With the current saturation of the MMO market, it’s refreshing to see titles like TERA nearing release. Far too often, developers decide to play it safe and stick to the tried and true conventions that have been the foundations of successful games like World Of Warcraft. In doing this though, they run the risk of being too similar to existing games.

By introducing a political system by which players will be able to shape its world and interact with one another on an unparalleled level, TERA has already set itself apart from the swarm of generic MMOs. Now, after getting a behind closed doors look at the game’s gameplay, En Masse Entertainment has proven that they’re showing no signs of slowing down.

Following their explanation of the political system, two of the developers took myself and two other members of the press along for a late-game quest to slay what they have dubbed a BAM (Big Ass Monster). The monster in question was a particularly large level 50 dragon named Sabrnak. Before running in though, the basics of the gameplay were introduced.

En Masse proudly state that TERA is all about “True Action Combat.” This couldn’t be any more true. As the tank pulled some lower level creatures for us to fight as we get know the controls of the game, it became immediately apparent that the combat is much more similar to console action games than that of a regular MMO.

Playing as a sorcerer, the go-to spell-casting class, it was not possible to simply target the enemy creatures and let fly with a barrage of fire balls. Instead, the action took place in the manner of a third-person shooter, with attacks being sent in the direction of the on-screen aiming reticule. While other MMOs have attempted to bring more action-centric gameplay to their games, most end up feeling sluggish and unresponsive.

TERA Hands-On Impressions E3 2011

TERA however, manages to nail the feeling of a successful action game as fire balls were generated seamlessly as they were cast. This may seem like a minor detail, but even the tiniest lag between button press and spell-casting can completely destroy the immersion and fast pace that could have been created. By eliminating this lag at the level of the button press, players’ attacks have a heightened feeling of immediacy and lend better to the action-based combat TERA sets out to achieve.

Stopping to take a look at the graphics before closing in on Sabrnak, it is even more clear that TERA is not an ordinary MMO. While there are quite a few good looking MMOs on the market, TERA is without a doubt one of the most gorgeous. The world that players inhabit truly feels like it is alive and has a healthy glow to it, even if the area at hand is covered in volcanoes and ash.

This is due in part to the strong particle effects that pepper the game’s areas, highlighting assets like its smoke, characters’ spells and the sun’s rays. Just take a look at this cinematic trailer released for E3:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGBftB-dO7Q

Finally gathering ourselves, we made the final trek into the lair of Sabrnak. This is where the game’s action-based combat really shined through.

As soon as he was pulled by the tank, Sabrnak began terrorizing the whole party. Whether he was slamming his large claws into the earth, flying into the air in order to dive-bomb back down or tunneling underground, all of the players were reminded of just how important character placement was. With Sabrnak moving around so swiftly, everyone in the party, regardless of class, had to constantly be on the move to avoid his attacks.

This stood in stark contrast to some MMOs where most battles can be fought while standing in place and repeatedly spamming moves. TERA forced players to think on their toes as they took care to dodge incoming attacks and carefully aim their own attacks in order to guarantee that they hit the boss. As with before, this continued to highlight the fact that TERA‘s combat would not be out of place in a console action game, speed and visceral fighting mechanics included.

This is not to say that TERA doesn’t feel like an MMO at all. This is far from the truth. Efficiently setting up hotkeys for important spells and items is as much a part of TERA as it is World of Warcraft. This, coupled with the character progression and game’s world showcase the fact that TERA is very much an MMO. It’s just the fact that TERA manages to inject a much-needed element of fun and action into the gameplay that will cause some gamers to forget that they’re even playing an MMO at times.

After some very close calls, the party was able to come together and finish off the beast though, claiming his loot. To see his corpse fall to the ground after the hard-fought battle was a rewarding experience in itself. While the actual battle itself boiled down to little more than using spells that looked strong on my part, the visual impact they had made it easier to tell which ones to focus on.

TERA Box Cover Art

Whether it was the beautiful graphics or the incredibly action-packed gameplay, TERA is without a doubt one of the most entertaining MMO experiences around. While the battle with Sabrnak was only a taste of the game to come, it’s clear that there is a lot to be excited about in the coming months. Receiving Game Rant’s nomination for the Best MMO Of E3, gamers shouldn’t be surprised to hear more about TERA as its release draws nearer.

Would you be interested in a more action-centric MMO? What elements of console action games would you like to see implemented in TERA?

TERA is set to release later in 2011 for the PC.

Check out all of our other E3 2011 coverage.

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