TERA Online Review

My “Review” of TERA Online (or at least, its Open Beta).  Yes, I use the quote marks as usual.  I am not sure one can review an MMO based on one weekend of play, so please take my comments with a box of salt.

However, you should know that this commentary comes with no previous bias.  I have not been following TERA at all, and I didn’t make the connection that this was the game with all the commercials from that MMA guy until after the fact.  I just got an email with an invitation to the open beta, and I am always down for that.  Its also worth noting that the political system is supposedly a big part of this game, but it was not open for the beta and I know next to nothing about it, so it is not covered here at all.  So without further ado, in the usual format, my “review”.

The character models tend to be oversexed, but its also hard to deny the level of detail involved here, or just how beautiful the models are.

The Good

A New Spin on Old Ideas:  The first thing I have to say is that I was thrilled with the class selection.  Having a healing class that was pet driven (Mystic) and whose heals actually geographically deployed powerups was a lot of fun for a guy who is used to just sending in his pet to attack and then nuking the hell out of one target.  I also spent about half my time playing around with the Warrior class to see how melee really worked.  It brought back some fond memories of the Devil May Cry series (particularly when I gave the Slayer class a whirl).   I enjoyed that the warrior class tended to be a giant hat tip to Musashi, with a spiritual tint to the abilities and removal from its usual role of “tank.”   There is definitely a skill and learning curve to be tended too, particularly for melee classes.   Solo play with the Mystic was for the most part a breeze, with the warrior it was for the most part a challenge.  Eventually you will get the hang of dodging and ducking – but here is the great part – you may master the basic moves, but the opponents keep changing, and so do their tactics.  So each new quest and quest area will also bring with it renewed attention to how you play your class.  The skill chain you set up that worked great with this guy may not be useful at all for that guy.  Whack-a-mole this game is not!  Which leads me too…

Action Combat:  I can see where the idea that this is the first true action MMO could come from.  All of your gameplay and strategy are forced to be fluid and ultimately three dimensional.  Healing takes on a whole new challenge when you have to be actively viewing your intended ally.  Many of the skills have components that are location based in a whole new way.  Its like growing up playing wargames on squares and hexes and then diving into the world of miniatures for the first time, where the only measure of distance is with a ruler and relative to the units actual location.  Same thing here.  There is the usual cone and AOE and so on, but the battle no long involves orienting oneself around a North-South pole of tank and mob.  Standing still will get you dead in a hurry.  Skills are important, but skill chains (which are conveniently activated player customizable) generate interesting tactics of their own.    And then there are the mobs, which come in big, medium, and small variety.  Its not unusual to have to face one or two normal sized mobs with a squad of smaller mobs in tow, both of which may be using different strategies.   This is where group combat really shines, allowing groups to tackle challenges and quests in a way that really does make the game better in a way beyond artificially tweaking the xp curve with, say, the size of the group.

Player friendly.  I talked with one person over the weekend, another MMO player, who was surprised I was even playing TERA.  The words “Korean grind-fest” were used.  If that is the reputation or rumor about TERA, it is unfounded.  The leveling time I encountered was part with most other  games I’ve played, like TOR and WoW and so on.  It may feel longer since it involves doing something other than mindlessly hitting the same five buttons in order over and over while chatting with your friends about the latest Jennifer Love Hewiit show over VOIP.  Call me crazy, but that’s a good thing in my book.   I am a casual MMO gamer in the sense of time invested, not in the sense that I want all my games to play out like the latest Zynga Facebook monstrosity.  Beyond that – lets talk about other things, like the fact that you not only have the usual “port home” skill on a timer, but a common mob drob is a “safe haven scroll” that drops you back at the nearest quest hub, and stacks in your inventory.  Or that flight points are unlocked by level and storyline, and not by whether or not you slogged cross-continent to get there.  Or that you get your first mount, with a 140% speed increase, for free, when you finish the introductory island (level 10-12).  Or that crafting and harvesting are not limited artificially but open to whatever you want to pursue.  Or that you can mark quest mobs on your map and on their nameplate so you can find them with no fuss, even that one boss guy you just got vague directions too.  Or that you not only have healing potions, but regeneration motes that drop from mobs, healing you and cutting down on down time between combats.  Or that campfires can be used (or build anywhere) that raise your stamina – boosting your basic levels of HP and MP up to 30% – and that those fires can have buffs added to them to just about every other statistic.  And that is above and beyond the usual doubling rate for “Rest XP.”  Quite honestly, I’m not sure what more they could have done to make the game *more* convenient.

Beautiful.  Yes, I’ll talk more about the overly sexy toons in a nother section.  But in general, the graphics on TERA are easily the best I’ve ever seen in an MMO.  And they are optimized to the hilt.  I can’t run TOR on anything other than minimal settings, and even then my PvP FPS is about 8.  Yet I have a computer that should be running that game easily.   Meanwhile, in TERA, my computer which doesn’t clear the recommended specs, can run it with great settings and amazing detail.    I played even in the middle of some dense player formations and never slowed down once.

Attention to detail is one of TERA's most admirable successes. Note that my female character is riding side saddle!

The Bad

Keyboard vs. Controller.   While I played just fine on a keyboard, coming up with some pretty interesting ways to chain skills and use my class to the fullest, I still can’t see how you would play a character at max level, with some 20+ unique skills to draw on, without a controller.  And that alone may be the only obstacle a lot of MMO players will find that turns them away.   Granted, most of us have a 360 or PS3 also floating in our house, and the items to connect the controller to our PC run a measly $10 (or sometimes less), the idea of playing with a controller may just seem to be foreign.  In fact, the whole action combat system itself calls for a change in they way people think about and approach MMO’s.    That may be the ultimate death knell of this game, or what resigns it to a niche location.   And let me say that while I understand this, it does not in fact bother me in the least.  My first MMO, EQOA (May It Rest In Peace) I played with both a keyboard *and* a controller…at the same time!   Its one of the few times I have utilized macros to the hilt, chaining warnings of adds and low health with roots and aggro decreases with glee.  In fact, while this will be a barrier to the general populace of MMO gaming, its got me wondering in truth if its not just what the doctor ordered for the genre.

Kill Stealing is Back!  Without a traditional targeting system, you run into some unique problems.  Like kill-stealing, which used to be dead.  Several times on the weekend I tossed off a basic ranged attack, only to see someone come blurring into the mob in a melee charge.   And then I knew I could walk away.  Because no matter what happened next, the AI was going to react (intelligently I might add) to the threat in front of it…and I was going to get the credit for that kill.   Tagging of the mob is active, but its hard to tell who is sizing up a battle when you don’t see a toon 20m away staring down said mob because they have them targeted.   Also, because the aggro system works a bit differently than Yellow/Red (with a rage mechanic and creatures that actively react to your presence, even when you are not acting threatening), this can happen entirely by accident.  And that’s not even taking into account what happens when you love playing a Sorcerer but can’t aim your fireballs worth a flying poo and you end up tagging some mob you had no intention of crossing wands with.  You can tell TERA has tried to address this somewhat because all the skill ranges are lower than the typical 30m you find in other MMO’s.  My standard magic missile attack for my Mystic had a range of about 18m, and that was my longest.    But I’m not sure that’s a solid solution to the problem.  I think it might be time to rethink the tagging process and how that works, at least for TERA.

The Ugly

The Character Models.  Yes, they are way too sexy.  You know things are bad when you breathe a sigh of relief that at least the outfits of the race that looks like 10 year old girls is *mostly* decent, if  a bit too much purple leopard print and 1960’s era Playboy Bunny outfits can be considered decent.  So in this case, decent is more relative to the fact that the opening outfit for female Elf/Castanic leather armor wearers looks like something out of a Wicked Weasel swimwear catalog (And no, I’m not going to link to it, and you should be fully prepared for what assails you should you decide to go looking for it, lol).   And it doesn’t get noticeably better when you get to metal armor either, with half the outfits looking like a full-lingerie version of the Everlast Chastity Belt from Men in Tights.   And speaking of men in tights…the boys be showing some skin too.  I couldn’t find a single male Elven/Castanic outfit that wasn’t bear chested.  Usually with a fur coat or some bondage equipment thrown on for good measure.   Stick in a few pandas to appeal to the WoW crowd, and you’re off!

Variety is the Spice of Life.  And you won’t find any in your gear or outfits.  When you create a character you get to preview how they would look in four different outfits of the armor type you wear (the first of the four is the actual starting outfit), and as far as I can tell from looking around at all the characters in the starting island and capital city – that may be the only four armor models available period.   And of course you are stuck with the one weapon your class is allowed to wield.  God forbid an Archer should have a sword or dagger for close in work, or a priest should ever wield a scepter instead of a staff.  But then, this tends to be an industry standard these days, so its more of a gripe than a deal breaker.  Now there is one notable exception to this…

While the storyline isn't as deep as, say TOR's, it is more in depth, and presented in greater detail, than a standard MMO like Rift's is. Not the conversation level camera lock in here to highlight that this is a storyline quest.

The Tilt

Glyphs and Crystals.  Even if you don’t have a lot of variety in your looks or available weapons, thanks to these two little gems (pun intended) you have a staggering amount of control over the statistics and ways you can influence your skill and weapons respectively.  Glyphs are like a more flexible and precise AA system – allowing you to add duration or power or crits or even extending the abilities of a particular skill.   Crystals have lots of very precise statistical benefits you can plug (and unplug at will) into your gear.  Not only can you put in something to boost your crit, you can have a standard boost, or sacrifice some utility for a bigger boost – say, a higher crit percentage than the normal crystal boost if it only works when your opponent is knocked down.  A straight up MP regen boost – or a bigger one limited to blows you land when behind your target?  These are great little ways to boost your ability to build and plan your character, without tying you down into one particular skill tree or even a handful of particular builds.

I had fun.  Ultimately, this is my biggest tilt in favor of the game.  I came into it knowing nothing other than it was an eastern import that was an “action mmo” and may require me to use a controller.   I ended up playing it almost exclusively over the weekend, despite the opening of the test server once again for WoT, and despite having a night when I could have played TOR instead.  I had fun to the point where I have TERA bookmarked on Amazon and am seriously considering purchasing it and paying the sub fee.   I can’t think of any recommendation greater than that to give you.

Conclusion

If you don’t think you will enjoy TERA, skip it…its pretty obvious what it is, and if that doesn’t appeal to you, don’t bother.  If however, it sounds interesting to you, if you want something a little more involved than the standard MMO, something a little different, then this may just be the shot of caffeine you’ve been looking for to wake up your MMO life.

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20 thoughts on “TERA Online Review

  1. THanks for the review. Some parts are intriguing, but I’ve never really liked controller-based combat. That, combined with the sub for a game I’m not too sure about with GW2 on the horizon, means I’ll probably skip TERA.

  2. Benjimon

    GW2 is pretty much auto target/aim which made me buy Tera online… until Darkfall 2.0 comes out which I will definitely pre-order.

    1. TheGob

      You mean GW1 is autotarget/aim. GW2, from all can tell, is quite action-oriented.

      And while we’re on the GW2 topic, in the article, calling these graphics ‘the best I’ve ever seen in an MMO’ is … sad. The aliasing is showing in every screenshot, the weapons and armor models are ridiculously under-detailed, and the environment only looks pretty from far away. Check out any of the GW2 gameplay videos, and you’ll see what an MMO released in 2012 should look like.

      1. Not to defend TERA per se, I’ve noticed a couple games that appear smooth in motion don’t look as good in screencaps. Also, this was a fairly low level character I assume, and few MMOs have super-elaborate costumes at the beginning. The *texture* of the costumes in those screenies is rather nice though. I’m still going to wait for GW2. 🙂

      2. GW2 still has a button for target/cycle to next target. Draw your own conclusions from that. (-:

        As for graphics, perhaps I should clarify that when I include more than technical execution when it comes to graphics, and that I did not have anti-aliasing turned on. Jagged edges are part and parcel to graphics in my world, which is a world where I do not spend thousands of dollars on a gaming PC. So instead I look more at art direction and textures.

        So let’s do a comparison. Take my screenshots above, and now look at this screenshot taken from the Wiki. Everyone has their opinion of course, but I know which one looks better to me.

        To me, GW2 doesn’t look like anything special graphics wise. I am interested in some of the combat mechanics, but I’m leery of an MMO that bases its long term survival on PvP, mainly because their tends to be very little RPG involved.

  3. Lixi

    Ty for the review. I’ve played the game during the Beta period. I’m not a pro gamer and in fact am a refugee from a point to click piece of shit game called Rappelz. Playing Tera took a bit of an adjustment with the controls but it’s so user friendly, the world so gorgeous to look at, the many different ways to play the game.. guild quests, political system, active economy, dungeon parties, and hell, I can’t keep up. The reviewer and I agree.. it’s fun 🙂

  4. Lee

    Hi there, what are your specs exactly? I was thinking about picking this up to run on my laptop (I5-2450 w. 6gb ram and Radeon 7670) and was wondering if I’d get a satsifactory framerate or not. For something like this I’d probably want 1600×900 @ 30fps minimum. Thanks!

    1. You should be able to run the hell out of it. I have a 3 year old Intel dual core (2.66) with 4 gigs of ram and a Radeon HD3670 (512), and I never had so much as a stutter during any of the game play.

  5. henry omerta

    Going into the game I considered the combat system to be the main draw and the graphics style to be something I’d just have to put up with. Now I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised by the graphics and the combat system hasn’t disappointed. The whole thing seems really polished which I guess makes sense since it’s already been out in Korea. My whole guild seems to feel the same way too… We came over from Conan and from SWTOR which everybody got down on pretty quick. GW2 has a lot more hype but TERA is a sleeper, this is a seriously fun and quality game. I think with the good word of mouth it’s bound to get, this could actually be a major hit and a game that actually grows its subscription base 3 months out instead of seeing a sharp decline like DCUO, SWTOR, AoC, etc.

    1. I have a feeling you are right. I could see TERA puling a steady number of subs over a long period of time. Nothing as flashy as TOR’s 1.7 million, but something in the 200k-400k range for five years. If it does that, En Masse will have a winner on its hands, no matter what the critics say.

  6. Apathy

    I tried the beta version of the game…
    I am not a pro gamer, in fact I would rather just play for fun and be an idiot than ever be serious about a game. I agree with mostly what you have said– but as a female player, I will say that-for once in a game- males finally get to show some skin! It is unbelievable how much skin women show in games, while men are all suited up– sexist. If you are going to make females half nude, I think you should make guys wear speedos. I played as an Elf-Archer– both male and female– I will say that I cannot stand the female character. Women do not walk like that. Women do not ride horses like that– damn sexism. I understand that most gamers are males, but I do not like that games should conform to just males.
    As I said, I played as an Elf-Archer and found it quite delightful after I learned a few more skills than the standard ones they originally give you right when you start playing. As far as I played, I had little problems with attacking other monsters from 18m, but I DID have a problem where every time I backed up, I would back up into another crowd of mobs which would also attack me. For as big as the landscape is, I think mobs need to spread out more– They are all bunched up together while there is PLENTY of space.
    I played with a keyboard only– no controller. I actually have no idea what you guys are saying when you say that you do not like the hotkeys. In fact, I am using a laptop, found out that using a touchpad for this game is not quite a good idea for archers mainly because of camera control (or I could turn up the speed of my touchpad on my laptop, but I do not want to as then it will mess with my other games). So, I actually took out my mouse, for which, I have not used one since I got ridden of my desktop in October. (Yes, I actually do play games with touchpad, where a lot of people say it is nearly impossible to use a touchpad over a mouse, but I actually find it the opposite.) Anyways, what I loved about the controls is that it had League of Legends sort of hotkeys meanwhile still having controls like… a typical hack and slash MMO.When I say it is like a typical hack and slash game, it really is, but with just hotkeys instead. The combos I made for my archer truly kicked ass. Like you say that archers need a knife when an enemy gets too close to then… THERE ARE SKILLS FOR THAT. You can lay down a trap, you could use that spinning skill where you spin once deal damage- press it again quickly and it will have a chance of paralyzing your opponent, then there is this other skill where if an enemy is 4m from you, you press the button and your character shoots a large blow and steps back quite a distance. See, you just need to think of how to use your skills effectively to protect yourself and deal damage at the same time. Know what skills are useful for which situation. You guys are such complainers in my opinion. It really is kick ass, and very useful– LoL is just annoying– this is not. Learn skills and their descriptions.
    But the price. Only reason I will not get the game. Ridiculous.

  7. Quitterdan

    Thanks for the review, think i;m gonna pick it up! I’ve been holding out for The Secret World, but this looks to be a fun diversion.

    1. R.B.

      May wanna reconsider. As much as I wanted to get TSW (I’ve been in CB for about 4 months), the game hasn’t aged well, the animations are VERY sub-par, and everything from the interface to the controls feel clunky. I’m not trying to dissuade you from buying the game, but figured I’d give you my 2 cents on it. A lot of people are looking forward to TSW, and as much as I love the skill system in the game, it’s not nearly enough to pull me in for even a full free month sub. The entire game feels VERY outdated and the combat isn’t very exciting after playing Tera and GW2. It’s your choice in the long run though, and for all I know you may have been playing in the CB, but I like to look out for fellow gamers. Good luck in whatever decision you make! 🙂

      1. Quitterdan

        Thanks for the honest feedback on TSW, I really wanna give the beta a spin before release to make sure I like it. The concept of the game is what really draws me to it, but crappy graphics might be a big strike against. I’m enjoying Tera so far!!

      2. I can’t tell you how much I disagree with R.B.’s stance on TSW. I can’t tell you how much I disagree because either I’m not in it or I am in it and there is still an NDA in place. (-:

  8. WiseGinger

    Great review, This is just the type of MMO I have been waiting for. Controller/Skill based action combat that lends itself to actually “playing” your game than calculating macros.

  9. Rebecca

    Tab-target is available in gw2 but you can also play it without it. the screenshot that HarbingerZero posted from gw2 isnt very good. its not on max settings and shows very little of what gw2 is xD. gw2 has amazing graphics and such a living world with a very good atmosphere, very realistic. Combat in Tera looks like fun, not too fond of lock-in-place-skill animations and the poor draw distance. The world has a very cartoony fun and uplifting feel. The quests are boring and it seems like the game force you into that.. focus on lveling up and getting into the gear treadmill. I dont want that 😦 I want to have fun and feel the urge to explore and take part of stories that change the world in the game. gw2 made me forget about leveling and questing. it was pure fun and freedom, like a singleplayer game. Tera seems like .. Aion2. Only thing that draws me to Tera is how bright it looks and that the combat is somewhat fun. 🙂 too bad its WAAAY OVERPRICED. if they end up getting a cash shop too, then they’ll kill the game. Im gonna pick Raiderz(which is a f2p game that looks almost like Tera with the exact same combat and all) and gw2 😀 woo. maybe the secret world as well. nice review

    1. R.B.

      Whoa what?! No offense but you really don’t know what you’re talking about. Tera has NOTHING to do with gear! Yea, upgrading gear is nice, but I guarantee it doesn’t make a load of a difference. I’ve been playing Tera for a long time, and I can easily say it’s combat feels more exciting than GW2 (yes, I’ve been playing GW2 as well). I love both games, don’t get me wrong, but you aren’t giving enough credit to Tera. I’m also not sure what you mean by “lock-in-place-skill” and “poor draw distance”. I have my settings ramped maxed and can tell you the draw distance is incredible. The world is also extremely detailed and lively. Not only that but every instance has cool cut-scenes and the main story line is entertaining, especially since they also have cut scenes to get you into the story more.

      Well, didn’t mean to rant on, but I hate when people totally rag on a game when they never have played it. I think both Tera and GW2 will go far, I enjoyed them both!

      P.S.-Don’t get too hyped on TSW, that’s all I have to say 😉 (I’ve been in that beta for a little while now)

    2. The screenshot I took was directly from the Wiki, and I just picked one at random. Presumably, someone uploading pics to the Wiki is doing so in a favorable fashion. Also, you are the second person who has said TERA is overpriced. Its the same price as any other new MMO, and in fact, cheaper than GW2. Also, RaiderZ is in Alpha, and involves a classless, skill-based character system with gameplay consisting of nothing but raids. So…yeah, exactly like TERA.

      Ah, the joys of the internet.

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