For me the main attraction of Tabula Rasa is that the developers are trying to break away from many of the traditional MMO cliches . Combat is handled more like it would be in an FPS. Rather than standing toe to toe with an enemy and pushing buttons until one person or the other dies TR has you maneuvering for position, looking for cover, and trying not to get shot. The game takes a small step away from the traditional static MMO world design by incorporating elements of regional control. During normal game play players or AI may capture control points on the landscape that alter the balance of the ongoing conflict. If your side possesses the control point more of your units will be created as backup and more of your defenses will be operational. Likewise if the enemy is in control their forces will attack in greater numbers, with more powerful units, and more of their defenses will be active.
The tide of conflict is also effected by missions performed by players. In one demo segment Richard Garriott describes how lightning turrets placed around the enemy base can be shut down if players undertake a mission to take out the generators that power them making it easier to reach the base and accomplish other objectives.
AI plays a much greater role in TR than in other games. Instead of having NPC's standing around idle or following scripted paths the NPC's in TR follow more complex rules of behavior. The result is the world is filled with NPC's who actively seek each other out and engage in combat. This level of activity really makes you feel like you are in the middle of a war and greatly promotes the feeling of being in a living world populated by real individuals instead of sensory deprived zombies.
If TR can live up to the promise of fast, action oriented combat where player actions have a direct impact on the world and player contribution to the struggle feels meaningful the game could be a big hit. If they fail to break free of traditional MMO customs the game will be a shallow sci-fi clone of other MMO's that will never attract a significant audience.