TERA (spelled in all caps) is looking to change how people look at and play MMORPGs. Bluehole Studio has set out to try to innovate upon a genre filled with games that promise to change the way we play them, but only end up letting us down in the end – I’m looking at you Final Fantasy XVI! Does TERA bring something new to the floor?
The easiest way to describe “True Action Combat” is to think about a hack and slash style RPG. Something akin to a Dynasty Warriors, or a Ninety Nine Nights. Not with hundreds of enemies on the screen, but with the simple mechanics of needing to be near an enemy to hit them with a flurry of different combos, or away from the enemy when it attacks to dodge it. Whereas, in a traditional MMO once a monster is clicked the character will continue to auto attack, regardless of location, until it dies.
“True Action Combat” also shifts the focus of the TERA away from being a stats driven game. Yes, some stats still matter, but a large portion of the combat is based on skill. Being able to time out attacks with the rest of the party starts becoming more of the focus. Gone are the days of clicking on a monster and watching the character on the screen auto attack. Now are the days of strategically figuring out which combo would work best for the given situation and time. The combat is where this title truly shines, and stands out, among all the other games within the genre. It really is a unique experience in which placement of the character matters. Being able to dodge or block, depending on chosen class, and timing attacks adds strategy and depth into a combat system that has stagnated over the years. Things aren’t based just stats and gear anymore, player skill has a large role in how well a party does.
The graphical design is well worth pointing out also. This game truly stands out as a fantasy experience because each environment looks as if it was pulled from a dream world. The limits of the Unreal Engine are pushed, not only with lighting effects and graphic design, but also with how each creature and character has collision points that needs to be tracked. While this does have more to do with the combat system, it also does away with just running through other people on the screen, a personal pet peeve in the MMO genre.
There is a huge list of minor details I could mention that I like as well, but most of them are more in line with other games of this kind. Just to name a few:
- - there are no limits to crafting skills, everybody can do any craft whenever they want to.
- - fast party finding system. No more having to “shout” to everyone level, class, and what you are looking to do.
- - no more waiting for a specific drop to finish a quest. Kill the monster, get credit for having said item.
- - searching for where monsters are to kill, is just a simple click of the quest log.
Now, while TERA has a lot going for it, there are some problems as well. The biggest for me, is that I didn’t feel like my character was really a part of the story. Overall the story is a little weak and that will drive a large portion of players away. The general idea of the story is good, but it has the “funk” of a Korean MMORPG all over it. Meaning, it almost feels like any other free to play MMO out there.
My other issue is that early on it feels like a grind. When we demoed TERA at PAX East, they let us play through one of the end game dungeons, and it was a blast. The thrill and excitement of the boss battle was enough to keep me going back to the game over and over again. As a new player, that experience doesn’t happen until level twenty (20)! The progression from level one to ten wasn’t so bad, and that is usually the amount of time that players need to figure out all the nuances of an MMO. But, the time in between getting from level ten to twenty was a bit of a grind.
When I finally hit level twenty, and was able to play the first dungeon, I was hooked all over again. My tank (Aman Lancer in the game) walked through the halls of “Secret Base”, as it is known in game, three different times. Each time was a bright shining example of ”true action combat” and the exhilaration of taking down a boss. The time it took to get to the first dungeon though is hard to look past, especially when this is a pay to play game.
What pushes me to not want TERA is the generic story and that it is a pay to play title. I’m not a big fan of grinding out levels that take forever to do solo, especially when I don’t feel the character matters in the over all story of the world. I get it, I am this great soldier that helped save the kingdom, but isn’t everyone else that as well?
It does have a ton of content to offer all of its players. Customization is beyond what you would see in World of Warcraft, so you aren’t the same cookie cuter character as the next guy/girl. But one single question looms over top of TERA. How long before En Masse Entertainment changes it into a free to play game?
In the end though, I am completely hooked on how the combat runs in TERA. I keep thinking back to how epic the dungeon bosses were, and how much fun it was to play them. I’ve been driving my poor wife crazy with my debate of should I or should I not, because I really did fall in love with the combat system, and I want to see how some of the metagame works.
If I were to give this game a score, it would get 4 out of 5 stars. It’s fun and I enjoy the combat it has to offer, but I feel that paying monthly for it might be a bit much to ask in today’s market. Then again, I’ve felt like this about pay to play games for a while, so that does make me a bit biased. I do think that I will make the plunge into the game though. As I said above, I am hooked on the combat, and I really want to see where this title goes.