The slightly dated impression isn’t helped by the visuals. By MMO standards, Tabula Rasa looks fine, but even on maximum settings it didn’t give my Core 2 Quad 6850/Geforce 8800 Ultra system much eye candy to chew on, and – bar a few nice water effects – it’s comfortably behind LoTRO and Vanguard in the graphics stakes. For a game with so much woodland, the trees look primitive, and while the character models and the various Bane baddies are nicely rendered, the surfaces don’t have the detail or sheen we expect in the post-Half Life 2 era, let alone the post-Bioshock and Gears of War one. Had Tabula Rasa shipped at the same time as WoW we might have been impressed, but long after WoW and Guild Wars, and with Age of Conan coming soon, it’s a game distinguished by some good art and some fine production design, but let down by average graphics.
Now, I’m going to throw in my usual caveats about MMOs right now. My play has been confined to the beginning and early intermediate stages of the game, I haven’t really got involved with squads and organisations, and Tabula Rasa is a game that’s still undergoing a lot of reworking and expansion (though it has been released in a decent working state). Reports from long-term players are that the game gets better and better as time goes on.
Still, I’m not really a ‘jam tomorrow’ kind of guy. For me, Tabula Rasa is a game with some exceptional strengths – notably the very immediate feel of the combat – but one that still feels too close to what has gone before. I don’t know who will take the MMO to its next stage or how they will do it, but while Tabula Rasa hints at a way forward, it doesn’t quite stride boldly down it. It’s good a good game, but not a revelation, and at the moment I’m not enjoying it as much as I enjoyed WoW, LoTRO or Guild Wars in the past. This might change – and I’m planning to keep hacking away and see whether it does – but for now Tabula Rasa leaves me asking: why wipe the slate clean just to fill it up with the same old stuff?
A strong MMO with an interesting mix of classic RPG mechanics and real-time 3D combat. The quest structure, however, still feels tied to the past, while rival games offer more immediate enjoyment.