I’d heard a good deal about TERA in the past, but I hadn’t actually tried the game until my brief demo at this year’s Game Developers Conference. I came away with a pretty good experience and so I was fairly curious to see what the game was really all about when I had a whole weekend to check it out from the beginning during the just completed CBT4.
For this weekend’s test, I decided to go with an Aman Slayer, because they kind of look like cool dragon ladies (think League of Legends’ Shyvana) and you can never go wrong with a greatsword. I rolled on a PvP server as well, since I wanted to put TERAs “true action combat” to the test in both PvE and PvP.
If you haven’t played or even heard of TERA (somehow), the game doesn’t utilize your typical tab targeting MMO combat system. In order for your skills to connect, they have to, well, connect! This goes both ways, too. Monsters will also have to connect with you to land their hits, which makes PvE combat more exciting as a result.
Each monster has its own combat behavior; in the beginning, you’ll fight slow tree monsters that can hit quite hard if they successfully fall on top of you. Later, you’ll fight bird creatures called Stonebeaks that try to kite you and fire projectiles at you (that you can dodge). While I was only able to get just beyond the newbie island, the creatures I fought had me imagining the possibilities of genuinely interesting MMO PvE combat.
While there are two two-handed wielding classes in the game, the Slayer and the Berserker, they function a bit differently. The Slayer wears light armor and mitigates damage by rolling out of the way, while the ‘Zerker utilizes charge-up attacks, wears heavy armor, and will have to physically block damage with his weapon. I played the ‘Zerker at GDC and while I found its AOE mayhem fun, I wasn’t too fond of the charge-up mechanic, so I opted for the Slayer this time, and I’m glad for it! It’s a nimble class that packs a serious wallop, but it just can’t take it as well as a ‘Zerker might be able to. That’s fine; most enemies couldn’t really land a hit!
Unfortunately, my experience with TERA’s PvE up to this point didn’t really sell me the game yet, despite the moment-to-moment fun of the combat and the promise of interesting mob AI. The experience was held back for me by the game’s questing system. Honestly, it felt like I was playing what was originally a Korean grinder, only with really basic quests thrown in to try and mask the grind. It also didn’t help that the enemies I fought pretty much repeated themselves across the entire island. Don’t get me wrong, leveling itself didn’t take very long, but the quests I was tasked to complete rarely diverged from the kill X or collect Y formula.
While I was left a little deflated by the PvE experience in TERA, the game had one saving grace that really got me excited to login each night: PvP. Truth be told, I prefer PvP to PvE anyway, so I’m a little bit biased there, but TERA’s PvP sells its combat system much better than its PvE does. Once you get off the newbie island, you’ll be able to learn an ability that lets you designate yourself as an Outlaw. Once activated, this ability allows you to attack anyone (on PvP servers) outside of safe zones such as cities (even if they don’t flag themselves). The catch is, everyone can also attack you on sight without having to expose themselves to attack from other players. There are additional PvP features already in the game, such as dueling, and even instanced battlegrounds on the horizon, but for the time being, the Outlaw system is still tons of fun.
Before you get too excited, don’t expect the ability to loot others, or really gain anything from doing this open world free-for-all PvP, but that doesn’t matter, because it’s just damn fun.
Ganking other players with a couple of friends using TERAs combat system hasn’t been this exciting for me probably since I last played DC Universe Online. Before you call me a jerk for ganking, I don’t attack people significantly lower than my level, and everyone on my server signed up for this sort of thing anyway. There’s just something awesome about properly timing your dash move as a Slayer in order to catch a guy trying pass through on his horse. Since you have to connect every hit, actually catching people to kill them is part of the challenge at times.
Speaking of actually having to hit people, the melee vs. ranged paradigm in TERA is pretty interesting. Melee characters really deal a lot of damage when they close in, but ranged characters are pretty good at zoning you out. Every ability attempt is a huge consideration for both parties, as the animations essentially root you in place (you can seemingly cancel some moves by rolling at the right time). This is often long enough for the melee character to close distance on a ranged character if they miss or for the ranged character to get just out of range (or punish you hard with a spell) if you improperly time your own abilities. It’s fun rolling out of the way of fireballs as you close the gap on a Sorcerer, as every missed spell makes the situation that much more desperate for him. Once I’m able to get in range the odds felt largely in my favor.
The takeaway so far is this: if you’re looking for a new MMO to do PvE in, keep an eye on TERA (try out the game during the beta weekends!), there’s a lot of promise here if they can show off some of their good stuff earlier. However, if you enjoy the thrill of the hunt and love to dunk on nooblords (forgive my co-opting of a LoL meme), I highly encourage you to give the game a spin. There’s a good deal of depth to the combat system that makes PvP simply fun to do even if there aren’t any tangible rewards for it just yet.