Developer: Destination Games
Release Date: Q4 2006
The surprise for me at last year's E3 was the original design of Tabula Rasa got thrown out with the bath water. It rather needed it, as it was suffering from too many cooks in the kitchen. It tried to be too original, had an art design that seemed influenced by too many mushrooms, and just didn't look fun. Last year, we learned that they'd decided to make the game more of a sci-fi shooter.
This year, they showed more refined gameplay and concepts. It's still a shooter — I was honestly waiting to hear they'd decided to change it all again — and they are trying to make it look and sound like real military conflict.
They've taken an interesting idea to character development. Every character starts as a recruit, and you can do some rudimentary healing. At level 10, you then choose how you want to branch out your character – do you want to be assault, or a healer? When I heard about this, I was afraid of either being stuck with a class I ended up hating, or having to replay the first 10 levels to try another branch. To alleviate this problem, you can clone your character at these branching points and play out different choices with those clones.
They're also putting in a "kill streak" meter, where if you rack up a lot of kills over a time period, you get an XP boost of some sort. You won't be able to regenerate health while in combat, so you can't just keep massacring innocent zombie-makers for hours.
The story isn't terribly original: the humans have been taken over by the Bane and turned into refugees. The story of the refugees being freed will be told out through instanced missions. I'm not entirely sure how some humans are prisoners, but other humans are armed to the teeth, but that's probably not important right now. For instance, the mission demoed to us was to see why some humans are being turned into soldiers for the other side.
In order to make monster spawning more believable, instead of just popping into existence before you, they are dropped down from air transports. Not everything is instanced, though; there are a lot of the traditional static areas in the game. While it sounds like you'd need to group constantly to advance, they are very sensitive to the needs of the time-constrained — or just plain anti-social player — by making it as solo-friendly as possible, usually in the static areas.
The death penalty is fairly light. You'll respawn back at a hospital, and if your group has taken some control points, you'll respawn on those. Naturally, if you have a medic in your group, they'll be able to revive you.
In terms or a release date, we heard that Tabula Rasa would be out in "months instead of years." Given its storied history, I'm not even going to guess on this one.
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