So yesterday marked the beginning of the NA TERA beta tests, and I’ve spent the better part of the past day hard at play work running around and seeing just what is what. Besides some rather… jarring graphical glitches, the game is very solid and looks to be shaping up to be a great mmo launch later in the year. Especially with one of the high-points of a fresh combat style in the way over-done market of tab-target hotkey based combat. So what does TERA look like on the inside?

Well, as we covered before, the combat is absolutely amazing. I’ve gone through and played 3 classes so far (Lancer, Berserker, and Archer) and each has a distinct, noticeable play-style. Some happen to be very slow burners, like the Lancer. If you happen to pick the good ol’ tank, keep in mind that it won’t really pick up until around level 10ish or so. However, as the game rolls along you steadily get to the point where bloody near nothing in a 1v1 environment can kill you, just by virtue of the absurd block rating on the Shield itself. Other classes like the Archer are pretty much set to go the second you log in to the game. You have a bow, and you have a jump back. Go nuts. Skills added along the line add to the fun, but the same core style remains the same.  Combat is also extremely fluid, with monsters having noticeable, but not blatant, tells so the observant can try and time out the last second of a block or dodge when the less-sure can easy just block or evade earlier, losing a bit of damage but staying safe in the process. How does combat look in TERA? Well… (Audio is kind of borked, Trying to sort it out for future videos)

Which brings me to the next point, this game does an amazing job at setting a story in motion. Between short-and-sweet cutscenes that show all they need too and a list of quests that revolve around a single plot-line, the entire starting zone is a testiment to what story telling in an MMO should be, instead of a bunch of disjointed quests in a similar themed area. Rift did this as well, but the starting area was rather limited there and could be blown through fairly quickly. My recent go through was an attempted blitz and it still took me over a couple hours to get through the whole thing. Second zone is also shaping up to be as good as the first, but we’ll see if it carries through. A downside to the combat though, beta being beta means duels can be broken to high heaven. I’ve seen (and fought) in a duel that was perfectly fine, and then another where the other player consistently pummeled my lancer through her shield without any mitigation. Later found out the player was standing behind me, while on my screen was still in front. I’d hold off on playing any pvp in crowded areas to minimize lag.

Another great point for the game is just how amazing it looks. That video up there really doesn’t do the game justice. The view is stunning and landscapes are well designed, frequently breathtaking. They can be somewhat linear earlier on, but some of the later zones appear to be much more open and up for exploration. And while we’re talking about the world, gathering in the world of Arborea is insane. I had over 50 basic ingots by the time I left the starting zone, and I wasn’t even going out of my way to collect them. If there was a node in close proximity, I grabbed it. The system is also very forgiving for parties, if someone begins harvesting a node of plants or magic or whatever, anyone else can come over and click on that same node before it completes, also grabbing the resources before it vanishes. Only works with people in-party, so fighting for reasource nodes with strangers is still an issue when servers are over-populated.

On a final good note for an MMO, questing is extremely streamlined. Story quests offer nice little bonus of having “Yes sir!” or “I’m on it.” instead of the bland ‘Accept / Decline’ block at the bottom of the text. Mobs that you are required to kill will have a little ‘!’ next to their name, but you still have to get over to them. Makes it much, much easier to see what’s going on rather than a tedious grind of whether or not ‘Slimebottom Naga’ counts for the same quest as ‘Siltbottom Naga,’ which can save more than a little frustration as the quest chains go on. EXP rates so far have been great and prevent any unnecessary grinding. You can, and it’s still good exp, but it’s not the best way to do things. Now, on the flip side of things…

Character creation is somewhat… limited. Several of the presets just look hideous, and while there is no way to manipulate your body outside of a few race types. Popori, Elin, and Aman all have some amount of diversity because of the racial bodies. Elin and Popori can change animal types or color schemes and Aman have a variety of horn styles to pick from… but outside that, there isn’t that much to differentiate from other players. Absolute worst for Human and High Elf who can’t really change all that much besides their face, making distinct character models a little difficult. Just a little height variation on top of a few more noticeable traits would help set individuals from each race apart.

Finally, and pardon my little slip here, what in the hell is wrong with your art team, Blue Hole? I have never seen such blatant hack-job and agressively insulting armor variation ever. Depending on the race, one in three armors can look like something the dev team threw together in 5 seconds because they somehow got the message that “looking like a skank” is the exact same thing as “looking sexy.” It’s like some talentless hack with no skill decided to take the easiest method possible of “showing more skin” and then bindged on that to the point of absurdity. This isn’t even getting into the utter retardation of the exact same armor looking like a literal chain mail bikini for the female model (and utterly stupid) while the male version looks like the guy is wearing half a tank.  Come on BHS, if you’re going to go with stupid design, as least take a note from Castanic and make both genders look like a cheap call.

Outside of that glaringly stupid flaw, TERA online has held up as a remarkably amazing game. It’s got great, fluid combat, and an absolutely fantastic world. The weapon preression relies too much on luck for my taste, but I’m wanting to get more into it before I start chewing in to it visciously. If it tends to be on the side of, say, Phantasy Star Universe, then I’m not going to be too happy. If it’s more rewarding like Monster Hunter, then I’ll be alright with a little RNG dictating how soon I can get my upgrades rolling. If you like what you’ve seen/read, sign up and give it a shot. There are closed-beta invites going out all the time, and pre-ordering the game gives access to all beta events. If you want to try and can wait, open beta is in late April. See you on the other side!