The world of Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) is a fiercely competitive one; every company wants to be the one at the top with the most innovative designs, the most fun gameplay, and of course, the most subscriptions. While many will, quite correctly, note that Blizzard’s World of Warcraft remains the most successful MMORPG of all time to date, 2011 and 2012 have had quite a few contenders step up. Previously, we’ve made some posts about Star Wars: The Old Republic as a possible competitor, but new challengers are entering the field: TERA will soon be stepping up to the plate.
The core gameplay of TERA offers a mixture of the old style, and a new style of play that offers quite a bit of innovation. To begin with, the class structure harkens back to the older Everquest style of builds, with smaller numbers of classes locked into a specific role. Players can choose between seven races, and eight classes: Archer (ranged DPS), Berserker (Melee DPS), Lancer (Tank), Mystic (Support ranged healer), Priest (Main healer), Slayer (Melee DPS), Sorcerer (Ranged DPS), or Warrior (Tank or melee DPS). While they seem to offer the normal MMORPG fare, however, the developers at En Masse Entertainment decided to spice things up in combat.
Specifically, while engaged in combat, your abilities must be manually aimed – even while dodging enemy attacks. This much-hyped gameplay mechanic has quite a bit of promise of moving the game away from the traditional “point and click” style of previous games in theory, but how does it work in practice? Well, with the open beta beginning this week, I was able to sit down in the game and really experiment with the Priest class to try and get a feel for how the game would work.
At first, I was having a lot of trouble with the command system – since TERA operates differently from other MMORPGs, there is going to be an adjustment period for every new player. You begin with a character at level 20, for a short time only, in which you go through a prologue that, as of now, seems very roughly thrown together, and not very effective. As I was a Priest, I was given certain information about my healing abilities…which I then realized didn’t matter, since they didn’t work on any of the NPCs who were along with me for the prologue. Regardless, after a cutscene or two, I returned to play as a level 1 character, and was able to enjoy a much simpler learning curve. By the time I had gained a few levels, I was already breezing through combat.
Things did get slightly more challenging later on, but the game can be fairly easy in the early levels. Dodging attacks comes to be second nature for characters with light armor, and I was able to go through entire levels without taking a single hit. This required a bit of strategy on my part to pull off, but an attentive player will quickly notice the signs of an incoming enemy assault. Greater challenges come from the “BAMs”, short for “Big Arsed Monsters,” which all have quite a bit more health, and numerous special attacks designed to make things miserable for any player they catch.
All of that describes the core gameplay, which I find interesting, but there are some potential flaws that could be more difficult. Healing seems very difficult in crowds; while some heals are area effect, others require you to mouse over your targets. The problem comes that the computer automatically targets the first people you mouse over, which can be annoying if they are not the ones you intended to target right away. Admittedly I haven’t had the leisure to practice with it too much yet, but it seems a bit awkward – I can only imagine how it will operate in larger groups or PVP.
One of the other stumbling blocks is the storytelling, though I may simply be spoiled: after coming from Star Wars: The Old Republic, where players were treated to in-depth stories with unique voice over work through the entire leveling process, it was strange going to “point-and-click” quest text. I’m not saying that every company should be expected to put the amount of voice over text that BioWare included in their game, but it was a jarring experience for me. The story was much harder to get involved in, and honestly I fell back to my World of Warcraft habit of simply accepting the quests without reading any text, and looking back at the log if I couldn’t find something later on. While I enjoy reading, something about reading quest text has always bored me in games like this.
Naturally, since TERA is in the beta phase, there are most of the usual suspects: bugs abound as always, but I was impressed at the seeming lack of lag spikes while I was playing. I can’t say for sure how many people were online during the beta with me, however the lack of lag is always a good sign for a game of this scope.
Overall, the game does show some promise, though it will be facing very stiff competition both from existing MMORPGs, and some big-name titles such as Diablo 3 and Guild Wars 2 that look promising to many gamers who are not eager to pay a monthly fee for their gaming pleasure. As World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria enters their beta phase, En Masse Entertainment will have a lot of work to do if they want their game to succeed.
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