A Closer Look at TERA After F2P

I dream of a world where magical pandas, kitties, and puppies have a sharp wit and a magical edge to them. A world where little ginger girls run freely in beautiful cities that span for miles. I dream of a world where unicorns prance happily through meadows, and accompany faeries by the waterside. But my dream is merely a whisper – a hope in the dark reality that everything I hold dear could be shattered by those who would see the land flooded with waterfalls of blood. This is The Exiled Realm of Arborea (TERA) – this is my world.

On May 1, 2012, Bluehole Studio released TERA, a 3D MMORPG heavily influenced by the fantasy genre. You’ll encounter magical beasts and beauties of all shapes and sizes, and mystical lands that span as far as the eye can see. The towns themselves are reminiscent of the middle ages – and your main transportation methods include horseback and riding a Pegasus from destination to destination. For those of you who didn’t beat the rush and have not yet played the game, as of February 5, 2013, TERA is free to play (F2P)!

The storyline itself begins with a cinematic. A group of recruits are flying to the Island of Dawn to fend off waves of enemy monsters plaguing the land. From there, you are in the beginner zone, which includes the entire Island of Dawn. The quests here are meant strictly to get you into the game and get you prepared for the challenges ahead. You will have the same type of quests here as you will throughout the rest of the game, except enemies here will not attack you unless provoked, so you will face little challenge running around getting used to the controls.

There are seven character races and eight classes within each that you can choose from before you begin your journey. The races available are the Aman, Baraka, Elin, Popori, Castanics, High Elves, and Humans. After you decide on a race, you then choose one of the classes: Archer, Berserker, Lancer, Mystic, Priest, Slayer, Sorcerer, or Warrior. Each race has its own history, and each class defines the way you fight, and the kind of combat skills you can obtain. Once you really get into character, you’ll find your guilds can have their own unique banners, and you can even dye your gear to uniquely fit your personality. With so many characters to choose from, and ways you can play them, it’ll be hard not to create a new character for every day of the week to suit your mood. Although the character scheme is diverse, there isn’t too much more to the storyline than previously mentioned. It’s a game that has various enemies and monsters from the underworld threatening the peace and prosperity of the lands. It is up to you and your fellow players to fend them off and restore the lands. If you were hoping for the kind of lore you’ll see in WOW, or in-depth character development in SWTOR, you won’t see it on the same level. Conversely, the game does have the potential in its end-game content to create more of a dynamic storyline in the future, and those who are fans of TERA may yet see it redeem itself.

The combat is definitely the game’s best feature – as the targeting system isn’t the typical Auto-Tab based mechanic players are used to, but more of an FPS feel, with its targeting of enemies and the use of aim in fights. The character I chose was an archer, as I always tend to lean towards ranged DPS as my favoured gameplay. The neat thing about the combat system is you are always moving, instead of the typical stop-and-cast strategy extremely present in most MMORPGs. Movement and fast reactions are key – and if you’re good enough you can fend off general mobs without getting a scratch on you. You can also create combination moves in the Options menu that will help you pull off moves quickly that complement one another. For instance, say you use an ability to leap backwards, you can set the game to automatically then let you use a slow ability or a stun ability by pressing the space bar as soon as you leap backwards. What this does is shave off reaction time and help you pummel your foes faster than a faerie on pixie sticks. A great aspect of this kind of setup is that each character and class plays differently – so you aren’t stuck in the same rotations and molds you would be in other games. It leads to more dynamic and fluid mechanics – and a feature that promises to make you feel more involved in the game. Not a PC gamer? No problem! TERA gives players the option to play the game with a controller instead of a keyboard – for those who are strictly console-based gamers. The combat system stands out above the rest of the MMORPGs past, present, and potentially future. It is the kind of gameplay that any big fan of the genre must experience at least once, and a great introductory experience for those new to the genre.

If you’re not a fan of the grind, you will be hard-pressed to level your character in this game. Most of the missions are collecting items or killing mobs. The main storyline itself will have you running back and forth from person to person, just to play a long game of telephone – or running from mob to mob to mob and killing the same type of monsters over and over again. The basic quests are tedious and repetitive, and you’ll notice each section is yet another series of the same kind of side quests. The developers try to mix it up by changing some of the monsters’ names, or throwing in some good creatures gone bad, but the effect leaves you yearning for further depth to the storyline. The lack of originality in the grind is reminiscent of MMORPG games that came out years previous, as newer games have been attempting to change up the rinse-lather-repeat effect the genre can have. TERA’s developers decided to stick with what the players were familiar with, which unfortunately did it no favours in the end.

Visually the game’s layout is basic but beautiful, though it may leave much to be desired for those spoiled with new generation MMORPGs. The in-game scenery is very bright and diverse, and the cinematics are short and rare, but action-packed and very detail-oriented – with gigantic creatures roaring at the players, and the camera panning out to see clouds of dusts falling from caves, or rumbles sending shockwaves across the lands. Still, it feels as if it is a step behind the current generation in terms of complexity and even the basic engine. Not that the simplicity of it can’t be appreciated on some level, but it feels as if you are taking a step back and not forward in the gaming world. The audio does nothing to stand out, nor does the voice acting. It is your typical, run-of-the-mill MMORPG when it comes to its audio. Though the music adding piano, soft violin, and chimes to it is pretty, it has an overall lackluster feel that is easily forgettable. Many players will find themselves putting on their own music and just coasting through, as none of the NPCs talk (it’s all in the dialog boxes), and the cutscenes have subtitles.

So what does F2P really mean in the world of TERA? According to En Mass Entertainment and Bluehole Studio, there are no level, time, or content restrictions. While there will be bonuses and more items readily available to paying players, none of the actual storyline or quest content will be limited. The only limitations are that F2P players can only have two playable characters per server, and they do not have as much in the way of convenience as subscribers do. Subscribers get a Founder’s title, eight character slots, four bank tabs, and a special Terminus mount. They will also have the ability to sell more at one time on the brokerage (general trade). These very slight differences between free and subscription are enough to keep the hardcore players subscribing, and allowing everyone a chance to fully play through the game content without limiting the experience through lack of access.

When playing previous MMORPG games that had F2P features, I have personally had issues losing interested based on lack of ability to use general chat, see certain types of end-game content, or even blend in enough to become part of the community. There is none of this in TERA, as everything aside from a few in-game items and added bonuses are available to the F2P gamer, which will keep many people locked in for a long time – and can even potentially see them spending their money to get a few choice specialty items after all.

While F2P always means ‘add more trolls’, many of the Founders were extremely helpful and patient, welcoming eager new gamers into their world with open arms. The general chat is bursting with comments that are all over the map, and it is safe to say for the next few weeks this will be commonplace. It’s a well known truth that the community itself determines how the world in-game and player interactions will really take place overall – and it’s nice to see the more advanced gamers in TERA taking the time to really boost the experience for newcomers, and create the type of environment where new people will be proud to join a guild and raid until the wee hours of the morning. This can only help an online community flourish, and it will be interesting to see the developments in the game both through content and community.

Overall, this is a game that you should at least experience if for no other reason than playing an MMORPG like an FPS. TERA is comparable to all of the popular MMORPGs, and has its own customization schemes including a diverse user interface and key bindings. While some of the content and basic setup of the game is run-of-the-mill, the features available to the players that are unique to this game seem to merge the console and the PC gaming world into one, creating the perfect ‘gateway drug’ for those who are not used to games of its genre. It provides an easy way for the Fable or Skyrim lovers of the world to journey online and take a spin on the community-based, role-playing side of the gaming world. Worst-case scenario, you download a game and install it on your computer, only to find it just isn’t for you. But in the end, TERA is worth the time to explore, and you never know – it could just be your new addiction.

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February 15, 2013 - 8:30 am