When the Tabula Rasa servers came up early this past Monday night, I was there and ready to explore the changes made since my beta preview in late September. I came into the game slightly tentative – my past TR experience had been fun, but not exactly fulfilling, and hadn’t really convinced me that this was a long-term habitat.
While I’m still leveling up and making a lasting decision on TR (yes, I will do a review!), my first few days were nothing short of fun. The changes were apparent right out of the tutorial. The missions were more appealing, with more guidance, voiceovers, and rewards that were actually useful to my Recruit. While drops and rewards still quickly replaced my original color palette chosen in character creation, the replacements were a neutral slate-blue instead of the former pink and orange eyesores. And all over the newbie world I found dye recipes to fix my armor up at a crafting station.
My first goal was to catch up to my friend, who had rudely out-leveled me while I was picking up my box. I headed into the field with a handful of missions, and the Bane I faced were pleasingly more difficult than I remembered. Instead of running them over with my eyes half closed, I actually had to pay attention to what I was doing. I even died once or twice, which was refreshing after the older, easy gameplay I experienced in the beta.
While I was happy to see harder gameplay, I was even happier to see an easier inventory system. The old inventory window had been a cluster of gear, ammo, crafting items, random drops, left socks, etc. The new window sorts your inventory into several areas: gear, consumables, crafting, quest, and misc. I had more space and less confusion; I really hope they make the same changes to footlockers!
Once I’d collected enough extra gear from missions and drops, a nearby crafting station was the perfect place to break it down for crafting components. Unfortunately, crafting is still boringly simple: players can create, modify, or deconstruct their items by sticking the item (or recipe) in a single slot and pressing a single button. With so many drops and mission rewards, I really had little reason to craft my own gear this early on in the game; maybe that will change. Again, I’m still early in the game and will do a full review once I’ve played a little more.
As before (and always), when I hit level 5 I chose the specialist route and promptly bought myself some healing tools. Instead of being confined to direct healing/repair tools, specialists can now also purchase radial or cone tools that heal for less but can affect multiple players. Sadly, these alternate tools really did me little good; trying to aim my cone at a moving teammate was pure comedy, and the radial tools are pretty ineffective compared to their direct-targeting brethren.
On the downside of direct healing, I really feel that TR could use a face lift in the friendly targeting department. While point and shoot targeting works just fine against the bad guys, trying to pin down my teammates amongst random players and NPCs was pure chaos. Several deaths resulted from me healing the “helpful” NPC who jumped in front of my repair tool, or from me frenziedly trying to point my camera down and target myself. I know they’re going for a UI-free feeling, but using the F-keys to target teammates would really give us specialists a break!
When I got to Lower Eloh Creek, my excitement was awakened when I looked up at the sky. There, hovering over the Wilderness, was a giant Bane mothership. Flocking around it were dozens of dropships, actively moving around and making their way across the sky. Out of everything I had seen so far in TR, that was the most immersive (and most awesome) thing in the game.
To support the extra population that hit the game with launch, the map was divided into separate instances – using the dropship pads I could not only move between outposts but I could move from Wilderness 1 to Wilderness 7 or Wilderness 10. This had little effect on me (besides Wilderness 1 being way overpopulated) except when it came to Control Points.
Control Points are outpost areas where players can receive missions and visit merchants. These points can be taken over by the Bane, though, and losing a point means you can’t use the merchants or turn in quests until you win the point back. As one of TR’s main innovative features, I was disappointed by Control Points last time around; they were rarely taken over, and when they did fall into enemy hands, one or two players could easily take them back. Not so, anymore; the waves of attackers that hit the CPs now are big and nasty, with lots of Bane and even some bosses. When a CP was taken over, General chat would be spammed with “Need help with Landing Zone on Wilderness 7”, and sure enough the cavalry would arrive. Players are rewarded for attacking/defending control points by collecting special tokens which can be turned in for rewards.
Right now I’m only level 11 – I have a lot more gameplay to go before I’m willing to give this game a positive or negative score. The good news is, I want to log into the game. I feel a pull and an immersion that were not present last time I played through Tabula Rasa. Let’s hope that stays!
You can read Laura's Beta Preview from September, here.