Well things have shuffled in my regular playing group again, and the end result is that we won’t be able to get back together in complete formation until February or March. So that means Rift has been placed on standby. I did fine with that for about a month, burying myself in tanks and planes and enjoying every moment. But after awhile, I get the itch for some fantasy.
So I downloaded and patched two possibilities, for one specific reason. I had heard about Everquest II offering the option to play free top level characters, something I have been wanting since 2007 or so. And I also, in reading about that, heard that TERA was offering the same deal. Since I had heard that the TERA offering was a time sensitive deal, I went that direction first. Turns out, I missed my opportunity by just a few days (something I am still seething about – though not too much, its clear En Masse bypassed the usual advertisement on the opportunity as a way to reward current players, so…you can’t get too angry about that).
So, the confession is that this has led me to playing TERA regularly. I know, its not a popular choice. Nobody likes the oversexed characters, the action combat was given the ho-hum yawn, and anyone into Eastern style fantasy settings is probably on the FFXIV bandwagon (or still clinging to their FFXI accounts).
But for some reason, I have found myself really enjoying the game, and having no problems playing it. I’ve been pondering why that is, and I think I can sum it up in a few simple points.
Beauty, not Sex
The over sexed characters really disappear once you get out into the “real world.” In the capital there are approximately 973 scantily clad females dancing endlessly, while general chat is laced with innuendo or outright propositions. But once you leave the capital and go out into the adventure zones, you’ll be hard pressed to find any of that. The spell and combat effects are flying, and the pace of combat is fluid enough that I haven’t yet stopped to gawk incredulously at what anyone is wearing. Its all business, all the time. Well, almost all the time. I have stopped on occasion to enjoy the gorgeous world and well done characters in the game. This is a game that just looks fantastic, enough so that you have to stop and smell the flowers every once in a while. Being out in the game world really lets that shine in an untainted way. Sometimes, even at its top graphical settings, I cringe in Everquest II. Even on the lowest settings, the game looks great. For comparison, here is a screenshot taken on my new gaming computer, and then one on my old laptop that could barely run Rift and SWTOR.
The Action Combat Was Better Than People Thought
The first time around in TERA, playing the open beta, I stuck with the one class that I absolutely loved on paper, the Mystic. A healer/pet combo class, it had a lot of fun abilities and seemed perfect for my playstyle and background. And I still enjoy the snot out of it. But..I’ve played around a bit with the other classes too. Each of them has its own flavor and, the word that is used most often on the forums and fan sites for the game, “rhythm” to play. Some are tougher than others to learn, but not so much that someone might say “man, I could never play that class, its just too hard.” The combo system is perhaps what I most underappreciated last time in. What if your MMO not only made macros okay, but highlighted them in a way that made them part of the game? There is an easy drop down list on your skill menu where you can drag and drop skill icons to form chains. Then you just tap the spacebar to move to the next skill or attack in the chain. Its not an unlimited one touch system – each skill can only be chained to one other at a given time, meaning some strategy and though is needed. But for example, my archer currently has her two close combat attacks slaved to her “backstep” evasion ability. When someone gets close, they kick a snap kick, a roundhouse kick, and then I leap out of the way so I can start unleashing arrows. Its fun to watch and use. But its not perfect – there are some enemies that love to use charge attacks – and on them, that combo doesn’t work so well, because it sets me up to get knocked down and punished. Instead I have to use some of my trap skills or try to stay mobile, which means eschewing my charge-up skills for quicker attacks. My Mystic is just as action oriented by the way – using teleport jaunts and PBAOE strikes mixed with weaker, but faster ranged attacks for mobile awesomeness.
The closest thing to this combat/action wise would have to be The Secret World, though smoother, since I’m not having to toolbar hunt to play. And even with only eight skills up there, I have to do some toolbar hunting. That is one more thing I love – default controls set to let you play without ever having to click on screen on anything. Just about the only time my hands leave the WASD and mouse is to move inventory around. Would that other MMO’s would ditch the old setups and give you something like this!
Lots Of Friendly People
I mentioned the 973 person dancing harem in the capital. Hopefully you laughed, but if you are like me, you did a double take and thought – wow…there are a lot more people playing this game than I thought. And you would be right. At times on the starter island, I’ve had to wait for respawns! Even given the fact that TERA, in a genius move – has ditched the “Kill Ten X” for “Kill Five X” – which is nothing more than a parlor trick but…man does it work! Those quests are not nearly the chore they were at 10 kills now that they are at 5 kills. Weird, but true. Anyway, so many people. And twice I’ve had to group up with strangers for that boss mob that only spawns once every couple of minutes – and its been no big deal, or NBD as the kids text these days. Hey you wanna group up for this guy? Yeah sounds good, but hang on this other person has been wandering around here for a minute, lets check with them first. Yep they need him too. Okay, invites sent! Mob was killed people were happy.
Twice I’ve asked questions in general or trade chat, and gotten immediate, helpful responses. One person I ran across in playing found out I was a new returnee and was truly pleased, told me to ask if I needed anything at all, and then – in a first ever, asked if it was okay if they added me to their friend list. I found out why – if anyone adds you to their friend list, you get a notification on your screen. So nobody can creep on you without you having a chance to block them the hell out. It was refreshing to find such a universally upbeat community and full servers on a game I thought was half-dead.
I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. My initial review of TERA from open beta is still the third most viewed page on this website, behind only my naming guide for STO and the tips and tricks guide for World of Tanks, and garnering more than three times the number of hits of the fourth most viewed page.
Even The Lockboxes Are Pretty Innocuous
Yes, we all hate them, and TERA, being F2P with an optional sub, has them. But I wonder if STO has given them a bad rap. In TERA, things are a little different. STO sells keys for around $1.15 and gives you a guarentee only of some worthless lockbox-only currency. And they never give away keys. TERA charges around $.50 for a key, and guarantees you 1-2 uncommon items useful to anyone of any level (like crystals to perma-buff your gear, scrolls to enchant with, etc). STO gives you the option to get the best DPS/PVP ship in the game, that has sold, at times for what is over $100 of real currency. TERA gives you costumes for your weapons and armor. Costumes that you can also buy straight up from the store. The only difference is that the lockbox versions generally allow for being dyed or, in the case of weapons, have a glow effect that straight store-bought versions don’t have. Oh, and you get keys for free sometimes. Subscribers actually get 10 keys a month. As a returning player, I was given 20 keys for free to play around with. In STO I get lockbox drops so often, I have about 5 stacks of them in my bank – even with regularly selling stacks off for peanuts on the broker. In TERA, I’ve got one stack that’s not even a full stack yet.
I mean if you really, really hate lockboxes, yeah, they are still there. But if you understand that they are a good way for F2P games to make money, you have to appreciate how En Masse has handled them with kid gloves in TERA.
So That’s My Confession
I like the game you’re not supposed to like. The game with characters running around in bikinis and stuff. The game with really obnoxious advertisements that used MMA stars to offend people. Between this and getting kicked out of my guild recently, perhaps you think the worst of me. But at least its all out on the table now for you to see and talk about.
But I do like it. And from what I’ve seen so far, I think I’m not quite as alone as I thought. So if you need me, for the time being, if I’m not wrecking tanks and planes, you can find me there.