Publisher: En Masse Entertainment
Developer: Bluehole Studio
Medium: Digital Download / DVD-ROM
Welcome to the Island of Dawn, a brand new unexplored island in the online world of TERA. With a fresh take on the MMORPG genre, does TERA break the rules of the traditional MMORPG, or does it fall in line with other more traditional MMO games?
The lore behind TERA starts with two titans that fell asleep and dreamed the world into existence. There are two continents, one for each titan. The gods and races that inhabit the world are fighting an evil that is trying to wake up the titans. As the world is the dream of the titans, waking them would end the existence of the world.
The biggest issue most MMOs have is breaking out of that formula of people saying that the game is basically World of Warcraft but with a different look or skin to it. Star Wars the Old Republic had that same problem. It felt too much like WoW with a Star Wars skin on it, same for Lord of the Rings Online. MMO games need to start breaking out of that mold if it wants to make a statement for itself.
TERA tries to do this using a real time battle system. Most MMO games have you clicking on enemies and having players watching an animation take place while selecting different abilities. All abilities and attacks are basically automatic with not a lot of deviation on what the character animation looks like during their attack. Sure there are different animations that try to give the illusion of an actual fight taking place, but it never really felt like the player was in complete control of the game. With TERA, the paradigm is about to change.
Upon entering the world, players see a targeting reticle to help them aim their attacks, giving it the look of a third person shooter. Abilities can be mapped to your mouse buttons and the user interface (UI) is unusually smart in telling you to press spacebar to activate an additional ability to create combos. Tab is also used for mapping abilities, making most of the important abilities within easy reach of the player. Most of the rest of the user interface looks much like standard MMO faire. Additional abilities are assigned number keys at the bottom, and there is a quest tracker on the side of the screen that tells you which quests the player is on. There are two maps on the screen, a small one at the top that only indicates enemies and friends and a larger one on the bottom that is a transparent map of the area. Players that are used to a console action RPG can use an Xbox 360 controller to get in on the fun.
The “boss” fight missions in the game have an introduction video, which is not seen much, if at all, in the genre but as far as missions are concerned, this is where the differences end. Most quests, especially beginner ones consist of your standard MMO type quests, go collect five of these items or kill ten of these creatures or go talk to some random person in an area you haven’t been to yet. The game helps you somewhat and puts exclamation points over creatures that you need to kill to complete quests. Unfortunately, this part of TERA makes the game feel like most any other standard MMO.
TERA, like any MMO, starts with character creation. There are seven different races, each with their own abilities, and eight different classes to choose from. Each race has different advantages. There are three races where players cannot pick the gender of the character. The character models for the males look great, especially the classes that are supposed to use a lot of armor. Picking a Lancer, a defensive class, the male models look covered from head to toe in armor. Pick a female class, however, and you are treated to something completely unexpected, at least for what the class is designed for. Many games go for the sex appeal with their female characters; however they still keep the “realism” of what class their player is. For example body armor should cover the important areas: heart, lung, stomach, upper leg. However, most of the models for the female characters in this game are hardly dressed, and in some instances, players have to wonder how their “armor” is staying up or what it is supposed to be made out of. Perhaps, I will never let my wife see the female characters I create for this game….
Glyphs and crystals help bring some customization to the game. Crystals can be equipped at any time to players’ weapons to add precise bonuses to weapons. Glyphs are enhancements for your skills. Glyphs are not available right away, but as you level up you can unlock them from your skill trainer. Players may only have a certain amount of glyphs active at any given time. This gives players a lot of control over their skills and abilities, especially with the glyph system.
One of the more interesting aspects of the game it it’s political system. Players can be elected Vanarch of a region. Vanarchs are like ruling governors, they can set tax rates, sales taxes etc. They can also decide what kind of shops to open in their territories. This is something new to the genre, an elected player has a direct impact on the province he or she rules over. This can give players a very real feeling of owning the game world, if the Vanarch rules in accordance to the people. At the time of this article’s writing this system has not been put in place yet. Registration for the first Vanarchs of the world begin May 18th.
Graphically the game is very beautiful. It uses the Unreal Engine 3 very well. The character models are full of detail and color, and the abilities and spells are animated very well, and look like their descriptions. The landscapes are full of detail, and make players just want to sit and stare at the impossibly tall trees of varying color and design. The monsters vary about as much as players would expect in size, shape, and design. The soundtrack does a nice job of completing the world and draws players into the TERA very well.
Overall, Tera is extremely fun; the real time battle system makes the game very unique among the MMO genre. The use of the Unreal Engine and the beautiful soundtrack does a wonderful job of immersing players into the world. The promise of the Vanarchs sounds like a great attempt at giving players the ability to really influence the world, though the questing system is somewhat disappointing in the sense that it makes the game feel like a standard MMO. And finally the battle system makes the game stand out against a slew of MMO games that have already made a name for themselves.