It’s amazing how far console gaming has come through the years, now catering more genres than we ever thought possible. What was once deemed unusual like MMORPGs are now readily available on the console market. Speaking of which, there was always something that gnawed at my mind when it came to playing MMORPGs on console. No, it’s not about flaunting that PC master race garbage down people’s throats, but rather the thought of how developers will reconstruct a game’s control-scheme to seamlessly fit the traditional gamepad.
Some games were made with specific keybindings or button layouts in mind, and for those belonging in the MMO category, it’s hard to imagine playing them without the leisure of having to click (and not cycle) on targets, or type chat on the fly. Mind you, this particular gripe of mine works both ways as there are some games that were made to fit the gamepad a lot better. Dark Souls: Prepare to Die on mouse and keyboard, anyone? We have seen a myriad of cross-platform MMO success from the likes of Final Fantasy XIV but it, in my opinion, is still a diamond in the rough when it comes to finding that kind of balance for console vs PC play.
Enter TERA, our new free-to-play console MMORPG bent on bringing its action-packed combat to both the PS4 and Xbox One. Originally a pay-to-play game, TERA reemerged as a free-to-play title back in 2013, adopting the freemium approach with better success. We were able to partake in its console goodness early on via PS4, and may I say that despite my earlier claims on some ports being a little iffy when it comes to control-scheme transitions, this game feels right at home.
Public Service Announcement (PS4):
If you’re looking to play with your friends, please note that the game’s servers are region locked and the chances of you seeing your friend’s server on the list will depend entirely on the region of your PSN account. I’m personally saddened by this and hope that Bluehole and En Masse will consider just putting all of the servers on the server selection screen for ease of access.
Playing TERA on console was a godsend for me as I didn’t enjoy it much on the PC. In a way, my perception towards the game has changed completely, mostly due to how well its hack-and-slash nature fits right into the console’s controller layout. After a few hours in, my mind had already embraced it fully as an action game, with its brilliantly laid out controls and impactful gameplay. TERA’s True Action combat system isn’t exactly uncommon in console gaming. In fact, I would go as far as to say that it easily identifies better as a console game given its combo-centered nature. Sporting a lock-on system reminiscent of Dark Souls and Devil May Cry only added more to its appeal as an action-centered MMORPG, making its transition to console all the more natural.
One factor I do dislike about it, however, is how cycling targets via its lock-on system makes it harder to focus on a specific monster when the room gets crowded with mobs; thankfully, most of the skills in-game cleave your enemies, making it easy to just walk up to your target and slash away. It’s a little clunky, but workable to some extent.
The game, at the time of this review, features a total of ten different classes (Archer, Berserker, Lancer, Mystic, Priest, Slayer, Sorcerer, Warrior, Reaper, and Brawler), with the Valkyrie, Ninja, and Gunner set to appear at a later date. Even with the announcement of the male option for Brawler, I imagine most of the missing classes to still be race/gender-locked upon arrival. It really is a tad disappointing as I can’t fathom how any of the other races/gender are unable to operate something as simple as a giant gauntlet or gun. It’s not like the other available classes carry smaller weapons, so what’s the deal?
Moving on, despite the gender and racial locking, most of the available classes are really fun to play, with each character sporting their own respective styles and mechanics, making them stand out in their own way. Even if they are of the same archetype, a Brawler, for example, has a more aggressive and counter-dependent fighting style that greatly separates it from the blocking prowess given by the Lancer. This variety of fighting style makes it all the more exciting to dive in and try different classes.
Leveling in TERA feels quite different to what I’m used to in an MMO, as it tends to throw every bit of controlled aggression out of the window in favor of a more explosive approach when dealing with mobs in the overworld. Instead of simply yanking a single monster from a distance, this game allows you to effectively kite enemies around until you’re ready to take them all out with a barrage of cleaving hits. This isn’t the only game that does it, but TERA presents it in a very satisfying manner, with a series of crunching numbers flying in and out of the screen as you hack and slash through a series of experience fodder.
TERA’s world is full of things to do, from daily quests that offer various rewards to its well-crafted dungeons. Boss fights are very enjoyable, with larger than life monsters (BAMs) presenting their own set of mechanics that only gets harder as you progress in the game. Expect to grind a fair bit upon reaching the endgame, as getting your gearscore up is crucial for you to access some of the game’s harder endgame raids and bosses.
As far as innovation goes, I would have to give it to TERA when it comes to MMO combat. There are a handful of action-RPG MMOs out there, but no other title takes combat to this level and magnitude. The transition to controller was all too natural, especially with most of its skills being accessed in the form of linked combos that are activated through sequential button presses. While fun in its own right, this version of the game is sadly limited to premade combos, instead of the more free-form approach found on the PC version. It’s a bit of a downgrade, but one that’s still enjoyable nonetheless.
Another exquisite feature is the inclusion of an in-game party voice chat which allows you to communicate with PUGS. It’s not used very much at all with everyone remaining silent most of the time, but it’s a very useful option seeing as most console MMOs had to rely on either PS4’s party chat or Discord. It’s definitely a handy tool when teaching new players without the need to reach down to your keyboard, or worse—type with the controller.
TERA’s console community is actually very nice and helpful, and I’m pretty lucky to have a guild that just brims with nothing but enthusiasm for the game. Something I would like to point out though is that even with the inclusion of a voice chat system, I’ve yet to actually find a group that used it to its full extent. Still, despite some being silent warriors, most of these guys are readily available to both teach and run things with you as you progress further into the game. Being a game on its first leg on console, it’s expected that the enthusiasm is still quite loud. The game is healthy, with tons of guilds recruiting left and right, so it’s best to strike whilst the iron is hot.
TERA’s visuals transitioned well into its console release, keeping most of its areas looking and feeling as they should, from lush forests to damp caverns. The character models are also up to par with its PC counterpart, although there are times when textures pop in late during cutscenes. Speaking of which, the game seems to have a draw distance problem, with random elements popping on your screen as you traverse the map. It’s already lessened to some extent since the beta but can still feel quite jarring, considering that the graphics are starting to show their age.
The game sports a very comprehensible UI, requiring little to no effort in cycling through its many menus. The action bars are also easily customizable and will fit the skill or item of your choice with relative ease. Those new to the game will definitely feel right at home after just a few minutes of using it.
Also, just as with its PC release, I’m still not a fan of ‘names’ being scattered all over my screen. While the UI remains neat, most of the elements on the map, especially gatherables and quest items have a name on top of them. This unwanted clutter served as quite a hindrance to my overall experience, often blocking the would-be glorious scenery at my immediate location. This eyesore was present as early as the starting area, with the giant tree branches/roots having names that were elevated above the rest of the interactibles in the area. It would be a fine idea to turn it off, but doing so would immediately gimp my awareness of what is and isn’t on the map. I get that they were trying to get players to see that they weren’t just there for aesthetic reasons, but couldn’t they have just been a bit more subtle in showcasing them? I mean, a slightly noticeable glow would be much less obtrusive.
As for the music, there isn’t really much to say about it. It’s nice when you listen to it, but it doesn’t really stand out enough to both blend with the scenery or warrant your attention, especially when you’re fighting monsters. It’s basically just there. Even with most of my volume up, I fail to notice anything that isn’t a crunch delivered by my weapon, let alone the sounds of other players hacking and slashing their respective enemies.
Value for Money: 9/10
Of course, just as with any free-to-play game, we’re going deep into the nitty-gritty. How much do you need to spend to enjoy TERA? The answer is… not a dime—if you’re willing to work for it. I applaud TERA for not issuing any pay to win gimmicks outside of the regular subscription boons, or Elite status, as they call it. Most of the cash shop’s products revolve around cosmetic items, mostly for female characters. There are also exp boosters which might be useful when leveling alts or the like but other than that, it’s mostly just the regular extra character slots and name/race/appearance changing scrolls. For those who are fearing a pay to win structure, I can happily say that you can play TERA with no fear of getting pay-walled—that is, if you can resist the many glorious cosmetics available in the store.
Even after all these years, TERA’s charm does not fail to impress. Its unique and enjoyable combat system doesn’t just showcase how revolutionary TERA’s combat is even to this day, but also why it’s still a healthy competitor in the world of free-to-play MMORPGs. With its hard-hitting combos and explosive skills, the game managed to rekindle my love for it upon its console release—in fact, I would even say that I enjoyed playing it more on console than I ever did on PC. There’s just something about TERA that makes it almost too perfect as a console MMO. Performing those moves with a gamepad elevated the game’s overall feel for me, almost like it’s an entirely different title. Regardless of the exclusion of custom combos, I’m very happy with how Bluehole translated TERA’s gameplay over to consoles. The graphics, despite being a bit dated, still look stunning and are detailed enough to rival some of the newer titles on the market today. And the best part? You don’t even have to worry about it being pay to win. TERA is simply a glorious testament to MMORPGs functioning well on consoles.Related: Action, Console, MMORPG, Playstation 4, PS4, Review, TERA