Tera Initial Impressions

The Exiled Realm of Arborea, or TERA, is the new MMO from En Masse Entertainment and Bluehole Studio. Ever since its release in Korea at the beginning of 2011, North American and European audiences have been intrigued by TERA‘s take on the genre, separating itself from the World of Warcraft clones that have flooded the market since 2004.

After spending a little over a week in Arborea, we have put together a list of the ways TERA has evolved from its predecessors, as well as which aspects of the title stay true to the genre roots.

How Things Have Changed

1. Combat

TERA Screenshot 2

Active combat is almost unheard of in MMO gameplay. Battles have typically been determined based on armor sets and skill management, not dodging and aiming. It might be due to the fact that every attack actually connecting is a breath of fresh air, after years of clicking on enemies and standing in place, but each and every sword swing in TERA feels deliberate and satisfying.

I’ve spent a majority of my time as a slayer, a class that uses weapons slightly larger than they are. The swings are slow and the skills need a significant amount of time to warm up, but the force behind each major blow regularly knocks enemies over or, at the very least, stuns them before they can retaliate.

I’ve also spent a few hours with the archer class, and the difference between the ranged and melee classes is both stark and very welcome. Because each mouse click directly corresponds to an attack or a dodge, a player’s tactics must completely change from one class to the next, as well as from a slow moving enemy to a speedy one. I plan on trying at least the mystic and the priest before my final review to see how much the play style can change when magic becomes the primary mode of attack.

2. Progression

TERA Screenshot 3

Many MMO players resigned themselves to wandering aimlessly through forests or deserts in order to search for that last trinket long ago, but the pace in TERA makes even the most mundane quest (of which there are plenty) go by smoothly. Everything from the detailed maps to the quest tracking makes finding objectives and monster spawns as painless as possible.

If a respawning boss has been downed, clicking his name in the quest log will light up a semi-permanent indicator on the map, locating the boss’ spawn within inches. That said, quest objectives are almost always easy to find by spending a few minutes searching the area. Bunching all the quest givers in one or two locations in every region, the completion of that region never takes very long.

This can be seen as both a positive and a negative. On the one hand, before any area of the game became tedious or my character was too overpowered for the enemies, I was already on my way to the next location. On the other hand, this constant forward momentum made the game, in a typically open world genre, feel very linear. There was no reason to stay in one quest hub after the quests had been completed. Perhaps the quests become more complex and the areas become larger later in the game, but the lack of incentive to explore an area after the quests have been completed is troubling.

3. Polish

TERA Screenshot 4

Gamers have become accustomed to bugs in their games during the launch window, especially massive PC titles like TERA. They are expected to suffer through weeks, if not months, of constant bug fixes and balancing issues before the game might finally reach a finished state. It might be a little unfair, considering TERA has been out for over a year in Korea, but other than a single, minor sound glitch, I have yet to see a bug in the game.

The polish goes beyond a lack of bugs though. The UI, the character design, the animations, the controls, and even the translation from Korean to English are so perfectly implemented, never once did I feel removed from the experience of playing TERA in order to deal with an unwieldy menu or a confusing map. Looking back as far as the buggy launch of Vanguard, or as recently as the unplayable Diablo 3, TERA‘s polish is very impressive.

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