Developer: Bluehole Studios
Publisher: En Masse Entertainment/Frogster Interactive Pictures AG
Available on: Windows PC Only
We’re getting a lot of MMO games coming out now, seemingly a new one every month, with even more on the horizon; some of them free-to-play, some of them with a paid subscription model. If there’s one thing that’s certain about all of them it’s that they’re all interesting in their own way. TERA is one of those MMORPGs with a paid subscription model, being released back in January 2011 in Korea where it was developed, it has finally made its way over to the western shores with a lot of tweaks and changes to make it more suited to the western market. But have those changes been enough for all of us in the western market that are more used to a very specific style of MMO? Is it worth the wait or is it just like the plethora of other Korean MMORPGs in that it’s simply a “grind-fest” and nothing much more?
STORY: The story of any MMO is always going to be important as you’re going to be spending a lot of time within the world that the developers have created, so it’s undoubtedly going to be a world that you’re going to want to get invested in. Bluehole Studios have definitely created an interesting world, but it’s a story that’s not easy to get in to. When you first arrive in the Human capital city of Velika (the first major city that you’ll find yourself in) you’ll be given a basic rundown on the story as it currently stands. Basically most of TERA’s warriors are away fighting a relentless enemy known as the Argons but there are lots of smaller problems that still need sorting while the rest of the country is practically being left defenceless, that’s where the new warriors of TERA come into the story. For the first part of the game at least, it’s your job to sort out the numerous problems that are still afflicting the world around you, as well as trying to figure out where the Argons are coming from, what they want and what exactly you can do to help things towards a conclusion. It’s not the easiest story to get into, but once you do so, you’ll find yourself entrenched in a world that you’re not going to want to leave any time soon.
GRAPHICS: There’s no beating around the bush, TERA is the best looking MMO currently out there on the market. Utilizing the Unreal Engine 3, all of the models – from the races that the real people are playing, to the monsters and enemies in the world that you may only encounter once – are all rendered in a fantastic amount of detail. With the fact that the game is based on the Unreal Engine 3 there’s also a good amount of computers that the game will run on due to the amount of scalability that the engine affords the developer. There’s nothing better than making your way to the top of a huge hill, turning around and being able to see miles and miles of gorgeous scenery. Some of the towns that you’ll come across in the game look a little bit similar to each other, and that can get a little bit old, but you’re not in them long enough for it to be a major downside to the game. You walk into them, pick up your quests, maybe sell some of the junk that you’ve come across during your journey and you’re back out again, killing things and picking up even more loot; just like every other MMO on the face of the planet. Where the visuals of TERA really shine though is when you set foot into a city for the first time, every single one of them really are astounding.
SOUND: The audio production in TERA is particularly good, just as each of the enemies that you’ll encounter along your travels are designed well in terms of the visual department, they’ve also been treated to top notch production when it comes to the audio too. You’ll know that you’re walking past that one enemy that you just happened not to notice when you hear its low-pitched, slightly terrifying growl in your headphones at 3am. Certainly something that will unnerve you but that’s just a testament to the work that’s been put it to the sound design. If you’ve been a smart MMO player and been out and purchased the Collector’s Edition of TERA (and you really should have) then you’ll also get the soundtrack to the game included in your big shiny box of awesome. If you’re a fan of video game soundtracks, especially those of the more fantastical and epic variety, then you should stick the disc in your CD player, sit back and relax to the music of TERA.
GAMEPLAY: The most obvious aspect of the gameplay within TERA – and something that sets it apart from all other MMORPGs that you’ll have ever played before – is the combat system. With all other games in the genre, the player will usually click on the enemy that you want to attack, choose the ability that you want to attack with from the ability bar (usually at the bottom of the screen) and then keep attacking until the enemy is dead, but that’s not the case with TERA. With TERA you have a reticule in the centre of the screen, just like you would if you were playing a third person action RPG. In order to attack an enemy, players will have to point that reticule at the enemy that they’re wanting to attack and launch the attack with either the mouse or the keyboard. If the enemy moves before you’ve managed to land the attack – something that especially evident if you’re playing as one of the slower classes such as the berserker – then you’ll simply miss the enemy and you’ll have to try again. Likewise, if you only want to hit a single enemy because you know you’re not going to be able to handle multiples, then you’re going to have to be careful, without a targeting system that targets a single enemy for you there’s a real danger of accidentally hitting an enemy that you didn’t want to aggro. This fact alone leads to some very interesting tactics being used in the heat of battle.
Just like every other MMO that you’ll have played, you get to craft your own armour, weapons and other objects through the use of trade skills. Unlike almost all other MMORPGs however, you don’t have to pick a specific trade skill to use. Smart TERA players will attempt to level up all of the useful trade skills simultaneously so that if there’s something that you’re going to need at some point in time, whether that’s a new piece of armour, a new sword or even just a couple of health potions to see you through an upcoming dungeon, you can. Gone are the days of relying on other people to craft things for you and charge extortionate prices, do it yourself and save yourself some money.
One of the interesting aspects of TERA is the integration of a political system. Each month players will be able to vote for leaders of certain guilds (they have to meet certain requirements before they can even be nominated) and the winner will become the Vanarch of a specific area of the game, allowing them to modify certain aspects of the world such as the prices of items in shops across the land. The political system is an area of the game that can get very confusing, and at this early time in the game’s life it’s difficult to see what the effects of such a system could really be, but it’s something that’s not really been seen in MMO games to date and it’s always good to see a developer try and be innovative within a genre that other people may feel too apprehensive to mess around with too much. While a Vanarch would normally be elected through a voting system, they can also be elected through war, which opens up a whole new can of worms, just imagine logging in to the server one night to find the warriors of a specific zone congregated on a make-shift battlefield ready to give their virtual lives to take out the current Vanarch; scary stuff, but exciting.
LONGEVITY: TERA will last exactly as long as you’re willing to make it last. There’s no end to the game. Sure you could get to the point where you’ve beaten all of the dungeons in the game, levelled up one of every single class to 60 and maxed out all of the trade skills, but that would probably take the average player years to achieve, and by that time there’s undoubtedly going to be more content, maybe even expansion packs. I’ve always argued that MMORPGs are the best value for money on the PC gaming scene, yes you have to pay a monthly subscription to play it but if you give TERA the time and attention it deserves, and play it for as long as a lot of people do play, then you’re not going to need to buy another PC game – or even another game – for a very long time; you simply won’t have the time.
VERDICT: TERA feels enough like a standard MMO, with all the trade skills, sessions of grinding, loot and dungeons, to get people that are die-hard MMO fans interested. The visuals are absolutely stunning and the combat is a nice change of pace from what we’re used to getting with this genre. On the other end of the scale, TERA feels different enough from all of the MMORPGs that we’ve been getting in recent years that a lot of people that have been sucked into the world of RPGs with titles such as Kingdoms of Amalur will find something interesting to do. That being said, there’s a chance that those people that haven’t come from other MMORPGs and are using TERA as their first foray into the popular genre, may feel a little bit bogged down; there’s a lot to do in the world and it’s going to take a hell of a long time to experience even a small part of it.