The Closed Beta Preview
It seems like the whole world’s been playing TERA while we at MMORPG.com were waiting for our chance to dive into this year’s first big AAA MMORPG. Pokket’s been there, I’ve dabbled a bit, but this was the first weekend that we were all let in as staff at the site and not just by sheer luck of obtaining a key. I played around with a few of the classes, mainly the Warrior and the Archer. What I came away with this weekend was that TERA may have some truly traditional MMORPG trappings in its early stages, but the combat and potential for PVP and Politics leave me craving more as we near the official May 1st release date.
The Exiled Realm of Arborea (TERA) is a game that relies very heavily on its unique and engaging combat… and for good reason: it’s freaking fun. The tutorial island, The Isle of Dawn, is your basic quest-hub affair, with little pop-ups to teach you about the way combat works, the way your UI functions, and so forth. There are nice story-driven cinematics as you go through the main story quests (denoted by red exclamations and questions instead of yellow), but mostly you’ll spend your time collecting this many of this item, or killing this many of this monster. If you’ve played an MMO since 2004, you’ve done this stuff before. That’s not what’s exciting about TERA’s gameplay.
TRUE ACTION COMBAT
I played this weekend as both the Warrior and the Archer (Popori for the former, Human as the latter). What I believe I’m able to surmise is that the aimed, not tab-targeted combat lends itself better to classes that behave more like shooters and less like melee combatants. But your mileage may vary. What I know after this weekend is that I’ll likely be playing the Archer come May 1st. Ranged combat just seems to lend itself so well to the reticule aiming of TERA’s controls. I liked my time with the Warrior, and I’ve previously like playing the Berserker as well, but it’s when I tried the Archer that combat just finally “clicked” for me.
I was playing this weekend with the mouse and keyboard, not the Xbox controller as I had previously. The aiming feels more natural this way, and the Naga I use as my mouse works wonders for hotkeys. I soon found myself in a smooth rhythm of opening up combat with my volley shot, hammering with my main arrow attack, jumping away with my right-mouse button, and using my aimed shot. This rotation works wonders for single targets.
But eventually, single targets aren’t all you’ll face. The Berserker winds up being a total B.A. when it comes to multiple mob pulls, with his crazy spinning axe of death, but I wound up really enjoying the movement, kiting, and raining of arrows that the Archer offered. In the 12 levels I played this weekend (through the tutorial area, and into main city and beyond), I never really felt like I was in danger, but compared to the squishy nature of the Warrior, I was happy about this. Yes, you read that right. The Warrior in TERA can tank, but if he does, it’s because he’s got to be good at evading. Which you have to do manually. Which doesn’t always work out if you’re me. He wears leather armor, and doesn’t have the “Guard” (block) ability of the Berserker or the Lancer, so you wind up quickly realizing that the dual-wielding warrior is all about running around like crazy in and out of melee combat. It just wasn’t for me.
However, sniping people from afar and then hightailing it away when they get in close? This I can do. Does that sound all a little different from your normal MMO combat? If so, that’s because it is. If there’s one thing TERA does that’s different from everyone else, it’s their combat. It’s enough for me to say: “you should try this game” when Open Beta comes around in April. Its questing may be the same old, same old – but the combat is plenty of fun, especially when you’re grouped with a friend or two.
THE GOOD STUFF
I already mentioned the combat, which is key to enjoying TERA. But here are some other things that made my weekend in the game a fun one.
- You Get Mounts Early – This may sound like a negative to some, but travel in TERA takes a long time, and it’s not “fun” to run around so much after a while. After you hit level 11 and leave the Isle of Dawn? You get your first mount and all is right in the world. Trust me.
- This Game is HUGE – Sick of feeling like your MMOs are shrinking? No worries. At least so far, it seems like TERA is one big world to get lost in. The Unreal engine makes it gorgeous too. And again, thank god for those mounts.
- BAMs – Big-Ass Monsters is what BAM refers to. And it’s true. They’re big, open world boss type things that really take advantage of the combat in TERA. Sadly, I had to watch from afar as I only made it to level 12. But I can’t wait to see more of them, as I do believe they’ll be a big reason PVE folks dig into the game.
- God it’s Pretty – I can’t say I’m a fan of the Asian art-style in most games that don it. But here, I found myself liking it just the same. I didn’t appreciate the weirdness of so many half-naked women (though that’s not really a complaint), but the visuals are a sight to behold and the mobs are simply awesome to look at. The animations are stellar, the effects startling, and the world feels epic in scope.
THE BAD STUFF
Not everything was so rosy though. Here are some things I don’t think I enjoyed so much in En Masse and Blue Hole’s game.
- The Starter Zone – I really hope they allow us to skip it eventually, once we’ve leveled one character through it. It feels too drawn out, given the fact that it’s basically a collection of kill and delivery quests stretched over 11 levels. Given that I’ve only done it one and a half times, imagine doing it several more over the course of several characters? The real fun happens after the first 15 or so levels go by, so let folks get there quickly.
- The Quests – It’s unfair, as these sorts of quests have been standard for so long, but it’s true. TERA’s quests are blatantly about kill 10 and collect 10, and they don’t even try to hide it. I had similar problems in Rift, but was able to overlook them back then. I can overlook them here, to a point. But it’s starting to get harder and harder to accept an MMO that relies so heavily on old school questing mechanics, when we’re seeing games that can change it up in the same year.
- The Crafting –I need to dig more, but so far it really seems like the crafting is your usual affair. I don’t know why this bothers me, as it seems to work for many people, but I keep hoping for a more interesting take one day.
THE UNKNOWN STUFF
There are a lot of things I’ve just not had the time to see in TERA, and I can’t wait for the head start so I can get in and really dive into the game past the beginning experience. Here are a few things I’m really curious to see as we get to delve deeper.
- The Politics – I love the idea of the Vanarch and ruling zones with a benevolent or iron fist. I want to see how guilds fight over this, how players campaign, and how it generally all works together to make the game feel like it’s full of life.
- The PVP – We know they’re building a Server vs. Server system, and the matchmade PVP battles are in. I can’t wait to see how it all plays, especially with this combat. My mind races with the potential fun, but I just haven’t been able to test it yet.
- BAMS – I touched on them a bit, but I keep hearing how fun they are to fight. I’m stoked to get into my 20s come launch and see what all the fuss is about.
So far, my impression of TERA is that it may be a pretty standard questing game, but it has quite a few tricks up its sleeve to be worth a look. If you can get past the general grindy nature of its questing, you may just find a lot to like in its combat, huge world, and potential PVP goodness. The real trick will be seeing what the game does when we get out of the starter areas, and when players are in and toying with the politics. I’m pretty stoked for May 1st to come along and see just where it all takes us.