PlayStation 4 Review In Progress #1 - First Steps Onto The Island Of Dawn
It’s been almost 6 years (on May 1st) that the F2P action combat fantasy MMO Tera, developed by Bluehole Studio and published by En Masse, hit our Windows PCs. Last week En Masse unleashed their console “7-day head start” program onto any players who purchased one of four Founder’s Packs or to members of Twitch Prime. As being a frequent player of the Windows version my initial knee jerk response when a console variant hits is “does it offer anything differently for a PC user” and “how does it play on console in general”. In this multi-part review, I’ll try to dig deeper into those questions while hopefully drawing in new Tera players who might have originally shunned it due to being strictly a PC release. This is our Tera PS4 review in progress #1.
For Those New To Tera
The world of Tera began a long, long time ago when two titans of unimaginable power, Arun and Shara, met in a formless void. For unknown reasons they fell asleep. And as they slept, they dreamt, and their dreams become reality. Their dreams led to the formation of twelve gods and associated “mortals” (i.e races). The gods eventually went to war based upon scheming, rivalries, etc. The gods also brought the mortals into the war’s battles. These wars left most of the gods dead, imprisoned, or otherwise diminished. The god wars also impacted the mortals as some races were wiped out. Others, like the Baraka and the Castanics, emerged from the conflict itself. And as Tera begins, the Humans, High elves, Amani, Castanics, Baraka, and Poporis have banded together to fight a menace from beyond their world known as the Argons, a metallic race from the Underworld.
Tera is an action combat MMO where you aim your attacks and dodge telegraphed attacks from your foes. The telegraphs are visible red zones, that appear in different shapes and sizes, on the ground for the current mob you’re engaged with. There are thirteen classes in the Windows PC version with the Reaper class unlocking after you have a toon at level 40. Another original selling point of Tera was the fact you’ll encounter BAMs (a.k.a. “Big-Ass Monsters”) in dungeons and open-world content. Tera is a free-to-play experience, with no artificial cap on classes, zones, what you can do, etc. All the content in the game can be experienced without buying anything. There is of course an in-game store that offers cosmetic items and services to make your journey to end game a bit quicker, as well as, their paid subscription option, elite status.
First Contact Impressions
This review experience is based on the PS4 version played upon a PS4 Pro. Upon initial login the PS4 crowd can pick from four servers, three PvE servers and one PvP server. Also, worth noting, if you choose to play Tera on XBox One then a Gold subscription is required to play. PS4 owners do not need a PlayStation Plus subscription to play Tera on PS4. I chose to start on a PvE server.
Coming from the PC servers, my preferred class of choice would have been the male brawler as I like the brawler’s block ability which normally saves me from having to dodge a few extra times. Sadly, the PS4 version of Tera does not include the Gunner, Valkyrie, or the male Brawler, “yet” presumably. Eventually, I settled on class I had not tried yet, the Warrior, which is a DPS based tank wearing leather armor. The character creation experience is pretty much straight out of the Windows PC version. You have many stock options to choose from or plenty of customizations to roll your own look.
One annoyance I still suffer, that happens on additional logins to the game, is that Tera goes to the character select screen for the server on top of the server list. The annoyance being, the server on top of the list isn’t always the one you were last on, so you need to go back to the server select screen, meaning you get to experience that “boom tube” animation twice. Hopefully, a known bug they will address soon.
It’s All About Control, Control, Control
Tera’s action combat always felt like an obvious choice for a controller and in theory for consoles. Upon logging in and starting in the same “Island Of Dawn” zone (tutorial) you have two skill bars, the second is accessible by holding down the PS4’s L1 button. The initial controller configuration seemed a bit odd. For example, the “jump” skill, which seems like a popular move is setup as a combination of the PS4’s L1 + X button versus just being the “X” button. Initially, the X button is set up for the “Interact” skill (i.e. pick-up loot, talk to NPC, etc.). Thankfully, this can be reconfigured, but skills reconfiguration is not always as straightforward as you might have expected and required some YouTube assistance. For example, the “jump” skill is considered a priority skill as is the “Interact” skill. For some reason you can’t drop one priority skill over another, it complains, in this example, that you can’t do that with “Interact”. You must first overwrite the “Interact” button with a non-priority skill, e.g. “Combative Strike” then you can drop the priority skill “Jump” on top of the “Combative Strike” button. Cumbersome but a minor annoyance once you know the work around.
One useful priority skill added to the console version is a button/skill for popping up a radial dial. Here you can place things like potions, pets, mounts, etc. It’s initially mapped to the D-Pad’s left button and it was useful for doing login recalls of pets, for example.
You can also enable quest indicators on NPCs and/or world/zone map via the Options tab. Also, alas, you’ll see on screen messages of other players finding items in “Elite Loot Boxes”, yes, this F2P game has loot boxes. It would be nice if Elite players could disable these broadcasts.
One glaring omission is that there doesn’t seem to be a way to scale the UI and Chat text to a smaller font. With a larger quest tracker font, you only see the top two quests on your list, additionally getting to the others is a bit cumbersome. It requires selecting touchpad + O. Accessing the chat window and world map (currently bugged as it’s labeled “undefined”) uses the same touchpad mechanic.
Retooled For Console
A “Retooled” interface for consoles as Tera’s website states, let’s discuss inventory management, skills menus, etc. Bluehole did a nice job of putting everything you need under a series of tabs of menus. Using the PS4’s L1 / L2 and R1 / R2 buttons you can get around pretty quickly. The game also does a nice job of tagging tabs with changes with a tiny red “N”. On item selection, using the triangle button pops up relevant sub-menus. All of this is accessed initially through the Options button.
Crafting is also accessible from the same said menu system, which is worth noting, if you choose crafting, say in your early twenties, as it’s the way to get around a known bug. The bug keeps you from using the “Interact” skill on a crafting station. In this mode for some reason when the crafting menus are up your controller is still controlling your avatar. This, and the undefined world map key, were pretty much the only “real bugs” I encountered in week one.
The Tera store is also accessible here. The store offers cosmetics, mounts, pets, and some convenience items (e.g. extra bank slots). Expansion of inventory slots is currently done via in-game gold which I seemed to have plenty of even with having to pay to buy and upgrade skills.
For the most part the game played well at a high frame rate during PvE encounters, general travel (i.e. on a mount), etc. I haven’t noticed any skills lag or the like which would be a death knell for a game like Tera. Some stutter / frame-rate issues did show up in some areas like in the first major city, Velika even on my PS4 Pro. I seem to remember though this being an issue on the Windows version so I’m not certain if it’s a general performance issue or a game engine (still Unreal) limitation. I also saw some “rubber-banding” using the Pegasus flight system getting from one major area to another, e.g. from starter island to mainland. These served as minor annoyances and didn’t impact overall gameplay.
The occasional skippable, in-game cutscenes played relatively well. I was initially worried that one of the opening scenes seemed a bit grainy but further in I no longer saw that characteristic. Playing on a 24” monitor, quest dialogue was large enough that I could envision playing a reasonable distance away, e.g. on a couch, without an issue.
The Twitch Prime package came with “Violette”, a pet dragonette with the ability to auto-loot. This was a welcome addition, as I don’t recall having these on the PC version. Handy for people like me that like to grab everything. Though at higher levels, perhaps where I out leveled an area, the pet seemed to stop auto-looting. My assumption is the pet considered the drops inconsequential based on my level.
Granted these Founder’s Packs you’re given a 15-day Elite Status subscription which increases your XP gain rate slightly. Even so, I’m finding going through the story quests from guided zone to zone I’m about three levels above the story content. Most mobs in the areas I’ve been through are conning grey which, in effect, makes it easier to finish “Vanguard Quests” (Tera’s daily quest system) in those areas. Also, still present is the relatively high “re-pop rate” for mobs, averaging from two secs to almost instantaneous. If you’re new to Tera you’ll quickly find that a lot of the PvE mobs in this game that travel in packs with a stronger mob surrounded by a group of minion mobs. Essential point, cruise through your menus somewhere safe.
Into General Release
Today the game heads into General Release where the game is open to anyone. It’ll be interesting to see how many more people login and what effect that will have on server performance. I’ve yet to queue up for a dungeon instance yet, the first being “Bastion of Lok”. This will be necessary since it’s part of the story. I’ll also be over leveled for it, but we’ll see how the game handles that situation.
Overall, the first day of head start had its share of typical day one hiccups (e.g. missing Founder’s Pack items, etc.). As usual there are others on the forums that suggest they have “performance issues” but I’ve not seen these, I do play in the States on a 150 MBPs internet wire so maybe that’s a factor. Overall, I’ve not had any issues logging in, server disconnects, etc. Hopefully, that trend continues into week two as the population increases!