Welcome back to another week of Versus with a battle of the fun but forgotten. This week’s fight features two MMOs that gained a large following in their time and a large part of public attention, but now a dusty sheen seems to hang over them both as well as that level of uncertainty you have when MMOs lose most of their population. Regardless, they are still around with a dedicated population, a reasonable amount of updates and an enjoyable overall experience.
It’s Wildstar vs. TERA! Let the fight of the failures begin!
Questing – Wildstar
Questing has been a large part of the MMO experience for some time now, a trademark of the modern themepark in a way that is only now beginning to see more refinements and iterations on how it functions. TERA and Wildstar really didn’t see much of those refinements in this area as the questing still felt like that same, boring trudge through a quest log purgatory in order to reach the light at the other side.
Wildstar gets the point here for at least trying to make the questing experience a little less annoying, boring, and as utterly soul-destroying as TERA. It was much the same system of venturing out from the various quest hubs with a checklist of chores, although there were a few systems that made the experience a little more diverse. There are a wealth of quests that utilize different weapon sets and abilities to change the pace of combat, and many of the areas have their own mechanics to deal with that change the gameplay in many ways.
Planets with lower gravity were one such change to the gameplay that was quite welcome and actually rather fun to play around with. There was also the Paths system where each character was given an option to choose from based on one of the Bartle Taxonomies. These lead to further missions and experiences that were a little different to the usual gameplay. Jumping puzzles to maneuver around, Simon says puzzle games to unlock more lore, or just something as simple as a wave mode attack. It isn’t a huge change, but enough to make a difference within the usual monotony of questing.
TERA on the other hand was one of the most mind-numbing, inherently irritating and absolutely abysmal questing experiences I’ve faced in many years. It was the basic stock standard questing model with absolutely no modern changes and iterations: complete the constant kill and collect chores and then onto the next horde of hilariously incompetent fools.
The quest text and reasoning could be compared to the scratchings of a tranquilized turkey and the overarching lore was some of the most incomprehensible gibberish I’ve ever encountered. It was all meaningless dribble that was literally a test of will to see how far you could get and I am still surprised that I made it to end game and beyond.
The only saving grace in the beginning was how the entirety of the leveling experience and gameplay promoted grouping. It was far easier, faster, and more efficient to level with a group, with diverse group makeups that included damage dealers and support. The Big Ass Monsters (BAMs) were another part of the experience that enhanced this aspect as well. Now, due to class and combat changes, grouping while leveling is pretty much irrelevant as each class has been given skills that fill in little gaps in their abilities. That is probably a good thing considering how top-ended the game is now but it’s still a little disappointing to me.
Combat – TERA
It is interesting comparing these two MMOs for a couple reasons, the main one of which is that they are both attempting to create an action combat system although Wildstar has the more modern approach. While I still feel like TERA had the more engaging combat system, it isn’t great by itself and it certainly has issues. Regardless, the design around BAMs, the various cues you need to be aware of and the animations locks meant it became a rather tactical system of combat.
The huge range of skills is almost laughable in TERA, if it wasn’t at the same time so annoying to juggle. Many of the skills became a little pointless by the end, just having a very particular use only when the blue moon aligns properly, and even many of the progression aspects where you upgrade certain skills with more utility are pointless as well. It’s useless skill bloat but what is there and what you do use feels important to you and requires the right timing to use appropriately.
The reason these skills and combat system do feel better is because of the focus on avoidance within TERA. Sure, Wildstar has that focus to a certain extent which it displays for everyone to see within it’s lovely little telegraph system, but quite a bit is still unavoidable damage. I was always annoyed facing some of the more challenging monsters in Wildstar while questing, as I thought you should be able to easily kill them if you played well – avoiding damage, activating your skills perfectly – but no. The amount of damage just keeps piling on from basic attacks, and this problem persists throughout the game and gets worse.
On the other hand with TERA, nearly every single bit of damage is completely avoidable. Major attacks obviously have their larger animations that are a little more obvious and easier to avoid, but even the smaller attacks have their own cues on what and how to avoid them. It was often a rite of passage as an earlier damage class to see if you could take on the BAMs all on your own, and it was possible. Dungeons and other bosses are much the same as well which puts the emphasis on perfecting your play. It means using skills at the perfect time and trying not to leave yourself vulnerable to an attack. It meant being far more aware, and while this made the quest grind more annoying, it at least made combat more engaging.
What Wildstar did do reasonably well was the element of choice and progression around the various skills your class had and the visceral feel of many of the skills. You were able to pick between a range of skills, each focused on a specific playstyle and role which made every class rather adaptable. Each skill you had unlocked and equipped could also be upgraded which buffed its abilities, and even added new traits to it that enhanced its use. And last was the AMPs system that further let you develop your role as well as unlock new skills to equip. Unfortunately, that isn’t enough to beat the intrinsic amount of skill and strategy that TERA so effortlessly showcases.
Dungeons – TERA
This seems an obvious point for me considering I never really enjoyed the dungeons in Wildstar. While leveling and even at endgame they were a more central piece of content, I reluctantly queued for and completed dungeons just because of how frustrating the experience often was. I think this was mostly because they were an utter mess of mechanics. Each and every boss had a wealth of particle effects, telegraphs and specific little abilities you had to first decipher and then memorize, but the heat of battle becomes an absolute pandemonium of particle effects and it this aspect is far harder than it needed to be. It was also something that didn’t play as well under the pressure of higher ping times, with telegraphs not seemingly giving me enough time to get out.
So many times as well the mechanics could combine into fatal, unavoidable combinations that you just had to accept and then hope for better RNG next time. With how important timing interrupts were to break armor and thus apply crowd control, trying to coordinate between uncoordinated idiots like myself became frustrating. It was just too much to ask of pick-up groups without voice support. Dungeons in Wildstar are long, brutal affairs and the worst of it is the rewards often feel rather mediocre for the amount of effort you put in.
On the other hand, TERA’s dungeons just feel designed to perfectly compliment their combat system to create rewarding yet challenging experiences. The difference in Boss design is rather large; where Wildstar’s feel like an enigma, TERA’s are an open book just waiting for you to learn how to read. Each animation of such large bosses are easy to see and related to specific abilities, attacks and movement. Once you practiced, you and the entire party are able to go through these larger boss fights without taking any damage. Some dungeons have some unavoidable elements, but it was always these easily decipherable animations that delivered the worst of it.
I also like that the bosses within many of the dungeons were BAMs you had met and killed earlier out in the open world. These often looked the same and had many of the same animations, but also a few extra tricks to uncover and plan for. This meant you weren’t just going in blind with these boss encounters, which initially made it not feel as punishing. Despite this preparation, they are still punishing in a way that makes you feel accomplished afterwards. Many have now been repurposed into solo dungeons experiences as well to both test your own abilities or avoid the pitfalls of PUG coordination as new dungeons are added and old ones are redesigned.
Other Elements – Wildstar
In terms of the various other elements, these MMOs are incredibly different. TERA has pretty much found its focus with managing and improving its various PvP and PvE instances, and while Wildstar certainly has its own PvP elements, they fall far short of TERA.
TERA is just a surprisingly well-rounded PvP experience with various mechanics and types of content to enjoy. The usual open-world shenanigans are there which, while more annoying now when coming back due to uber-geared idiots, was an amazing experience when everyone was leveling together. You can duel with others, and even create group PvP battles with the deathmatch system that let you change around group composition and size. You could even bet on matches.
There is also the guild warring system which allows guilds to openly fight each other in the open world, tracks wins and losses and allows more competitive open world fighting between guilds. I honestly wish most MMOs had this mechanic.
There are a range of Battlegrounds there to play, each with its own mix of mechanics, with some being more focused on the fighting and others melding in various PvE-style mechanics. A larger faction warfare system is in place as well and also a competitive guild competition where guilds compete on leaderboards in PvE or PvP to win access to Skycastles.
While it might not fulfill when it comes to PvP, Wildstar does feel like the more complete MMO experience overall. Part of that is the wonderful housing system that is integrated so incredibly well throughout the entire game. The creative tools are pretty good, and since challenge quests and other activities reward housing items, it create strong ties to various pieces of content as well as short and long term goals for the player. The housing plots themselves provide many useful benefits too, from travel options, crafting benefits, pieces of content and just the social benefits that result from these shared spaces.
The cosmetic system is definitely a step up from TERA, with both the amount of cosmetics available, the varying styles, the way they are attained in-game and the wardrobe system. These systems are superior in every way, and with an abundance of cosmetics regularly added as content, it means you have more reason to play.
Then there is TERA’s weird fascination with Loli girls. Much of the cosmetic additions seem rather focused towards this style, which means that my poor Popori often feels left out. Although I will say TERA has a great idea in letting you preview absolutely everything in-game and purchased with its wardrobe system.
Wildstar also seems to be more consistent with it’s updates as well, and I mean that in more ways than just being semi-regular updates. The content they add seems like larger, more important additions to the game, with the content feeling more enjoyable and updates that continuously add to the entirety of the experience rather than having a single-minded focus. TERA has been getting better at updates this year, and is improving the end game experience with more dungeons and battlegrounds, but the rest of what makes an MMO has mostly been forgotten.
I also enjoyed how the continuation of the story elements gets added within Wildstar, as it feels like this larger narrative is playing out before you. You can see where you have been and wonder about where the story is heading as well. Many of the same characters and elements are used throughout while changing the space and objectives, which make it feel more cohesive overall. It’s also, mostly, a rather coherent story with interesting lore and motivations that you can actually understand at first glance which is the opposite of what TERA feels like.
The Wildstar community is above and beyond what TERA currently has as well. In terms of how accommodating players are they feel similar, but overall the Wildstar community makes the game the friendlier and more social MMO. This is probably helped by how well the community managers and developers at Carbine Studios have supported the community with regular events and communication between the players. This is probably one of the main reason it has retained its small yet dedicated player base.
Winner – Wildstar
This was actually a rather hard winner to determine in the end as both have gameplay and an overall design focus that, while initially looking rather similar, are vastly different once you begin getting more acquainted with it all. I also have a similar amount of interest for each and certain gameplay elements I enjoy over the other that do keep me coming back to both occasionally. So in the end, I’ll just do what every review does these days and leave it up to graphics. While TERA has some gorgeous environments, Wildstar just has style that creates more engaging areas and spaces to fight in and explore.
Thanks for tuning it to this weeks Versus battle of the Fun but Forgotten. If you have MMOs or mechanics you’d like to see pitted against each other in this trial by MMO combat then leave a comment below.Related: Carbine Studios, En Masse, En Masse Entertainment, F2P, MMO, MMORPG, TERA, Themepark, Versus, Wildstar