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...