Hello, I’m Kaedis from MMO-Mechanics.com, and today we’re going to be talking about TERA!
Last weekend I had the opportunity to beta test this innovative new MMO developed by Bluehole Studios and distributed by En Masse Entertainment (the North American wing of Bluehole Studios). Now, I’ll be honest here: after Aion, I went into TERA fully expecting to hate the game. Aion and most other Asian-originated MMOs tend to descend into essentially nothing but grindfests fairly quickly. To an extent, all MMOs have elements of grind to them, most Western gamers prefer that those elements be minimized.
TERA surprised me. Granted, it doesn’t have much in the way of innovation on the questing side. It’s very reminiscent of World of Warcraft’s Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King expansions, as far as quests go. There are relatively few cinematic sequences, no conversations or decision points like there are in Star Wars: The Old Republic. Quests still pretty much boil down to “go talk to Person A”, “go kill X amount of Monster B”, or “go interact with Y amount of Object C”, as most MMOs previously have had.
The part that really grabs your attention, however, isn’t the questing: its the gameplay. The gameplay and combat mechanics in TERA absolutely blows other MMOs out of the water. No longer is combat boiled down to the age-old target enemy -> press buttons to trigger spells. Instead, TERA uses what they call an “Action Combat System”. No more targeting of enemies.
Instead, you have a target reticle in the center of your screen, akin to a first-person-shooter game. When you trigger a spell (using traditional keybinding format, though the left and right mouse buttons are now their own independent spell binds), it fires toward that reticle. Some abilities, like an archer’s Radiant Arrow, fly in a straight line toward that reticle until they hit a target or reach their maximum range. Other abilities lob a projectile a certain distance in front of you, like a Sorcerer’s Magma Bomb, hitting whatever is in range of the explosion where it lands. Still other abilities give you a few second window to “lock on” to enemies by mousing over them, then hitting the button again to fire directed projectiles at those target (these type of abilities are fairly rare for dps, though).
In addition, every class in the game gets some sort of very short cooldown (1-6 second) active block or dodge mechanic. Ranged classes, like archers and sorcerers, get a dodge ability that throws them backwards a few meters. Melee classes gain a forward roll instead, throwing them through the target to avoid attacks. Lancers, the “tank” of TERA, instead gain an active block ability called Stand Fast which drastically reduces the damage taken by abilities from the frontal arc, even granting some of that damage reduction to allies standing behind you.
It is this active attacking and dodging mechanic that makes TERA so dynamic and fun to play. Instead of bright icons over enemy heads, or colored circles appearing on the ground, you must learn to read your enemy. When the mob rears back and raises their arms, it’s time to dodge out of the way as they hammer the ground. As a mob opens their mouth and breaths in, its time to move off to the side to avoid their caustic breath attack. The same goes in reverse, however. There are a number of times when I would be charging an arrow attack on my archer, only to have the mob suddenly roll to the side as I fire the powerful shot through the empty space he was just standing in.
Another change TERA has over standard MMOs is the lack of a fixed global cooldown. Instead, the majority of abilities (but not all of them) have an “animation delay”. This is the time it takes your character to complete the animation involved with firing the ability. For example, if I fire Radiant Arrow on my archer, he will do a sideways cartwheel kick as he absorbs the recoil from the shot, throwing him back by a couple yards. This takes place over about a second’s time period, during which I can’t fire other abilities. This animation delay is a different length for different abilities, so combat isn’t about 1.5 second windows like many other MMOs. Some abilities also have a “cast time” before the ability, but instead of having a cast-bar, these are based around animation durations as well. Since all of these abilities have animations associated with them that govern how long the ability takes to “cast” (regardless of whether it actually has a cast or charge time), combat feels fluid and real.
Now, these animation times aren’t set in stone. Gear stat can augment your animation speed rather significantly by end-game, meaning attacks that used to take 2+ seconds to animate can take barely a second with gear.
Now this is starting to turn into a wall of text, so I’m going to summarize the remainder of my experiences with the beta into nice neat Pro and Con bullet lists:
- Combat is streamlined and fluid. It feels far more real and immersive to be actively reading opponents and dodging their abilities than simply hitting buttons and having RNG defensive mechanics.
- The classes are drastically different in mechanics, playstyle, and feel, even amongst the same role. All of the classes use MP as their resource system, but all of them interact with it differently. An archer gains mana back from their basic attacks, as well as a smaller amount from every arrow attack (but has a relatively low amount compared to the cost of abilities). A sorcerer has an active mana regen ability that restores a very large amount of mana (~75% at the level you first get it) over 25 seconds, at the cost of a 4-5 second cast time. Melee classes gain mana from attacking targets, but lose it quickly when not in combat.
- No faction lines. Everyone is on the same team, and everyone is enemies.
- Keyspamming is gone. Holding down a key (or mouse button) will continuously fire the ability bound to it until it is released.
- Racial animations are wildly different and reflect the character of the races. A male human warrior does a heavy roll forward when dodging attacks, while a female castanic warrior does a high front-flip instead. A human female sorcerer does a graceful sideways spin as she leaps away from an enemy, while a male Aman does a heavy backwards lunge.
- Targeted abilities. This makes combat feel far more in your hands than in the hands of the game’s random number generator. If you hit the target, you hit them, period. If you fail to actively dodge or block an ability, you eat the damage, period.
- Dodging. After a weekend of playing TERA, I felt like a fattened cow back in SWTOR’s operation fights.
- A very slow baseline health regen places a large emphasis on avoiding damage rather than facetanking it. There are out-of-combat regen options, but they are either consumable or only easily accessible near towns, and they all take a decent amount of time (regenning to full health from 50% takes a minute or more by a campfire, and a good 3+ minutes just standing around in the wild).
- No more gear durability. Instead, there’s a system called Stamina. It’s technically on a scale of 0 to 100%, but it actually by default goes up to 120%, and various effects can increase it beyond that (I had it up to 135% at one point). Time and combat will decrease stamina at a rather slow rate, while death takes a massive chunk out of it. There are several tiers of stamina. At low levels of stamina, your HP and MP totals are reduced, and at very high levels of stamina, they are significantly increased. Stamina can be regained using consumables, by talking to and paying an NPC, or by standing next to a campfire for a period of time (takes maybe 20-30 seconds to regen from very low to maximum stamina). Campfires also heal players around them (though still rather slowly), and are vendor-purchasable and usable by anyone.
- Mobs take a fair amount of time to kill, even the normal ones. A standard mob takes maybe 20-30 seconds to kill, instead of the 2-3 shot mobs in many other MMOs. They deal sufficiently low damage that you take about the same amount of damage (as a percent of HP) over a fight, compared to other MMOs, but it feels like you actually have to use more of your abilities in TERA. You have to dodge, you have to run a proper ability rotation, etc.
- Extremely robust character creator. Massive amount of options, including full slider tools for customizing your character’s face and head.
- Extensive crafting system, and an even more extensive enchanting profession, allowing you to craft that perfect weapon without having to deal with as much RNG as other games (instead, it’s just expensive and time-consuming, though there are some random elements to it).
- Comes stock with a fully-developed UI editor (no mods, just moving and controlling UI elements).
- Absolutely gorgeous game world. Built on the Unreal 3 engine, TERA has some of the best rendered MMO environments I’ve seen yet. Amazing depth-of-field, beautiful rendering and textures, high-poly models with fluid animations, exceptional shadow and bloom effects, its just an incredibly good-looking game.
- No real hybrids. Each class has a designated role, and while very potent at that role, there aren’t really any other options for that class. All healers and tanks obviously gain some damage moves, else solo-leveling would be impossible, but they can’t really “spec for DPS” as you can in other MMOs. The only class with any real hybridization is Warriors, who are classified as both DPS and tanks. However, their tanking is considered second-rate for a number of reasons, most notably the incredible skill it takes to do it properly.
- The fanservice in the game is a bit excessive. Most female character look like they got distracted halfway through getting dressed in the morning and never got around to finishing it. There are a number of movement avenues that are designed to emphasize this (for example, the looooooong ladders in the tutorial/prologue area, along with the extremely short skirts most female characters are wearing at the start). The Elin race also gives me the creeps.
- As I mentioned above, the quest system is rather dull. However, the aiming and dodging mechanics makes even basic “kill X of Y” quests feel fun and engaging.
- Nothing with as profound an effect as a “spec” in WoW-esque MMOs. All archers learn the same abilities, all of them are dpsers, so all of them play basically the same. The game does have a very extensive “glyphing” system the has elements of spec decisions in it, but its effects aren’t nearly on the same order of magnitude as a spec in WoW or similar.
- Class balance is a little off. Sorcerers deal significantly more damage than archers, for example. Priests are better healers than mystics (though mystics have significantly better CC and utility in some areas).
- There’s no way to directly import UI settings or keybinding settings between characters or into a new character.
- Racials are a bit…extreme in some cases, strongly favoring certain roles or combat situations. For example, Aman gain a flat 10% additional damage reduction while under 30% HP. This places pressure on the player to select a race based on their class and role, rather than based on aesthetics.
- End-game PvE is rather lacking at the moment. There are some options, including some hard-mode instances and an area called “The Nexus” (which I haven’t found much info on yet), plus their Guild versus Guild system, but nothing quite as extensive as WoW’s raiding system.
Overall, however, I have to give this game an 8/10 review. There are some things I dislike about it (as you can see above), but the gameplay itself sells the game. After a weekend at it, I’ve absolutely fallen in love with the combat system in this game. If I had to directly compare it to anything, it would be Mass Effect’s gameplay (specifically, Mass Effect 3, since you can dodge in that one). TERA, however, takes it to a whole new level, with powerful and short-cooldown active dodges (and a combat system that emphasizes them), as well as relatively few self-guided/tracking projectiles.
While players of nearly every MMO like to claim that skill > gear, this is the first MMO I’ve played where this axiom is quite so literally true. PvP, instead of being about who can run their rotation quickest and time CC the best (as well as who has the best gear), becomes a question of who can aim the best, who can anticipate and and preempt opponent actions the best, who can maneuver the best, and who can dodge the best.
If you’re interested in getting in to TERA, it releases this coming Tuesday (May 1st). However, a headstart is available starting April 28th at 8:00 AM PDT for those that have pre-ordered it. Pre-ordering can be done through retail establishments (though many of them are out of pre-order codes by now), or directly through En Masse’s pre-order page. Keep checking back here as well, as we may end up starting a TERA mechanics section of the site if it becomes popular enough!