TERA: The Exiled Realm of Arborea is the latest entry into the much vaunted “Action” MMO market, with combat that is more active/reactive than the traditional hit “A” and go for a sandwich while the game rolls the die variety. En Masse Entertainment pulled off a beautiful demo to prove that at E3. Scheduling 4 journalists into each time slot, we entered the booth, were each seated at a PC, handed headsets, a Quick-Start guide, were quickly guided through the controls and followed the Healer – an En Masse staffer into battle.
We had our basic attack, skills we could deploy and a dodge. The basic attack built up a Mana bar which was depleted when we deployed skills. The Healer coordinated us, reminding each of our special skills, telling us how to recognized when the Mob telegraphed its heavy attack and soon we were all into it, shouting out instructions to each other, sending the Berserker in to hold aggro, reminding us not to steal aggro, as we laid into the Mob with our special skills. As a warrior, I had a stun ability which I fired off whenever I could best make it count. We quickly found combat to be strategic and learned to chain different skills together for combos that dealt more damage than either skill could do on its own. There was even a skill that I could chain with my Dodge (a roll) which had me bouncing back on my feet, into the air and slashing down. All in all, it was the most fun I had at E3.
TERA is action based. Instead of target locking enemies, you have to face them, and more importantly, be within range of them to affect them. The target reticule provides us the distance information, turning into a solid circle when we were within effective range. Your hits don’t count unless they land, which makes it doubly important for us as we dodged out of the way or blocked hits from the mobs. If there was one thing I noticed, it was that the team was always in action, always moving as we shifted with our target, changing our positions vis-à-vis the mob. Each press of a key actually meant something as we swung and dodged. I learned the timing of my character’s movements really quickly after the second time I stood around swinging at the air after the mob moved to beat up the Sorcerer. We were fighting elite mobs which hit hard, telegraphing their big blows with a wind-up (fortunately) and further, did not show a life bar so the we didn’t know how badly hurt it was until it fell over.
TERA will have eight classes of characters: Four melee combat classes, Berserker, Lancer, Slayer and Warrior, each with offensive/defensive differences; two ranged combat classes, the Archer and the Sorcerer; and two healing classes, the Mystic and the Priest.
At Comic Con, I was specifically asking after the Healer class. How would they play in an action-based MMO? The very same way any other class plays. You have to actively target whom you are healing. None of those stand back, watch life bars, hit an F key to lock target and hit a hotkey to heal, with a sandwich in one hand while talking with a buddy on the mobile phone (no, I haven’t done that... Really! I was changing a diaper! *cough*)
Both the Mystic and the Priest have direct heals and AE heals, but the flavor of the play is different. The Mystic have more offensive magic, and have a nifty spell called Vampiric Circle that drains the health of enemies within the circle and converts it to mana for your party. They weren’t showing the Mystic, so I was able to obtain more information about the Priest. The Priest buffs, regens and have the ability to ress in battle and can do crowd control with Slumber – a spell which sends a mob to sleep for awhile. Arise is one of the other nifty spells in their repertoire. One thing that happens in combat, and can happen often with some mobs, is that they knock you down. Depending on the strength of the knock down, it can stun you and you can take a while to climb onto your feet, long enough sometimes, for the mob to get off the heavy damage hit. Arise instantly gets you back on your feet.
They also can summon members of the party together – you know, the guy who always gets lost when the party is running somewhere, they also can teleport the party to the nearest camp after the battle.
The game launch is scheduled for 2011, so we will be seeing new builds as the year progresses. We got a sneak peek at the new UI and customization screens at the TERA party at Comic Con. The UI already looked really good and was combat was intuitive. The size and placements of the UI boxes were simply moved by clicking, dragging and dropping. The characters already look pretty good, but the new customization will allow players further individualization with sliders for some features. I wonder if we will be able to create truly fugly characters or if En Masse are presenting us with a “good looking characters” world.
Players have a total of six races to choose from when creating a character. Some will not have a gender, and some may not have the ability to play all classes. Two types are descended from the giants, humans, elves, a demon descendent and the Popori which are woodland animals. Popori have quite a few different looks, from the weasel to the rabbit, with customizable tails, and so cute that almost everyone trying out the customization had to create one. You could totally have a little ferret faced Popori warrior with a bunny puff of a tail.
We also touched on the world and took a Pegasus ride from one city to another. To keep the towns and cities useful and vibrant, and encourage the different levels to mingle, players will have to return to town to visit their trainers. This is a system I personally like as I feel it helps the immersion. All larger cities and villages will have Pegasus platforms, trainers to train skills and abilities, healers to restore your stamina (health), merchants from whom to buy health/mana/buff potions and scrolls such as town portal scrolls. A glyph system will also be in game for stat / skill enhancements and players will have to visit NPCs in the larger towns to apply and remove/rest their glyphs. Some outlying camps will also have Pegasus platforms besides the merchants and healer for ease of travel.
So this is the world of TERA. The combat action is exciting and smooth. The world looks great and looks alive. The idle animation is not merely a shift of the shoulders or weight. The characters are moving, sometimes looking around, sometimes adjusting their amour or checking their weapons. We have yet to learn about character progression and the options we have with them, and we have yet to see how well the classes are balanced, but from what I’ve seen so far, TERA definitely has a spot on my most-anticipated upcoming MMOs list.