En Masse Entertainment hosted the first TERA Community Play Event in North America this past weekend. It’s the first time that most western players have gotten their hands on one of the most widely covered and hotly anticipated games coming out during 2011. Press members were invited to the event to check out the game and, with no NDA, there’s plenty to talk about. MMORPG.com’s Garrett Fuller and I were tagged to check out TERA and offer a few thoughts about the game.
I have to be honest with you before I start with my first impressions of this weekend’s community play event. I’m not really a ‘minutiae’ type person. I prefer to experience and write about a new game in broad strokes from a visual and experiential perspective. I prefer not to study the game before starting out in an event like this one as there’s something exciting about going into a game as a blank slate, ready to explore without preconceived notions.
The game client we played is nearly identical to the Korean version released recently. The English voice acting wasn’t included, so the original Korean voices were in the soundtrack with subtitles showing what the NPCs and quest dialog were saying. En Masse devs told us that they wanted us to see where the game was and where their work would begin. They anticipate a lot of changes over the coming months in an effort to ‘westernize’ the game for North American and European players.
Left out of the weekend’s event were battlegrounds and the political system as En Masse has a lot of changes planned and felt that these particular features weren’t quite ready for prime time yet. At the same time, En Masse devs did want to make clear that some of the most unique aspects of the game that we saw this weekend were as a direct result of their input to Blue Hole Studios. Most notably, En Masse has been instrumental in bringing controller support into TERA and has had a direct impact on the achievement system.
Character creation is quite nice with six of the seven races and all of the classes available for us to choose from. The only race omitted during the event was the Elin. For my first character, I chose a human warrior and later a High Elf Archer (which I like a LOT better!). Once race and class were out of the way, it was on to customization. There are a lot of preset faces and body builds to choose from if you’re in a hurry to get into the game. If not, there are a lot of customization options available from hair color and style to features to adornments and more. You can change size, color, even your character’s starting outfit. Once your character is named, it’s off to the Island of Dawn.
My journey into the game started with a nice cinematic movie of all the new recruits flying to the Island of Dawn on winged mounts. One nice touch was seeing my character included in the movie as the mount lands on the island. From there, it’s off to questing and adventure!
Visually, TERA is one of the most impressive looking games I’ve ever played. The environments are awash with pastel colors, flowing waterfalls, waving trees, verdant lawns and creatures galore. There’s so much detail in everything you look at as well. Combat visuals are lovely too with lots of colorful effects. Little visual touches are cool too. For instance, when my character jumped off a boulder, she didn’t just hit the ground and keep running. She hit the ground, put her hands down to regain her balance, pushed herself up and then ran on. I love things like that!
Blue Hole used an impressive palette of colors for TERA. As said, the beginning areas are pastel and soft. Later, when getting to the Tainted Canyon, the colors are muted with lots of grays and blacks accompanying smoke and a hazy sky. The color scheme and movement of everything seemed to have caused some folks to have bad frame rates while playing. I only noticed lag once or twice in high traffic, high monster areas.
Everything is big and bigger in TERA with head sized bees, for instance. One of our recent screenshot features showed off what En Masse called ‘big ass monsters’ and the statement is true! Everything is gigantic in TERA. It was pretty amusing to see a tiny Popori running around with an enormous lance fighting a tree monster five times its size.
Console gamers will love the ability to use a game pad while playing TERA and to have the chance to create combos and literally move on a dime. In fact, this was one of the first times I felt at a disadvantage using a keyboard and mouse. Camera control takes some getting used to but once you figure it out, it’s not bad. It’s just different. The non-auto targeting system is awesome. It brings a level of thinking into TERA that isn’t present in most MMOs.
Questing is pretty standard as there are quest hubs and then a run to a location a short distance away to complete the requirements before returning. Quest rewards are nice with goods that seemed to be awarded in such a way as to keep up with the forward progression of my character. I never felt either under- or over-powered when fighting. Skills can be advanced every other level at a trainer. Interestingly, there is a trainer for tactics and a trainer for magic rather than class-specific trainers found in other games.
But not all is sunlight and roses, however. My biggest complaint about TERA is in the costuming of the female characters. Yes, I realize that most games are geared to younger males and, yes, I realize that males tend to like to look at scantily clad women in their games. Further, I realize that all MMOs take the ‘barely there’ approach to what only slightly resembles armor for female characters. But TERA’s female characters are worse than most. Females look like pole dancers rather than fierce warriors. I’m not a prude but as a female gamer, I’d appreciate at least a bit more than a G-string and a Wonder Bra when I’m out fighting in my games. The look of my characters made my teeth hurt and was a big turn off overall. Call me shallow if you will but there are ever-increasing numbers of female gamers and most would be put off by the look presented in TERA. It’s not necessarily a game-stopper but it’s annoying.
Even with that said, however, I liked what I saw overall during the weekend’s event and am looking forward to seeing more of En Masse’s efforts to ‘westernize’ the game over the coming months.
Win 7 64-bit, 4.0 Gb of RAM, Intel Core Duo CPU E8500 @ 3.17 GHz and 3.17GHz, Nvidia GeForce GTX460
Be sure to read Garrett Fuller's impressions of the TERA Game Play Event.