Tabula Rasa 2 (aka Defiance)
An interesting announcement the other day saw the news that Trion, of RIFT fame, are developing a new shooter MMO. Call me nostalgic/cynical/unimaginative but immediately after reading a little bit about it my mind jumped to visions of Tabula Rasa 2, not just because it’s a futuristic third person twitch based shooter about a war, or set shortly after one, between humans and aliens (why is it we can just never got along with those bloody aliens?!) but also due my visions of its impending doom. MMO shooters plain don’t work… will this one buck the trend?
The premise for Defiance is interesting enough. Well, OK, that’s a lie but at least you actually get to play as alien races this time (something Tabula Rasa didn’t catch onto fast enough) and Trion are promising all shorts of amazing technical wondery such as cross console platform and PC integration which, I suppose, is kinda cool if you ever fancied blasting your Xbox friends from the comfort of your PC. Oh and it also intertwines with some sort of television show which, yeah, does sound kinda wank but I’ll reserve judgement for now.
I guess my big bugbear with shooter MMOs is that often they try to take the core concepts of a MMORPG (i.e. persistence, character advancement, grouping, quests etc) and replace the combat mechanics with twitch based shooting. All totally fine and dandy in theory yet, in practise, difficult to pull off because you usually end up with neither a heart-pumpingly awesome shooter like Call of Duty nor an in-depth and intricate online RPG like EVE, WoW, RIFT or whatever it is that tickles your fancy. And that’s the fundamental problem: mixing two genres together and failing to excel at either, appealing to neither shooter fans nor MMORPGers.
I do however, regardless of my lovely British cynicism, have great hopes for this fledgling sub-genre and could honestly imagine it producing a rather wonderful type of game. I mean there is, in theory, no reason why we couldn’t take a game like WoW and replace the rather dull and often slow combat mechanics with something a lot more interactive and responsive. The trick is, I I guess, making sure that there still enough elements of the RPG in there to keep players hooked. The game still needs huge amounts of depth, atmosphere and character with tons of ways to advance and customise your character in addition to an abundance of locations, quests, missions, dungeons, raids, battlegrounds and all the other things that keep people hooked to MMORPGs like sex addicts to cheap prostitutes.
Of course that’s no mean feat to pull off and we’ve yet to see it truly happen. Tabula Rasa died a slow, painful death and games like Global Agenda never really did hit the big time. So yes, I suppose I am being a little sceptical here about it all but then if anyone can pull off a great shooter MMO then it would be Trion who, after all, did give us the fabulous RIFT. Fingers crossed for all those twitch fans out there.