Friday, February 01, 2008

Touring Tabula Rasa's Instances

I'm still learning a lot about Tabula Rasa and honestly I've been busy lately leveling up my horde characters in World of Warcraft. I thought the expansion might be out this summer but the lack of information from Blizzard has convinced me and many others that we have long time to wait for Wrath of the Lich King. With that fact in mind I managed to convince one of my friends to try out Tabula Rasa with me. I can already tell you that just like in any other MMO the game becomes even more fun when you are playing with friends.

Wanting to be in a good position for grouping my friend chose the specialist path which he eventually intends to level up to a medic. While Tabula Rasa's end game is a little sparse at the moment he figures eventually the developers will fall back on the classic raid scenario which requires healing classes. He might be right but I'm just happy in the meantime to have someone who can heal me as I figure out how to use a chaingun. Its can be quite the learning experience for someone not used to FPS shooters. Though its not really hard to play, you do have to approach combat differently.

The first zone in Tabula Rasa has three instances all of which have a different theme though they share some common enemies. Players get sent to each instance by completing outside quest lines which eventually point you to the scary instance/dungeon entrance. A video clip plays when you enter any instance giving you a mission briefing on what you can expect. Once inside you'll pick up other quests from NPCs in there and often you'll get radio transmissions giving you more quest objectives. Almost as if reading my mind from the last post it looks like Tabula Rasa makes use of radio transmissions to cut down on having to travel back and forth in quests.

While some of the quests in Tabula Rasa were similar to standard ones found in other fantasy MMOs, the sci-fi theme allows you to complete them in different methods. Having to place bombs on generators to cut off a force field was something I'm more used to doing in the few adventure games I've played. Also most of the instances are layed out more logically then those found in current MMOs. The bad guys actually have defenses in place and have them set up to keep away pesky outsiders. I always wonder why every dungeon in fantasy MMOs almost always had a undefended entrance. It was especially funny when the last boss acted surprised that you found your way to him.

Fighting enemies in Tabula Rasa requires a bit more situational awareness then in other games. It seems to stress pulling less and doesn't have the imaginary aggro line which allows you murder a single mob while in sight of his friends. Instead the fights are focused on large skirmishes where everything in sight will attack you. The skill in fighting such a large number of mobs is knowing their weaknesses and switching to a weapon or ability that can quickly eliminate them. Using cover reduces the damage you take and helps you survive the initial fire from multiple mobs. Mobs usually fire on the first enemy they see though they will switch targets quickly for a heal or a very threat intensive attack (think bazooka or grenade).

Instances scale up in much the same manner as City of Heroes so if you go in with a full group you'll get more mobs. Soloing can be tough depending on your abilities and class but seems doable if you just level up and come back later. From my experience protecting bases and killing bosses in instances has a better chance of dropping good loot though the loot tables seem randomized. I see a lot of similarities between Tabula Rasa and City of Heroes and I can definitely see this game taking up a similar place as I wait for Warhammer and Age of Conan to release. But while I quite City of Heroes very quickly once World of Warcraft came out I can see myself holding onto Tabula Rasa.

On a side note crafting in Tabula Rasa needs some work.