The Exiled Realm of Arborea (TERA), created by Bluehole Studio, was originally released on May 1, 2012 in North America. One of the most unique aspects of TERA is an active battle system that more closely mirrors an Action RPG or Adventure game rather than an MMO. Players can even opt to play the game with a controller rather than a keyboard. TERA also stood out when it was originally released due to its impressive graphics when compared to other MMOs on the market at the time. TERA currently operates as a free to play game, but players can pay a monthly fee to unlock additional mounts, experience and gold boosts, more fast travel options, and other perks. TERA also has an in-game cash shop where players can spend real money for in-game items. Most of the items for purchase appear to be vanity items (weapon skins, costumes) and consumables that provide temporary character buffs.
Race Selection Screen, the polished interface is obvious from the very beginning
Players can see from the first selection screen that TERA has a very polished interface and a strong graphical presentation. Players begin by selecting their race and profession. This is where many players may start to notice that the graphics can be a bit ‘cartoony’, ‘cutesy’, and are certainly inspired animation styles like Japanese Anime. The race choices tend to be animal people hybrids, where females show large amounts of cleavage in tight-fitting outfits and males often hardly look ‘macho’ (though, that is open to opinion I am sure). I do not believe that your race impacts the game in any way except your appearance. Even if you don’t care for the style, players still have quite a few races to pick from.
Class Selection Screen gives a brief overview as well as a difficulty rating
The class selection screen gives players a brief overview of each class, a suggested difficulty rating associated with playing a class, and the basic roles they will play in battle. This screen gives a nice concise breakdown of how the classes function, which made selecting a class easier than in some other MMOs. Sometimes I feel like other MMOs, and other fantasy games, use these screens to explain the history of a class, but they never seem to actually say what the class does in battle. The classes here include a fairly wide range of close range and long-range fighters. As with many other MMOs, the classes include tanks, damage dealers, and healers. TERA offers a fairly diverse range of classes within some of these categories though. For instance, there is a variety of DPS classes that differ in their play mechanics such as range, mobility, toughness, support abilities, and speed of attacks. All the classes seem to provide mechanics that make them interesting to play in a group or solo play. I chose to play as a Slayer, which can deal lots of damage and has high mobility but cannot take much damage.
Character Customization with a number of options available
The character customization screen gives players a lot of options to shape how their character looks (probably a bit more than even RIFT). Players can adjust various facial features such as jaw, eye, nose, and mouth shape, hair type and color, and general face design and shape, among other options. With so many customization choices and different races available, players should be able to create a unique look for their character that they enjoy, as long as they are okay with the game’s style.
The game begins with your character and his party members setting out to explore a mysterious island called the Isle of Dawn that suddenly rose out of the sea. This area serves as the starting point for all new players where they learn the game’s mechanics. There seems to be some back-story about the races of the land uniting to destroy some evil from another realm, but the game didn’t go in to the back story that much. From what I played, story does not seem to be TERA’s strongest quality (not that stories were that strong in any other MMO I played).
The Game Interface has an appealing and unobtrusive look overall
The game’s interface is a bit unique in TERA but obviously still inspired by the classic MMO layout. Windows such as chat, quest log, and the map have transparent backgrounds instead of opaque boxes around them, which allows for players to see more of the game world while playing and leave screens such as the map open at all times. This interface looks very sleek and blends in with the game screen more than in other MMOs and potentially allows the player to feel more drawn in to the game world. I have some problems with the interface though, such as the chat window feeling a bit too large and the controller overlay being present even when I’m not using a controller. Overall, the game interface seems to fit in well with the more action oriented nature of the game. TERA also features an in-game tutorial, but it is hidden in the menus rather than being more interactive as in Star Wars or RIFT.
In Game Tutorial
Receiving Quests from NPCs
In TERA, as in other MMOs, players pick up quests from NPCs and complete them for gold and experience. The quests are once again generic fetch quests, travel to location quests, and hunt down enemy quests. Maybe I am just getting sick of these types of quests at this point, but the quests in TERA feel potentially even more bland than in the other MMOs I have played. Luckily in TERA the quest descriptions tend to be very brief and allow for quests to be picked up quickly. For some people who prefer more involved stories and more plot this may be a turn off, but to me this felt refreshing to be able to just quickly grab my quests and go. Quest objectives are displayed on the map, which makes locating them simple, and important enemies, items, and NPCs are highlighted with overhead markers that make them easier to spot on the game screen. Quest objectives from each area tend to be grouped together to allow them to be completed quickly as well. The condensed quests log on the right side of the screen can only hold so many quests though, so sometimes I would forget about quests that were not displayed on the screen.
Combat is fast, flows well, and feels fun
Combat is one of the main mechanics that separates TERA from other MMOs. The game uses a cross hair to target enemies rather than selecting them by cycling through targets. Basically, for a melee player, you swing your sword and whatever is in range takes damage. Combat still involves using skills, but players use basic attacks instantly without waiting for a cool down timer (like how players attack in an Action RPG or Adventure game). Attacks can be strung together in a basic combination or chained to additional more powerful skills, which can then be chained to even more skills. Players can set up how these skill chain combos work in their character set up menus. After enough attacks have landed on an enemy an icon will pop up letting the player know that they can use their pre-selected skills in their current combo chain. For my character some of the skills available included a spin attack, a quick slash attack that landed several hits at once, and stances that raise some stats at the cost of lowering others. Additional skills can be purchased from skill vendors as you gain levels. Dodging is a very important mechanic in TERA, especially for the class I chose which cannot take much damage. Dodging is done by performing a jumping roll in any direction, and characters are free to dodge attacks at any time. I didn’t get a chance to participate in any group fights, but I imagine that the active style of the game can lead to some exciting engagements. Combat in TERA feels quick and responsive, and animation while fighting looks great.
How effective you are in combat is affected by your stamina level, which drains as you fight. Stamina can be recharged by standing by campfires located in settlements or set up by other players. Players can even use items to temporarily boost stats while standing at a fire. I feel like this mechanic was included in the game to attempt to encourage player interaction, but I never recall anyone striking up a conversation with me at a campfire.
TERA is a great looking game with beautiful scenery
If it was not apparent from the screen shots above, TERA is a gorgeous game. The graphics are bright and colorful and some of the most detailed and polished I have ever seen in an MMO. The animations look great, and the character models and scenery are very detailed. The style of the graphics makes players feel like they are part of a distinct and interesting fantasy world, though one which obviously borrows many elements from other games. The music is quite good as well and sometimes has a grand and epic feel. The game also has several high quality video cut-scenes which are a nice addition.
Giant in-game Bosses
I do feel that TERA has some problems though. Sometimes I get the feeling that the game is more concerned with being slick, cool, having great visuals, or riding on the strength of its action system rather than coming up with unique ideas that bring new life to the MMO genre. Little problems with the graphics and sound happen from time to time, including noticeable amounts of character and scenery pop in and voices not always accurately syncing with the mouths of the characters. Some areas seem to have invisible walls that block player progress, forcing players to find another way to their destination. Enemies that players encounter later on seem to be very similar to enemy designs from earlier in the game. Also, as I said earlier the plot does not feel all that interesting and quests eventually become very repetitive.
The endgame content of TERA consists of 6 hard mode instances, a fair amount of achievements to gather, only one multi-stage raid event, world-wide guild versus guild battles, and up to 10 v 10 PvP fights. Players can also spend time crafting, maximizing their favor with in-game factions, or running for a political office. If players are elected as the head of an area, they can perform such actions as changing tax rates, building new services, and declaring zones closed or open to PvP. Overall, people seem to be of the opinion that TERA’s end game content is pretty lacking when compared to WoW or RIFT. People are also critical of the game because the end game supposedly requires a lot of gear grinding and enchanting (where acquiring better stats requires spending time and being lucky) and PvP success can depend more heavily on a player’s gear than a player’s skill.
Overall the game feels very streamlined and enjoyable and looks wonderful. The unique combat system makes the game stand out among MMOs and adds a fun and engaging element to the game. I also felt that the game had a couple of ‘wow’ moments, where the graphics and sound really pulled in to the game world. I think that these moments that allows players to just marvel at the world that someone else has created are an important part of fantasy games (though not the most important certainly). But, in the end I just felt like there wasn’t that much substance and content in TERA. If players are looking for a game that is more action oriented and fast paced than the typical MMO then they should consider checking out TERA. As long as they aren’t expecting a game that is revolutionary in any capacity besides combat, they should be able to have at least a decent amount of fun. TERA may also be a great game for people to check out that typically do not enjoy MMOs or are new to the genre.
Next time I will be checking out a sort of surprise MMO, not previously on the list, based off of a series that was one of my personal favorites when I was a kid. Prepare, for the FINAL Fantasy, and by Final I mean, not final, because there are like fifty of them.
Let me know if you have any opinions about TERA or MMOs in general, and as always thanks for reading!
On to the Next my Trusty Flying Steed!