In a day when more and more MMOs are going free-to-play, En Masse Entertainment is taking the traditional subscription-based approach with newly released MMORPG, TERA. Don't be fooled with the pricing model, however; TERA is anything but traditional.
In part one of my TERA review, I mentioned combat was the game's big selling point. As I progressed throughout the game, the initial sheen of new action-based combat wore off, but it was still a welcomed change to the traditional click and wait combat.
To refresh everyone's memory, TERA features high-paced action combat that relies just as much on player skill as it does character stats. You must aim properly and click to successfully attack your enemy. Each click performs a different attack in the combo. Add in some special abilities that can combo into other abilities for more damage and En Masse has created a nice little combat system.
In regular encounters you don't really appreciate the combat as much, but once you get into the later level dungeons and BAM (big-ass monster) encounters, you begin to see combat is a test of strength and endurance. It's not easy to actively aim, dodge, and counter a giant boss for 10 minutes.
Unfortunately, at this point, combat is really all TERA has in terms of gameplay that really differentiates itself from other MMOs on the market. Sure, En Masse does some things different and tweaks some standard MMO practices. For instance, gathering resources provides you with a slight stat boost like increased health regeneration or faster speed. They don't reinvent the MMO knife, but they sure do sharpen it.
I particularly enjoyed the glyph system. Glyphs are earned as you level up and are then spent to modify your skills. Rather than stat points or talent points, glyphs upgrade your skills allowing you to optimize your character for the role you intend to fill. You can boost certain abilities so you can get the most out of the skills you use most often.
In my first review, I hadn't yet run an instance or encountered a BAM. After a lot of grinding (unfortunately, the leveling does slow quite a lot once into the 20s), I realized the combat was a mask of otherwise normal gameplay. Instances are fairly standard - pull a group of mobs, tank pulls aggro, and DPS them down. It's not a bad system, but I would've liked to see them do something different to compliment the combat.
Questing in TERA is mundane at best. They attempt to interweave story into the grind, but unfortunately it falls flat. Regardless of whether you are on the story quest or the one's designed to give you chunks of XP, they all revolve around "kill 10 of these" or "gather 5 of those". Of course, with MMOs this seems to be the big problem of late. Even Star Wars: The Old Republic which did story the right way, still failed to overcome the lame "kill 10" mobs. In the end, TERA's poor attempts at short cut scenes come off if it was tacked on last minute.