One Weekend Completely Changed My Mind About Tera

When I last left En Masse Entertainment's upcoming MMO Tera I wasn't exactly gushing with praise. The action-packed combat was there, as promised, but the rest of the game felt like the same old questing grind.

Then open beta came around this past weekend, and I was so enthralled I nearly lost my children. What changed my mind? Aside from my character being mind-numbingly pretty, I mean.

Between my first play through and this one En Masse added an innovative prequel sequence, in which players run through an introductory adventure as a level 20 version of whatever class they choose, giving them a glimpse at what they could become. It's a brilliant feature, shedding light where other games would have players spend days figuring out they'd rather play something else.

Even with that and the stunning androgyny of Back the Sorceror, the Tera starting island experience proper remains rather unimpressive. You're led from camp to camp, collecting quests, fulfilling their orders, gaining experience and moving on. The majority of the quests are the old standard fetch and kill types laced loosely together by lore, with a series of more important story missions leading players to the inevitable group instance, where the rewards are as big as the bosses.

The starting island establishes this pattern; it's a series of quests leading up to a massive boss fight. Note that this video features my initial character, Caliban the Archer, who valiantly died so that Back might live through the open beta's one character per server restriction.

So if the game is so formulaic and linear, why can't I stop playing it? Why am I trying to hand-off Guild Wars 2 beta weekend duties so I can focus on Tera's early start?

For one, the combat really is that good.

Sure you've got to kill another dozen vampires, but when you look and feel like such an incredible bad-ass in doing so it's simply intoxicating. I am freezing opponents at a distance, setting off nuclear explosions under their feet, putting them to sleep, explosively leaping out of their path, teleporting behind them; there are so many opportunities to make yourself look and feel impressive.

Fighting the gargantuan elite creatures sprinkled about Tera's darkest recesses is less an issue of, "How many people do I need to take this down?" and more, "Hmmm, how can I take this down by myself without getting hit?" With some of the elite enemies I encountered later in the weekend the answer to that second question was, "You probably can't." Tera's massive monsters don't simply sit still and take your punishment. They jump. They teleport. They transform into steamrollers of death and roll you down. They feel less like MMO monsters and more like bosses from some God of War clone, only once they finally fall you turn around and there's an entire field filled with them.

Luckily the server I was on is filled with incredibly helpful people more than willing to join forces to take these big baddies down. The open beta is a magical time for any game, especially one like Tera where the players get to carry their characters over into the live game. No one has any preconceived notions about what's right and wrong. Few are ready to jump on a newer player and tell them they are doing it the wrong way. We're all learning.

All learning to kick arse, that is. Tera's group-oriented instances are filled with wonderful opportunities for teamwork to shine. Rooms filled with a hundred weaker minion characters, just waiting for a sexy Sorcerer to come and blast them all to hell while the heavily armoured Lancer keeps their attention.

So damn pretty.

The people I played with this weekend were a big part of my sudden passion for Tera. Now that the merely curious are starting to filter out, the truly dedicated rise up, ready to have a good time without constantly complaining on area chat about how so-and-so MMO is better and how Tera is no World of Warcraft killer.

Not only do these people want to explore this fantastic new world, they want to rule it. Tera features an extensive social-driven political end game, in which the top guilds struggle to put their leaders into positions of power through voting. Once in power those leaders will rule over areas, determining which non-player characters show up there, managing item prices, setting public policies and more, all powered by points earned through partaking in special quests that require an entire guild working together.

I had a chance to sit in on a meeting between some of the top guilds on my server on Sunday, where one guild leader attempted to establish an alliance with the others, creating a united consortium of rotating leaders. This all took place in a voice chat channel nowhere near the game proper.

Tera is a game that breaks out of the point-and-click MMO combat mould, yes, but it's also breaking out of itself, spilling over into the real world through these political deals. Once voting begins, expect it to be everywhere: Facebook, Twitter, Google+... nowhere will be safe. Nowhere.

So while the game's mission structure falls neatly within the fantasy MMO frame, the rest of Tera is trying to tear itself loose. I feel the shudders and creaks every time I login. If we're not careful it could explode.


Comments

    Great article. I myself wasnt expecting much from this game either, untill i got into the open-beta that is. Being a huge fan of Monster Hunter and mmos in general i fell in love with this game within the first 10 min.
    Although ive never made it past level 20 with my Castanic Slayer im confident that pre-ordering the game yesterday wasnt a bad decision :D.

    I'm really hoping TERA heralds the start of a new era of action combat MMOs, because honestly, I don't think I can go back to tab-targeters after this.

    This totally summed up my experiences - Hit lvl 25 on my sorc in the open beta and still managed to spend countless hours trying to take down BAM's solo. Game is just so fun. Tried going back to SWOTOR after the beta and found it lacking. The real challange of Tera is how to foster my addiction for the game on Australian latencies :(

    This is where DC Universe Online sucked me in. Running anything, from endgame raids to low level content, was enjoyable because the gameplay itself was enjoyable. At worst it felt like a single player game with cheats on (ie, decked level 30 going back to the beginner instance). It also allowed the content to move much further away from the tank and spank model and back into regular boss fight mechanics.
    I'm hoping that Tera has that sort of feel to it (also that it doesn't screw up it's launch and flop).

    what really sets Tera apart, is that it's been heavily westernised from the korean version.

    This is what will set it apart from other Korean MMOs.

      They've really put a lot of effort into it too, and it shows. I've played a lot of other MMOs and this is the most polished and enjoyable Asian one I've played pre-launch by a long shot.

      It also helps that the game feels like a bridge between the traditional Korean MMO and Monster Hunter.

    Anyone got a beta key I could...'borrow' (have)?

      Don't think there's anymore betas as the game launches on 1st May, which is next week. The game was fun, very nice graphics, good performance even on very high settings, unfortunately the old and tried formula just got stale for me ie. the kill x quests etc.

      Although, good to see that this may be a game where winning is determined by skill via the active block (which I liked) and position.

    Pre-orders are getting three codes they can hand out to give their buddies access to the headstart period which begins on saturday. Since most gamers have no friends you may be able to find one of those lying around.

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