MMORPGs come a dime a dozen, especially since the advent of the free-to-play business model. Over the years, I’ve tried my fair share of MMOs: sci-fi, fantasy, pay-to-play, F2P, western, eastern, and have honestly lost track of how many I’ve played. When a new MMO comes around, it has to truly break the mold to impress me, and if it includes an up-front purchase plus a monthly subscription fee, then it better have a damn good reason for holding onto that fading business model. Given TERA falls under this category, let’s see how it holds up.
TERA (2012): PC
Developer: Bluehole Studio
Publisher: En Masse Entertainment
Released: May 1, 2012
Both graphically and artistically, TERA is a gorgeous game, and may rank as the best-looking MMO I’ve ever come across. I’m intimately familiar with the Unreal Engine, yet I was astonished to realize that an engine that historically specialized in sci-fi grunge was used to architect this high-fantasy world.
Upon leaving TERA’s starter zone, colloquially termed “noob island,” players visit a city I can only describe as breathtaking. The artistry in capturing a high-fantasy setting reminiscent of an anime is executed to the highest standards, and I wish that other MMOs would look this good.
TERA includes some semblance of a story and does a commendable job introducing the lore initially, but it quickly fades into MMO mediocrity, hidden behind mountains of exposition that the majority of players will just click through to find out how many Bumble Blobs they have to kill next. Yes, quests are the same old grind — gather 10 Tinkle Weeds, deliver this to Mr. Stands-Around, cull the local population of Witchee-Poos…
Given the game first launched in South Korea in January 2011, it’s no surprise that TERA launched in North American and Europe with a fair amount of content that should keep players occupied for the time being. However, gameplay does become repetitive, with copy-pasted quests and foes that eventually feel like re-skins of the same monsters you’ve been fighting throughout the game. There are two saving graces: TERA’s Big Ass Monsters — an in-game term that refers to titanic foes and the epic battles that surround them — as well as the game’s combat system.
Combat is where TERA shines. I can hardly believe it’s taken over a decade for MMO combat to take its first evolutionary leap forward, and the system TERA introduces should be the new industry standard for all future MMOs. One of the greatest criticisms leveled against MMOs is dull combat focused on timing cooldowns and staring at everything but the battle taking place on-screen — no more.
Players who have been looking for a more hands-on MMO combat system needn’t look any further; those who prefer the more traditional and methodical MMO combat mechanics may think it sacrilege.
TERA’s combat system is akin to that of a singleplayer, third-person action game, in which you dodge enemy attacks, maneuver tactically around your opponent, and actually have to aim. Every enemy has some form of charge-up attack that you’ll want to predict and avoid, and skill plays a big factor in your success. Battles are fluid, engaging, and most importantly, fun.
Player-versus-player battles are more exciting in TERA than in other MMOs thanks to its combat system. While there is little variety in character builds, with most customization coming in the form of glyphs and crystals that confer various bonuses to your weapons, this puts the focus of combat on player skill rather than gear.
The one hiccup I immediately noticed was my character’s tendency to get stuck on every little bit of geometry as I tried to maneuver during combat, or between other players at major travel hubs. Strangely, this issue seemed to dissipate as the hours I sank into TERA flew by, which can mean one of two things: either the starting areas have not had their geometry cleaned up and optimized, or I stopped noticing the issue due to adaptation or distraction.