TERA is nearly at the launch pad as it nears the May 1st release date. Published in North America by En Masse Entertainment and in Europe by Frogster, the game is ready to explode onto the gaming scene.
Yet TERA has a tough row to hoe in the coming days as it seeks to find its place among other big titles coming in 2012, particularly The Secret World from Funcom and Guild Wars 2 from Arena.Net. Being the first of the three out the gate gives TERA a chance to find and captivate its audience. Will it? Well, it rather depends on a number of factors.
One of the biggest mountains that En Masse and Frogster have to climb with TERA is the notion that it's "just another Asian grinder". For my money, this is the single biggest factor in how successful TERA ultimately becomes and is the hardest thing that the Korean development team and their Western partners will have to overcome. As I play TERA, I want to like it, I really do. But my innate bias shines through as I'm sent along on another "kill 10 rats" quest and forced to FedEx my way around the starter zone. I hold out scant hope, however, that things will improve once I'm on to the main continent and working my way to Arborean glory. I have to say though that, at least at this point, the notion of an Asian grinder is still there in TERA. Luckily there are offsetting factors that might win players over if they're patient enough to stick it out.
Combat in TERA is just plain fun. Without an auto-targetting system and with players able to use console-like attacks and combos, combat is a breath of fresh air in the MMO space. Even I, famous as an Auto-Target Queen, loved the rolling, dodging, stick the sword in and back off type of combat that my warrior encountered over the weekend. Plowing through a big group of monsters is just pure F-U-N! The moves are fluid and natural...well as natural as being superhumanly fast and balanced actually is but you get my point. There's nothing stiff or weird looking about the way characters do what they do. The effects are quite nice too.
Aesthetically speaking, TERA is one of the most jaw droppingly gorgeous games I've ever encountered. It's like a fine pastel watercolor and the color palette is nothing short of astonishing with those soft pastels juxtaposed against vibrant backgrounds. It's breathtaking in some instances. The eye-candy begins on the Isle of Dawn, the starter area for TERA. It's worth taking the time to actually look up to see what developers, BlueHole Studios, have painted for players. And you do have to look up. As with all things in TERA, bigger is....well, not better, it's just BIGGER. As the now famous "Big Ass Monsters" indicate, everything in TERA is big from monsters to the surrounding scenery. It's worth taking the time to look around and appreciate the beauty.
The overall beauty of TERA shines through in all sorts of places such as in combat animations, spell effects, buffs, water, etc. In short, just about anything that requires eyes to see is worth looking at in TERA. Even the female armors are well constructed if way too revealing and uncomfortable looking.
Which brings me to my next point about TERA's need to win over audiences with En Masse's/Frogster's "westernization" project. Why in the bloody realms of Hell can't someone ask for better female armor? You know, something that's actually a bit more realistic than a pair of pasties and a G-string? I'm not going to segue into a diatribe about female armor models in Eastern MMOs but it's fair to point out that Western audiences, which have a growing population of female players, like to at least have a choice in what female characters wear. Hey, I get it. Lots of folks like the pasties and G-string look. That's great but some of what makes players think "Asian grind fest" is the prevalence of little things like overly pole dancer armor to name one example.
And of course, what article about TERA would be complete without at least a cursory mention of BAMs? Big Ass Monsters are, well, B-I-G. Every screenshot shows off gargantuan monsters that defy belief. But, as said earlier, bigger is better in TERA. I can't wait to face off against my first real BAM. There's no question that the overabundance of BAMs in TERA is something that sets it apart from the pack!
Most of the things that I find "disturbing" about TERA are surface-level and shallow. I can admit that. But when I manage to overlook the female armor models, I am pleasantly surprised by how much I like TERA. Not only is it pleasing to the eye, it also has enough terrific combat to keep even the most seasoned MMO veteran on his or her toes. Like I said before, combat in TERA is just plain fun.
TERA will have a loyal following in North America and Europe. I firmly believe that. But the development and publication teams have a tough road ahead of them in selling the game to an increasingly bitter and demanding MMO audience here in the West. If players can manage to overcome what has become something of an innate bias against Korean MMOs, they just may find that TERA is the game of the year. TERA has a lot of potential. Let's hope that En Masse, Frogster and BlueHole Studios have done all that they can to ensure success come May 1st.