Tabula Rasa is a science fiction based game where players take the role of soldiers fighting for a displaced humanity against an alien race that has taken over our world. Although Earth has been lost what is left of human civilization has escaped through a wormhole to other planets. From there the remaining forces fight against the aliens for their survival. Some humans have found they are gifted with the ability to wield an alien power that works something like 'the force' in the Star Wars movies. To use these abilities they have to find 'logos', alien symbols, that make them work. As part of the games fiction there are roughly 100 words of this language that can be found. In addition to the platforms where the individual words are learned the symbols can be seen on many of the alien ruins and artifacts. Sometimes knowing what these symbols means can give some insight into the area where they are found other times having learned the symbols allows you access to alien shrines or installations.
Every player starts out with the same class of character. When you reach level 5 you are able to choose to become a specialist or a soldier. Specialists are the support classes with the ability to heal people, repair gun turrets and open locked chests. Soldiers are focused on combat and dps. At level 15 and 30 (max level is 50) the character will be able to select a further specialized class and gain access to new abilities. Each class of the first three tiers has access to a signature weapon and armor type for that class as well as that of all the classes the player advanced through to get there. To learn a skill you spend skill points. Each time you gain a level you will earn 2 skill points. Skills have 5 pump levels. Learning the skill costs 1 point, raising it to the second pump level requires 2 points, 3 for the third pump etc. To go from not knowing the skill at all to the maximum level of 5 pumps takes 15 skill points total.
In addition to selecting a new class specialization at levels 5, 15, and 30 the character will also earn a 'clone credit'. A clone credit allows the player to create a copy of the character. The clone will have all the same stats and class selection as the original but will be able to redistribute all skill points wherever they like. By doing this before selecting a new class the player can, in a way, save their progress so that they can come back later using the clone and select the other class choice for the level tier. For example at level 15 a soldier can choose to become a ranger or a commando. As soon as the xp bar fills for level 14 the player will be given a clone credit and need to visit a class trainer before being granted level 15. If you log out to the character selection screen you can select the character and choose clone from a menu. After you pick a new name and appearance you will have two level 14 soldiers. The original and the clone. Logging back in you can make your class tier selection and then sometime later you can use the duplicate to select the other option and explore the other class.
The focus of the game is strongly on PvE combat. There is pvp included in the game but it's just duels and 'clan wars' where two guilds can duel each other. Players will receive missions from the NPC's which follow the standard formula of go kill x creatures or collect x items and turn them in for money, items and experience. The experience gains are generous and often exceed what you might be able to get just going out and killing things for the same amount of time it takes to finish the mission.
Combat has a twist that isn't seen often in an MMO. Targeting is done in a manner similar to a first person shooter. You have a targeting reticle in the center of your screen and when you press the left mouse button you fire your weapon at it. If there is something there you hit it. Weapons range from the standard to the exotic. There are the usual pistol, rifle, and shotgun both modern and futuristic (laser, energy beams etc) and then there are the more specialize weapons such as a 'polarity gun' that fires a stream of electicity, a netgun that fires an electrified net and a leech gun that drains health from the enemy and transfers it to you. Killing an enemy awards the player a set amount of xp. Killing many enemies in a short amount of time results in a experience multiplier. When you kill three enemies without leaving combat for more than 10 seconds it will go from 1x to 2x meaning all the earned experience from kills will be doubled. A few kills later it will jump to 3x and so on until it reaches 6x. Maintaining a 6x multiplier for a while can result in substantial experience gains. To keep combat moving along looting can be done just by walking over the creature you killed. All items it has will be automatically moved to your inventory. If the kill has something special on it such as a quest item or higher quality weapon or armor the corpse will have a colored glow over it to let you know.
There is a craft system but it isn't clear if crafting is just really bad or hasn't been fully implemented yet. Right now all recipes are single use only and recipes for adding a modifier to an item, similar to enchanting it, can only be applied to an item that already has that bonus. For example you might find a recipe that lets you add a +5 health bonus to a piece of armor. To use that recipe you will have to find a piece of armor that already has a bonus to health (any amount) and then you can add 5 more to it. You cannot put the bonus on an item that does not have a health bonus already.
That about sums up the game in its entirety. Tabula Rasa just barely reaches the standard of what you would think of as an MMO. It has the basic essentials but nothing more. There is no more sophistication or depth to it than what I have already described. There is no sort of end game or raiding, no incentive to group, and soloing is not only viable it is the predominant mode of play. There are instances which provide interesting scenarios for the player to explore. Most players will find they can solo these as well without difficulty and they do not scale up at all for groups. There are two frequent complaints about the game. The first is that it is too easy which is highly subjective. The second is that it is too shallow, that there is not enough variety or depth which seems indisputable. There was a post regarding end game activities and all they had planned for was for people to use their clones to play through the game again using another character. Unfortunately there is only enough content for one. Playing through multiple times means doing the exact same content over and over again repeatedly.
Writing this has been difficult. Having been in the beta for so long it is a struggle not to focus on the many negative changes I have seen implemented or the rushed manner in which the game is being pushed off to release. The game can be fun to play. Running around killing things without anything much to worry about can be quite entertaining. Unfortunately that is the sum total of what the game has to offer. After you have killed a few hundred thousand bad guys there isn't much incentive to log in and kill a few hundred thousand more.
Tabula Rasa is scheduled to be released on Oct 19th. The game has been in development in one form or another for the past 6 years and to be honest, it still isn't going to be finished on launch day. By any standard you could apply Tabula Rasa is at best an MMO-lite. Forget all the big promises Mr. Garriott has made regarding the game over the years put aside the derogatory speeches he has made condemning developers for churning out the same old cliche's year after year, and most of all, forget anything he may have said about starting over with a 'clean slate'. Tabula Rasa does not innovate or expand the genre in any way, it does not free us of the old mechanics or present anything that seasoned MMO players wont immediately recognize as familiar ground. If you can forgive the game for failing to achieve any of the things it set out to do you just might find that it can still be fun to play.
Assuming you decide to give TR a try here are a few helpful hints.
- There are three viable options for class selection at tier 3, you can choose ranger, commando, or sapper at level 15. Avoid the bio-technician if you value your sanity.
- In the first region there is a place called memory tree hill. This is a very good place to try building up and holding a 6x xp multiplier.
- The footlockers can be used as a secure method of passing money and items from one of your characters to another. Every character on an account has access to the same locker. In the first area the footlockers are in the tent marked 'barracks'. In the second area they are in foreas base, the barracks is up the hill immediately west of the base waypoint.
- You can buy resuscitation kits from medical vendors to remove the death penalty. But wait for the secondary debuff to wear off first There are two debuffs you get for dying. One reduces stats, the other prevents recovery. If you use a kit before the second. 30 second debuff wears off you will dispel it and be stuck with the 5 minute stat reducer till the 3 minute cooldown on the kit runs out.
- EM weapons will pass right through a shield and hit the things under it. Other weapons will miss or have their damage severely degraded.
- You can melee with your weapon by pressing the F key but you still must keep the enemy targeted.
- Always remember to touch the waypoint and dropship pads when you find new ones so that you can teleport back there later.
- If a map you are on is overcrowded you can use any waypoint teleporter to move to a different one.
- Don't forget to repair your gear after you get killed. Weapon and armor performance is degraded as they take damage.
- You can go from wilderness to divide anytime you want, sometime after reaching level 10 is good.
- A good time to move from divide to pallisades is around level 15-18
- Only specialists can open locked crates but they need a cipher tool to do it. Items in crates range from junk to high quality gear. If you play a specialist don't forget to buy a cipher tool.
- The Shrapnel skill that you can get in tier 1 is very useful for killing things that get in melee range. One pump is enough. More pumps do not increase the damage, only the radius of the effect.
- Don't put too many points in lightning if any at all. The skill does little damage and takes a lot of power. At most build it up to where it will jump to a second target (level 3 I think)
- Don't put more points into Motor Assist Armor, 1 is enough
- Although shotguns do very good damage don't rely on them too heavily. They use ammo up quickly which can become expensive quickly.
- Go ahead and pump firearms up to level 4 or 5, this is going to be your primary weapon for a long time and will be useful to you even after you get your specialist weapon at level 15.
- Dont put more than 1 point in hazmat armor.
- Put as many points into the tools skill as you think you need for healing, I seem to get by with just 1 or 2. There isn't a great need for healing in the game so you should focus on getting things dead instead of keeping people alive.
- I would reccomend not putting any points into the leech gun. It is only useful at maximum level and even then it is fairly marginal.
- some people swear by the decay skill but in my opinion it is worthless. It puts a DoT on an enemy that will very, very slowly kill them. Meanwhile they are trying to kill you. A shotgun blast to the face is much more effective.
- You will want the shield skill, the polarity gun skill and the armor skill. Plan ahead and try to save points for those or use a clone to reallocate points when you get there. i would put most points into the weapon skill first then balance the armor and shield.
- Avoid the turret skill, the damage they do is minimal and they are a bit buggy
- Pump up the Rage skill, don't waste points in firearms or machine guns. Save your points for the tier three specific weapons and armor.
- Dont put more than 1 point in reflective armor
- Avoid using machine guns. They use up ammo extremely fast and don't do any more damage than other weapons.
- You will want to put points into stealth armor (4 or 5 pumps), and the netgun (5).
- Avoid the reinforcements skill, the AI for the pets it summons is really bad.
- Some people like the carpet bomb skill but I usually avoid it.
- Get alternate damage type netguns as soon as possible since many things are immune to electricity.
- Put as many points as you can into the launcher/rpg skill and the tier three armor skill.
- That's really all you're going to need. Heavy armor and weapons that do large amounts of AoE damage will let you wade through most encounters guns blazing.
- Launchers are somewhat ineffective and slow. It is better just to focus on RPG's. They both use the same skill but RPG's seem just as effective a way of killing things as the launcher without as much hassle. Using an EM launcher/cannon on shield drones can be very satisfying though (one hit: one kill).