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Tabula Rasa

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Online Multiplayer
Publisher: NCSoft
Developer: NCSoft

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PC Preview - 'Tabula Rasa'

by Rainier on Jan. 1, 2006 @ 1:30 a.m. PST

A heroic task awaits you. Just beyond your galaxy, an ancient malevolence has embarked upon a covetous rampage. This demonic juggernaut seeks nothing less than the total enslavement of every world it encounters. Your world could be next. Developed from the ground up to be stable, fast and fun, Tabula Rasa represents a refreshing new approach to the design of multiplayer online games.

Genre: MMO
Publisher: NCSoft
Developer: Destination Games
Release Date: TBA

Another MMORPG from NCSoft under development is Tabula Rasa, which combines gameplay elements from futuristic shooter games with the MMORPG formula in order to create something new. It has a very shooter-like interface, all the way down to having crosshairs in the middle of the game. If I hadn't known better and just glanced at the screen, I would have assumed it was a third-person shooter without hesitation.

Humanity is at war with aliens, and the battle isn't going so well. Humans have been lent aid, however, by the mysterious and angelic Elo, another alien race with supernatural powers that they have taught humans to use. Throughout the game world, there are various artifacts left behind by the Elo containing an iconic language which players will learn over the course of their development. As they pick up more of the language, more supernatural powers will be unlocked, increasing the player's power.

This game is definitely an MMORPG, despite having the look of a shooter. Damage and accuracy are all based on random rolls that take your skills and level into account. It isn't really a twitch game at all – if you get the crosshairs anywhere near your target, they'll lock on and you'll be able to fire and use special abilities against that particular enemy. One shooter element is that moving decreases the accuracy of your shots, but since hits and misses are all based off what amounts to die rolls, moving doesn't actually make you any harder to hit. This results in standing still being the best option in almost every combat situation, which is decidedly not shooter-like.

There are a wide variety of enemies in the game, all with different attacks, strengths and weaknesses. Missions usually relate to going out on battlefields and capturing posts or taking out strategic targets in order to hinder the enemy's efforts. The game is designed to make you feel like a soldier taking part in a major war effort, so it's important to the developers to try and make the mobs spawn in intelligent ways. If you temporarily take down the guard towers, for example, more enemy troops may spawn to compensate.

Maps are provided for each zone you're in, and they provide a slick looking satellite-style image of the battlefield, with strategic targets marked. Teleporters are also scattered around the map, allowing you to instantly teleport to any teleporter you've previous been to, a welcome effort to alleviate the "fun" of spending more time running around than you do actually playing the game.

Players start the game as a new recruit, and choose a specialization as they level up. Examples of classes in the game include medics, commandoes, and scouts. Each class has different skills and abilities which allow them to do a variety of things in combat and fill roles in groups. Speaking of groups, voice chat will be included with the game and sets itself up automatically whenever you join one.

This game may remind you of Planetside, however it really isn't all that similar to that MMOFPS. Tabula Rasa's gameplay elements are almost entirely MMORPG with a shooter front-end, and the interface is about where the similarities with Planetside stop. Honestly, I'm not really sure about this one. It is an interesting idea, but I don't think they are really going far enough in the shooter direction to make this all that innovative. As far as I can tell, they probably could run this game using a point-and-click interface similar to EQ or WoW without having to change much in the game at all.

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