Since En Masse Entertainment's massively multiplayer fantasy role-playing game Tera officially launched last week I've taken nearly a hundred screenshots.
What can I say? Korean developer Bluehole, armed with Unreal Engine 3 technology, has created some damn fine-looking characters. While I for some odd reason prefer the androgyny of the male high elf, each of the game's seven races has its charms, from the powerful builds of the warrior Aman to the adorable potbellies of the animal Popori. Sure, the Elin look like little girls, but at least for the North American release they made sure they weren't wearing only panties.
So while I've done plenty besides stare at my pink-haired alter ego for the past week, his appearance figured heavily into everything else. I'd focus on quests that provided clothing rewards that suited his developing sense of style. I invested heavily in clothing dye, spending in-game currency for a temporary (24 hour) splash of colour.
The developers seem aware of the game's potential for fashion obsession, allowing players to purchase clothing style templates so they can remodel their more powerful equipment into something more eye-pleasing. Last week I spent a substantial amount of gold making sure Back the Sorcerer looked as good as he played.
Why is that important? Other than eliciting comments that stroke my MMOego, Back has to match the gorgeous scenery that I stumble upon every time I turn the corner in The Exiled Realm of Arborea. Even now, nearly two weeks and 43 levels in, vistas like the swirling maelstrom give me pause (and cause me to hit the print screen button).
Propelling me through these glorious vistas are a series of quests that, while largely run-of-the-mill kill X number of Y enemies affairs, allow me to exercise the action combat that I've already raved about on several occasions.
As my level increases, so does the challenge, though that challenge really depends on how you play the game. You can, if you wish, stand still and take damage, ending each fight with a sliver of health and having to use potions or bandages to get back into battle. Or you can take advantage of the tools provided, freezing enemies in place, leaping backwards, and continuing casting from afar. It's more involved, sure, but it's also entertaining enough to keep me grabbing the next set of tasks and soldiering (sorcerering?) on.
Things aren't completely rosy and wonderful in the world of Tera. Out of the game's eight classes only the Lancer is a viable tank, with updates to the more mobile Warrior on the way to assuage dungeoneering parties desperate for a meat shield. Strictly level-tiered equipment means players might have a hard time of it if they don't pick up a set of level 42 gear from the Broker as soon as they break the level mark.
But for the most part I'm still loving my time in Tera. In fact I've not been this eager to log into an MMO every spare moment I can get in years. It's a little scary.
We'll see how I feel after another week of play goes by. I've still got alts to level, crafting to master, and some 17 more levels before I win.
Kotaku's MMO reviews are a multi-part process. Rather than deliver day one reviews based on beta gameplay, we play the game for four weeks before issuing our final verdict. Once a week we deliver a log detailing when and how we played the game. We believe this gives readers a frame of reference for the final review. Since MMO titles support many different types of play, readers can compare our experiences to theirs to determine what the review means to them.