Tabula Rasa - hands-on

Filling in the blanks

You’ll need such tactical flexibility to survive in this world. Tabula Rasa offers the first genuine step forward in terms of a convincing and atmospheric MMO world since City of Heroes decided that, actually, enemies standing aimlessly in a field waiting for players to hit them isn’t enough any more. Yet while CoH was happy creating idle animations for us to disturb (robbing innocents, etc), Tabula Rasa’s hostiles are a little more proactive. In the starting areas, Bane soldiers engage in firefights with your fellow AI-controlled members of the Allied Free Sentients, while various forms of wildlife engage one another - as opposed to implausibly joining forces against you. Pass the defenses of your town, and more often than not, there’ll be a skirmish for you to skirt around or engage.

You’ll need such tactical flexibility to survive in this world. Tabula Rasa offers the first genuine step forward in terms of a convincing and atmospheric MMO world since City of Heroes decided that, actually, enemies standing aimlessly in a field waiting for players to hit them isn’t enough any more. Yet while CoH was happy creating idle animations for us to disturb (robbing innocents, etc), Tabula Rasa’s hostiles are a little more proactive. In the starting areas, Bane soldiers engage in firefights with your fellow AI-controlled members of the Allied Free Sentients, while various forms of wildlife engage one another - as opposed to implausibly joining forces against you. Pass the defenses of your town, and more often than not, there’ll be a skirmish for you to skirt around or engage.

But even this pales before another of the game's freeform centerpieces. Rather than having a static world, the battle zones are dynamic: AFS bases come under regular attack from the Bane. While the AI troops will defend, they'll need the help of passing players to be sure of victory. Lose a base, and all its facilities - from shops to quest-givers - will be unavailable until a group of players reclaimed. Equally, there are Bane bases that players can attempt to storm. Succeed, and computer-controlled allies drop in to secure the area, opening up new quests as long as the base can be held against the now seriously pissed-off Bane. It's a game about a war and does a lot to maintain that impression. Foes don't spawn: Bane dropships fly to the battlefield to deposit attack squads.

But even this pales before another of the game's freeform centerpieces. Rather than having a static world, the battle zones are dynamic: AFS bases come under regular attack from the Bane. While the AI troops will defend, they'll need the help of passing players to be sure of victory. Lose a base, and all its facilities - from shops to quest-givers - will be unavailable until a group of players reclaimed. Equally, there are Bane bases that players can attempt to storm. Succeed, and computer-controlled allies drop in to secure the area, opening up new quests as long as the base can be held against the now seriously pissed-off Bane. It's a game about a war and does a lot to maintain that impression. Foes don't spawn: Bane dropships fly to the battlefield to deposit attack squads.

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