Updated Wed, Dec 16, 2009 by RadarX
by: Tony "RadarX" Jones
Tabula Rasa's unique blend of shooter and MMORPG continues to please many players all over North America and Europe. The early levels are a beautiful mix medley of combat and missions that would satisfy any FPS fan. As time goes on however, the mechanics seem to shift and player focus changes. What exactly happens to create this transition and why do things just feel different post 30?
How Many Bane Does it Take
First, in fairness to NCsoft, Tabula Rasa seems to be attempting to break new ground not only in terms of content progression but in combat, environments, and story telling as well. Measuring the game against current competitors such as EverQuest 2, World of Warcraft, etc... seems to be an impossible task for more reasons than we can cover in the scope of this article. Suffice to say the other games listed use traditional mechanics who have been tested and found successful over the years.
The Post 30 world is an unusual and sometimes bewildering time where players are tested mentally and physically. The spoon feeding of the early levels lessens and we begin to seek things out on our own, searching for content and better gear. There are a few pivotal differences that make this world so different, and I'm here to share them.
The most noticeable change post 30 is you have reached your final class selection. You have ascended to the pinnacle of your training and now are the elite forces of the AFS infantry. No longer are you relegated to using Net Guns or Machine Guns to kill things but have a full array of weaponry and skills at your disposal. Your combat tactics change drastically, whether it's killing things with one shot from 80 meters away, or dropping down a mechanical turret to do it for you. Stalkers and Striders that struck terror now bow at your feet on a pile of flaming debris. The world is your oyster.
Where do you go from here? All your final tier skills are easily accessible by at least level 31 or 32 so it's just a matter of continuing to level so you can advance them further. In some cases like turrets, 5 pumps in a skill can make a big difference by changing the damage type. In others such as a Snipers Called Shot, you'll see little distinction other than a status effect. So where is the motivation to continue? Many would say in combat content and gear, but with sometimes 3-5 levels between equipment upgrades it can be a long road.
As the level 30 world unfolds, it's very apparent the difficulty of content changes, providing a more challenging experience for everyone. A major shift is obvious as you enter Torden Mires and things transition from having numerous safe places to a meager two. The entire zone is the first of many heavy combat areas that players will traverse to reach the safety of AFS hubs.
All This Gear but No
Population spawns seem to be much higher and battles more frequent as you hit Mires, Pools, and Valverde Plateau. Control Points are under constant assault and patrols can be so thick exploration is very literally painful. Mix in increasing rugged terrain and even basic navigation can become a nightmare until you learn your way around.
Finally, as players continue to progress through content it appears mission experience stays the relatively the same and everyone is heavily encouraged to explore instances and complete every objective. While earlier levels might have allowed you the luxury of ignoring missions you didn't feel like completing, the level 30 world expects it. Your alternatives are fairly limited and all rhyme with "grinding."
It's worth noting that I understand completing missions many times is just an experience grind hidden behind the illusion of an objective. Sometimes however, that objective is all people need to justify what they are doing. Pure grinding seems to be the way of life in the post 30 world and is considered a requirement at some points. There is certain comfort to be taken in the fact you defend control points or just hunt randomly on the battle field. More solid direction however would soothe the minds of many players.
With many players in their 40's and many already at 50, it's easy to see that some have not only adjusted to the end game life, but are thriving in it. Will the updates to Tabula Rasa change grinds or Bane troop concentration? Should they be changed to begin with? Stop by our forums to cast your vote on what you think.