As we all know, there are a lot of MMOs out in the market today. You could throw a virtual rock and hit at least twenty of them. I’ve dabbled in everything from Free-to-Play with micro-transactions to the typical monthly subscription-based MMORPGs from different parts of the world. When TERA finally hit the North American shores for its closed beta, I jumped on it right away.
Created by Bluehole Studios, TERA is a MMO that, besides combat and controls, will feel rather familiar: quests are easy to follow, lined up one after the other. You’ll run around, kill mobs, turn in quests for rewards, and do it again until you’re max level. You might even stop to go do some dungeons along the way.
The simple plot is about a giant monster invasion which has made the world call upon all of their young, brave and unseasoned fighters, namely you.
So, let’s start off with the fun stuff. Character creation is a big deal for me. I can easily be turned off by a game with lousy character creation choices, even if the game itself is amazing. The choices here include multiple color options for both skin and hair, but nothing for the eyes. Tweaking the facial structure can be fun even without any options for changing the color of the makeup.
While there isn’t an option to chose a body type, I found the default bodies to be perfectly fine. They are also quite jiggly if you play a female. Since I never create girl characters, unless threatened to do so by Giuseppe, you’ll only see shots of male characters in this preview. Sorry to all of you jiggly-loving readers out there.
With seven different races, you’ll have more than enough choices to be happy without any job class restrictions. You’ll also be able to make yourself stand out more by dyeing your armor later on. The dyes that I found were random drops from special event treasure boxes in the fields for this beta. It allowed me to use RGB sliders with a light to dark toner so that I could make any color I wanted. Whether or not that will be the normal dye process remains to be seen in the final US client.
Since I’m terrible at melee combat, my first choice was to make a spellcaster, but I also wanted something that I could heal with. Not much for being a main healer, I picked up a Castanic Mystic. For an alt, I also created a High Elf Archer.
Everyone who starts a new character will end up in the same place of a small secluded area that is full of monsters, quests and a lot of ground to cover on foot. Looking around, you’ll notice things you’ve seen in nearly every other MMO. Quest givers are marked with a noticeable symbol above their heads. Talking to them will prompt a popup of dialog and the chance to click on accept. That’s all it takes to master the quests of TERA.
The quests are entirely soloable, or you can always bring a few friends. As you can see in the screenshot above, I asked my friend Shakey to come along. Not that I needed his help, but he’s such a cute cat, even when he’s screaming because he’s scared of the giant, man-eating tree.
While exploring and killing you won’t be able to dabble in the familiar tab-targeting a mob to unleash your wrath of hotkey spams upon. You might have noticed the peculiar recital in the middle of the screen: The game actually uses a targeting system that is similar to a third-person shooter.
Another interesting factor in TERA‘s combat disallows you to run through other players or mobs that have hitboxes. The highlight of this game is what I like to call the ‘Smashbox Combat’. You must physically hit a mob or player to damage them.
Once you are able to chain skills together, the button mashing will become very entertaining. Kiting will be an essential tactic to any of the ranged classes and you’ll have to pay attention to what you’re doing. Mobs will dodge, jump, and avoid attacks, forcing you to move around with them.
Some skills will even require you to paint the targets before unleashing them or you will have to stand still to hold the cast. While you do receive more skills later on, most of them are just improvements upon those that will be learned in the starting zone.
The UI is also fully customizable, allowing you to resize bars or menus and move them around.
Leveling mostly involves following quest lines, killing a certain amount of mobs and turning them in. While combat is very innovative quests definitely follow the usual tried and true formula. Unfortunately there aren’t class-specific storylines, and most of the dialogue isn’t voiced. Everyone follows the same chain of events, while dungeons offer a diversion from the linearity of the quest lines.
Exploring offers the usual perks. Moving to new zones will open up teleportation options and there will be consumable scrolls that can send you back to a specified town or the nearest one. Leaving the starter zone will grant free mount with an instant cast time.
I found that without self-healing or a healer, there can be some downtime regarding getting health and mana back. While TERA is not the first game to ever use a campfire-type item for regeneration, it’s nice to know that you’ll be able to drop them down anywhere so long as there isn’t one up close by already. You’ll also receive consumable paper talismans to burn in campfires for a temporary buff.
Visually, TERA is gorgeous. Both characters and scenery are lush and vibrantly rich in color, thanks to the use of the Unreal Engine, that sets it apart from most MMORPGs. Games belonging to this genre often tend to use dedicated engines that aren’t as rich in their effects. Clouds move, tree branches sway and birds will fly overhead to cast their shadow on the ground below. One could easily become absorbed in the world full of attractive characters and beautyfully designed creatures.
Ultimately TERA is a very interesting entry in the MMORPG market. While it doesn’t break the mold in several aspects, it does push the boundaries around a few core elements of the gameplay, like combat and targeting, bringing a possible breath of fresh air to a genre that desperately needed it. Whether it will live up to the expectation it set, we won’t know until the official launch at the beginning of May, and the subsequent critical months, but if you’re tired of clicking on a target and then just pressing your usual rotation of hotkeys, TERA may actually show you that MMORPGs can abandon that formula and still be enjoyable.