Gazimoff spent the weekend immersed to his neck in the TERA Europe beta. But did this upcoming MMO live up to all his expectations? Find out as he shares his first impressions of Bluehole's debut...
TERA was always going to have trouble trying to win me over. After trying out a series of Asian MMOs in the past without success I was beginning to give up on this unique facet of online gaming. But then discovered that En Masse was attempting a "westernization" of TERA, Bluehole Studio's first MMO. Would this be the holy grail of an eastern MMO finding success with a western audience, or would it flounder like others before it?
During the TERA Europe Sneak Preview Beta, I spent the weekend digging into the game with the aid of a Human Sorcerer. What I found surprised me; among the rough edges of an unfinished beta were some interesting ideas, including a radical take on MMO combat. Combine that with gorgeous graphics that had me hammering the screenshot button, and you have the recipe for an interesting few days.
The New Fight Club
In a departure from previous hotkey-based MMOs, TERA's target and combat system has more in common with first-person shooters than your traditional spell-throwing fare. Instead of selecting a target with the mouse and then just mashing buttons til the creature dies, combat in TERA requires skill and accuracy in order to defeat mobs.
Your trusty mouse now has a new job, pinpointing whatever it is you want to defeat. A target is displayed in the centre of the UI, switching to a crosshair as soon as the beastie is within range At that point you can start to unload the pain with a click of the mouse button. Don't expect to get away with standing still though - foes will rush you, raise their arms and smack you sideways.
Part of the trick with combat in TERA is to know when to dodge and step out of the way. Learn a mob's 'tells', or signals of an incoming attack, and you'll be able to avoid almost all damage heading your way. If you've grown bored with snoozing at the back and spamming your attacks this is a very welcome change.
My big fear was that, with just having a couple of spells mapped to mouse buttons, I'd have an arsenal of abilities going unused. TERA's thought of that as well with the ability to chain moves together. Set a trap for a monster to walk into and a chain trigger means that tapping spacebar will drop a pillar of flame on its head. Get knocked down and spacebar has you on your feet and on the offensive. While you can tweak what ability is chained from each trigger, just having it there makes combat more varied.
There's even a set of quick fire messages. Just hold down E and tap a direction to send off a quick message, from asking your group to hold up to being ready to deliver flaming death! And yes, they're customizable too. On the whole, combat in TERA is very polished, fluid and engaging.
Wandering around the countryside and laying waste to the local inhabitants is one thing, but gathering resources and crafting is another. The first piece of great news is that characters can develop all crafting and gathering skills, getting rid of the "what to take" dilemma. Collecting materials from the abundant number of resource nodes also rewards you with experience points and a random 10-minute buff. Blending the killing and the gathering together is a great way to make the most of your time away from towns.
A Zen Garden
Presenting all this action are some of the most gorgeous graphics I've seen in an MMO so far. Everything, from the thoughtful landscaping to the high detail creature models, is rendered beautifully. Point your character in almost any direction and you've got a screenshot worth saving. If you've recently grabbed a high end gaming rig I seriously suggest that you download the beta, dial everything up to eleven and just sit in amazement.
Unfortunately, like a grimy window, the UI is there to spoil the view. I hope that there'll be some substantial cleanup before TERA launches, as the interface is currently a collection of disparate objects rather than a unified portal through which you view the world. There are some welcome touches such as speech bubbles and detailed maps, but more work is definitely needed to bring it all together. The low-quality intro video and cutscenes also add to this unfinished feel, with gameplay footage looking better than most of the pre-rendered plot exposition.