Tabula Rasa has the best massively multiplayer online (MMO) tutorial we've ever experienced. Sadly, the game doesn't quite live up to its initial impression.

Not being a regular worshipper at the temple of Ultima Online's Richard Garriott, I sat down with my own set of reservations as I began to play Tabula Rasa. I wasn't really in the mood to be summoned from on high into a sci-fi environment to do the bidding of some eccentric commander. As it turns out, my interaction with General British was at an all-time low for one of his games, and for that I was grateful.

At the start of the game, you are submerged face-first into Tabula Rasa's world via the best massively multiplayer online (MMO) tutorial I've ever experienced. You're taught the basics of gameplay, while fighting it out with a squad of soldiers to take back a control point and take on some aliens to claim your first logos. Logos fuel the magic system in the game, and powers are unlocked through manipulation of the logos.

By far, Logos-hunting is my favourite part of Tabula Rasa. With each new Logos word learned, you gather a little more information about who the Eloh were and what they were doing with all of those massive powers at their disposal. Like any language, Logos are combined in particular ways for you to cast spells. For instance, my Specialist had to find the Time and Damage Logos in order to perform her ability Decay: Degeneration, a damage-over-time ability. It's a simple but effective magic language of sorts, and each class uses them to their advantage.

There are plenty of collection and escort missions in Tabula Rasa, and each time you level, you get points that you can spend immediately to beef up a power or save them up to attain a new rank.

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Tabula Rasa has the best massively multiplayer online (MMO) tutorial we've ever experienced. Sadly, the game doesn't quite live up to its initial impression.

As far as I can tell from my experience on the starter island, there are no cities in Tabula Rasa that are safe from conflict. From the time I started the game all the way until level 10, I was fighting for my life, running from the Bane, searching for Logos and just trying to survive. While this is fun for a certain period of time, anything - even frenetic gun battles - will become boring if there is nothing to form a counterpoint to it. By virtue of only having one thing to do - fight - I found myself losing interest quickly. Every soldier needs rest and recuperation; it's what keeps them from going loony and turning on their platoon with a machete.

Shockingly for an MMO, the social interaction in Tabula Rasa is sorely lacking. With no cities to exchange goods, talk, emote, interact or even just relax in, the game feels like a single-player game that just happens to have other players running around on the map. At no time does a player come by to assist you, and if they do, chances are they will steal credit for the kill anyway so there really isn't any motivation to accept help from other players.

In fact, many times, Tabula Rasa feels exactly like a single-player shooter. Unfortunately, the controls often stutter so badly that by the time I clicked on the medpack, I was already dead. The FPS control style seems to be the only scheme that works, and even that has the response time of a turtle on valium.

After repeated deaths because ammunition loading and switching between powers in Tabula Rasa was too slow, I would eventually have to retreat to a control point to raise enough cash and replenish my needlessly wasted - and might I add, expensive - ammunition.

Richard Garriott's Tabula Rasa: Specs

  • 2.5GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor or equivalent
  • Windows XP/Vista
  • 512MB RAM
  • 5GB hard-disk space
  • ATI Radeon 9600 or nVidia GeForce FX 5700-series video card with 128MB of VRAM
  • 16bit sound card
  • broadband
  • DirectX 9.0C
  • 2.5GHz Intel Pentium 4 processor or equivalent
  • Windows XP/Vista
  • 512MB RAM
  • 5GB hard-disk space
  • ATI Radeon 9600 or nVidia GeForce FX 5700-series video card with 128MB of VRAM
  • 16bit sound card
  • broadband
  • DirectX 9.0C

OUR VERDICT

Tabula Rasa is a fun game, but frustrating enough that you're left with a feeling that the fun parts are mocking you from their inaccessible tower guarded by the lag monsters, poorly designed controls and the never ending kill-or-be-killed pacing. When the 30 days expire on my free play period, I will happily close this chapter in my MMO experience and move on to greener, less annoying pastures.

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