TERA Closed Beta hands-on
The state of MMOs, at this point, can best be described as 'risky'. The latest hyped MMO that didn't seem to live up to expectations, Star Wars the Old Republic, is already garnering criticism from fans and critics alike. MMO's like WoW are seeing more and more unsubscriptions, albeit they're still king.
TERA is a new experiment in online MMO's, one that was previously explored by Vindictus, but never expanded due to that game's instanced nature. TERA's biggest draw, aside from the gorgeous graphics and wide selection of classes, is it's action based combat. Instead of relying on auto-attacking, or queuing up skills, everything is real time. You could also argue that SWTOR didn't use auto-attacking either, but all that really resulted was in a WoW-like combat system, that constantly required you to press hotkeys.
TERA is a different type of beast altogether, and we got more than enough hands on time to truly experience just how great the game feels, compared to its MMO brethren.
First and foremost, let me tell you about the races and classes. There is honestly a race for any type of player. Though they do have some race specific skills, none of them are important enough to justify picking one race over another, it really is all about aesthetics. Want to play as a bad ass demon looking dude, go with with the Aman. Have a thing for Loli's, the Elin is definitely going to appeal to you. Perhaps you're more into furries, the Popori will undoubtedly satisfy your furry urges. Other races include Humans, the hulking Baraka, another demon looking race called Castanic, and the extremely androgynous race of High Elves.
The classes give you a wide variety of choices as well. For this beta, I tried to test out as many as I could, not only to get the feel for most of them, but to see which one suits my playstyle the most. Needless to say I had to delete a few characters since you're only allowed three characters per server at a time. What you get are essentially hack and slash classes, and caster classes.
The Warrior, Lancer, Slayer and Berserker are your action classes, the ones that go head to head with the enemy in true hack and slash fashion. The Warrior is the most nimble with dual swords. The Slayer, on the other hand, is one of the more slower classes, relying on a heavy, two handed sword. The Sorcerer, Priest and Mystic are your caster classes that each concentrate on various specializations. Sorcerers are your damage class, with powerful projectile and AOE magic attacks. Priests are your standard healers and mystics are somewhat in between the two, having some good offensive and defense abilities as well as the ability to summon pets.
The first bulk of my time was spent in the initial island, which essentially takes you from level 1 - 10, and teaches you the basics of controls, questing, grouping and many of the standard MMORPG tropes. Upon my first entry into the world of TERA, I can honestly say that this is one of the prettiest MMO's I've seen to date. The last time I said the same thing was when Aion was first released. I guess you can say that either I have something for the aesthetics of Korean MMO's or they just know how to make a game look damn pretty.
So finally, let's talk about one of the main draws of TERA, the combat. The beauty of this game is that you'll honestly feel like you're playing a console action game. Simply left and right clicking makes your character immediately slash or shoot at your enemies, but that's really only scratching the surface. Dodging actually plays a huge part in the game as well. No more will you be running away from a Stranglethorn Tiger, only to be constantly hit by his slashes, even though he's 10 feet away from you. Instead, if you're an action class, more often than not you have some sort of dodge skill which lets you roll or dash out of harm's way, or simply moving away from an incoming attack will ensure you're not hit.
It's this system that makes TERA feel unlike any other MMO to date. As my Warrior, I went through five straight levels without getting a single hit. You could argue that it just means that the game is incredibly easy, but it's not so cut and dry. Sure, the level of difficulty isn't as high compared to other MMO's out there, and since I've only played the beginning zone, and a little bit of the overworld after it, it's safe to assume that the difficulty progresses, as you progress through the game - though a lot of it also has to do with player skill. Effectively dodging and hitting your enemy in the most opportune moments, will be the difference in receiving damage or leaving the battle unscathed.
What's more, you can plug in your Xbox 360 controller, and the game works with it, which only makes it feel that much more like a console game. If there was ever an MMO that would work on consoles, it's this one.
I found very little need to party through my initial time with TERA. Even the first instance, that recommended up to five party members, I was able to do solo...as a sorceress, the weakest class in armor rating. It might only be that the difficulty is slightly turned down for the process of the beta. Either way, I want the dungeons to require cooperation. I want to rely on the healer to support the entire team, and the tank to take the damage up close. So far, none of this was really required in this beta.
After the initial island, I was finally able to fly onto one of the main continents, and see just how vast and expansive the game is. I think the biggest problem I had in previous games, even with SWTOR, is that essentially the game was broken up into smaller instances, rather than a large, sprawling open world, like the one seen in WoW. Actually, one look at the entire map of TERA, and it does bear a striking resemblance to that of WoW's world map.
In actuality, besides the action-based combat, TERA does have some strong resemblance to Blizzard's epic MMO. Questing is largely the same, being that you press a button to talk an NPC, and immediately take or finish a quest, without really reading much of the context. There are story missions, however, that are marked with a red exclamation mark, which aren't race or class specific, but they do provide some context within the world of TERA. Flight and Teleport masters help you quickly get from village A to town B, and mounts, which are actually available from level 11, will make your questing that much speedier.
If you haven't given any thought of trying TERA, there are still more closed beta's coming your way, every other weekend. Make sure to sign up at the official TERA site, and keep a lookout for more closed beta invites!