Tabula Rasa has been out for a whole month now, and a few days more that a month for those of us who pre-ordered. I have put around 170 hours into the game in the past five weeks (sadly, that’s about five hours per day on average), and I am now level 41 in the game. What this should tell you is that I know what I’m talking about, unlike most of the “professional” game reviewers who have given Tabula Rasa such high marks without even playing the game through to level 30.
Anyone who has achieved level 30 or higher in Tabula Rasa can tell you that this game needs serious work, and should not have been released when it was. There are missions that can’t be completed, UI quarks, stability and lag issues, bugs galore and most importantly a serious lack of high level content.
I discussed quite a few items in my IGN review, but I’ve since discovered a few new issues. I can now tell you that in addition to all of my original complaints, I have found more items that need to be aired. This article deals more with higher level issues and PvP, while my IGN review is more generic and addresses issues at all levels. I have grouped my concerns and gone into detail below, enjoy!
Content & Crafting Issues:
An issue at higher levels are the areas. The elder areas are bland and devoid of enemies. You can run to pretty much all of the waypoints in Thunderhead without even seeing a single enemy. Ashen Desert isn’t much different. Though Ashen Desert present a nice change in scenery, all of the other high level areas as more of the same – blah textures and lava.
Enemies at the higher levels are all the same to. Don’t expect to see anything new just because you have invested all of your free time in the game. Missions are all the same to. Remember that Caretaker mission you had at level 20 where you had to kill 10 to get 10 items? Remember doing it all over again at level 25 and then 35, but for different items? Prepare to do it yet again at 40, and so on.
I can’t tell you how many missions there are where the objective is to tell the guy 10 feet away something, and then relay his message to the guy who gave you the original message. Seriously.
Then there are the broken promises and constant poor communication from the Tabula Rasa developers. We have all been expecting the Military Surplus buildings (i.e. the auction houses) to be functional for weeks now, yet they are still empty shells placed in game to drive us mad.
Crafting is still useless, no matter what you’ve heard elsewhere. Until they fix the utterly broken crafting system and enable the auction system there is simply no reason to craft. This is really getting to the community because we’re all getting pretty tired of the missions and not being able to find good drops on enemies.
Community & Support:
The decision on behalf of the developers not to have an official forum is causing the players to splinter rather than find another place to rant and gather. There is still no clear winner in the un-official forum wars, and the logic given by the developers for not having an official forum wreaks of a cop-out. They believe that their time can be better spent sifting through hundreds of bug reports that could be avoided if people saw the issue in the forum. In game people are always asking if there is an official forum, and are always upset to learn that there are none.
Another issue is the lack of GM presence in game. Other than the one event that occurred since launch (more on that nightmare later), I can’t think of a single time when a particular GM was online to help people. I have submitted about a dozen petitions in game and have never had any answered in game, all through E-Mail. Though E-Mails are answered within 24 hours or so, I have never had a single issue fixed. They always tell you that they have the issue logged and are working on it for a future patch. Great.
You won’t really notice until after level 35 or so, but the economic system in Tabula Rasa is completely unbalanced. For the first 30 levels you will have no issues with money, or credits as the currency is called in the game. It’s not unusual for players to have several hundred thousand credits saved when they hit level 30 and people often make the mistake of wasting credits early. After level 35 you will find that you are having a more difficult time making ends meet. Weapons will require higher grades of ammunition which cost more and more money, until you simply can’t afford to use them anymore. Entire weapon types are eventually rendered unaffordable, such as the chaingun and propellant weapons. You will really see this take effect after level 40. Almost no one level 40 or higher will use a chaingun or propellant weapon during casual fighting as they would be bankrupt within hours. Only two classes can really be played after 40 without constantly worrying about finances and those are Guardian and Spy, because they use weapons that don’t require any ammunition. The problem is so fundamental that there can be no excuse for its existence. It simply costs more money to kill an enemy than you are rewarded for killing it. Savvy players learn early to turn on “Loot Everything” in the game options which allows you to loot “Junk” items which can be sold for a small amount, but even this doesn’t make up the difference.
What this means for the serious player is that after a certain point in the game some portion of your play time will have to be dedicated to farming credits. Since this can only be effectively done in a few areas, there will soon be a lot of competition for the best spots.
Game Performance & Events:
Since I have been playing the beta of Tabula Rasa there have been a handful of events. They have all been unmitigated failures. Unplayable in terms of lag and balance. The most recent event on November 17th was extremely poorly planned and run. The developers initially announced that one area on one server would come under attack at a certain time. Too bad for everyone playing on the other servers, I guess. This resulted in a flood of players on the server in question which meant the area was unplayable laggy even before the event began. Some twenty minutes after the scheduled time for the event it still had not started, and when it did no one could play because of the severe lag. Another half hour or more went by and the GMs spread the event to other instances on the same server, which helped the performance for a time but quickly killed those areas as well. Even if you could get to the area the enemies would be killed as soon as they appeared. Of course no apologies were made from the good folks at Tabula Rasa, at least not on the website.
The event was a good example of how the developers have rigged the ping indicator to show a low ping no matter what is actually happening on the server. From their explanation of the issue you’d think that ping was broken and they fixed it, but in reality they simply changing the ping mechanics so it never takes into account the stress level of the server or area you’re in. From that point on ping in the game has become completely useless.
PvP & Clan Wars:
For many players one of the most exciting aspects of Tabula Rasa was the potential for some very interesting PvP. With the blend of first person shooter and MMO, players thought they would have the opportunity to really create some interesting battles.
At its core, PvP in Tabula Rasa can be fun. There is nothing more satisfying in the game than dropping someone who talks to much smack. However, PvP needs work just like everything else. First of all, there are no PvP records. Kill someone, or kill a hundred someones, only you will know it. You will never be able to show your friends how 1337 you are. The PvP Ranks link on the playtr.com website only shows you the Clan PvP rankings – which is bugged and delayed – and determines rank by number of wins rather than the ratio of wins to losses or any combination of the two.
Being in a PvP clan is really the only way to have fun with PvP in Tabula Rasa. Otherwise you have to go around finding people to dual with, inviting them to dual, and being turned down nine times out of ten. If you’re in a clan the entire clan can be at war with other clans which means you can attack any of their players on sight. Killing an enemy clan member only counts towards you clan’s score if they are within four levels of your own, so hunting down lowbies is a waste of time (which is a good thing). Most of the time what ends up happening is you find an enemy and call in your squad to gang up on him, racking up as many points as you can until they give up. Every once in a while there are enough enemies on at once to have a small battle, which can be both interesting and frustrating.
You’ll be aggravated further by not having any good way to find your enemies in the game, other than simply running in to them. Sure, you can add them to your friends list or “/who” them, but unless they are in an area with only one instance you’ll have no chance in finding them without a small army to help you. For example, they are four instances of an area named Divide. In this area there are about a dozen different popular places to look – making about 48 locations in total. It wouldn’t be as bad if the game told you which Divide they were in, but at this point you simply have to look in each one – which can take quite a long time to do.
One of the big issues with PvP is that fact that you don’t get anything from killing someone. No experience, no credits, no loot – nothing. Depending on the level of your enemy you may get a small amount of adrenaline, but this is hardly worth fighting for. High level players have to limit their PvP time because they simply can’t afford it.
The End Game:
Since there is almost nothing left in the game after level 45 has been reached except PvP, then one must question the logic of a PvP system that gives you nothing for victories. Everyone I know over level 45 has nothing left to do but grind and play PvP, and all of them are losing interest in both. Bear in mind that there are only 50 levels in the entire game at this point. Since there are so few players over level 45 they are having a very difficult time finding each other in PvP and killing lowbies is only fun for so long. Because the crafting system is so abysmal the highest level players literally have no way to improve themselves. They are all asking each other what there is to do and wondering when the promised “elder content” will arrive. Promises of content and features have been made and broken and we’re all past the point of boredom. I think most players will give Tabula Rasa a few more patches or a few more weeks, whichever comes first. If the developers haven’t resolved some of the core issues in that time, such as fixing crafting, adding more high level content and incorporating the Military Surplus stores you will see a lot of players leave the game.
I would suggest waiting another three to six months before trying Tabula Rasa. Check for forum posts from players and see if some elder content has been added and if they have resolved many of the issues I’ve described here. If not, leave this one for dead.