These Are A Few of My Favorite Things: DAW15 Part 2

So last time I thanked the SWTOR devs for their efforts. Today I want to highlight one of the things I appreciate about TERA.

While the game got raked over the coals in critiques, both socially and mechanically, there is one thing about TERA that I can not do in any other MMO that I play. One fun thing that nobody else really does. And that is that it has made me comfortable playing the game with the UI turned off, without having to mouse click any of my skills. Now to be fair, this is something that most ARPG’s and some MOBA’s have already gotten right – Diablo, Marvel Heroes, World of Tanks, etc. All of these can do that. But there are no straight MMORPG’s that I play that allow me that option and, more importantly, where that option of watching the fight unfold rather than watching numbers and buttons, is actually beneficial.

TERA_ScreenShot_20150402_144147

I actually took that screenshot above while fighting. And its not unusual for me to gather the quests in a given area, hit Ctrl+Z, and run off to play the game. Its refreshing (and immersive) to not have to look at boxes and buttons and wheels for a change. And TERA is a truly pretty game with lots of gorgeous landscape, interesting cities, and of course, colorful characters. Its kinda like playing an online version of Alice in Wonderland I suppose, and it has some unique charm in that.

So thank you En Masse and Bluehold developers, for creating a unique MMO that lets me feel even more like I’m at home in an RPG.

#daw2015, #tera, #mmo, #2015

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2013 Crystal Ball Review

So I pondered what I was going to do last January about predictions. I decided that instead I would look at what I was looking forward to the most and least, and ask some questions that could only be answered a year later. That way I could come back a year later “with some wisdom and hindsight and laugh and make obscene hand gestures at myself for how dumb or idealistic I was.” It worked out way better than I could have thought. If you are still missing the point here, think of it this way. I buried a time capsule for my future self with a bunch of questions about the coming year, and now I get to reflect and pontificate on them. It is glorious.

So in the “looking forward to” section I had a couple of entries:

Hearing More About ArcheAge Online and Possible Release Dates

Sadly, we haven’t really heard anything more. An enterprising EU team (of Germans if I understand correctly) from Impact Community have made and kept up to date a skill calculator for the game in English, which is fantastic. You can use it here to build your class from the 120 possible combinations. Keep in mind that even if you have the same combination of skill trees as me, your picks will be different. For the curious, I plan on utilizing Devotion (healing), Finesse (Rogue-ish abilities), and Necromancy (pretty self-explanatory…). Which is the class known as…wait for it…the Writer.

The lack of news was a result of Trion finding its balance I think. Scott Hartsman leaving and then returning as the new head honcho bodes well for the company, but despite his protests to the contrary, I’m sure those waves within the company had a push-back effect on the game. I still hope for a 2014 launch, and I am of course signed up for Beta. I simply can’t wait to get my hands on this title, and I’m all but begging for more information. So if you are out there…pretty please.

Expanding My Tier 10 Garage

And expand I did. I collected all the tanks I originally set out to, except for the IS-7. The arrival of the Chinese line and the pressing needs of my previous clan for certain tier 10 tanks caused a shift in that final drive. Right now I am sitting about 50k from the Object 140, 150k from the IS-7, and 225k from the E-100. However, with Warplanes occupying almost all my PvP time these days, I’m just not sure how active I’m going to be over that way. We will see. I have to think that, in part, getting kicked to the curb by my former clan is at least part of my decline in tanks interest. I can say for sure that while I still enjoy the game, I am done with Clan Wars for the forseeable future.

Nostalgia: Vanguard

Here we come to the first bust of the year. I was really really looking forward to getting into Vanguard. I love the setting, and I love my character. I loved playing the game. I even went out and bought a card for a month’s sub. But the progression is just too damn slow. Its a snail’s pace and that is really discouraging. And beyond that, I died. A lot. Against even level or +1 content. Which forced me into lower level quests, which then lowered my progression that much more. My only hope now is that the max level character program is successful in EQ2 and is ported over to Vanguard. That’s a setting where I really don’t care what quests I’m doing, I just want to roam the world and explore. And I can’t do that with a 20 something character that keeps getting his ass handed to him by random wolves. And I’m a healer to boot.

Battlefield 3

This game really, really wound down for me this year. I still have a buddy who is hardcore into 4 right now, but I just can’t bring myself to it. I put the game on my Christmas list so I’m sure I will get in some time come the new year, but…the verve is gone, as I predicted. I think it was probably back around summer time when I last logged in, but I can’t remember for sure.

Star Trek Online

I finally got my Ambassador class! That was indeed the anniversary ship. I played my new Romulan to level 10, and then couldn’t decided which way to go. Most of the KDF content is unknown to me, but my gaming buddy I was leveling with wanted to go STO. So I did what anyone with indecision does…nothing. I quit playing. I come back occassionally and am always pleasently surprised with how good the game is. I play a storyline mission or two, and that satisfies me. And then of course, if there is a fun ship up for grabs or a new story to tackle, I’m in as well. But day to day play I am out. If I could find an active, friendly fleet that wasn’t comprised of 300 jerks, that would help, but other than starting my own fleet, which would be a pain to play catchup with at this point, I just don’t think I can find something that is a good fit for me.

And then there was my second category – questions I asked myself about the coming year. This is the best part. Are you ready?

Will the small indy developed sandboxes of Dawntide and Project Gorgon be revived?

No and yes, in that order. Dawntide lost funding and sometime last month or so, the website shut down completely. That one stings. Dawntide was *the* sandbox title in my book. It had lots of great things going for it, and I’m very discontent that the doors have closed for good. Project Gorgon, on the other hand, continues to poke and prod its way into development, which is about the best the team can hope for, given that its sort of a nights and weekends project while they put food on the table from elsewhere. If you’d like to log in and play around, feedback is appreciated. Just be aware that if the game warns you about something, its not kidding around. Turning yourself into a cow is a real possibility if you aren’t careful. And by cow, I mean cow. Literally.

Will some unexpected MMO suck me in this year, much as STO did last year?

Yep. TERA did that for me pretty hard. It wins the award here. I’m still playing and still having fun. You know why? Its the only MMO I can think of where I could turn off the UI and still play it. It wins the award for funnest combat and immersion in that sense. To a lesser extend, I enjoyed UWO, which has left the hands of NetMarble and ended up with…uh…OGPLanet. No, I have no idea who that is either. There is a good chance I go back and play that some more in the near future.

There are three others I played that did not suck me in though. The Old Republic was there when I needed an emotional crutch, and by all rights that should have launched me right back into the game. But the bad storylines for my main character were oppressive, and the content I was working through for a second time with my Sorcerer was boring. Which left me with an itch to go through on the light side as a Jedi. But I’m so sick of Tython that I was physically ill trying to play through it for what has to be the dozenth time. Until they allow character transfers and I can bring over my level 11 from another server (you know, before they announced that whole Legacy thing. Thanks again for that, jerkwards at Bioware), I’m not headed back.

I had a similar problem in The Secret World, where trying to get through the starting area for the umpteenth time just wore me out. If I can ever push through that starting map, I’ll be golden though, because there is nothing about the game I don’t like.

Last of the trifecta was LotRO. The summer home of my little group, once we all got stable internet again, it seemed like a good idea. I certainly had fun, and all three of us are fans of the IP. But between the crappy and buggy launcher that caused at least one of us problems *every week* when we logged in, and the fact that our healer was soloing the content while I as tank and our DPS person followed along behind them (Guitar Power in LotRO is OP!), it got old after awhile. So I played with the group, and enjoyed it, but it was far from sucking me in.

Will we finally see some information on Titan or Everquest 3?

Well, Titan, no, not really. But Everquest 3, or Everquest Next as we now know it, was all the rage. And my personal opinion was…meh. Basically, from what I have seen…its not Everquest. In fact, if you had given me the pictures and watermarked it with Blizzard or Titan, I wouldn’t have even batted an eyelash at the deception. So…looks like I’ll be passing on that one.

Is there any chance of me logging into TOR in 2013?

Yes, but it took the death of a friend to bring me to it. Think about that for a moment. That’s how strong the emotional rejection of a game that has failed you can be.

And don’t even get me started about that failure of an expansion….

Will Wildstar be the unmitigated failure I think it will be?

To its credit, Wildstar seems to be building steam as it goes along. I am still singularly unimpressed by what I see and read, and completely turned off by the graphics. The final nail in the coffin was learning that races and classes will be limited. Welcome back to MMO’s, a la 2004. Good job guys.

***

So there ya go, that was my Crystal Ball for 2013. Its been a bit of a wild ride. I’m looking forward to what 2014 has in store, and I have more questions and answers to go to. But I’ll leave those for another post.

My First TERA Disappoint

Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later.

TERA is doing their Fall Carnival/Halloween Event right now, and it looks pretty cool. A daily mission where you break up the “Banquet of Blood” – a Vampire party. A group instance of defending a candy mound from a ridiculously evil “Its the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown!” And, for those who are into that sort of thing, even a Halloween Costume Party!

I guess the answer is N.
I guess the answer is N.

The problem is the location. Flight points in TERA are unlocked not by having to visit the Flight Master, but by your character level, something I have applauded as a positive change to the usual. But it also means that I can’t get to the event locations, because I’m of a high enough level. I could run there, the old fashion way, having the nifty founder’s mount with a good bit of speed on it. But that’s not the only restriction…

If this event is anything like the last two (and a brief jaunt through the official forums confirms it is), then the daily carnival quests I described above are limited to high level characters – as in, my 20-something can’t even get the quest. No quest means no candy, no candy means no goodies from the Halloween vendor. And while it used to be that the gameworld itself was rigged to drop you some stuff no matter where you were, that no longer seems to be the case, so I literally have no way to get candy. None.

Back to leveling with you peon! Only those who have maxed level get to participate in the fun!

Which seems odd from a game design standpoint, but okay. Just means that instead of logging into TERA everyday to get candy (I really wanted the pet ghost, Boo), I will just do my usual leveling night here and there and keep logging into other games. Lost opportunity guys, lost opportunity.

Cute little feller, ain't he?
Cute little feller, ain’t he?

I could always buy some costumes from the store I guess…

…for $20?! I could almost buy my own horse for that.

Nevermind. I am disappoint.

The Noobie’s Guide to TERA

So if my post yesterday got you curious and you’d like to take a few tentative steps into the world of TERA, I wanted to write a few words of wisdom for you today.

1) Picking a Race

If you want to play a male character and want to avoid awkward clothing choices, you are fine everywhere except Castanics and a few of the High Elf light armor pieces. If you want to play a female, the choices are a bit trickier.

Amani is hands down the easiest, because they are the most “inhuman” and thus even the most revealing pieces are really just showing off what amounts to stone. But if that’s not your cup of tea, you still have some options. If you plan on going with a light armor class (Sorcerer, Priest, Mystic), the High Elf is probably your best bet. While the character models have overly large uh, assets, the armor choices tend to be more modest and classy – longer hem lengths and so on. If you want a medium armor class, humans are probably your best bet. Despite some really egregiously bad fashion outfits, a goodly number of them (especially endgame) are rather awesome.

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If you want a heavy armor class…well, as annoying as they can be, the Elin are probably your best bet here. Every other female heavy armor set for the other classes is some variation on the chainmail bikini. That’s not to say you can’t find exceptions, or make your own.

TERA has a fantastic template/remodel system in place. You can visit an NPC and for a fee move the appearance of one armor set or weapon to another. Even better, if you don’t possess one you like, there is a template shop that sells the appearance of almost every set you could wear for a reasonable price. So you should be able to find something. And even the most scantily clad race class combo usually has some fun outfits that aren’t over the top. Even the Castanic light armor babes:

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The TD;DR here is that Humans are the fantasy standard, Castanics are your emo/hipsters, Amani/Baraka are your BAMF‘s, Popori/Elin are your cute/furry, and High Elfs are your high fashion/high society types. Their outfits and emotes will reflect these trends.

2) Picking a Class

Pick what you want, but please please please be aware of the difficulty ratings on the class selection screen. They are there for a reason. Please know that there is no class you cannot have fun with and no class you cannot master. None of this is rocket science. But some classes do require a little more supervision and a little more time to get the hang of.

For example, the Warrior class spends a lot of time on the move in the philosophy of “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” – you are not going to stand in front of a mob and just pound on him, unlike other MMO’s Warrior classes. If you are curious, TERA provides a complete list of each classes skills on their Game Guide on the main website (for example, here is the one on the Warrior). These guides are great and really give you some insight into how the class plays.

If you are a tank, your choices are Lancer (traditional tank) or Warrior (evasion tank). If you want to heal, you can go Priest (traditional healer) or Mystic. The Mystic is very different in that while it has direct heals, it also has some interesting mechanics. For example, it can drop healing orbs on the battlefield for its teammates to pick up as needed. For example a good mystic teammate might drop an orb right behind the mob so their warrior tank can snag on as he does his evasion roll. This “fire and forget” style healing is matched with some “fire and forget” dps in the form of pets, so you have some great potential – but at the cost of a more difficult class to play.

On the DPS front, you have your ranged options – Sorcerer and Archer, and your melee options – Berserker and Slayer. The Warrior also doubles as a solid melee DPS choice, if giant two handed weapons are not your thing.

3) The Starter Island

The Isle of Dawn has been streamlined from the games launch. Gone is the confusing flashback opening where you play a level 30 version of yourself on the initial invasion of the island, in fact it looks like that has been written out of the narrative altogether. I mention it only because if you are an explorer type, you will notice that about half the starter island is depopulated. There are tents, gathering hubs, and even clearly marked quest items on the ground but its a ghost town.

Um..guys?  Hello?!  ...Everyone is lost but me.
Um..guys? Hello?! …Everyone is lost but me.

If you just follow the quests and narrative given now though, you won’t even encounter those ghost areas. The island will take only an hour or so to complete, and you will end up in the capital city at level 11 with clear instructions on where to head next. None of the mobs on the starter island will aggro on you. They will pop the alert icon (an exclamation mark, and they will turn and face) which will get you prepped for mob life in the main game, but none of them will then aggro after that alert phase and start attacking you first. (ETA: Except maybe the boss treeman you fight early on, I can’t remember at the moment).

The island doesn’t take long to move around, and you will get a free mount at level 11. But if you want, you can spend $5 on Amazon and get the Quick Start Bundle, which has some nice one use buff potions and a mount that you can use right away. Also you may want to check and see what goodies you have been given. Hit the Alt or Esc keys and then the box looking icon to the right. There you can open the ingame store or check item claim. I had a bunch of items in there I didn’t know about when I started and I don’t know if they were gifts because I had an account before the F2P transition or what. Its worth a looksy either way.

The storyline of the game is explained in cutscenes that occur at the beginning and end of the island time. But if you want the short version – this island has sprung up for some unknown reason and is being tamed and investigated. For some it might hold clues to the real conflict at hand – the Argons. It is against this invasion that the races of TERA have united (mostly) and you have been conscripted into. But before taking on the enemy on the frontlines to the west, unblooded recruits like you are being tested by troubles that have popped up on the home front. Explore the island and its mysteries, report to the capital, and then get your next assignment – uncovering the source of the unrest and fey attacks on the forests north of the capital and its centerpiece, Lumbertown. Is there a link between the island, these attacks, and the Argon invasion? That’s for you and your friends to uncover.

4) Gathering and Crafting

If you are into crafting, start gathering now. You won’t really be able to craft until you hit the capital, but its good to start now. Even if you don’t craft, start gathering. Gathering actually grants you one of three random buffs that increases you speed, stamina, or healing. And these stack multiple times. In other words, TERA actually compensates you for the time to take to stop and gather resources. Wild idea, I know, and I love it.

You can gather everything and craft everything. There is no limit on learned skills, the only limit is the time you wish to put into crafting. Thank you TERA!

5) Into the Big Bad World

Before you leave the capital, make sure you check in with the inventory expansion guy. He will give you the first one for free, and the second one is only 15 silver, which will be very affordable even just off the starter island.

Once you are in the big bad world, be aware that mobs will come fast and hard, and its entirely possible in dodging and moving you will aggro a second one. Keep moving and use those class abilities to their fullest. You should have several healing potions from starting gift crates, use them early and often. If you don’t have any, craft or buy some. Bombs are nice as well, use them to supplement your DPS or AOE attacks.

Play around with those skill chains and don’t be afraid to switch them up based on the tactics of the mobs you encounter.

And always remember to use campfires and bonfires to get the full stamina boost for your character – why would you not go into combat with a 20%+ buff to your HP and MP? And while you are there, don’t forget to throw a charm or two into the fire for those additional buffs as well.

And finally, if you need anything, give me a yell. I’m not on every night, but I’m happy to help if I am on. Since I tend to play a variety of characters, just shoot me an email (see the About Me page) or a tweet (@Harbinger_Zero) with your character name and my awesome phone (which is always with me) will buzz with a notification. And I will track you down and help you in any way I can!

Good luck and good hunting.

Another Confession To Make

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.

Stunning textures on the tent, beautiful lighting effects.  (New)
Stunning textures on the tent, beautiful lighting effects. (New)
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.
Even on the crappy old computer, you can appreciate the detail and beauty of the world and character models.

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.

TERA_ScreenShot_20131007_191224

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.

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.