Well, it’s now been almost a full week since TERA’s Head Start, and just a few days since the official launch. How’re things shaping up? Honestly… this has been one of the smoothest MMO launches in history. I said before that it’s possible TERA’s slow churn on hype, caught between the beasts of SWTOR and GW2 could do it some good. I still believe that. Judging by the amount of servers and their current nightly populations in the US (most medium, some high, several full) I think the game’s doing well. But there are only a dozen or so servers, they didn’t open with too many, and it seems like things are going just right. Is it WoW pandemonium 2.0? Nope. But there’s definitely a niche group of players En Masse is currently catering too, and if they’re smart they’ll keep finding a way to retain them. But I’m not here to prognosticate on the future of the game. I’m here to give you insight into what I’m thinking as I prepare our official review in a few weeks’ time. It’s week two of playing since the Open Beta for me, I’m level 24 and still adoring the shape my Lancer is taking. Let’s discuss something this week that I think will pay a potentially large part of TERA’s success: its dungeons.
THE BASTION OF LOK
I’ve run this dungeon several times know, and if it’s an indication of what to expect as they become more varied and difficult in later levels, I’m going to be a happy camper. The group content, as I said last week, is probably TERA’s strongest point for me. Which is odd, because I’m generally a solo player and don’t go looking for groups. But the combat in a party setting is phenomenal, and the dungeon finder makes things really easy if you’re a needed and specialized role such as the Lancer (main tank).
The Bastion of Lok (BoL) is really a straightforward tank & spank sort of experience, but obviously the combat of TERA makes such olden activities feel fresh and new again. Melee DPS is about ducking, weaving, dodging. Ranged DPS becomes about aim, timing, and knowing when to back off. Healing is all about AOE targeting heals, and no longer just about clicking party health bars off to the left. And tanking? Oh man, tanking becomes about holding agro, timing your shield raises, and keeping your mana up between the chaos… oh and keeping the mob facing you so your friends can get behind them and go all stabbity-stab.
The video in this article shows a group that has mostly started to out-level BoL on this boss fight. Even so, I can’t say it was ever “difficult”. But google “How Not to Pull the Boss in Bastion of Lok” and you’ll find a video that shows you where a group can go wrong with this fight. I admit that my tanking video is probably not the best representation of the fight. I mean, most of the time you see me raising my shield and running away from the boss when he starts to use his leap attack (a move that can insta-gib a weaker character). But honestly this PUG was fantastic: the DPS knew their classes and the healer did a great job keeping us all up. There was only one time when I got worried towards the end when I lost agro after I used my 10-second cooldown taunt. But even that was a minor panic.
BoL is a quick jaunt too. Lots of trash mobs between two main bosses, and some rooms that you should definitely clear before taking on the final boss, because of all the minions (lesser, 1-3 shot mobs that swarm you). There’s no puzzle or real challenging fights. Solid pulls and smart players should have no problem completing it. But again, it’s the first dungeon. The real test of the game’s PVE dungeoneering will be as we hit the middle and endgame and how complex the fights become then. We’ll tackle later dungeons in future Review in Progress pieces. Regardless, BoL is a really fun introduction to the party-based instance romps in TERA. I can’t wait until level 26 when the next one opens up.
Around level 20, players will find themselves tasked with quests to kill BAMs (Big Ass Monsters). Like the name implies, they’re huge beasts with crazy abilities, lots of movement, and generally are intended for groups of 2-5 players (no raids or raid groups in TERA just yet folks). The thing is that every class is capable of soloing a BAM. This isn’t like other MMOs where an “elite” mob means you’d either better bring a friend or out-level the content before attempting it. If you’ve got the skill and know how to handle your class, you can likely tackle a BAM on your own. Obviously, Priests and Lancers will take a longer time, but they can do it too and likely can use their survival skills where their DPS is lacking. The first real BAMs you’ll hunt are Basilisks around 20, and it’s fantastic to see players in chat just looking for group or using the LFG menu to find people to play with. Because the game doesn’t punish your XP gain for being in a group, even traditionally solo players are learning to be friendly.
OTHER THINGS NOTICED THIS WEEK
I spent most of my week questing, doing BoL, and playing with crafting (which is still just as expensive early on as I’d feared. I’m still deeply enthralled with the game, and suspect I will be for a while. But here are some cracks in the armor, for those wondering what I think is “bad”.
- One Path Through Content? – This may or may not hold true, but so far the one-faction system seems to mean there’s only one path through the content (1-60) as well. Tuwangi Mire is a somewhat optional area around the high teens, but other than that, there seems to be just one path through the zones and quests. Could be bad for replayability.
- Teleportation Scrolls Too Costly – I found out literally a day ago that I can use the /stuck command once every twenty minutes to get back to my nearest city or town. The fact that I feel compelled to do this because running too much gets old, means the game should probably have a “hearth stone” mechanic a la WoW. It can still have a cooldown, but the teleportation scrolls costing 1g a piece are too expensive, if players are using their /stuck commands to move about the game world.
- No PVP for PVE Servers? – I may not be looking deeply enough, but aside from the potential “Guild vs. Guild” fights and the occasional “Death Match”, there’s no PVP on PVE servers and there won’t be until Battlegrounds or the announced Server vs. Server PVP is implemented. I’m the kind of PVP-er who likes to choose when I fight (sue me), so PVP servers were out of the cards for me. I’m anxious to know when Battlegrounds are going back in… I miss PVP. Maybe one guild out there wants to challenge MMORPG? Be gentle
That’s it for this week, folks. We’ll be back next week with some more looks at the main cities, the crafting, enchanting and extraction, as well as hopefully a new dungeon and more BAMs. So far, my initial impressions hold. TERA is a big, beautiful game with incredibly addictive combat and group play. The question at this point for me remains: how long will it last? What will I do at 60? Will I ever be a Vanarch? Time will tell!