TG and I spent pretty most all of yesterday playing the first few levels of Tera. We tried different class combinations and basically started over and over and over, just to experience the different combat mechanisms and get a basic feel for each class.
Tera has broken their closed beta down into five weekends, and this first weekend’s is level capped at 22. There are two available servers with a limit of one character slot per server. A ton of people playing led to a very sizable queue (about an hour long) midday when we let ourselves get logged off the server for inactivity while I made lunch. It also didn’t help that one of the servers crashed and needed replacing for some technical reason.
The first thing that has to be said about actually playing Tera is that it is unbelievably gorgeous. This weekend’s test doesn’t even include their high-res textures, and my jaw hits the floor every time we come across another “OMG look at that!” moment. The character equipment even has detail and texture that actually makes it look like fabric or metal. I can’t wait to see how the high-res textures affect the overall game.
Tera’s biggest selling point, the thing that makes them different than all those other MMOs, is the combat. Finally, we are not locked in to tab targeting and mindless hotkey presses. Tera expects you to strategize your attacks in order to maintain defense through actively dodging or blocking attacks. More importantly, Tera expects you to aim your attacks more like an action RPG or FPS.
Two control schemes are available: using your mouse to aim and use abilities while you move with the keyboard or using a gamepad. The keyboard is mapped for you to move around using a modified WASD, where A and D are strafe keys, rather than turning keys like most MMOs, and D 180s you around rather than backs you up. Basically they’ve set up the keyboard to behave more like you were mouse running.
TG and I had worried that this system might be too hard for me. I’m not very comfortable with analog sticks, so the gamepad was most likely out, and I’ve never played anything that required mouse aiming. Then you add on trying to avoid attacks while doing all these new things, and I was concerned to say the least. Fortunately Tera doesn’t start with a steep learning curve. The entry level enemies are hardly dangerous. Failing to dodge their attacks wouldn’t be the end of the world. Though, it would probably teach you some awful habits.
But, prior to trying out combat, you’ve got to create a character. Gazimoff over at Mana Obscura has a great gallery of character creation screenshots to check out. What I love most about this system is that every race can be every class. I knew I’d make an Elin or Castanic, depending on the Elin’s customization options, so I definitely didn’t anticipate falling in love with the female human model.
I did try some of the other races, but the Elin was out due to her bushy squirrel tail clipping my Berserker’s axe handle, the Humans appealed to me more than the Castanics with their bent over run animation, and the less said about the massive assets of the High Elves, the better.
Between the two of us, we tried each class to level 7 or so (except, possibly the Mystic) but finally settled on going back to the very first classes we tried, a Warrior for TG and a Priest for me. None of the classes in this game are designed to sit back and rain down death from afar. Even the Sorcerer and Archer are designed so that they do less damage from farther away, and their abilities’ range is quite small at around 19 meters.
The Priest, which I took to level 11 yesterday, does her best damage at melee range but must be careful not to get walloped by attacks. Fairly early the Priest gets a damage dealing jump back ability that also slows the targets movement speed. That’s what this game is all about: reactive (and proactive) positioning.
The game isn’t designed to be a typical tank and spank in which the healer just heals all the damage the tank is soaking up. Even the tank needs to be actively avoiding incoming damage, and it makes for a really neat play experience.
As a healer who is leveling explicitly with a tank, I’ve healed very little. TG’s warrior bounds around the mobs, doing aerial flips to get behind just before they swing, while I dance around the sides throwing damage and leaping back out of harms way as needed. It sounds lithe and fluid, and once you get into the groove of things, it is in a strange way, but I’m shocked to hear people are disliking Tera’s gameplay. I’m hearing that it’s just a repackaging of Aion. Well, if that’s true, how did I miss that game?
People are upset that you have to physically stop to cast everything, even instant casts. That’s part of the finality of strategy though. If you make the choice to attack your foe at this moment, you’re choosing attack over defense, so, ideally, you’ve thought through your options and decided this was a safe moment to push. You aren’t going to be running around swinging your swords with no abandon in this game. If you get too caught up in spamming your attack combo and the mob swings, you’re going to take a hit. If you choose to dodge, and accidentally flip right into an incoming enemy’s attack, you’re stuck with the consequences of that choice. You can’t just flip right back out.
The problem, however, is that the game supposedly changes a fair bit as you level. Classes become more unique and differentiated. Gameplay gets a little more challenging and then enormously so with the endgame PvE and PvP. For example, the Berserker doesn’t even get their most useful PvP spell until the level cap at 58. People are leveling to 7, looking for an action title, and getting frustrated over not finding the game fast-paced enough. I think the Action MMO label is being misinterpreted. The “action” bit refers to actively taking actions rather than passively choosing a spell. All attacks and spells must be aimed in order to land, and you must account for movement and travel time.
Because of all this, as I said, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to do it. I picked up the Priest fairly well though. I was uncomfortable with the tank classes when I tried them, because I’d get so caught up in damage that I would neglect to evade/block. It seems more natural to try to evade on something you know is too squishy to be smacked by that huge monster.
Quests are pretty standard fare, nothing groundbreaking by any means, but we’re both enjoying them more than SWTOR’s quests which were the same uninspired quests that we were forced to listen to.
Even with the huge population on the two servers, we’re able to complete our quests, thanks largely to the Channel system. Too many people in your area? Just jump to Channel 3! For some strange reason, it doesn’t put groupmates back together in the same channel after zoning, but it’s an easy fix at least. We were also glad to see no cooldown on the use of this feature.
We haven’t run into any bugs or graphical glitches whatsoever. That’s not too surprising, since the game has been out for so long in other areas, but it’s refreshing nonetheless.
Overall, the community is the worst kind of cesspool that you only find in the dredges of open betas. Everyone and their Popori are talking about WoW, SWTOR, Tera’s obvious failings, or how manly they look. It’s kind of terrifying, but the easiest solution is to turn off the public chat channels.
Overall, I’m really enjoying Tera. I’ll be interested to see if that holds up to level 22 and beyond.
TG wants to check out the viability of playing a warrior on the gamepad today while I check out the merits of his Naga mouse, so we’ll be starting over once again. Characters will not be wiped between closed beta weekends, so we’ll have two identical pairs to choose from to further progress with when the next weekend rolls around, depending on our desired hardware setup next time.
Update: Now that the weekend is over, check out my Tera Beta Review post in which I talk about Tera through level 22.