Like Luke below (ha, Like Luke!) I’ve wrestled back and forth between Guild Wars 2 and TERA since I’ve been spending time in both betas. The difference, as you’ll see, is that while Luke finds himself underwhelmed by ArenaNet’s sequel, I find myself floored by it. And with TERA launching this week and GW2 presumably just a few months away, we each take time to ponder which game has the edge for our personal tastes.
Does one game have to win over the other, or do they each have unique strengths, both in gameplay and business model that a player might enjoy both? Let’s dive in!
BILL’S INTERNAL BATTLE
I’m not trying to play it safe when I say I fully see the benefits to both TERA and Guild Wars 2. That said: I can see myself being a whole lot more enticed by the latter. It’s just far more “new” to me, even though I’m loving TERA’s combat and world. What gets me about Guild Wars 2 is its sense of exploration and discovery. Meanwhile the combat and politics of TERA are what have me solidly enjoying that title. Luke and I are each going to briefly talk on three core components to any MMO and see how the two games stack up against each other.
TERA really doesn’t offer much in the way of class-differentiation... at least early on. The true difference between classes in TERA comes in the form of how each class plays completely different in combat. You get crystals to slot out weapons and armor with bonus stats (which becomes hugely important later one), and you get glyphs to tweak skills from level 20+ (also hugely important). But by and large the Lancer’s core skills and way of playing stays the same between players, with crystals and glyphs being the customized part of your play experience. So if you’re the type of player who really wants to change the way your character plays, TERA won’t necessarily work for you. If however, you’re all about min-maxxing? Well then, En Masse’s game is up your alley.
GW2 on the other hand? With the different weapons, the several dozen skills on each class, and the ability to trait your character into a completely different play-style? Well, I think we see who has the edge here. Personally, I’d take GW2’s class progression any day. But I wonder how big of a balance burden it will be in PVP, and for that TERA has the upper hand in at least the competitive category. Still, I think I’d have at least liked the ability to tweak my character’s skills and abilities a bit more in TERA. It’s definitely a missing aspect of MMORPG design. And given GW2’s general idea of completely ditching the holy trinity, if you’re the type of player who prefers distinct roles in your MMO, then TERA might be more up your alley. I can speak from experience that sometimes playing a true tank is missed in GW2, and I welcome it in TERA.
Quests and Adventure
This is another area in which one game goes the tried and true route, while another tries to shake things up. There are plenty of folks who claim the MMO design isn’t broken and doesn’t need re-shaping. Those folks will likely love the questing in TERA, and loathe the all-public events in GW2. But me? I put up with the questing in TERA, well written though it is, because the combat and group content is fun enough to get me through “kill this, and collect this”.
Now, don’t get me wrong. GW2’s events are still about killing and collecting, but like WoW did in 2004, it’s a refinement of the mechanic that disguises the “quest grind” in a way that makes it feel new, different, and altogether fun. I also love how GW2 puts a player in the world of Tyria and says “Go find stuff to do.” The explorer in me loves that. And while I love the beautiful world of TERA’s Arborea, there’s a lot less focus on exploration. It’s huge and pretty, but the content directs you through the zones via quest hub, and as an MMO veteran, GW2’s approach is just more novel and interesting. TERA’s strength comes from the fact that the dungeons are a blast, the BAM’s are a truly great representation of world bosses, and there are open world dungeons a la EQ1. I forgot how much I missed them.
This is TERA’s big win, yes even with animation lock (which prevents the hacking and whatnot we saw in DCUO, by the way). GW2’s combat is still a ton of fun, don’t get me wrong. It tweaks the standard tab-target stuff enough to make it far more interesting than in games like WoW or EQ2. Plus the dodge, once you learn its importance, is a brilliant feature to make combat seem more active. But that doesn’t stop TERA’s “True Action Combat” from pretty much making all other MMOs’ combat seem infantile. There are other games trying it on the horizon (Raiderz stands out and is F2P). But TERA really does have an ace up their sleeve, and with more diverse content in the future, and a focus on PVP, I can see En Masse’s game earning and keeping a large hardcore crowd of gamers with a lust for player versus player. Seriously, once you find your class, the combat in TERA is light-years ahead of anything else on the market. GW2 is good at it, but TERA is better.
Ultimately, I’ll be playing TERA for the next several months at least. I look forward to Diablo 3, and I really am excited about The Secret World as well. I’m a gamer, I’ll play everything. But TERA’s got its hooks in me for now. In fact, I actually think TERA might be more fun for me than SWTOR ever was. I wonder though just how long it will last. What will the end-game hold? And more than that, will I be playing any other game when Guild Wars 2 launches? Both TERA and ANet’s game have their upsides. Just as SWTOR had its own benefits when this same argument sprouted around the time of BioWare’s launch.
But for what it’s worth, if you’re asking me my own opinion? I’ve not had the feeling Guild Wars 2 gave me in an MMO for over seven years. It made me remember that these games are about the world and the people, and about exploration. Not just about levels and gear. I can’t wait for that feeling to be permanent when GW2 launches. TERA really is a good game. But for my own tastes, I think Guild Wars 2 is ultimately the better product.
LUKE’S INTERNAL BATTLE
After months of waiting, this weekend marked my first moments of playtime with the hugely anticipated Guild Wars 2. After waiting so long, the only word that accurately sums up how I felt over the past few days is…underwhelmed. Not overly so, but enough to make me take stock of why I feel this way. After a post-mortem with some guild mates, we came up with a radical conclusion: I’ve been playing too much TERA. While I fully intend to play both games, the past weekend has got me thinking about how the two compare, and now I plan to share my conclusions with you, gentle readers.
The way your class develops in Guild Wars 2 through having different weapons offer different skills offers brilliant customisation. The first character I made was a Charr engineer, and I found much of my first hour consumed with trying to track down as many different weapons as I could. From very early in my playtime I was able to refine my playstyle to what worked best for me, and that’s really quite special.
TERA has nowhere near the same level of class customisation on offer. Your class is pretty much shackled in terms of how it operates, all the way down to the weapons it uses which could quickly become repetitive. What makes up for this is the vast difference in play experiences between classes. In a game with an emphasis on action combat, the speed and range of attacks take on a much more important meaning, which in turn makes picking the right class for your style a big task. Sure, it can’t be refined to the degree present in Guild Wars 2, but that’s not to say there aren’t options there.
Quests and Adventure
Once again on this front, Guild Wars 2 triumphs, though I’m dubious how much this matters. The dynamic event questing system is brilliant…the first time you encounter an event. As I found myself after staying in the same area too long, doing the same event 3 or even 4 times causes the veneer of this shifting world to crack. Events moving back and forth do make the world feel vibrant but also cause your actions to appear futile. Whilst I’d never claim TERA does anything but recycle the tired MMO norm of “kill X rats” or escort quests, neither does Guild Wars 2 once you take away the manner in which they’re delivered to you. So what it all really came down to for me was…
Pretty much 80% if not more of my time in both games thus far has been spent in combat. Whether I’m doing quests or just exploring, mobs are constantly trying to kill me. As a result, it doesn’t matter to me what I have to do or what my objective is but rather how I go about doing this. On this front Guild Wars 2 felt similar to every MMO I’ve played in the last decade at the basic gameplay level. It’s more refined in many aspects but it’s not revolutionary by any means. That’s not to say TERA is, but I certainly find its combat to be less overused and a welcome change.
Both games shift towards action combat through things like dodging, though TERA places far more emphasis on this. My problem was, coming to my Charr after 5 days on my Castanic, I felt like I was moving in molasses. Everything seemed slower, and I wasn’t plagued by framerate issues like many others. Dodging seemed to be a token gesture in Guild Wars 2; monsters swiftly caught up with me when I ran out of stamina after 3 jumps. Because of this, the difficulty of monsters seemed punishing; if I mess up a dodge in TERA and lose a chunk of life, it’s my own fault, but even doing things perfectly in Guild Wars 2 can swiftly see my health pool depleted.
Ultimately for me the combat in TERA wins hands down, but that could be because it’s fresher and I haven’t seen all Guild Wars 2 has to offer on that front. What the latter does do brilliantly is create a vibrant world with a superior storyline and a new way of delivering quests. This last weekend has made me keener than ever to get back in Tyria and see whether these early feelings will change but as it stands right now, with a chunk of time spent in combat… the edge goes to TERA for me.