Just to get this out of the way, I knew TERA (which stands for The Exiled Realm of Arborea) was in development, mostly due to the “upskirts” posts on Massively and other comments. I honestly had no plans to waste even a moment’s thought on the game since I am still mostly burned-out on traditional MMOs. But after everyone on Google+ was suddenly having so much fun, I figured what the heck and tried it out. And am I glad I did!
What TERA is:
Let’s make no bones about it, TERA is a full-on traditional vertical progression themepark, complete with the Trinity (Tank, Healer, DPS). You move in a linear fashion from one level-bracketed zone to the next, from one quest hub to the next. You pick up quests that are mostly the Kill N Monster variety. It could be considered “grindy” (and who knows, maybe it is at high levels?) since you’re doing so much combat, but the combat is the #1 attraction to the game! It’s why you are there in the first place.
What TERA is not:
Anything remotely resembling a “real” virtual world with meaningful crafting, economy, PvP or whatever else someone might be tempted to apply the “sandbox” label to. If you’re looking for that, and only that, then this is yet another of thousands of MMOs to skip over. These are not the droids you are looking for. Move along.
So why play?
Bluehole and En Masse claim TERA is the “first Action MMO” which is a highly debatable statement (hello over there, Vindictus and Dragon Nest) although to be fair it could be debatable just how “MMO” the two I just mentioned are, so… six of one, half-dozen of the other.
Linear theme park it may be, but make no mistake: TERA is absolutely gorgeous! The graphical quality, the art design, the colors, the effects… everything comes together and really pulls me in and I enjoy seeing everything. Unlike your typical Western game these days all about semi-realism with constantly killing wolves, spiders, and boars (oh my!) (with a healthy glance toward LOTRO in particular) the monsters in TERA are all bizarre creations that make you wonder what the modeler was smoking, but in a good way.
I’m sure you’ve all seen the character models already, especially the female ones. I normally have at least one female character in an MMO, but I’ve already deleted the female Castanic Archer I made. No idea where my personal line in the sand is, but that character crossed it with the whole “upskirts slut” thing. To be totally forthright, just before writing this I created (but not yet played) another female Castanic character, this time a Mystic. Not sure if it will take or if I end up re-rolling as a male Mystic.
TERA has seven races, and eight classes. Every race can be every class; there are no forced racial choices, unless you’re trying to min/max your build with racial abilities.
So far I have a Lancer and a Priest up to level 13 or so, fully completing the story on the Island of Dawn (ie. “noob island”) and moving onto the mainland. I have a Berzerker (two-handed axe melee DPS with block ability) and as mentioned above I have the not-yet-played Mystic (support and backup healer) and also a Warrior (dual-wield melee DPS or evasion tank; both very challenging but fun and rewarding).
Your two primary vitals are Health Points (HP) and Mana Points (MP). The way combat and class abilities work (so far) is balancing the two. Obviously you want your HP up or you’ll die, but I’ve seen certain skills on certain classes spend HP to pull off a devasting move, for example, much like the Necromancer in Guild Wars 1 (and presumably 2?).
For example, my Lancer comes with a full MP bar. Using hotbar skills spends MP but using his main attack gains MP to spend. Blocking spends a little MP as well. So it becomes a balancing act to gain and spend MP.
The Berzerker, on the other hand, starts off with an empty MP bar and I have to use my main attack to build it up so I can use hotbar abilities. Blocking also spends MP, and I think it costs more than blocking on the Lancer does?
The Priest starts with a full MP bar, but none of his attacks regain MP like the melee classes do. Instead he gets one ability early on that lets him regain a chunk of MP out of combat, then another around level 12 that lets him move full speed while recharging more MP.
TERA does play like a normal third-person MMO except the normal mode is similar to a third-person shooter (actually, think Tabula Rasa if you played that) where you have a fairly wide targeting reticule you have to aim. Mostly this is pretty easy and fun. I did have concerns about the Priest, however, trying to aim a heal at a player who is probably dodging or jumping all over, but this morning I took the Priest on the final quest on noob island which is an instance to fight a big demon monster and it was actually fairly easy. I activate the directed heal spell, then aim at my target, then click the heal again to cast it.
All the classes have some very unique play styles to them, even the more traditional ones, and they are all very fun to play so far. I haven’t had a game promote altaholism in a long time, but TERA is doing it.
Unlike some MMOs you’re not restricted — at least mechanic-wise — to a tradeskill. Everyone can gather every type of material, and everyone can craft in every profession. The catch is that currently crafting is extremely expensive. I’ve been gathering everything that isn’t nailed to the floor though so I can craft later, and also because gathering gives not only a tiny bit of XP (I’ve actually leveled twice just from gathering) but also a very slight 10-minute combat buff! People in chat say quest rewards are generally better at low levels, and crafting doesn’t start to make sense until you’re in your 30s where you’re making enough money to afford it.
Campfires and Public Buffs
This part of the game reminds me of Star Wars Galaxies. Towns and outposts will have campfires, but players can buy them too and set them up in the wilderness. Standing around the campfire will overcharge your Stamina (Stamina seems to mean HP and MP together) — I’ve been to 130% so far —
plus you can get “charms” from mob drops or from vendors and burn them in the fire. Everyone standing around the fire gets the charm buff, up to three (one of each type)! Very nice touch!
I’m enjoying the hell out of TERA so far, mostly because the classes and the combat is so well-done and it’s just pure entertainment. You know, FUN! The reason we play games to begin with. I’m almost tempted to liken it to a traditional MMO version of Diablo (or perhaps Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckonging would be a better example) in the sense that you’re not there for the story, like you were with SWTOR, you’re there to be a badass beating the crap out of crazy monsters and get loot! You’re there simply because it’s fun, which I can’t say of SWTOR… /cough