One of the major differences in MMOs vs. Action RPGs has always been combat. In MMOs we have the hot bar, in action RPGs we have skills, moves, and combos that work to bring down foes. Age of Conan started this trend with a unique combat system that players could use in fights, but it still used a hot bar system. The action combat added to MMOs is really starting to move in a stronger direction and TERA is heralding its approach. TERA’s combat system is a focus of the game design which gives players a lot of options when fighting opponents. Let’s look at how this system will impact players.
The first basis for TERA’s combat that we have was our play experience at E3. Justin Webb and I sat down to a demo which ran like an instanced dungeon. We were part of a team and the devs worked us through a series of fights up until we met the boss. I played a Slayer class and was a melee DPS with a giant sword who could hit from range. One of the great things about TERA is that you can dodge and roll out of attacks. So when mobs were hitting me, I could use some directional skills to get away and start the fight from a new stand point. Also, unlike traditional targeted MMO combat, if I moved out of the target area, I could not be hit. Sure this will turn PvP into a whirlwind of running and jumping, but it definitely was more active than the normal MMO target-hot bar combat. The demo at E3 was the best we had experienced at the show. It was fun and gave you a real sense of game play.
Let’s look at their write up on combat in their FAQs as our next piece of evidence. Here is the quote:
“The real-time dynamic battle system gives players more control and constant involvement in the action! No more point-and-click or repetitive cycling through a palette of spells and skills. Rather than locking onto targets automatically, the position of your character and the timing of attacks, blocks, and dodges determine the outcome of each confrontation. As a result, combat is more intuitive, exciting, and realistic.”- TERA FAQs
Based on what we had played at E3 this statement holds true. At least from our experience, we highly recommend that at a show or convention you sit down and experience it for yourself. TERA’s combat begins with a target on the screen that you use to put on your opponents. It is not intrusive to the UI and is easy to learn. Once targeted you must move and position yourself to get your best attack skills in. The combat definitely has a much more action oriented feel. It has quick bursts of gameplay and allows for a lot of movement based combat.
So where does TERA’s combat run into some potential issues? My thoughts were quickly led to Age of Conan where the skill and combination choices became so common I found myself using them in every combat. Therefore after a while I got bored and being forced into combat still had a repetition to it. One of the things about traditional MMO hot-bar combat is that you have a choice of 10 or 12 skills, spells, or attacks you can use. When you switch to an action combat mode, that list may become much shorter. Though the combat moves faster, your options in finishing off opponents may become more limited. In Warcraft, I liked that my shaman could drop totems, frost shock, move away, lightning bolt, or melee. These options came from having an extended hot bar or choices. The action combat system may limit what a player can do and eventually they find themselves using the same combinations for everything. Also with the classes in TERA being so clearly defined, it factors into the options you have.
So based on those two pieces of evidence, I make my conclusion that the action combat system in TERA is fast paced and fun. Yes, I have read their version of it, and played the game to find out. You need to do the same. It would be wrong for me not to question some aspects of it in the column because everything needs to be questioned, especially when MMOs ask for a large amount of your game time. Overall, I do think that TERA’s system is fun. That is critical to getting players into the game and having them build their characters. The question remains is that will it be too limited for hardcore MMO players who are used to the hot-bar design? Time will tell, for now hopefully we will see more and get to experience the combat first hand as the game gets closer to launch.