As noted during the tenth episode of the Three MMOsketeers (anniversary!), while everyone and their extended families were playing the pre-purchase open beta weekend of Guild Wars 2 me and Arkenor were playing Tera Online. I’ve played GW2 a couple of times before and didn’t feel like downloading the whole client again just for a few hours of fun; also, I’m saving myself for launch and the Asura.
I didn’t plan on playing Tera this early on, but the smell of a fresh new MMO coupled with posts by Chris and Pete (and the news that Ark had picked it up) made me cave. So far, I’m not regretting it. The game is stable, except for a maintenance period that lasted longer than expected there have been no major crashes as far as I know, and it runs great on my rig that’s slowly getting old and unpredictable. Since I decided to pick up the US version, I have yet to experience any queues since I’m more or less always off prime time – that might also be because the PvP servers seem like the most popular and I’m carebearing it out on the only available roleplaying server.
The main sticking point of Tera is obviously the combat, especially if you are a melee class (as far as I’ve gathered from friends playing casters). I love my warrior; dual-weilding two swords while wading into packs of enemies gives a very satisfying feeling. While killing ordinary mobs might not always call for much movement, I try to be moving at all times to prepare myself for the time when it will be absolutely necessary to stay alive.
Not using any form of tab-targetting is great, there’s a certain freedom to it. The warrior only uses directional slashes, and I have to constantly make sure I am actually aiming at the mob. No standing around in one spot, DPS-racing against the enemy. Every fight I enter has similarities to a PvP-fight in other MMOs, dancing around the target to gain the upper hand and find a position where I can deal as much damage as possible while receiving as little as possible myself. The actual challenge level is quite low, so I’m looking forward to bringing her up against larger monsters (such as the BAMs) or actually giving tanking a try. I’ve never been interested in tanking in MMOs, but the kind of evasion tanking a warrior uses sounds like it could be a lot of fun.
There’s a couple of other systems that I like in Tera – like that your bank is automatically shared between all your characters and that every character can level all crafting professions at the same time. The world design is beautiful in its epic, completely over the top way. One could argue that most characters – including some of the male ones, luckily – don’t wear much clothes or armor. The first mission I set for myself was finding a pair of decent pants. When I did, my upper body was suddenly very exposed. I can absolutely understand people who are turned away from Tera because of this design choice. It can be way too much at times, but it does fit into the rest of the world design.
In short, I’m enjoying Tera a lot. That said though…
While I could see myself playing a game like Tera for a long time – when jumping from Tera to Rift for some Hammerknell-raiding yesterday I already missed its combat and controls – I got a bad feeling that the stuff I enjoy now is really all there is. Looking at end-game, it looks to be the same as in so many other MMOs. Dungeon grinds, raiding, PvP, dailies. While those things might be great individually (except most dailies, god I hate dailies), the package as a whole looks shallow. I am tired of MMOs that work that way and that was one of the reasons why I was turned off SWTOR.
Also, I’m kind of doing that song and dance in Rift already (even if Rift’s end-game offers quite a lot of choice for me so far, since I haven’t done every quest or seen every nook and cranny of Telara yet). I don’t want to hit that wall and realise that the only thing I can dedicate myself to is better gear. Incidentally, most of the concept art shown during loading screens isn’t of combat – it’s mostly about crafting, about family, about society, about community. There might be something in the game that I’ve completely missed though, which I’m obviously hoping for.
What I haven’t missed is that the one big thing that might make me quit Tera in disgust right this minute is my own character. Not her class, as mentioned above the warrior plays wonderfully. But the actual character. I was stupid enough to choose to play a female High Elf warrior. C’mon, they look great. “Bad-ass”, even. The animations when she swings the swords looks amazing, even to the point of forgetting the fact that her armor looks like it would offer even less protection than a chainmail bikini (at least she’s wearing pants!). She’s in total control, tearing demons and sabertoothed tigers to pieces, dodging their blows and finishing them off with a well-placed whirlwind attack.
Look, pants! Oh...
No, the main problem is the sounds she makes outside of combat. The ashamed giggle when she fails to harvest something. “Yes, I know I just cut up a whole pack of ravaging bears with my two swords, but I am so ashamed that I failed to pick up this flower! Giggle giggle!” That makes me want to stop harvesting, which would gimp her completely since you get vital buffs for gathering materials. The “yay!” she makes when she does harvest something can luckily easily be cancelled by moving as fast as possible, but she also makes it as soon as she crafts something. That makes me want to stop crafting. The absolutely atrocious sounds she makes when doing the /dance emote. Not vital to gameplay at all, it’s just a detail that drives me insane. She sounds like a really bored, badly paid stripper that has given up on life. At least she doesn’t magically spawn a stripper pole.
I’m playing a warrior for crying out loud, not a washed up porn star that still acts like she’s in her lower teens (nothing bad about porn stars, having never met one I am sure they are lovely people – that’s just a rhetorical stereotype, people). One day that “yay!” and stretched up arm she makes will make me quit the game, go straight to the En Masse website to cancel my sub and then uninstall the game.
Because there is another problem with Tera, which it shares with many other modern MMOs – it’s linear and has only one starting area. I’m currently questing in the Valley of Titans which is a level 20 zone, so it might open up more later. But right now I know that if I reroll a new character (trust me, I will try out all the emotes before committing to it long term), I will have to go through the exact same quests again in the exact same areas. While I wouldn’t expect every new MMO to go Vanguard-crazy, in which you more or less never had to go through the same starting area twice, it would be nice to at least have some form of choice. There’s no replayability for me here, and simply switching class doesn’t cut it. Especially since I want to play a warrior.
The end result
I am still on the fence about Tera, which I guess I should be after only 20 levels. I see a great combat system, but the whole game hints about being quite shallow beyond that. There are some UI-problems and guild related problems that they will have to solve (including no access roles for the guild bank, which means that even a guild filling its bank with low-level stuff – like we are doing – is forced to restrict access to the guild master and officers), but those I can live with and simply hope that En Masse and Bluehole fix. There’s the aspect of over-sexualisation, especially for the child-like Elin (even after the “censoring” of their clothes). There’s the issue of community, since what I’ve seen outside of our small guild has been horrible.
All of that can change over time. Someone, somewhere, might even change the High Elf emotes (bloody unlikely, but a man can dream). So maybe I should quit now and return in the future? Tera is a game I can see myself going back to over and over again simply for the thrill of combat – or to see first-hand some troll guild vote themselves into power using the game’s political system, which is bound to happen sooner or later. Bluehole and En Masse are clearly on to something here, they have a great combat-system to build upon. All things considered though, I think they have a lot of problems to deal with before the game will truly shine.
Update: Thanks to the Tera Online subreddit, I found this link to Twitter where a user asks about race changes and gets the reply that En Masse will “have more details on premium services this week.” If race changes become an option and the cost isn’t insane, it might be a way out. I guess it’s not a good sign that I’d rather pay money to change my race than go through those 20 levels again, but yeah… Let’s stay positive!