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Tabula Rasa Hands On: The Mid-level ExperienceEdit

Several of us were grouped up together and a gamemaster assigned to us for this portion of the play time. We were also given pre-selected level twenty characters for the session; I ended up with a Sapper as my character - a tier three career available once you've maxed out your experience in level fourteen, which quickly made me forget about the desire to keep playing my level seven in the newbie experience. Our guide for the evening was a Ranger - another tier three career - that can use Stealth Armor - which when worn, causes you to glow with a transparent aura - making you extremely hard to detect. I dove in and started looking over my abilities available and also the equipment I had. My weapon of choice: yes, the Shotgun. The Sapper can also use the Polarity Gun, which shoots a continuous beam of energy out at the target, doing incredible amounts of damage. The gun is very situational, however, as it can overheat extremely fast. Sappers also receive the ability to place Crab Mines - a deployable, moving mine, that senses and travels toward targets - exploding on contact. Head over to our Careers page to read more about the Sapper and other Tier Three Careers.

Our gamemaster guide had us all meet up at an outpost on Foreas so we could become accustomed to our characters; the jump from newbie levels to what we were at now would be fairly jarring if we didn't have some sort of warm-up period of play time where we just ran around killing things and doing menial missions. After gathering, we selected a collection mission - we were to look for crashed Bane cargo ships and bring back the cargo so that it could be studied. This took us to a heavily populated Bane encampment that was what seemed like a never-ending battle. Bane were coming continuously, and we were fighting them off all the while gathering cargo from the area around the camp.

Upon completing the cargo collection quest, our guide let us know that we were going to go check out one of the instances in the area - Menos Caverns. It's fairly important to mention that this instance was a bit below our level; we asked our guide what the target level is for it and he said somewhere in the mid-to-high teens.

Once inside Menos Caverns, we were quickly greeted by an NPC doctor stationed at the entrance of the cave. This doctor was aware of a very dangerous breed of bat-type creatures and wanted us to take out all of their hives in the cave. There were six hives in total, and each time one was destroyed, we were assaulted by a wave of the creatures; little did we know that this seemingly basic instance was about to turn into something bigger. As we were destroying the final hive in the caverns, we spotted dead Allied Free Sentinels down below, and used the adjacent ramp to investigate what exactly was at the bottom of this pit. It was an AFS agent - and he was still alive - wanting us to go deeper into the caverns to locate a captured AFS crew and free them. This opened up a new mission for us, so we accepted it and moved on. It turned out that the AFS stumbled onto a Bane base in the instance, and the Bane quickly rounded them up into captivity - planning to use them in experiments and mutate them into new creations.

Our fight to the area where the AFS troops were held was decently fast; the instance seems like it can be done in about an hour. Once we got to them, however, it was time for some of the puzzles and obstacles I talked about earlier in the article. The AFS were holed up in a cell that was protected by a force-field. We had to figure out some way to disable it without alerting Bane reinforcements of our activity in the area. So it was time to drop the power generator, which would lower the force-field and buy us enough time to get a head start before the Bane poured in. We encountered a couple new enemies in the instance as well; in addition to the bat creatures at the start, we also came across a Bane unit called "Kael" - a large, heavy-hitting creature. These things also have a decent amount of hit points, so they appear to be designed as a challenging gateway creature. Once we dropped the generator, it was time to head back to the cell and escort our AFS friends to safety. We headed out of the cell area just in time, too - the Bane got the generator back online and their teleporters to the cell started pumping out units one after the other. We pushed our way through waves of Bane - primarily through brute force and the fact our level outweighed the challenge presented to us.

The escort mission spelled the end of the instance, so we decided to check out the Front Lines - as the guide called it - which is essentially a battlefield; an ongoing war between the AFS and Bane. Our time was running short at this point so we decided to just roam around killing stuff, and honestly this was the best part of the play session to me. I had a blast running around, randomly killing Bane NPC's. It was invigorating to finally play an MMO that felt fresh. Infact, at that point, it didn't even feel like I was playing an MMO like we currently know them as. I was able to kill my first Stalker - an intimidatingly large Bane unit that has a very deadly close-range attack. If you see it powering up, you better get away, is what we were told about it. The best recourse for taking these on is to use ranged weaponry - which everyone has access to - so there's no need to worry. I also saw and killed my first Predator - an air unit vulnerable to the Specialist gun - the Density Field Gun - a weapon that fires a very powerful bolt of energy at the target. This gun is very similar to the Polarity Gun in that it's prone to overheating if you fire it too many times consecutively; you have to give it some cool-down time in order to use it to its full potential on the battlefield.

Overall Tabula Rasa feels and plays like a new experience in an otherwise creatively drab, aging generation of MMOG's. It's a welcome addition to the market, and should add a little spice to the bland after-taste that recent MMO releases have left in everyone's mouths. With the game, NCSoft has what truly appears to be the first in the second generation of MMOG's - a title that doesn't rest on laurels of the past.

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