Working here with the crew here GCM has some major advantage that a guy like me absolutely loves. One, I can shoot the breeze about the coolest games with like-minded peers. Secondly, I get to check out some potentially cool RPGs or their big brother, the MMORPG, both of which I have experienced in my gaming career some of which to great lengths within reason. So when I first heard about the Korean MMO "The Exiled Realm of Arborea" or TERA as it is officially known now as here in the States and its potentially game-changing ideas I had to check it out.
The developers at Bluehole Studio promised an experience that would be the next breed of MMO and take the hum-drum monotony out of the equation. Over the last month, I've delved into the ins and outs of TERA's action combat system and community-based structure and have returned to lay out my thoughts. TERA is a subscription based MMO, so there will be the customary $14.99 after the first provided month, so if youíre not looking to invest long-term this might not be the game for you. Initially I will also say that TERA has a lot going for it, though it isn't without a few genre missteps that I saw along the way.
The back-story of TERA, as it is read, is that two giant titans (Arun and Shara), tired of fighting in their realm, decided to use their awe-inspiring power to create a new universe and bail on their old one. As they lay down to rest they began to dream and two continents and their vast landscapes and monsters were born. While things seemed okay at first the seven inhabiting races were taken by surprise by an unknown metallic army known as Argons. Only through great sacrifice and unification of the races did they stop a deadly advance. The races now have new problems while the Argons twist the lands that they inhabit. Itís up to a new bunch of fighters to join the fight and win victory in this faction-free world.
I've spent a lot of time playing MMOs and the usual "Tab to select" and "Stand in one place" numerical attacking model is a dime a dozen anymore. Not that I have anything against that style, as I have years of playtime logged in a few choice titles, but I really liked this new spin on things. The fast paced combat in TERA is easily on if its finest features as it requires the player to always be alert. Instead of using a lock-on targeting system, victory is achieved with the player's skill as you have to manually aim and time your attacks while making sure you're in the right position to land blows.
Getting started, players can choose one of the seven races: Aman, Baraka, Castanic, Elin, High Elf, Human last but not least the Popori. It wouldn't be a fantasy based world without humans and elves, but I found myself more interested in the other races, particularly the Castanic and the Aman races mainly for looks and back-story. Itís no surprise that there is a fair amount of scantily armored female characters like the Castanic and Elves. There are also the really young "divine" children that are comprised completely of cute but fearsome female girls with animal ears and tails. They are also the only race with a counterpart, the Popori, who are animals such as cats and pandas imbued with a divine spark to fight and protect nature and the world. Once you create your character the real fun begins as you decide on your class.
I chose the Archer class for its ranged attacks and sustained damage per second (DPS), but there are seven other classes to chose from. Its one of the easier classes to play save for the Sorcerer, but I really liked the thrill of having to constantly be on the move to avoid being taken out. The archer class does suffer from being weaker early on but really becomes a force to be reckoned with in its higher levels. If archery isn't your thing there are the Berserker, Lancer, Mystic, Priest, Slayer, Sorcerer and Warrior classes to choose from each with their own difficulty of play. I also paired up my Archer with the Castanic race to get a greater chance for critical hits on enemies from behind.
Moving your characters around TERA in and out of combat is one of the title's finer points. It seems Bluehole Studios took a few cues from other MMOs and integrated a few more options when battling enemies. Long time MMO players will more than likely stick to their guns when using the familiar keyboard and mouse option, which I prefer. Combat, especially with archers and sorcerers, is all about control and range. As I learned quickly, you have to be within 18 or less meters away for ranged attacks to hit their mark. While an archer can't really use most of his skills while moving you have to be pretty accurate and always on the move. I always found though that I wasn't far from where I needed to be for my next attack.
TERA's unique combat system however, allows people the option to pick up their favorite PC-compatible gamepad like a wired/wireless 360 or a PS3 controller. This option works well actually, though it will take a bit of memorization or a quick glance at the on-screen display to find the correct combination of buttons to use for a given attack. I prefer the mouse option because there are some things an analog stick just can't do.
As in most MMOs, the quickest way to gain levels (level cap is 60) is to do the quests, which TERA has in spades. There is a story buried within all the main quests, which amounts to you proving yourself to The Valkyon Federation and helping save the world from annihilation from Argons and a number of warring and agitated races. Leveling gains you access to more abilities like the archer's Poison Arrows as well as more powerful weapons. The only downside to the quests that I ran into is that I would find myself dispatching said enemy in one area for Person A only to turn around to fight the exact enemy for Person B a few quests later. There is one feature that does make finding your targets remarkably easy though. By clicking on hyperlinks in your quest log descriptions it will show the orange.
One of the things that doesn't get boring quickly is the dungeons and BAMS (more on the latter in a bit) as it makes teaming up in groups almost a requirement to get through them. Sure you could foreseeably take a dungeon on solo depending on class but itís not really advised. Just like any MMO, finding a good team is priceless, as long as no one in the group does a Jenkins on you, which I luckily have avoided...so far. Several dungeons like the Bastion of Lok instance will contain several objectives from different NPCs and that adds a sizable amount of quests to be done and it mixes things up. The dungeons also house several massive bosses that generally should not be taken on alone.
Players should also find aid when tackling the Big Ass Monsters, TERA's actual name for the creatures. These foes can be found out in the world and often in certain areas there are a few that are named and truly the most dangerous. The BAMs have skulls over their heads and compared to the lower monsters are usually highly mobile despite their size. I can attest to this after several painful deaths by squashing. The developers advise a full team of five to take one on though I have been in a couple group of three and taken one down. While these fights are epically fun and a rush I can't help but comment that they don't feel as grand as the hundred person world Monsters in titles like Rift.
While most of the BAM fights are large, the detail found in TERA's world is much larger and more diverse. Powered by the Unreal 3 Engine, TERA features dark demon infested gorges, brightly lit fields with massive stone structures, decaying ruins, marchlands and all the dark foreboding dungeons you could ever want and many more locations with over 80+ areas to explore. The character customization system allows for a wide range basic looks. The facial features, hairstyles, and coloring are the most that you can customize. There is no body size or height sliders to be found so all most of your character's unique looks will be done with dyed clothes, earned costume pieces and your choices during character creation. TERA does feature a rather good score though I often would zone it out at times as it doesn't really stand out from the action. Most of the time you will spend your time listening to every arrow leaving your bow, or sword slash and even the change of terrain under foot. The voice acting that you hear in the cutscenes is decent.
During my time in TERA's world I made a good amount of progress to that elusive level 60 cap, and luckily for the hopefully thousands of existing and new players you won't run out of things to make your game truly enjoyable. There are also plenty of items to craft, weapons and armor to enchant and sell in-game. For those that make it to the max level there are bigger BAMs, bigger dungeons, and the allure of finally taking the fight to the front lines to the Argons in The Nexus. There is also Guilds to join or create your own and make yours the strongest across all of TERA.
TERA is primarily a PvE (player vs. Everything) experience but it wouldn't be a proper MMO with out a little Player vs. Player. TERA has the die-hard or newcomer covered, as there are dedicated severs to PvP and little one-on-one duels that players can do on any sever. I actually had some fun going up against some real players. If you want to take things to a grander scale you can participate in Guild vs. Guild battles that can go on for up to 24 hours on PvP severs.
TERA also has a very interesting feature called the Political System. When you or any player passes level 50 they gain the ability or honor to become the vanarch of a providence for three weeks. For those that reach level 20 you can have a say in who rules over a providence, as their rule can change the very structure of the world. Vanarchs have the ability to raise or lower taxes on market transactions, open specialty shops with rare goods, as well as bringing skill trainers to remote locations to name a few things. So even if you don't run itís a good idea to keep a likable vanarch in office.
Going into my review of TERA, I definitely didn't know exactly what to expect. Sometime a genre as large as the MMO market needs a bit of change, and I think the developers at Bluehole Studios are on the right track to do just that. While there was a little monotony in the quests, I really enjoyed my time in TERA's world.
TERA is an action MMO that looks amazing, the combat is intense and fast paced and has what looks to be a solid endgame in place. There is a really cool community system that is just getting started and I'm looking forward to seeing how TERA evolves through user input and what the developers will add next. TERA is an enjoyable experience that will change how you look at MMOs. I definitely recommend giving TERA and its community a look.