Hands On With TERA

The MMO market is more saturated than it ever has been before.  It is an extremely competitive genre.  Many try and many fail.  We were lucky enough to demo a new title for the North American audience that has the potential to make it.  TERA is trying a different angle than the traditional MMOs.  En Masse is developing TERA to play like an action console game but in the world of an MMO.  The presentation we saw may have been the most impressive during our busy 3 days at E3 2011.  By our third day at the show, we were worn and tired, and almost ready to call it quits for this year’s show.  Then we met with two of the producers of TERA, who had a real passion for the game. They were so energetic to share this game with us.

They began with a presentation to show us two ways a player can rise to power in one of the game’s 18 regions, the responsibilities that come with that power, and how to keep that power.  This is all part of the political system that appears to be at the heart of TERA.  We have seen other MMOs with political systems, and have even reviewed one other such title right here on Gamer Escape – Wakfu.  There seem to be two ways to become a Vanarch in TERA depending on the region you wish to control.  You can win the popular vote of the citizens of a region, or you can take the seat through brute force in PvP battlefields.  Once you are on top, you can set taxes, open specialty shops, put people in jail, ride through town on your special mount, and have your name in lights when people enter your region.  Money, power and fame is there for those who seek it. It was even teased that players could gain control of an entire continent.

The scenario we were thrown in to had two very different leaders on a Vanarch quest to defeat a dragon.  One was a guild leader who loved to help people.  His guild would help people complete quests and raids and was loved by all.  He was the clear choice by the people for the seat of Vanarch.  He lowered taxes and continued to help out the people in his region.  The other was an elite PvP player who was also a guild leader. His guild was the best at raiding and seeking out the best armor and weapons.  He took the seat of Vanarch in a neighboring region by winning PvP battles.  The PvPer was not a very popular leader.  He raised taxes, put people who did not agree with him in jail and was not going to keep his seat if he did not do something to help his region, so he had to complete a Vanarch quest, but he knew he could not do it alone, so he asked for aid from his popular neighbor.

This is where we jumped in to the demo.  We had a party of 5, 2 of which were the producers.  They played the tank and the healer.  We got to play a melee class and 2 ranged classes.  We set out on our mounts to find the dragon Sabrnak.  Along the way we stopped to warm up on some lesser mobs so we could get a feel for the game.  The game plays just like an action game.  Mouse button 1 is the primary attack and 2 is the secondary attack.  Buttons 1-6 and F1 through F6 were special abilities.  In a typical PC MMO fashion, you move around with WASD controls.  The C key will dodge/roll away from attack and the space bar jumps. During battle, you may also be able to charge and execute special abilities by pressing the space bar when instructed. There is no such thing as targeting engaging mobs – you just run up and start swinging.  It plays faster than other MMOs and is filled with action.  If players wish, they can also opt to use a controller instead of the standard keyboard and mouse combo. Abilities do have cool down timers, so you can’t just spam them and may need to be tactical with how you use them in different situations.

The environment is nice to look at and mobs have a unique look to them.  After we warmed up on a couple of easy mobs, we continued towards the area that played home to Sabrnak.  Along the way we saw a pile of rocks, only it wasn’t a pile of rocks.  It was a mob that began to assemble itself and turn into something that did not look so friendly, but we had bigger fish to fry.

Over the hill we saw the dragon.  He was roaming around with a few other smaller mobs in the area.  Our tank ran up and grabbed his attention and the combat began.  The fight was full of action and excitement. I think everyone died at least once, but our healer did an amazing job at getting everyone back up and back to work.  The dragon had a few tells that a powerful move was coming up.  He would launch into the air and that was our queue to get away, for he would soon come crashing down with a devastating attack.  The 5 of us chipped away at his health bar until he was down.

TERA plays quite smoothly.  The entire UI is moveable.  You can split up party member health bars, so a healer can move a tank’s status to one side of the screen to make it easier to focus on him.  The mini-map is not obtrusive at all and works well.  There are 7 playable races and 8 different classes.  Any race can play any class, and no race should be better at once class than another.  They told us that they don’t want someone to get to level 10 and realize they should have picked a different race for their class. The only benefits lay in traits attributed to each race which will allow one race to be slightly better at something such as a particular craft.

It was a refreshing experience to try this game.  All of us are excited to get into the closed beta for this game when it begins hopefully sometime this summer.  When the game launches, there will be North American servers as well as European servers, but there not be any IP blocking so if you have friends across the pond you have no restrictions to play with them.  Tera Online looks like it will be an enjoyable community experience. The game is set to launch later this year.