With the recent release of the new Valkyrie class and the soon-to-arrive launch of the game on PS4, it seemed like this was as good a time as any to see what the TERA free to play experience has to offer. With these tempting new updates, maybe you’re curious to know what the game is like as a new arrival? Allow me to offer my impressions of how this “true action combat” MMORPG handles its free players.
TERA has been around for a long while, launching in 2012 to the NA and EU. With a flashy graphical style and a combat model that emphasized timed strikes, it certainly made an impression and arguably paved the way for other Korean-based MMOs to arrive. That said, it never really seemed to make the biggest splash, but in spite of that, TERA has pushed on and expanded by leaps and bounds in recent months despite some calling it a failure. Indeed, if TERA is what failure looks like, many MMOs should be so lucky.
I had first played TERA shortly after it launched, but it never really hooked me for a great length of time. Still, I continued to grow more and more curious with each major update, until recent additions forced my hand. I’m pleased to report that time away has been kind to TERA; this is an MMORPG that has become more streamlined, more enjoyable, and easily more fun than I recall it ever being before.
A great deal of that fun has to do with TERA’s combat model. As with many MMOs of this type, TERA lives and dies by its battle system and I can say after having played a lot of other action combat MMOs that TERA’s combat is above the current crop.
Battles carry a back-and-forth dance of timing when to strike and when to avoid. Hits have a huge sense of impact. Combat animations are an absolute delight and convey a sense of raw power. Swinging a weapon in TERA not only feels good, it’s commitment. Mistiming a weapon strike can leave you open for a lot of avoidable damage and grants battles just a bit more drama than other action combat MMOs.
This sensation is most keenly felt when you’re fighting larger monsters. I haven’t run into any BAMs (Big-Ass Monsters) yet, but the largest creatures I’ve faced demonstrated the need to know when to attack and when to move or block.
Though perhaps I’m feeling a bit biased by my own admission, as TERA’s Lancer class is one of the single best feeling tanker classes in MMO gaming today; my shield wasn’t just a stats platter that occasionally mitigated damage, it was a tool that would keep me alive through some of the biggest hits, and raising it on time actually mattered.
Of course, not everything is perfect here. The storyline in TERA isn’t exactly what I’d call deep drama, and questing in the game consists of the tired-and-true formula of moving from hub to hub taking out a specific number of baddies or interacting with whatever glowy items are needed. Regardless, TERA is a gorgeous and enjoyable MMO that really feels like a game on the rise.
But what about its business model? TERA’s learned a thing or three here too, with decisions that invite players instead of press-ganging them. Allow me to elaborate.
I’ve ranked my experience of TERA free to play into four different categories: Account Limitations, Store Interruption, Store Offerings, and Store Reliance. Each category is graded as either Minimal, Acceptable, and Oppressive, and a brief summary of how I came to those decisions will be offered. Finally, I’ll provide a round-up of my overall feelings about how I felt as a fresh free player in TERA.
Account Limitations: Minimal
What are Account Limitations? Anything that locks content away from you, from character or class choices to hotbars, access to dungeons or endgame. These are things that flag you as one of the “freeloaders” and restricts your play.
Levels were the only real thing that felt like a restriction to experiencing content in TERA. Otherwise, there’s nothing that’s really stopping a free-to-play arrival from enjoying the game at full tilt.
There are instance Reset Scrolls that allow you to reset entries into dungeons daily that are less frequently offered for free players, but that doesn’t feel like a completely painful restriction. Admittedly, that’s because I’m not a hardcore endgame grinder kind of guy. Other benefits offered to subscribers may sound like an unfair advantage, but my time playing never really made any of these boosts feel necessary.
Store Interruption: Minimal
Store Interruption is based on how frequently you’re reminded of the in-game store during play. This either occurs through pop-up reminders that dominate your screen or buttons that redirect you to items offered in the store.
As with many other action combat MMOs, TERA keeps the store out of your way while you focus on the action. There is one little pop-up that arrives on your screen upon logging in, but even that doesn’t really allude to the store so much as to extra little quest objectives and other benefits specific to your level.
Pleasantly, the alerts telling you you’ve got free stuff to collect for logging in are far more busy than anything diverting you to the store. TERA is one of those games that likes to heap on a bunch of little boosts and other goodies on you for simply arriving to play, which is pleasant for a game like this. Other Korean MMOs should be as welcoming.
Store Offerings: Acceptable
The Store Offerings section is a quick look at what the store has to offer. From the selection to the variety of items, this is your at-a-glance idea of whether the store is interesting and if prices seem to be fair.
TERA’s storefront isn’t exactly what I’d call the most mind-blowing showcase, but it’s also not terrible either in terms of its offerings. There’s a far greater array of cosmetic stuff and mounts than there are boosters, and many of the things being offered are interesting enough. Prices overall do seem reasonable too, though the account-bound stuff like certain mounts can run up a little higher than I’d like.
In fact, if I had to lodge any criticism against TERA’s store it’s that it’s perhaps just a little bit too goofy. For every impressive-looking mount or weapon skin, you’ve got maybe twice as many silly things like a giant kitten mount or a huge piece of food for a weapon. That’s really less of a complaint and more of a whine, though.
Store Reliance: Minimal
This is an overall score of whether a game enters the “pay-to-win” realm with its offerings. Does the in-game store have an abundance of boosts? Does the leveling curve feel like you need to buy pots in order to progress? That’s what Store Reliance measures.
It feels good to be in an MMO that isn’t trying to gouge you out of buying money for boosters. XP gains while playing felt good, and the free stuff being handed out while playing was nice enough. I have never really felt a compulsion to buy any currency to experience the game as I was moving through the quest motions.
Some of the neater cosmetic stuff in the game isn’t even restricted to the game’s store. They’re buyable through Fashion Tickets, which can either be farmed or purchased in the primary capital of Velika. I even desperately looked through the in-game store to see if these Tickets could be bought. If anything else, this actually made me want to buy something from the store more.
TERA is not really a remarkable journey in terms of narrative, but it brings the goods in terms of visual flair and rock-solid combat. What’s better, none of those good things are hidden behind paywalls. For those who are looking to hop into TERA to try out the new class, to return after a hiatus, or to join in as a new arrival, there’s nothing stopping you from firing this one up and enjoying fully.Related: Column, F2P, F2P Kingdom, Free to play, MMORPG, TERA