Tabula Rasa for the PC Review: Richard Garriott's MMORPG Offers a Fresh Approach

Page content

Note: Tabula Rasa Has Been Shut Down

Despite my positive review, it was too little too late to save Tabula Rasa from being shut down. Learn all about the Tabula Rasa shut down, including the in game events included in the celebration of its life (death).


Tabula Rasa is an amazing sci-fi style MMORPG from the legendary game creator and visionary, Richard Garriott. It features a rich and moving story, unique controls, and lends itself easily to both group and solo playstyles. It lays somewhere between a classic MMORPG and a multiplayer third-person-shooter, possessing the depth of an MMORPG and the excitement and drive of a shooter. For all this fun, it has the added bonus of being able to run on a system that won’t break the bank.

Storyline and Lore (5 out of 5)

In my opinion, the best part about Tabula Rasa is the story line. You play a common soldier that has been chosen by the leaders of Earth to be one of its few survivors as an alien invasion obliterates the known world. You and a select group of other humans are ported through a worm hole, hidden on Earth by an ancient alien race and known of only by few, to a different galaxy and world to fight in a war that has been raging for decades against the very creatures that destroyed Earth. I know, it sounds cheesy, but they say not to judge a book by its cover. Tabula Rasa captures the essence of the human spirit of survival and determination, drawing the player into the game.

Features (4 out of 5)

Tabula Rasa is very different from your classic MMORPG that tends to favor battle-axes, magical spells, and endless experience grinding. Instead you have heavy armor and shields, Big Freakin’ Guns, grenades, and explosives. All this is accented by special abilities that turn your character into your own personal weapon of mass alien death. Instead of static monster spawn points and predictable behaviors, your enemies randomly arrive in drop-ships and are organized. In addition, you have to destroy stationary guns, massive energy shields and take back bases that have been overrun. The whole game very much feels like you are in the middle of a war zone at all times.

The controls for Tabula Rasa are less than intuitive, and that is why it only got 4/5 bubbles with me. The tutorial really is required to learn how to effectively play the game or you will be endlessly frustrated. There are two sets of control styles, named MMORPG and FPS, adding further weight to my statement that TR lies somewhere inbetween. I recommend using the FPS style, as it makes weapon switching easier, but there are people who will feel more comfortable using the MMORPG style. Each have their individual quirks that make the controls a little tricky and hard to get used to. Regardless of which control style you use, you will have to content with the fact that TR uses an FPS-like mouse-look feature. Literally, you look around with your mouse. This means that to use on-screen buttons you have to first hit a keyboard button to stop mouse-look and bring up a cursor. If you get an alien drop ship coming down on top of you while you’re doing this it can be quite frustrating.

Graphics (5 out of 5)

Tabula Rasa has great graphics. They aren’t the cutting edge as far as realism goes, but they are definitely close. The lighting and shadowing are great, as are the weapon and ability effects. It doesn’t take a top of the line system to run it at full spec’s either. The other great thing about Tabula Rasa is it is optimized for DirectX 9.0, meaning you do not need Vista to run it at its maximum potential.

The recommended system requirements for TR are:

  • Windows XP or Vista
  • 3.5gHz single-core CPU
  • 2GB RAM
  • 5GB Free HDD Space
  • Radeon x1800 or GeForce 7800 series’ Video Card
  • 16 bit Sound Card
  • Broadband Internet Connection
  • DirectX 9.0c

I had a great experience running it on a very similar system, the big difference being that I was using a 64-bit dual core AMD @ 2.0gHZ and a GeForce 7900 GT KO. With that system I was able to run TR at middle of the line settings, but still looked great.

Currently I can run it at full specs with a decent frame rate. Im using:

  • Windows XP x64
  • AMD Athlon 64 X2 4000+ Dual Core @ 2gHz
  • 4GB RAM (DDR2 800)
  • Nvidia GeForce 8800 GT 512mb VRAM

My CPU and RAM are each nearing 3 years old, and my video card is around 1 year old. As you can see, you don’t need a brand new top of the line PC to play Tabula Rasa the way its meant to be played.

Overall Review (4 out of 5)

Overall, I’m going to give Tabula Rasa a solid 4/5. I think it is an incredible game with a great story and unique, fresh approach to MMORPG’s. On the other hand, the player base is small, the community is weak, and the PvP leaves much to be desired. In addition, even though it has been a year now since it released, there is still a distinctive lack of end-game content. Despite that, it is too great of a game for me to think any less of it. I recommend it to anyone looking to break into MMORPG’s, or who is looking for a game that will always keep them interested and having a good time.


Unfortunately, despite how fiercly Tabula Rasa fans loved it, servers were shut down in January because subscription numbers never hit where they wanted them to be. RIP Tabula Rasa, I only hope another game will come along as revolutionary as you.