In a nutshell: slap Rift together with DC Universe Online and you have TERA.
With the fantasy setting in tow, En Masse Entertainment is looking to take the MMO market by storm by giving this Korean alumni game a fresh start everywhere else. TERA has been out in Korea since January of last year and has seen its fair amount of patches and content come rolling through the door. We’ve seen other MMO’s spend time in the East before venturing out of their comfort zone but can TERA prove to be different?
With what I’ve played so far, I have to give it an astounding yes. TERA’s combat more than makes up for any shortcomings you may try to find. Very similar to the 3-rd person Action RPG-style you can find in the already free-to-play DC Universe Online, TERA expands on that and basically comes out better in all aspects. Targeting, which is one of the most annoying parts of DC’s combat, is much better in Arborea. I don’t find myself attacking a box in the background while the gang of villains (or heroes) beats on me. Combos are actually built-in with the skills you obtain through leveling and can strung together automatically or created by the player themselves. This gives combat a surprisingly deep edge and is by far the best component of the game. During my first beta test I found myself skipping through all of the quest dialog and story just to experience the combat of every class. Needless to say, I went back to Star Wars: The Old Republic and felt bored.
The story is a bit underwhelming compared to that of SWTOR or even Rift but thankfully the content in the game makes up for it. To tell you the truth, the story doesn’t seem much to write home about but the general premise is pretty cool. The two continents are basically the backs of two Titans who are in an endless dream. This dream created shapes and the gods made the shapes into creatures, mortals, etc. This is Em Masse’s attempt to explain respawning of dead heroes and enemies. It certainly is interesting. Players start off on an island that appears out of no where trying to hold off a cult. That isn’t the only threat going on, however. An underworld race called the Argons are trying to invade and take over. Basically, En Masse has given the basis for a lore that can include many new enemies. They aren’t breaking any new ground here but they aren’t backing themselves into a corner. There is plenty of possible ways the lore for TERA can be expanded. World of Warcraft will eventually run out of major threats. DC Universe only has so many world-class problems they can run into (Darkseid comes to mind after Brainiac). The list goes on but games like TERA can take solace in the fact they aren’t launch with a main bad guy at the head. Once you take him out (Regulos in Rift), then what? Good idea by En Masse even if at the start things are a bit cliche storywise.
Besides the combat, the UI is very nice. Some screenshots you see can be off putting by seeing so many aspects of the UI strung out everywhere and different sizes. Don’t think the UI sucks, though. You can re-size and move things anywhere you want. Aside from that, the controls are very well done and En Masse escaped the kind of problems SOE had with DC Universe. I don’t feel constrained by the reticule-style of combat at all. Menus are very easy to get into and are straight-forward. Once you get your hands on the keyboard and flow through the first couple of quests, everything feels natural to the way your fingers move.
The ambiance works well for the scenery. You genuinely feel like you’re in the forest or town. However, the music is almost non-existent. When it plays, it sounds great but most of the time I’m running around listening to birds chirp and deer-like mobs grazing. A lot of MMO’s do this. One of World of Warcraft’s most expansive components is the music they have and they allow you to have the option to continuously play it. I want to hear the music all the time or choose not to. It takes away from the experience for some players.
Now, the most important part of any MMO is content. TERA’s betas have slowly given us more room to grow and experience and in doing so have really shown the players how much the game will have in store for us throughout our leveling process. With great quest flowing, world boss creatures, and dungeons strung throughout certain level ranges you can bet that you’ll normally always have something to do. I can’t attest for the higher levels but so far I’ve not found myself grinding at all. I hope that continues to be.
As for the races and classes, I have to admit TERA brings a lot more variety in an MMO. You have your humans, elf-life creatures, evil-looking muscular people, giant-esque dudes, little girls, and badger looking psychos. Trust me, try them all out as the animation work that went into making each race feel different is astounding. There is a lot of talk about the Elin race that has been mostly… negative, however I really don’t see the problem with it. Plenty of MMO’s allow you look very young and female. En Masse countered this by making sure no race-y underwear or busts were shown. With that taken care of, unless you are really looking at Elin in a sexual way there are no problems with the race. The rest of the races all have a distinct look and range from pretty cool to severely badass (male Aman just look ridiculously cool). The classes all use different types of weapons which will get rid of the multiple classes using the same weapon type issue (Hunters/WoW). I play-tested all the classes up to level 10 (some of my favorites much higher than that). After trying them all, I give the edge to the Archer, Warrior, and Priest. I have to hand out props to TERA for having a priest class that isn’t boring and can hold their own. I found the Priest to be the most entertaining of the classes with the Archer coming in at second for its awesome combos. The Slayer and Sorcerer I found to be a bit boring and cliche. The Sorcerer can kill fast but it is basically nuke, loot, nuke, loot, and so forth and so on. The Lancer is an interesting approach to tanking. The real time blocking mechanics are going to bring skill as the highest factor into being a successful tank. In fact, making sure you’re not in the way is going to be a huge undertaking for every player. It is nice to see an MMO rely on player skill for once.
So far, TERA has proven to be a fun time. After my second beta weekend, I pre-ordered the digital collector’s edition and put my payment method up. I look forward to being able to fully play the game whenever I want. Em Masse has done a great job breathing fresh air into a game that has been chugging along in Korea for over a year.
To end the preview, here is a video from En Masse hightlighting a dungeon in the TERA called Akasha’s Hideout.