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's approach to questing is a three-tiered affair. A string of story quests are there to guide you through your adventures, while zone quests are there to help drive your character up the levels and encourage you to explore. Several quest hubs have repeatable quests if you need to grind some experience in order to progress. There are also a number of guild quests available, which I'm hoping to get in to in future beta sessions.
I'm not sure if it's any fault of TERA, or if it's because I've been spoiled by other MMOs, but I quickly found myself skipping quest text in order to keep the action going. I think there was a story in there somewhere, but if you asked me what it was I'd be hard-pressed to tell you; something about forests and fairies and a unicorn. I think.
The age-old Named Mob Problem also rears an ugly head. Several story quests require you to go out into the wilderness and slay a specific single creature before you can progress. Your options are to queue up and wait for a chance to kill the mob or give up on the story until the twilight hours when the server is deserted. For a game that has great gameplay innovations in other areas, I'm surprised this one remained unchanged.
A World Unfinished
My problems with TERA's storytelling also go slightly deeper - there doesn't seem to be an actual world to play in. As an example, players start out on an island that had recently emerged from the sea. This island's already coated with grass, trees and stone monuments that show no signs of water erosion. It's also populated by tree elementals (understandable), piglings (fair) and two-headed saber tooth tiger things (what!?). That's either some fast evolving fish or the pigeons have been doing some really heavy lifting.
I understand that the world is supposed to be the dreaming of two gods, but the random collection of ideas feels like more of a talent showcase than an attempt at world building. And don't even get me started on the character models. The Castanics and High Elves are straight out of the Dead Or Alive: Extreme Beach Volleyball playbook, while the Elin are one of those anime examples that always seems to skirt with controversy over here.
After playing TERA an entire weekend, I feel like I've played a game that's bursting with potential but that needs substantial work to bring it to a shine. The combat is incredibly good fun, being a welcome and refreshing change of pace. The graphics are nothing short of incredible, taking huge advantage of the latest gaming hardware available.
Where TERA falls short is in building the world and encouraging players to dig into it. The cutscenes and voice work did little to help pull me into the story running through the game. I was aware of it, but I didn't feel I was a conscious participant. I'm hoping that this is all being caught as part of the polish plan in the final iterations before launch.
At the moment I'm struggling to grapple with a game that delights with one hand but disappoints with the other. I'm aware that we're still in beta and that anything can (and often does) change in the months leading to release. But with the game being just over two months away En Masse has a substantial task ahead of it.
Gareth "Gazimoff" Harmer, Staff Writer.