As a result, it will make sense to anyone who has played an FPS. You know a rifle is more accurate than a pistol, that a shotgun does more damage but only at close range, and so it proves true in the game. The approach is intuitive and takes a lot of the guesswork out of the action. If a beast or a Bane warrior looks big and menacing, then you know it’s going to pack quite a wallop. Grunts, meanwhile, can be taken down with a few shots once you’ve levelled up a few times. If you have ever had your sorry behind handed to you by an unimposing bunch of giant rats in a traditional fantasy MMO, you’ll know exactly why this feels good.
Logos powers are important too, filling in a similar function to spells in a conventional fantasy MMO, but carefully designed so that they work with the real-time combat to help you fit various offensive, defensive or support roles. Softening up a squad of Thrax Infantry with lightning makes it much easier to take them down up close with the shotgun, while various health-restoring, weapons specialisation and special attack skills come online as you progress through the levels, depending on the career path that you choose.
Here, too, Garriott and his team have played clever. Every new recruit to Tabula Rasa starts off – appropriately – as a clean slate, with no predestined class or capabilities. You can upgrade the same basic set of skills while you ascend through the first four levels of character development, but at level 5 you’re expected to choose to become either a soldier (your basic warrior) or a specialist (the TR equivalent of support and sorcery roles).
At level 15 you then make a further selection. Soldiers choose to be a hard-hitting commando or a more stealthy ranger, while specialists decide whether they want to be a sapper or a biotechnician. Finally, at level 25 you can take your choice one stage further, picking a master class such as sniper or the vaguely necromancer-like exobiologist. The clever thing about all this is that, not only can you make up your mind about the sort of character you want to play as you go along, you can also use a system of clone credits to clone your character before each ‘tier’ of selection. If you get bored of playing a commando at level 20 and want to be a ranger, you just hook up your clone character and get playing, without needing to go back and play through the first 14 levels full of content first.