I've been testing the MMORPG Tabula Rasa for a couple of months and with the game due to be released in the next few days and since the NDA was lifted, I thought I'd write up some notes on my experience. Before I start, this review isn't going to be about artwork or how good or bad the graphics are, it's going to be purely about the gameplay, user-experience and longevity.
I last played the beta 2 weeks ago, but have been following the releases to see if any of the following has been altered. To my knowledge these notes are up todate.
“Perhaps you'd better start at the beginning…”
The character creation isn't that great, you can customise armour on your character and their general appearance, but that's about it. You will look like alot of other avatars in the game and when you start getting armour drops in various colours you'll look more like a harlequin than a solider.
I nearly died laughing at the way the name system works. Effectively you choose a first name and surname and all characters on that account will take that surname. I'm not sure if that is a unique surname just to your account or on that server. This is going to be a nasty sticking point if alot of people sign up to play, with all common names being taken.
One sore point I came to notice very quickly is the keymapping, it is very unique to the game and I found it to be non-intuitive and awkward at times. Like the location of the auto-run key (numlock).A nice feature is the way that the Q key cycles through your weapons and the E key cycles through your secondary skills, although if you have accidentally swapped weapons without knowing it, it can lead to horrible nasty things. I also hated the fact that sprint is a skill that can be selected in the list, but if you end up swapping by accident you end up running out of endurance as it take time to swap back to the skill and turn it off.
Another area of the game that I found very poor was the User Interface, it is extremely limited, as it doesn't allow the user to re-scale or move the windows to suite. The last time I played the game (about 2 weeks ago) the UI hadn't improved. Infact when switching between resolutions the UI looked exactly the same taking up the same percentage of the screen and when running at 1600 x 1200 that sort of inflexible design is a very big stumbling block to a game with alot of expectations.
On top of all that when you have a window open, like for your backpack, your characters movement is limited due to the method used to direct your character.
The game-play follows the standard method I mentioned in my last entry, Mission/kills = XP = Levels. Mission based games can get highly annoying when you do the same missions over and over for each new character you attempt to progress with. There are lots of missions to pick up and you'll always have something to do or somewhere to go.
The default ingame camera is a behind the character view, swapping to an over the shoulder view when zoomed in. this works pretty well allowing you to focus on ranged targets.
When I used it, I found the in game chat very confusing and found it difficult to understand where I was typing and to whom, also it vanishes quite quickly that you often miss a message.
I feel that TB is a decent game and will appeal to the shooter type of player that isn't that fond or interested in WOW. To be brutality honest there are elements of the game that need some serious re-design to make this a MUST-PLAY type of game rather than an OK-ISH type of game. Unless the points above are resolved the lifespan of the game is going to be limited by the amount of time gamers are willing to subscribe.
What to expect.
WOW with guns
Mission after mission
Built in Voice Comms
Invention system for weapons, armour and equipment
What not to expect.
A highly customisable character
Help from other players in the swamped chat channels
Moveable, scaleable interfaces