’ve got partial cover, they take a big reduction in To-hit and dmg. The same goes for you. This simple mechanic makes the call to “Fall Back!” something that actually works. You can’t hit what you cant see.
Aiming is PARTIALLY FPS based. Yes, you have an aiming reticule and it’s extremely important to place it on the mob and wait for the good shot (like in Ghost Recon, it helps to crouch as the aiming-reticule focuses quicker). BUT, aiming just affects to-hit and dmg. not simply if you hit or not – it’s not as cut and dry as in an FPS. There are basically 3 ways to hit a mob; tab-locking, highlighting temporarily with the cursor, and pure aiming; tab-locking being the most penalized and pure aiming the least. Once aimed, the modifiers due to how much time you spent aiming come into play. This is all do on-the-fly in real-time usually measured in split seconds, so you don’t notice any of this going on (so it FEELS like a pure FPS).
Range is also very important. Different weapons and effects have different effective ranges which also modify results on-the-fly. Rifles don’t do much dmg. close up. Shotguns don’t do much dmg. far away. All weapons have a MAX range where beyond they won’t work at all. Weapons also fire at different rates and their DOTs are NOT listed like in other games (you must figure this out by yourself). You may have a pistol that does less damage, but fires faster then that rifle. At effective range you might do more harm with that pistol. What this mechanic does is very subtle. It adds another layer of tactics in that it’s best to switch attacks based on range as the enemy advances. As a group you will want to set up your attack/defense based on where each person’s strengths lie. Put your snipers in the back, pistoleers in the front, etc.
Hit-Location is also important in this game, something usually lacking in an RPG. Basically, positioning is everything. Not only must you study the battlefield, but you must attack from angles affording you an advantage based on the weakest part of your enemy. Certain enemies are heavily armored from the front, so attack from the back. Certain enemies have weak points, so aim for those.
The last battle mechanic is the quasi-attribute “Adrenalin”, which is a stat bar similar to health, power, etc. You can use this adrenalin to open up cans of melee whoopass on mobs or you can use it to sprint your way into/out-of combat. You gain this adrenalin by engaging in melee, either by swinging your weapon or your fists. This Adrenalin is also used for special melee attacks as well as others, but I have yet to utilize it as such… My character is a Specialist dork, not a fighter. :)
The Squad and Clan:
One of the things I like about TR is that it doesn’t restrict how you make-up your squad. When you choose to do an instance or battle the map as a group, you can form your squad as big or small as you wish. Everyone with a mic has VOIP access to the rest of the squad. Yes, VOIP is included and the quality is very good. As a squad you can also PvP in a “wargame” against other PCs. As a PvP flagged clan, you are maxed out at 200 persons (more on this later). At this time I’m unsure of non-pvp Clans. Of course, clans can gain special notoriety and loot for the things they accomplish.
PvP in this game is totally consensual. That is, you only PvP when you choose to. There are 3 routes to take here: wargames 1v1, wargames squad v. squad, and CLAN WARS. Clan Wars is a more “permanent” style of PvP in that any Clan flagged as PvP (at clan creation) can declare war with other Clans also flagged the same way. It gives you that feeling of paranoia when doing missions that you may get ganked at any moment. It also adds a layer of Politics to the realm where large, organized clans can rule the gamespace and influence other clans. This may indeed generate a “mafia” type clan that requires restitution for other clans to battle on their turf. Very interesting and somewhat similar to the EVE system. Squad lvl. wargames btw are entirely instanced, much like Battlegrounds in WoW. I haven’t tested this element yet, but it definitely seems interesting.
The TR Battlespace:
The TR gamespace is actually a conglomeration of different planets, each with different regions. You transport to the different planets usually via Dropship. Different regions on each planet can be traveled to via dropship or transporter (waypoints, which you must first find). These regions then of course have different outposts, zones and instances within them. One of Garriot’s beefs with games these days is the amount of time spent traveling. Traveling in TR is a breeze as waypoints aren’t separated by very much distance and dropships give you instantaneous travel to entirely new worlds all with different flora/fauna. There is talk of eventual airship drops and mounts as well, although as of now this isn’t implemented. The CATCH with all this is TR’s gamespace is Dynamic, hence travel is earned. That is, it’s constantly changing under assault and retreat of Bane or AFS forces both PC and NPC. You may not be able to get to an area/Outpost quickly because it may have been taken out by Bane forces. So, before your clan can raid a particular instance effectively you may need to retake a certain outpost that has important supplies or defenses you may need to procure for the night’s battles. If the Bane effectively overtakes AFS positions all the way to a home base, then it’s conceivable one may have to advance an entire map to achieve a greater goal. Concurrently, the AI will battle all by themselves, shifting the map back and forth without PC influence at all in certain areas. These planets are typically very large and in order to walk them entirely would take a LOT of time, not necessarily due to distance but due to the Dynamic nature of the terrain, flora/fauna, and the enemy. Many times you cannot walk in a straight line, or you have to battle through Bane or hostile natives. In these regards, the gamespace is very efficient… making it seem larger then it actually is.
TR Server Structure:
The server structure in TR is much like City of Heroes, which interestingly enough had some of the least lag and the smoothest launch of any game I’ve seen. It’s no surprise seeing as how British was a lead dev. of CoH. Basically, TR is set up under a non-traditional “shard” system where the player has total control over which server he’s on at all times… just like CoH. Every time you hit a waypoint or dropship pad you have the choice of transporting to a different server of the same gamespace. If you’re planning a big op. and you need plenty of bandwidth to pull it off, then you tell your clan to hop on say “Wilderness 7” with a low population. You can, many times, be totally alone with your own server. Sometimes it feels like you have the whole battlespace to yourself. Concurrently, if you desire social atmosphere and more effective trade you’ll probably want to be on a full server. Or perhaps you’re trying to avoid a rival clan. Most importantly, what this sharded system does is keep the game MUCH more stable both with lag and zone failures. Whereas one shard may go down, there are many others you can still use. It also makes the game even MORE dynamic as each shard has its own version of what’s going on. Lastly, it leaves an easier avenue for expansion, maintenance, and change of the game w/o interrupting gameplay. Just like CoH, expect additions to the game to occur frequently, along with high levels of “GameMaster” influence. Namely, GMs can take control of Bane and effect huge battles w/o effecting other shards (which they’ve done). Very slick.
The Instances and the Death Penalty:
Instances in TR come in 2 flavors. One for Squad lvl wargames and the main flavor, Missions. Instanced missions in TR are the most elaborate of any game I’ve played and highly enjoyable. These Instances run the gamut of being able to be completed alone or in large raid-like groups, and many in some ways are actually HARDER to do with more people. When you walk in you’re greeted by a high-res audio/video intro. for the particular mission. They’re typically very dramatic and give a great sense of immersion. More importantly, they outline what it is you’re supposed to be doing inside the instance (so pay attention). You may have quests you got for the instance from the outside, but you also may have different objectives you’ll receive upon first entering. These are also seemingly dynamic and many of the objectives are a lot more involved then just killing “x” boss. Objectives can also change from time to time and once reached they can be equally dramatic. Typically these instances will also have an area to buy medical/armor kits, etc. So, no need to portal back to “Ironforge” to pick up a few pots. When you die you resurrect at these areas, not outside the instance or at some graveyard. What this does is create a constant group struggle inside these instances. Friendlies can immediately res. (albeit at the beginning usually) and reinforce your squad fighting at the front assuming there are no mobs in the way. Yes, there is a penalty for death where a % of all stats is decreased, however. This penalty can be bought down by using “trauma kits” and a variety of other trix. What this instanced death penalty style also does is limit server spikes commonly seen in WoW-type systems where someone logging in and out or entering/leaving the instance basically ruins an entire raid operation. This also minimizes wasted time getting a group back together.
The AI in TR seems pretty spot-on at this time. Although I haven’t yet been able to sample the higher lvl AI, reports are encouraging. Aside from the usual Dynamic battlefield with Bane and AFS AI constantly battling eachother, the AI themselves will constantly try to minimize their own weaknesses and improve their battle situation. Most mobs have many different styles of attack, so just walking up to a soldier doesn’t mean he wont piledrive you. The AI also likes to use cover to their advantage and will actively seek to negate any cover you have. Yes, they also will flank you if allowed. Along with all that, AI will run if outmatched, strafe, and run for position. If an AI squad has a shield-bot, they won’t be suckered into leaving it. If your base has an operational turret, they will take it out. Overall, it’s a very challenging AI for an RPG and definitely keeps you on your toes. Every battle is different.
Graphics and Combat animations:
Graphics in TR are generally pretty scalable with optional dynamic shadows, lighting effects, terrain detail, textures, etc. Overall, I look at TR as pretty much as good as a DX9 game can get without using ponderous code and compromising performance. While certain areas of TR are very well done, you can tell they didn’t spend years on the terrain and building art aspect. Also, the general demeanor of the game does affect it graphically. There is no “happy-go-lucky” feeling around TR, so exceedingly optimistic/fantastical graphics are few and far between. Nevertheless, I believe it’s a pretty well done game graphically and a performance balance was achieved. The Avatars are definitely more well done then most earlier games and the animations are top-notch. Typically you can see the veins and musculature of every graphic as well as very minute details of armor and weapons. The animations and textures are very smooth. The effects from weapons, tool, Logos powers, etc. are very well done with lots of cool effects and very detailed usage. Ex.: When you want to decipher the lock on a crate, you actually are seen using the cipher tool and a fancy Trek-like animation ensues. It makes you want to run around and scan as much as you can. Same goes for weapons reloads and stun type effects, they’re all rendered as excitingly as possible w/o being over the top. When a creature is hit, he acts like he’s hit. Also, an interesting twist to most RPGs is the addition of “finishing moves,” much like a Fatality in Mortal Combat. You can basically at times mortally wound a creature and then in turn finish him off usually with a special melee attack. These have pretty interesting animations (usually gruesome), along with an increase in the XP modifier and a small XP bonus. Overall, the terrain and buildings are generally enough to graphically get by, while the creature/character renderings and animations are top-notch. Regardless, you’ll want a decent box to handle these graphics set at HIGH as there’s a lot going on in TR at one time. If needed though, you can scale back enough on a lesser machine that the game is more then doable. Basically, boxes that are enough to play WoW right now should have no trouble playing TR, as long as large scale combat is avoided (TR is set to be played if needed with hundreds of troops at a time). This is not something you can say about AoC, Huxley, Warhammer, Gods and Heroes, even LotRO, and many of the soon-to-be-released MMOs coming out (they require DX10 rigs for the most part).
Note: I get 40 frames with everything set to highest and AA enabled in a semi-populated area. But I’m running an 8800GTX and a 3.2GHz Oced C2D with 2Gb of Ram.
Audio music and effects:
The musical score in TR isn’t as grandiose as say WoW or LotRO. But, it takes on a decidedly futuristic tone with a sense of “James Bond.” There is a negative theme about the game seeing as how most humans have been slaughtered by the Bane, so the music largely exudes this attitude. Every region and instance does seem to have its own score and in some places the music is just damned cool (I particularly like the modern Funk in the Corman area of Wilderness). I havent sampled them all yet, but it’s definitely not bad. Suffice it to say, the music is not overly imposing either… it’s not on all the time, neatly tucked away for occasional use. The sound effects are top notch and obviously with the myriad of different types of weapons, powers, tools, vehicles, and equipment there’s a LOT of them. Each item also seems to take on its own sound persona, which is nice (not many cloned sounds). Every little thing in the game seems to have audio involved with it. Bane even sometimes talk to you as they’re kicking your @$$ and distance and bearing are achievable by listening, just as in a modern FPS. Sound is definitely not this game’s weak point. With a good headset it’ll blow your mind.
Character Creation and Advancement:
Character creation is pretty in-depth with a wide variety of body-types and facial features, along with a small array of clothing types. All are completely color customizable. They didn’t spend much effort on initial clothing/armor because quite frankly it’s an obvious waste. You spend all of a few minutes in your default clothing, nevertheless… choosing a default color will effect all your armor from that point forward… so effectively, there are no clones in this game aside from everyone being human- even if you’re wearing the exact same gear. Also, it’s very easy to change colors later on in the game via crafting. What I like about the characters in TR is they’re very fluid and believable. The texturing and animations are very smooth with no blockiness or awkward shadowing and colorations. If you zoom in the graphic retains its quality.
Every character in TR begins as the same class: “Recruit.” You have no decisions to make at character creation. From then on, as you level you are presented with choices at varying points (lvl 5, lvl 15, etc.). You then are forced to specialize, first as either a soldier or specialist and then even more specialized after that (sniper, biotechnician, and medic are a few of the others). Fear not though, you don’t have to start the whole game over again to try another part of the spec. tree. You’re given Clones as you gain experience that you can “birth” at any point of your choosing. Smart players pop a clone as they decide on their next tier choice, this way they can explore the other part of the class tree w/o having to start all over. It’s a system similar to SWG or MxO with the addition of cloning. Clones retain the same LAST NAME as your starting character (so choose your last name carefully), this way you retain the same clan and reputation (more on that later) that you’ve garnered throughout the game. Beyond that you can alter your character as you see fit (clothing, height, face, etc.)
Players advance on an XP system as normal, but the interesting thing is it, like everything else in TR, is not static. If you go on a Bane killing spree and are able to reign death repeatedly without a break in the action, you are given an XP-multiplier that goes as high as times 6. As well, finishing moves give you an added xp bonus. This xp-multiplier MAY go towards your finishing quest’s XP (but don’t quote me on that).
As you level you’re given points to spend on Skills and Attributes. You may spend them or hoard them at will in 3 main attributes (health, mind, and spirit) and endless arrays of tier-related skills. Tier choices are largely not dependent on how many points you spend in a prior tier, leaving you with many many choices. The max character level is 50 btw (for now).
The ability to actually spend points on Skills and Attributes as you see fit, makes this game unusually dynamic (there’s that word again) from character to character. You can design tanks that don’t just have high healthpoints, but might have high Spirit for health regen. Comparatively, you could design a “monk-like” specialist with high health and mind attributes and points in melee. The ability to clone not only gives you another tier option, but obviously another skill and attribute option. I may not like that specialist-monk and want a pure reanimating exobiologist for example.
People initially think the class tree isn’t robust enough, but when they realize the above points they see that the real meat of the system lies in the shear amount of Skills you can spend points on to go with your tier choices. Many times you find yourself hearkening back to skills you skipped at tier 1 after your gameplay style realizes a need for such skills. This, IMO is a slick no nonsense system that facilitates a large amount of flexibility in how groups load-out for battle. Don’t have a tank in the group available? Whip out that soldier clone. OR, find someone with decent skills to make up the difference. The “cross-pollination” gives us the ability to come up with creative ways to do battle and is deceptively complex. Squad leaders won’t be able to just yell for the closest medic, they’ll have to ask for specific necessary skills or find perhaps someone within an entirely different class who somehow has healing skills.
And mind you, the skill choices are pretty creative, each in turn with their OWN skill levels (i.e. hand-to-hand lvl 1-5). Different things also open up at different levels within skills. You can look at it as yet another “tier” in the tier tree. For instance, at specialist Tools lvl 3 (expert) you have the ability to res. someone with a healing disc. Exobiologists have abilities akin to reanimating the dead and taking control of their bodies, projecting a Homunculus of themselves and lots of other crazy effects. The other tier choices are much the same and IMO very interesting. The tactical choices immense.
Lastly, Characters are able to develop “Titles” for themselves if specific achievements are made. This system is akin to the LotRO system of titles only the achievements remain locked in your players char. Sheet – I don’t believe you can display them in your name as you can in LotRO – There will be no “Gambit the Wolfslayer” in TR. Of course, these titles give certain abilities and permissions. The first title I believe one can receive is if you complete the “Targets of Opportunity” mission questlog, which is pretty extensive and includes killing 200 Bane and exploring every cave, among others.
Note: You are given a “Footlocker” to place excess belongings (aside from your backpack which you carry). These belongings ARE transferable between clones, so throwing away items you find on your travels that one clone may not be able to use (but another would) might not be a good idea. This will have an interesting effect on the economy as well as raid-level loot priorities.
Another Note: Experience Levels are gained relatively slowly compared to a game like WoW. In WoW, you can just about gain the 1st 10 levels in one evening. In TR it’s a bit slower. A decent player could probably make 6-8 levels w/o using the xp-multiplier in one evening. With a 50 level cap and an xp-multiplier this is understandable, but they’re assuredly going to raise it.
Moral Choices (ethical parables):
Another nice addition is the ability to make moral choices in your missions and be affected by them later on. What makes this special is this type of gameplay is non-linear (or Dynamic..
The Weapons and Armor:
As expected, the weaponry in a Futuristic game like TR is pretty damned cool. All the normal weapons are sported, along with hi-tech stuff like leech guns, laser, plasma rifles, etc. The list goes on and on. Each weapon is usually coupled with a specialized skill that someone can perfect its usage in. Some are only usable with the requisite skill (like the Leech gun). As well, different versions of each weapon exist to apply different types of damage. For instance, there is a rather large shotgun that fires a huge ball of EM to disable electronics, but is weak against flesh. Use the standard shotgun to blow holes through something’s skin. All weapons of course are mod-able at a Crafting Station into endless varieties of buffing stats, if not already buffed. Most of the weapons are very creatively designed, some which look like guns from a popular Anime title, complete with glowing fusion reactor backpacks. Everyone likes the “bigguns” of course.
Armor is much the same with near endless varieties. Some are good at reflecting energy, other hazardous material (chemicals, etc.). Some are better at repelling physical damage. Some deal dmg when hit. Some give a bonus to speed coupled to a special skill (i.e. motor assist) and on and on. Again, skills play a role in this and armor is completely mod-able along with color. Pretty much every part of the body is covered by a different type of armor, including the upper and lower face. I particularly like the varying types of helmets available.
As said, the graphical effects that come with equipment in this game are a really nice touch.
The Tabula and Logos:
The Tabula is the real meat and potatoes behind the Lore of the game. The Tabula is literally the “tablet” where all the collected Logos (mystical knowledge that improves your mind) is stored. It is literally a “clean slate” when you start the game. These Logos are the special abilities the Eloh saw as humans being especially receptive of; they’re best looked at as ESP-type psionic powers. As of now (and this will change), there are 200 spots for all the different Logos you find throughout your travels in the TR universe, which are happened on at “Logos Shrines.” Finding these Logos shrines gives you a nice animation and a mystical voiceover from a strange Eloh, along with total regeneration of Attributes, including adrenaline. Most of these Logos are required for your character to activate certain skills/powers (for instance, the Decay skill requires the Logos’ “Damage” and “Time”).
Each Logos has a specific rune-like icon that represents it and is part of the greater mystery of their meaning (which can be deciphered with thought). Some Logos can be combined to produce varying effects on weaponry and armor, although I haven’t played with this as of yet. Some people look at Logos as spells, when in fact like I said they’re purely mind related powers. They don’t require any type of “material,” “wand,” or “element” to cast; they merely require enough “power.” Your MIND Attribute effects the amount of total power you can hold. Your SPIRIT effects how much your power (and health) will regenerate when not in use.
The interesting thing with the Logos is they’re not all easy to find. Many will be found via quests, others by stumbling onto them by accident, or as instanced mission rewards. Some may be deep in Bane territory. You just never know. Fact is, you will have to EARN many of the Logos you wish to find either by thinking through a puzzle or blasting your way through to their location. Decipher the language behind them and supposedly this is easier to figure out.
The 200 Logos in the game at this time also are merely a starting point. There are strange “rumors” that more may exist.
Crafting and Economy:
I unfortunately haven’t had much experience with crafting, but I have had some. With the crafting stations at various outposts you can create items such as weapons, armor, buffs, pharmaceuticals, weapon/armor mods, tools, armor paint, and so-on. The system is similar to others in that you can dismantle items for components (or buy them if available). Building an item requires a certain recipe for it (which you loot, find, or buy), along with the requisite material. You then start producing the item and have a chance for failure or a critical success. Certain skills benefit crafting certain things and some are wholly necessary for crafting at all. For instance, in order to craft medkits I need the Medical Crafting skill. Higher lvl crafting skills yield higher quality items. The Economy is very minimal right now (probably due to the fact of twinking clones). It simply exists as a Trade channel in the chat window. There is currently no auction house or player stores, but this is something they may implement. You can of course, trade items/money from person to person. However, there is NO ingame email (there may be someday though).
The UI in TR spells of efficiency and speed. Your attribute stat and adrenaline bars are in the lower left along with a VOIP transmit buffer bar (this way you cant talk forever), underneath which lies buffs, debuffs, etc. Above that is your weapons loadout (you can load up to 5 at a time) and to the right is your Logos Power loadout (there are 5 scrollable bars of 5 slots). This allows a lot of different tactics at your fingertips on the fly. Each active slot in a toolbar is changeable with a simple push of a keyboard button. Logos powers are usable simply by the right-mouse button, weapons by the left.
In the middle of the UI is your reticule, which will change shape and colors dependent on your attack and the amount of cover you are in. To the top-left is the chat window, complete with customizable tabs of every type of channel you can think of along with private ones. To the right is your mission log, which tracks all your missions, but also couples with a Performance meter (ping, memory, framerate, etc.), and other tabbed effects. The lower right has your mini-map (of course, there is a zoomable full-screen map of the world as well). The minimap shows all important buildings, squad-mates (a nice touch), along with quest locations (as does the full-screen map). If you press the “ctrl” key you can access the middle UI-rosette which gives you clickable access to everything in the game (stats, attributes, missions, keybinding, etc.) Each of which has a corresponding hot-key. This UI, although really quick, easy and efficient is as of now FIXED in place and cannot be modded by a 3rd party. This kind of sux as many people would love that chat window to be on the lower part of the screen. To TR’s credit though, the chat window autohides itself entirely after a few seconds and is completely transparent.
TR is basically a totally new fix on MMOs. The best word I can use to describe it is Dynamic (of course), another is Efficient. Everything about it is slimmed down yet deceptively non-linear and complex. Garriott improved upon a lot of MMO misgivings that other companies have thrown at us the past 5 years and basically took a nuts-and-bolts approach to his game. It doesn’t have the budget or artistic staff that Blizzard has, or the huge gamespace that EVE or Vanguard has. But what it does have is design that makes sense within a package that’s a LOT of fun to play, especially when you give the game a chance. Invariably, some people may initially look at TR as a “flopper,” because it just doesn’t pop out and grab you the same way a game such as WoW does when you log in for that first time (no game for a long time has). Much of TRs allure is hidden just like the Logos, but once is realized the proverbial “light bulb” turns on. Hopefully this review shed a small bit of light on some of its nuances.
TR’s other weakness is it’s lack of a definitive Economy, but like I said prior, with the advent of Clones, much of the available gear will go to them… not to mention, it’s very easy to create a Crafting Clone to handle all your needs. In this regard, almost every player would be dumb to not really have crafting under their belt. Once end-game becomes apparent, however, I believe the Economy will become more robust and additions will be made to the game. Initially though, this game is mostly about Tactical Combat… plain and simple.
Another weakness is TR’s lack of in-game email and a slightly lacking friendlist and clan invitation system. As of now, you can’t communicate with someone that’s offline, period. That includes adding them to your friendlist or inviting them to your clan. Why this is the case escapes me, as this is a pretty standard element that does nothing but help a game. I hypothesize that an email and more robust friend system WILL be added at or near release, however. As of now, one must realize that this is indeed still a closed beta and MANY closed betas don’t have these elements (I’m in a few betas right now that are the same way… much of this has to do with NDA issues).
The positive aspects of TR I’ve already for the most part gone over. There really isn’t much negative to report, it’s just DIFFERENT stuff to report then the usual game. Aside from everything else, I really like the Lore behind TR a lot. To me, it’s very interesting and for a Sci-Fi game very easy to digest. I see non-scifi folk being able to digest this game. Along with this, the Lore gives you a real sense of purpose lacking in most MMOs. In TR you have a job to do or the game itself is affected negatively. As for the combat, it’s some of the most entertaining of any MMO I’ve ever played and in many ways more fun then most FPSs. It’s fast, loud, frenetic, and basically controlled tactical chaos with greater strategy involved in the pre-planning. And I have yet to play it in an organized TG fashion, which should prove more fun, and more deadly.
Overall, I’m a lot more excited about this game then I was in year’s past. Every time I play I seem to figure out a new element that pops out at me as a very innovative and generally cool way to play an MMO. It could only get better at release. Do not think for a second that this game is anything like the others. I try to compare it to other games and I really just can’t stick TR into any lump with any of them. It’s nothing like Planetside, SWG, WoW, Faces of Mankind, or a myriad of other games. It’s not even BETWEEN them… it is its own game. Yeah, people will say it’s like what Planetside should’ve been, but at its core it’s NOTHING like Planetside at all. TR is an RPG, but it is indeed the fastest RPG there is right now. To that end, as of now it’s the only Tactical-MMORPG in existence. It’s not the one game to rule them all for sure. But, it’s definitely a fun time and I do see extensive replayability. Do I think it’ll compete with AoC or Warhammer?? Probably not. Then again, I don’t think anything will compete with AoC when it releases, WoW included (just my opinion). In the nearer term the only other games to threaten it are PotBS and Gods and Heroes. PotBS is a big “?” until the 19th of Sept., when the Devs answer a lot of questions. I also havent been in the beta for PotBS so I’m without opinion to the game, nevertheless I have my doubts for it. Gods and Heroes I’ve had luck with testing and I cant comment on it right now as I’m stuck to an NDA. But, mind you, Gods and Heroes is a totally different type of game then TR and another “revolutionary” type game in its own right. Only time will tell.
In a day and age when a night at the movies costs $50, you’d be pretty stupid to not at least give TR a try IMO. The first month’s absolutely free (like most MMOs). As of now you can preorder for $5 and try the game until release totally free. Preorder folk get special emotes, pets, dvd content, and more. Even if you don’t think TR is a long-term game for you, it’s definitely the PERFECT segway into the other next-gen MMOs that will release next year. Especially if you’re tired of elves and dwarfs
Tabula Rasa for TacticalGamer:
TR is simply the best Tactical-MMO out there right now. It has the instant gratification similar to a game like BF2142, yet the character development of a traditional MMO with an interesting Lore to back it up. It has greater strategy and fluid tactics on the character, squad, AND clan level; requiring advanced planning the likes of a game like ArMa – moreso in many ways. It has VOIP. It has great graphics. Lots of guns, gear, and explosions. Maps to pwn. A PvP system to pwn. Bases and objectives to take. The combat is fierce and complex, the battlefield ever-changing. It really has TG written all over it at least as a game to try. Hell, if you check the PlayNC Tabula Rasa Intro-walkthrough vids. You’ll notice they coin the phrase “Tactical Combat” heavily throughout. We are after all, Tactical Gamer. I know we’ve been looking for a new MMO to try and waiting for a Tactical one at that, well… this is it. What I definitely would like to avoid with TG-TR is organizing ourselves too late, like we did with WoW; the guild suffered greatly in the end-game due to this, the repercussions of which TG-WoW still feels to this day. And know this, IMO Tabula Rasa is a game that needs a good Clan or gameplay suffers. This is not a game that a lone-wolf will likely enjoy at the higher levels, let alone the lower ones. Call it a strength or a weakness, but one of Garriott’s goals was to also force a more cooperative gameplay experience. I’m sure bigger, more apparent games will be on TG’s radar (like AoC, PotBS, etc.) but for NOW, TR to me is the impending MMO to beat. Regardless of my review, only time will tell if it’s truly worth our time.
I urge those interested to please comment on what you’ve read (sorry if it’s too long, there’s a lot to write about… this game is largely unknown). I also urge everyone to check out the Walkthrough videos at the links provided below, they do a very good job of explaining the game in living color and are the most recent there are. There is currently a TG clan (Tactical Gamer) set up for betatesters for those that wish to try it out. My personal goal is to get enough people together so we can try clan PvP along with large battlefield and instanced engagements. Check the thread(s) in the RPG forums for more info.
Until then, Gambit… “out”
Tabula Rasa Beta Walkthrough Pt. 1(HD):
Tabula Rasa Beta Walkthrough Pt. 2(HD):
Tabula Rasa Beta Walkthrough Pt. 3(HD):
This is a site I HIGHLY recommend for Tabula Rasa info and guides (it would probably be one of the sites we’d leech info. from at release):
Of course, the NCSoft TR site itself:
Note: One of the reasons I didn’t post pics for the game is simply because they’re largely available at the site I listed above. Sift around a bit and you will find them. This review is large enough as it is, more pics would definitely make it longer. :)