TERA: First Impressions

March 23rd, 2012

I managed to wriggle my way in to the TERA beta this weekend to check it out. So far, I've played a Warrior character through to level 12, completing the tutorial island. I don't know if I'll get much further. Here are my thoughts.

Quests: The game is loaded with utter crap quests. Walk over and talk to that other NPC. Then kill 5-10 monsters that pose no threat to you whatsoever - just walk over to them and hold the attack button down until they're dead - and they're all spread around. The hardest part of the quest is tracking them all down. On the bright side, TERA lets you click on a target's name in the quest journal and the target lights up on the minimap, on the dark side once you turn in the quest you can't click the target's name again to unselect them off your map.

Combat: Combat is fun. It's much more action-oriented than most MMOs. I started playing TERA off the heels of Kingdoms of Amalur Reckoning - which I found more fun than I was expecting - but there's a key element missing. First of all, the combat is a lot more sluggish: I often press the button for a skill and wait, wondering if the command went through to the server. This game DESPERATELY needs a skill queue so if you push a skill slightly too soon you don't end up doing nothing. I also really loathe the cooldown timer on what would seem like basic abilities, like dodging. Dodge once every 5 seconds? Brilliant. There's also a lot of delay between when you make an attack and when you can move again afterwards, adding to the sluggishness of the game.

Character Development: This is the other thing that kills combat: there's no character customization or development as you progress through the game. No talent trees, no alternative weapon choices, nothing whatsoever to give your character a bit of a unique feel. One of the things I found exciting about Kingdoms of Amalur was that I had access to more abilities than I could meaningfully use in a fight, which gave me choices to make during fights. Should I use my long-range chakrams and ice mines? Or maybe my lightning bolt and then charge in with my daggers? TERA is utterly choiceless. Every fight you'll have in the game is basically the same. No matter what level I reach, I'll still be swinging the same two swords in the same way, with the same dodge, same follow-up attacks, same style. I'll never have enough abilities to have a meaningful choice between styles: I'll never charge into a fight thinking "will I use this tactic or that tactic?"

Good game design relies on giving players interesting choices to make. TERA fails miserably in that department. Sadly, it runs really really deep, I don't see any way to quickly patch up or fix things. We're looking at another FFXIV 2.0 style overhaul here.

Level Grind: With the dull gameplay in mind and the mind-numbingly bad quests you're presented with, the level grind is going to be outright painful. And never has it felt more meaningless in an MMORPG. More and more I think themepark MMOs like this should just do away with leveling. They're all about the "end-game" anyways, why bother with the "pre-game" at all? By the time I had finished the tutorial island in TERA I was ready for the end-game. The thought of grinding up 40 or 50 more levels was just nauseating.

In the end, TERA has great graphics, great environments, great characters, and a great action-combat core, but the sour and shallow content mixed in to this framework makes it nearly unpalatable.

...

Now this is the point where I say "I might be wrong." For one thing, I haven't actually experienced the multiplayer part of this multiplayer game. This might be another reason why they might want to do away with leveling, to get players playing together before they get tired of the solo grind. I've also not tried out other classes than Warrior; perhaps some of the other ones have more interesting abilities to give players some choice in what they do. Plus, this is only a beta... for a game that's already out in Korea...

In the end, I'll keep an open mind until the game's released, and, if I get invited to do so, re-visit and reconsider my options in the full game!

Posted by: Soulrift

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