So this weekend I got my hands dirty with the latest beta test of TERA. Let me be clear right off the top that these impressions are based solely on my time in the game itself. As I said in earlier posts, I deliberately did not "research" this game before jumping into the beta test. I wanted as "unbiased" a view of the game as possible. That being said, I obviously did not have time to try out every aspect of the game, and I very well may get a few things wrong based on the limited time that I had. But with those disclaimers in mind, I'd like to just go point by point about what I observed during my time in the game. Let's start with the things that I liked.
+ Graphics and Artistic Style
I'll be blunt. TERA is the most visually attractive MMO I have played to date. Many MMO's have a distinctive style to their artistic approach, and in many cases you either like it or you don't. The "cartoon" nature of World of Warcraft for example tends to attract a lot of forceful opinions one way or the other. TERA is undoubtedly influenced by its Asian roots. The graphics, art, and especially the character models reflect this Eastern influence very clearly. For some, this might be a turn off, but even with that in mind, I found TERA to be absolutely gorgeous. It blows away every MMO I have played to date. There is a downside here also, but I'll get back to that in a bit.
+ Combat Design
Having played mostly MMO's that are based on the "hot button/GCD" combat model, I found TERA's more active combat concept to be very entertaining. While most MMO's still do look "real time" in terms of their combat, most of us know that "under the hood" it is still essentially a turn based system with various "dice rolls" happening outside our view that determine the results of our attacks and the mobs we are engaged with. TERA truly is a more "active" type of combat. You have a targeting reticule that you must place on a mob to hit it, mobs generally have a "tell" that you can watch for when they attack, and when they do you can move your character out of the way to dodge or evade the attack. None of this is possible with most MMO's today. It is much more akin to a third-person action game such as Devil May Cry or God of War.
+ Client Stability and Overall Responsiveness
For a game still in a closed beta phase, TERA felt and played remarkably well. I never had a "crash to desktop" event, or even a random disconnect during my play time, and I was in at the very beginning on Friday afternoon when there was a huge "crush" of players in the starting zone. Granted the game is launching in just over a month so perhaps it should not be a surprise that the client is still stable at this juncture, but it is worth noting, especially because when I had the chance to test Star Wars: The Old Republic at a similar point in its development, I experienced several "crash to desktop" and disconnect events. So the TERA team deserves some kudos for the game running smoothly.
Of course not everything is going to be sunshine and roses, so let's jump to a few things that just didn't work for me.
- Class "Balance"
I found a huge difference between playing the ranged classes and melee classes in this game. I generally prefer ranged classes as a rule, and so I tried most of those first including the Sorcerer, Mystic, and Archer. Maybe these classes get stronger later, but none of them felt particularly powerful or fun to play. It was simply "spam ranged attack until mob gets close, jump back, rinse and repeat." It was not very fun or engaging. On the other hand, I found the melee classes much more fun to play. The combat was much more involved, especially for the Warrior class. Within the first few levels I found myself chaining combos, dodging attacks, which led into more combos. Overall I found melee to be a lot more rewarding than the ranged classes.
- Shameless Sexuality
Ok now believe me, I am no prude, but there is a point at which it becomes obvious that something is being sexual simply for the sake of being so, and that is how TERA feels in terms of some of its racial options and how female characters are portrayed in general. It is "cliche" by this point to mock the female character models in many MMO's; from WoW's skimpy "plate mail bikinis," to the gravity defying breasts in pretty much every game. But TERA just takes this too far. The entire Elin race are essentially nothing but "tween" age girls in the skimpiest outfits imaginable, straight out of some twelve-year old boy's wet dream. And the other races female models are little better, even if they appear age appropriate. Every female in the game has cleavage galore and barely enough skin covered for the sake of decency. Overall, it just goes too far. It is so overly sexualized that it becomes laughable.
- Generic Questing/Advancement Model
This may or may not be a "negative" depending on your point of view, but TERA's character advancement and questing model is just too much like everything else right now. The reason this is a negative for me is that I was really looking for an incentive to draw me to this game. In the end, while the combat was new and different, there just isn't enough going on here to make me want to play this game. There is nothing to encourage me to make an investment in a new game like this when I am already playing other games like it, or there are other games on the horizon that interest me more. You kill ten rats, you buy new skills, you kill ten more rats, rinse and repeat. But as I have said before, it is not "kill ten rats" that I have a problem with. I have a problem with how many games present this, and TERA just doesn't do anything to set itself apart in this regard.
At the end of the day, I enjoyed my time in this beta. TERA is a fun game and if the combat system is something that really appeals to you, I think it is certainly a game worth checking out. But as I noted in my last comment, there just isn't enough "new" going on here for me to justify the box cost plus a subscription fee. And while you know I am not a fan of the "free to play" model, I have to admit that if TERA were an F2P game, I would probably dabble in it from time to time. It is good, but it just isn't good enough to make me want to drop RIFT or divert my attention from The Secret World when it launches in a few months. But I will keep my eye on TERA. My feelings about it essentially haven't changed. I am still curious, I am still interested... just not enough to pay for the experience.