Note: This review will be on-going. I will update it with thoughts from other writers and further points as I get further into the game.
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So say you’re an avid MMO player. You’ve been playing this genre for quite some time. We’ve seen tons of games come and go and some see moderate success or get crushed by the titans. You begin to wonder if the MMO genre will never evolve. You’ll just sit there playing the same damn thing over and over again until someone gets some grapefruits and tries something different. Now, I’m not saying TERA is original in all aspects. What I will say is that TERA takes gameplay aspects that we have seen in some low key MMOs and puts the ol’ World of Warcraft try into it.
TERA has been out for over a year in Korea but don’t think it’s the same game. En Masse Entertainment has put their own spin on this game to make it appeal to the rest of the world. They recognize that Korean MMOs don’t do so well outside of that area. They are very grindy and just tedious. That’s what the Koreans like, though. They like to work for their spoils. They don’t like easy and they don’t care for kiddy. En Masse got rid of the tedious nature and made it more accessible but not overboard. So why is TERA worth playing?
Character Creation & Races
Logging into the game and getting started is straight forward and simple. The character creation features a ton of customization from hairstyles, faces, skin tones, sizes, and a ton of sliders for noses and mouths. You’ll be able to completely customize your face but aside from that muscle tone, skin texture, and whatnot are static as to keep the character models the same. Still, it’s a nice array of sliders and choices to give you a different feel with every character you make.
The races of TERA will give a variety of choice to people. Want to play a brute looking warrior? Check out the Aman. A petite mage with a mean streak? You may enjoy the Castanics. Quirky race lover looking forward to something like Mists of Pandaria? The Popori are right up your aisle. There is something for everyone here. There’s a lot of talk – mostly negative – about the Elin race. Yes, they look like little girls but seriously, get over it. If you’re looking at the Elin with a problem then you have a problem. It means absolutely nothing. They don’t wear skimpy Castanic armor and clothing. Everything is covered and they wear full shorts for underwear, unlike the other races. So there goes the sexually problem. The Elin are basically a great race for kids, anime lovers, and people who just don’t give a hoot. Don’t look into it so much and you won’t be butt hurt.
As for the classes, every one of them is unique. You won’t feel like a mage with green flames instead of red or just a few spells separating you from some other class. Every class uses their own weapon type so there is no confusion as to who gets what. Slayers use giant swords. Lancers use lance and shield combos. It goes on but as you can see, with different weapon styles comes totally different skill sets and abilities. Every class feels like it has a place in the game. You won’t feel left out if you’re not the most damage dealing class.
If you’re into melee, you’ll find plenty of ways to get up close and personal. The Warrior class uses dual swords and relies on rolls to get out of harm’s way. You can tank with this class but it is very hard. The game even tells you that, giving the Warrior class a 5-star difficulty rating. It isn’t the damage side that is hard. It is the survival and tanking aspects that are. As a Warrior, you use leather armor so you can’t take a wallop. Rolls, even in the damage role, are important.
Not into that? You could check out the Slayer or Berserker. These two classes are slow but powerful. Their combos take awhile to get off but they hurt. Berserkers have it a bit better thanks to a blocking mechanic. Don’t get me wrong here, though. You can’t tank as a Berserker and certainly can’t do it with a Slayer. These classes have no skills that help them keep aggro well enough to ensure safety for the other group members. I was in a dungeon once with a Slayer saying he could tank well enough. One heal goes off and I’m running for my life. Aside from that, Slayers have no blocking mechanic. You are slow and right in the midst of danger. You have to be careful. Pick and choose your timing. You need to know when to move out of the way and when to click a button for a skill.
Then we come to the Lancer. The main tank for the game. These guys are pretty cool! The whole shield and lance aspect is really unique to MMOs. The lance can hit multiple people if they are lined up or you slash from side to side with an ability. The lance is pretty powerful and faster then the Berserker’s axe. The cool part is the shield. The way you tank with a Lancer is based off skill with timing. You need to look for warning signs from the enemy for when they are attacking. You see an attack coming, then you throw up your shield and block the majority of the damage. It is fun, intense, and gives you a feeling that tanking in TERA is just done right.
Now we’re onto ranged combat. I’ll start with the non-magic class, the Archer. This class is filled with combos, quick actions, and just plain ol’ fun. The Archer is fast and even has an ability to shoot backwards to get out of the enemy’s reach. You run up to a group of enemies, rain arrows down on them, spread arrows forward at the group, focus shot on one, and backstep out of reach to repeat or spray other abilities at them. Short combat, high survivability, and sweet skills make the Archer a pretty damn awesome class.
Like magic? Tera gives you a good amount of choice here. First off, you have the Sorcerer. This is by far the most boring class in the game. Why? Because it is easy mode. You melt faces and move on. Looking for a way to just get into the game, win, and hit end game? The Sorcerer is your main guy. They do massive damage with quick, elemental attacks. Thing is, the only challenge with the Sorcerer is just getting out of the way of attacks if you let something get close to you. Sure, their attacks look cool and give you a sense of power but I really just felt like a cocky magic user just doing this for craps and giggles.
The Mystic is a support class that can heal, give bonuses to party members, and bring out summoned creatures to help in battle. Think a Warlock from WoW but with more of a party role. The healing from the Mystic isn’t as great as the Priest but that’s because they can do so much more. The support skills help out a ton during dungeons and if you have a Mystic in the same party with a Priest, the back up heals and extra damage with the creatures are a godsend.
Finally, we have the Priest. I will go out of the way and say this right now: this is the best Priest class in any MMO. The Priest is the primary healer in the game but can seriously give out damage if you need to. You can easily solo with the Priest and not only heal but help destroy monsters and bosses. If you’re focusing on damage with a Priest you can pull your own weight although you won’t hit tops over Sorcerers or Slayers.
The game tells you what each class does and even throws in a starred rating for difficulty during class selection. You’ll go into the game knowing exactly what you’re getting into.
Think DC Universe Online but much, much better. You have an action RPG combat engine inside a menu-infused MMO. How does it come out? Great. You use the reticule to aim and your mouse and number keys to strike down foes. You can hit escape or alt keys to pop up menus and thats when the mouse comes in play. This is much better then how DCUO did it. The mouse in DC felt slow and tacked on. Almost like SOE didn’t want to use the mouse at all but decided, “crap we kinda need to.” TERA understands that MMOs have a ton of menus and rely on that. If you get a party invite, trade agreement, guild invite, or whatever else you’ll see a little pop up down at the bottom right and you hit alt to bring it up to focus. Easy and simple are the two words I’d use for the UI in this game.
As for combat and party roles, everything feels fluid here. Combat is all about where that reticule is. You move the target over an enemy, press a button and strike in that position. You’ll see little pop ups in battle that show different spells and a spacebar signal. If you hit spacebar in the allotted timeframe, you’ll initiate a combo. These combos can be short or long and some need certain situations to become available. Every class has different combos that enhance their way of combat.
Healing is sort of like DCUO where you have area of effect spells and targeted abilities that heal you or your friends. The difference here is that you have more control over your healing spells. For Priests, they have a spell called Focus Heal which allows you to hove your mouse over 2 or more (augmented by Glyphs) players and that covers the party member in a green overlay to show they are selected. You hit spacebar or the skill button again and Focus Heal goes off healing those selected members. You feel in control and really into the action while healing in TERA. You won’t just be standing there and pushing buttons or face rolling your keyboard. As a Priest myself, I am always moving to make sure I can select the right people or be in position to throw down a healing circle. I’m not afraid to get up close and pull off a quick combo because I know the damage is worth it, as well.
The combat, questing, and movement is so smooth in TERA. You won’t have a lot of downtime. In fact, the only time I felt slowed down is when I die and have to stand near a campfire to regain stamina. TERA keeps you moving and active and that is something that severely helps out those common questing and leveling blues that players, such as me, get.
Intro & First Ten Levels
Since Open Beta, TERA has introduced a new intro for the game that dumps you off on the shores of the Isle of Dawn. You saw a quick message over a black screen saying that the first expedition ran into some trouble. Then you’re off. What? That’s it? Here’s the thing, guys. The intro to TERA is nothing but a boring training ground that teaches you how to play. You’ll be out of it soon enough and for any extra characters you make on that server you can skip it. On every server you’ll have to go through it at least once. Once you finish it, you’ll get a cutscenes and soon you’re off to the Isle of Dawn, again. However, this time you’re level 1 as opposed to the level 20 intro. Honestly, what this intro does is try to show you some of the skills you’ll be using. Use it as a way to check out classes before making your decision.
So now you’re really starting out and you’re on the Isle of Dawn at level 1. Ready to play? You’ll immediately get two quests to head over a bridge and get into the action. You kill some tree creatures and deer-like things until you hit the first quest hub. You’ll be doing this until you hit the Tower Base, your first town. The Isle of Dawn is the perfect way to show you exactly what you’ll be doing from levels 1 to 60. You head from quest hub to quest hub, area to area, until that section of the world is complete and you head to Velika, the main city.
Sound boring? Well, guess what, it really isn’t. The quests take you from area to area but TERA does a pretty good job at serving up different monsters and important quest lines along the way. You’ll be hitting a ton of different places like deserts, forests, barren wastelands, etc. Sounds all like normal MMO talk but the thing that makes TERA different from those other games is the amount of fun you are having. Mainly, the combat keeps you interested. Things just work so smoothly and have a lot of fluid action that keeps you moving. You’re never out of the action. The menus allow you to continue to move and things are so easy to get to that you’ll pop the menus up, do what you need to do, and get back to playing.
After you hit around level 11, the Isle of Dawn comes to a close with a big mission when you teleport to an area and fight a huge monster. After this, you’re told to hop on a flight path and head to Velika, the main city. The city is big enough with everything you need and even some teleportals to hit different spots of the city quicker. At level 11 you’ll get a free mount and training and immediately you see how TERA works. The game wants you to feel accomplished and get the kind of rewards that heroes are due. Spending 100 gold on a plain ol’ horse? Dude I just saved the saved the city. Give me Wilbur over there and let me go on my way. Well TERA does that. Finally.
You’ll meet the big shots like Samuel and he tells you to hit Lumbertown and you feel like the game is finally ready to begin. Once you hit level 20, you’re ready for your first dungeon, the Secret Base located in the Bastion of Lok.
Dungeons, BAMs & Group Play
We start off with the Secret Base. The Bastion of Lok is your final destination and the main attraction which brought you to Lumbertown. The dungeon itself is moderately long and gives players a ton of EXP. You’ll most likely level up to 21 in this place. Anything higher, you may need two or three runs to hit another level.
You’ll need a classic group makeup of a tank, healer, and three damage dealers. You’ll find that this game’s populace seems to love damage dealers (duh…) and healers (say what!?). However, you’ll find yourself looking for a tank for a little while unless you got some Lancer or Warrior friends. This is the first MMO that I started out as a healer and of course, my luck, I am finding myself fighting other healers to get into groups.
So far, every area I’ve been in has a dungeon at the end of it to culminate the quest lines and give you that sense of accomplishment before moving on. You’ll have plenty of chances to find groups thanks to the surge of players playing right now.
If you’re waiting for a group you may want to find a different group in the meantime to kill some BAMs. What’s a BAM? Big Ass Monster. These hulking creatures are like bosses out in the wild. They have a ton of health, large number of attacks, and you need tactics to beat them. They are literally all out in the wild and they all have quests for them. You’ll either get the quests during your travels or need to look at the Message Board in towns to get them.
Grouping up seems great. The gameplay itself is smooth and fluid and it carries on into dungeons and big battles. You’ll feel like a piece of the pie and not just something that is there in the background. Everyone helps and has a way to do so. Either healing, supporting, tanking, or dealing damage every group mission in the game is intense and fun. Fighting giant monsters out in the wild or in dungeons is just a blast.
So far, I’m a level 30 Priest on the Dragonfall server. I’ve run both dungeons I’ve been near – Secret Base and Sinestral Manor. I’ve been enjoying myself immensely and haven’t had that feeling of “oh god… 30 more levels…” which is a big deal for me. I hate leveling. I love end game and want to just hit the dungeons and get into the epicness. TERA gives me a leveling system that is enjoyable while feeding me these little epic quests, monsters, and dungeons along the way.
It is hard for me to find something bad to say about the game. I think my main gripes are the lack of extreme exploration as each area has its own invisible walls and end points. That may hurt the experience for some players. I was a huge explorer in WoW back in the vanilla game. I had seen the world before I hit level 30 and I even jumped over the walls and looked through old Mount Hyjal. Never quite made it GM Island, but I did my fair share of exploring in WoW. The game is missing some social features that could really help it out like cross-server chat, dungeon finding, and pvp. Also, the game doesn’t do anything with mods yet. I hope that changes over time, though. Aside from these issues, TERA does a damn good job at giving a near complete experience right out of the box at launch.
If you’re looking for something different or just fun, give TERA a shot. If you’re critical and set in the tradtional sense, you may be more excited for the next WoW expansion or Guild Wars 2. However, I am so happy with what TERA gives me as a long time MMO player. It is different, smooth, and a blast to play. That’s all you can really ask out of a game.