In a world where World of Warcraft already exists, it is hard not to compare every new release to the Elekk in the room. The good news is that, in TERA’s case, it’s not quite the trampling that most games receive.
The graphics are breathtaking. Most MMO’s seem to follow the design strategy “More content is most important”, and they are not wrong per se. It’s just that after a while, looking at the same crappy models or scenery is impossible to ignore. The character models vary wildly. From the slightly effeminate Castanic to the hulking Baraka, all of them are interesting and relatively unique. The locations are just as interesting, with epic buildings, genuine gradation in terrain and little touches that give each area a unique feel and flavor.
The scenery is also interactive and useful! Gathering professions don’t require training (as all characters get all professions), and all nodes give small buffs or heals upon being farmed. This allows for you to mix farming resources into your monster farming, which keeps you doing the best part more often. The nodes could use a little bit more definition and pop in order to differentiate them from the other terrain pieces, but after a while, you learn to pick out the important parts.
As anyone who has an internet connection already knows, combat in TERA is good in every way. Each class is unique. Combat flows beautifully from one move into the next, even going so far as giving optional “quicktime” events triggered with the spacebar. Intelligent play is rewarded by allowing you to tackle mobs in a long string due to the lack of downtime associated with healing and recovering from the previous fight, and BAM’s (literally ‘Big Ass Monsters’) are just plain awesome.
What I like best about combat is that each play style is completely different. In many MMO’s, combat boils down to different styles and rhythms of button pushes. In TERA, you can play a tank that mitigates damage with active blocks, a tank that can dodge every incoming attack and dish out the damage right back, an agile ranged damage dealer, a frail magic-slinging caster, or many other types of warrior.
Combat is great, but everything else is…alright.
Questing is like the worst quests combined from every game, in slow succession. Do you like talking to quest-givers one right after another to complete quests? No? Well how about having a quest-giver hand you a stack of items and then make you interact with an environment element numerous times? No? Well, kill X boars and come back. Progression ends up feeling grindy between long stretches of mediocre quests and mob killing.
Gathering is great for keeping you in health and buffs for grinding mobs, but has basically no point due to the current state of crafting. Items are never on par with high level drops and take a substantial time and resource investment.
The story is mediocre at best, and aside from the well written prologue, is about as engaging as a three hour lecture on Third World Microeconomics. There are a bunch of races all fighting…aliens? From what I could gather, it was kind of like Halo meets Too Human mashed into a fantasy MMO. Consider me unimpressed.
The worst offender is the control scheme. Arguably, the best thing about World of Warcraft is the flexibility. Do you want to play casual or hardcore? Sure, we’ve got that. Do you bind every action to a key or are you a mouse-clicker? That works fine. How many add-ons do you want? We support all of ‘em! TERA, on the other hand… do you want every key bound to a ludicrously difficult-to-use setup that you are essentially unable to change or play with? No? Controller peripheral it is! Oh, you don’t have one? Better hope you have a third arm.
TERA does one thing amazingly. Combat has never been done better in an MMO and I highly doubt that we will see it this good again for a long time, although it really is a shame that essentially every other feature is underrepresented, underutilized and underwhelming.