Friday, December 7, 2007

The Thrill of Combat

As you may have guessed, I've been playing Tabula Rasa more than any other game lately, even the sublime Super Mario Galaxy. There's nothing like a fresh MMO to keep my attention.

I managed to creep into level 19 last night, finish up all the quests and instances in the Wilderness to gain a couple of new titles, and also get some stuff that was eluding me done in the Palisades. All in all, it was a productive night for about 1 hour's work. The draw of TR is two-fold for me.

Fold One - I can log in, play for as short as 15 minutes, and log out feeling like I gained a good chunk of experience and wrapped up some quests in a very short amount of time. That's absolutely necessary to me these days, and it's one of the reasons I'm looking forward to Pirates so much.

Fold Two - It's just plain fun to fight things in Tabula Rasa. There's no other way to put it. Combat, while still about dice rolls, stats, and and level underneath the hood is far more interesting in Tabula Rasa than in your more traditional fare like World of Warcraft, Everquest 2, Dark Age of Camelot, and all the other games that we've known and paid homage to over the years.

The very first online game I played was not a MUD. It was not EQ1. It wasn't UO. it was a Gamecube game called Phantasy Star Online. Basically it was Diablo in an anime style, with one caveat. The combat was more action oriented, based on combos, blocking, spells, and lots of cool weapons. It was a shallow as all heck game, but man was the fighting fun back then. I'm a young guy, but this was in maybe my 2nd or 3rd year of high school, right around the 2000 mark.

After the introduction to the fun of playing a game online with other folks, I started looking into EQ (which my friends were addicted to). I tried it... a lot. Several times even. But I could NOT get into it for the life of me, and for no other reason than the fact that combat was absolutely boring compared to the button-mashing that was PSO.

I tried UO. I tried DAoC. I tried whatever it was my friends were getting into, but the same thing stopped me from liking them all. The combat was slow-paced, not very interactive, and therefore ultimately boring. Grouping made it more tolerable, but even back then I had more of a tendency to solo when I was able and that's when I just couldn't take it, especially with all the downtime of those older games.

Things started looking up with AC2 in 2004. For while it was more of the same set-up, it was faster paced and in general more exciting than your average MMO's combat system. And then WoW came out. Fights were 30 seconds a piece, the downtime was next to none on nearly all accounts. It was as if someone had made a combat system for me, knowing that I just didn't gel with the more tedious earlier games. I was raised a console-gamer, so I was used to more character manipulation, quicker action, and in general more visceral fighting. WoW, for whatever other faults it may have, was like MMO-Combat on speed and a dose of crack. It was blazing fast compared to the competition.

Still, there were several classes whose playstyles didn't mesh. I stuck to my warrior, my hunter, and my rogue for the simple fact that each of them required a lot of action to and manipulation to play. It kept me interested.

Now, let's skip ahead a few years. I can still play more traditionally based combat games like LotRO, PotBS and WoW. But I'd be lying if I said that any of the three's combat systems were what I liked most about the games. They have their strong points, especially in the case of PotBS' ship-based battles. You can't beat Pirates with a stick when it comes to that. I love the Age of Sail/Sid Meier's Pirates! type combat.

But by and far I still prefer the more action-oriented (say console-esque if you must) type of combat. Most folks, myself included, don't play MMOs for the combat. We play them for all the other aspects, and the combat is the main means of how we reach said aspects. But what if a game could actually bring truly fun and visceral combat to the table, and successfully break away from the action-bar and target-highlighting model that's been used for nigh a decade? I'm even excluding TR here since that's still somewhat in this realm of design.

Will that game be Age of Conan? Spellborn? We know it won't be WAR. Age of Conan is being developed primarily for the PC, but with the Xbox 360 also strongly in mind. Will it herald in a new type of combat for MMORPGs? Or will it simply be a nice idea that's pulled off badly? We don't have long to wait I suppose, if it hits its March 25th target date.

But I know one thing is certain for me... I'm ready for something new. Tabula Rasa has shown that to me. It's not you Trad-MMO, it's me. I need something new and exciting. I'm not ready to settle. Maybe we can be still be friends with benefits, you know, until something I'm really looking for comes a long...


Brenda said...

FFXI Online had combos -- combat arts must be used precisely three seconds after the previous one in the chain, and each had to be done in the correct order and with the correct arts in order to make combos. Plus, you had to kill another mob of the same type within a certain amount of time in order to get an experience modifier, which is the only way to usefully level in FFXI. Given the high premium put on speed, teamwork and efficiency, you should give FFXI a try if you like fast-paced gameplay.

But not if you like soloing, or you can't find groups that understand how combat works in FFXI. Get in a Japanese group and WOW.

Bildo said...

I have played FFXI actually. To about level 15, and then again ti like level 5 when I tried it last. Horrid game for my playstyle. Not just the solo-ability, but the general amount of time it takes to do ANYTHING.

Combat also there is not what I'd refer to as "thrilling". While grouping it can be quite fun, it's still quite tedious, no?

When I say I want a revolution, I mean I'd like to see something like God of War combat make its way into the online space. Will it happen? Doubtful, but a guy can dream.

Pvthudson said...

LOL great way to link all your blog posts in that one sentence! Nice. Well you are leveling well young Padawan. I have been stalled by watching too many movies :( I will get in this weekend though dang it!

Lishian said...

How is the PVP in Tabula Rasa? Is there PVP?

*vlad* said...

Hey Bildo! I didn't know you were a PSO player.
I fell in love with PSO when I played it online for the first time, back on the Dreamcast. After I moved onto the Gamecube I got fairly hardcore (if that's possible on a 56k connection), and got into Challenge Mode/Time Attack. I loved this game so much I played it for about 5 years.

So many features (such as the character design) that are still better than most MORGS today.

Hmm, maybe after Christmas I might have a peek at Tabula Rasa; you are slowly but surely drawing my interest towards this game.

Bildo said...

I'll make a post when the AHs go in, and in January/February the PAUs (Personal Armor Units... think sci-fi mounts) are going in.

The game's lacking a bit of a "carrot on a stick" factor past level 30, but the PAUs and Command Opportunities due out early in 2008will give more incentive to reach those higher levels.

Looking forward to that.

Bildo said...

@ Lishian:

There is PvP, but it's a side-game. Clans can declare open warfare on each other, and rankings are tracked on the main webpage. There's also dueling, and every Friday the devs host a tournament, with Garriott usually in attendence himself.

Pretty cool, indeed. But TR is definitely not a PVP game at this point. There are plans for WarGames type scenarios, think Battlegrounds, and AFS sanctioned tournaments, etc to go in in 2008 though.

So we'll see what the PvP is to become.