Hands-On Preview with Action MMORPG TERA Online

A couple of weeks ago I embarked upon a journey outside of the online world. I, accompanied by a various other media journalists from all over the world, traveled to Germany to play TERA Online for the very first time.
It was the event of a lifetime. We ate great food, sat down with great people, watched great gameplay footage… we even had a chance to play TERA for a while. But we weren’t allowed to talk about it.
Until now…

TERA Online is a Retail Fantasy MMORPG the likes of Aion and RIFT, in that it utilizes the standard quest-based MMORPG format perfected by WoW to deliver a traditional experience rather than an entirely new one. Luckily, it subscribes to the popular axiom ‘imitate and innovate’, so where RIFT and Aion failed to include enough new content to be a contender 
in the ‘innovate’ category, TERA did not.

Why? It’s simple, really. Bluehole Studio, TERA’s developer, chose to innovate an element of the MMO that has remained almost entirely unchanged for a decade: the combat system. There are more than a few reasons to be excited about the upcoming launch of TERA Online, but it’s the improvements made to the combat system that you’ll remember in years to come.

In essence, this combat system resembles those found in action-based console titles. You’re given full control of your character and both of their arms, effectively giving you a new level of control in an MMORPG format. Magic classes can equip spells to the left and right mouse buttons, and upon clicking them, will immediately hurl their spell in the direction they’re facing, making aim and timing an essential element of good play.

Likewise, a melee class equipped with a sword and shield would be required to ‘dance’ around an enemy player or monster, using the [left click] to attack and the [right click] to block incoming blows. Of course, the number keys can still be used to equip various spells and skills, and can be cast with a simple press of the button, but the interactivity continues with the ability to ‘chain’ most attacks together by pressing the [spacebar] key at specific times to deliver devastating special attacks.

As you can likely imagine, this new combat mechanic will have a massive impact on Player vs. Player (PvP) content. Fighting other players won’t simply be a battle of equipment or level, it should require a significant level of skill that can only be obtained via playing your character in the best possible way (ala Age of Conan).
Of course, with only an hour to play, I didn’t have the opportunity to experience any PvP content, although I did have a good opportunity to test out the PvE content, both from the perspective of a new player beginning at level 1, and a veteran character at level 45. In both cases the combat mechanics were smooth and challenging, making the daily ‘grind’ a much more enjoyable event than in both Aion and RIFT; however, the majority of the remaining content appeared largely unchanged.

This is where my first impressions of TERA took a turn for the worse. Outside the new combat mechanics, there are a bunch of other things about TERA that deserve to be applauded. Most obviously are the visuals: the world of TERA is gorgeous, the character and monster models are outstanding and the fluidity of the animations are unmatched in the online world.
Then there’s the characters. You can choose from one of 7 races: the Amani, a race of draconian humanoids; the Elins, a race of cute-looking naturalists; the Castanics, a race of evil-looking demonoids; the Baraka, a race of intelligent giants; the High Elves, a race that needs no explanation; the Popori, a race of smaller Moogle-looking creatures; and the Humans, which all have a good amount of customization options. You can then choose from one of 8 classes: the Archer, Berserker, Lancer, Mystic, Priest, Slayer, Sorcerer and Warrior.

It’s an amazing selection, and each of them have their own unique skills, talents and play styles that should cater to just about any type of player. And if I were to grade TERA on characters, environments and combat alone, it’d be a contender for the most polished, innovative MMORPG since WoW.
But I can’t. Thus far, I’ve only seen the good. I haven’t had a chance to experience the new combat system in a PvP environment, and the quest and level progression during the beginning stages of the game have been remarkably similar to every other MMORPG on the market today. Get quest, kill monster, turn in quest, get new gear, get new quest. I’ve heard some cool things about open-dungeons, but I haven’t tried them yet.  And for the most part, what I have tried, I’ve seen plenty of times before. The combat mechanics are definitely the biggest attraction here, but are they enough to keep TERA alive? Stay tuned over the coming months to find out.

Cody Hargreaves; MMOGames.com

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