The Exiled Realm of Arborea (TERA) Online is the next hot MMORPG and it launches today, developed by Bluehole Studio and published in the US by En Masse Entertainment. As a game it’s extremely mature and has been running for more than a year in the Korean market—as a result, it comes to the US and Europe with a great deal of polish that provides a beautiful action-combat MMO system.
And that’s the key words for TERA: action-combat. As a game, players receive a crosshairs and the system is open-targeted, with fast-paced combat, and some slightly twitch-based elements that require players to remember to dodge or block oncoming attacks.
As GameOgre usually examines free-to-play games, it’s important to point out that TERA Online belongs to the pay-to-play market. However, like most pay-to-play games it has an extremely high production quality and excellent development behind its millions of lines of code. If you’ve been playing this game, you should hop on over to our TERA Online review page and leave your opinion.
Graphics and Sound: This is a Triple-A game title with the development and good looks to prove it
TERA Online is a beautiful game. The graphics are very high quality and establish a world filled with wonder and enchantment. The models have a high fidelity with numerous animations and very good attention-to-detail. I enjoyed looking at the characters and exploring the world as I found myself immersed in the narrative.
Entering into TERA, it has a bit of the photorealistic but edged out just enough so that it doesn’t look like wandering around a picture. Waterfalls roar over cliffs, vistas with rainbows arc overhead, and even weird pillar-trees make up part of the landscape. After a while, it’s even possible to tell where you’re at in a particular zone by looking for landmarks, and the map doesn’t hurt either, of course.
Character customization is also fairly deep from the get-go—although I think that it could go a little bit further. When making a character for each of the different races there’s a series of default looks (and a randomizer, of course) but some of the looks do force the player into combinations that I wouldn’t go with. For example, the elin can have different animal ears from bunny, fox, wolf, mouse, etc. and each of them seem to automatically tie in a particular hair style.
From there, it’s also possible to change the facial features to a narrow extent. The number of features is pretty nice, such as eye shape, angle, width, even chin and nose, given the type of creature in question. The popori happen to be bear-like creatures (all male) and some of the feature changes don’t do much to their facial structure whatsoever. The addition of the customization, however, does allow players to get a look and detail that fits them quite nicely.
Customizing characters also allows a choice between 4-5 voices (all of which sound somewhat similar) for attacks and taking blows and etc. which is something many MMOs do not enable.
As for sounds, TERA Online has beautiful background music that’s kindly environmental. It’s not overbearing or overpowering and oftentimes is most noticeable when moving around the terrain; but it falls quickly into the background when engaged in combat.
The sounds of fighting and the different monsters compel a particular sense of the now. This is especially good because this is an action combat MMO where sound and animation in concert are very important. There’s a great deal of special effects and sounds that set me in the place of then-and-now of the game.
While it’s initially hard to get used to, due to the Eastern MMO aesthetic and features of the terrain, but as I’ve played, it’s begun to grow on me.
Gameplay: Open-targeting, twitch-based elements, action-based MMO dressed to the nines
The world of TERA Online is full and brimming with a great deal of interesting ideas and the first one that jumps out at as a new player was the crosshairs. Instead of click-to-target, TERA gives players a chance to get into the fray with blades swinging quite literally. It’s easy to see how such a system would work exceptionally well for spellcasters and archers—but how well does it work for melee DPS?
Let me introduce the warrior and berserker—there’s also the slayer but I played the previous two for quite some time—both of them are melee DPS and use weapons to provide for their gameplay. The important element is that the warrior and berserker, while both melee DPS, defend themselves in different ways: berserkers block oncoming frontal attacks with their axe and warriors dodge out of the way. These two gameplay elements align well with how the twitch-based elements of the game fit into gameplay.
When fighting enemies there’s a certain amount of watching the foe to see what they’re going to do next. In melee DPS there’s creatures who have a “tell” that they’re about to throw an attack, quick or large, the larger attacks have an easier tell. This is extremely important because blocking can mitigate almost all the damage from taking a blow (and of course dodging always mitigates all, because you’re not there anymore.) As a berserker, if I see a huge wooden fist being pulled back I press the block button on the mouse and whangkh! blocked; as a warrior, I see the same fist and I hit my dodge button and I roll swish through the bad guy and the fist ponds the ground where I’m not.
This active engagement with the enemy really makes me feel more like I’m involved in the fight rather than just rolling through a cycle of powers.
Another interesting element of the game is that once I started building up attacks (such as a short AoE, and a leaping massive-damage attack) TERA started allowing a next-in-line trigger. This means, once I hit my leap attack, it would allow me to hit the spacebar to trigger my whirlwind AoE attack. Given a long enough chain, this means that I could just trigger my opener and then just hit the spacebar a few times to go through a combination.
I hope that TERAs developers allow this to be customized (I haven’t looked) because I think that with different openers and different types of enemy groups I might want to decide on different chains. However, given a default or generic chain I’m happy to hit spacebar a few times as I mow through trash mob groups.
The rest of the game functions a lot like every other MMO. There’s a paper doll for equipment, armor, weapons, and even the ability to set up costume elements. Quests are handed out and there’s even a radar and a minimap that give a good idea of what enemies may be nearly—most of them aren’t aggro, but they do notice when the player is nearby (I think this is a preparation for aggro monsters.)
The regions are huge although they’re instanced from one another—their size rather mitigates that, because it’s hard to tell you’re sectioned off—and there’s even instanced dungeons. Parties are encouraged so that people can deal with challenges and even giant roaming world bosses (I haven’t seen one yet…but I’m sure they’re impressive.)
Pay-to-play: TERA Online is a pay-to-play MMO which means it’s not a free-to-play but there’s a catch
Unlike most games reviewed by GameOgre, TERA Online is a pay-to-play game. In order to get in you’ll need to buy the box at $49.99 (or grab the collector’s edition at $59.99.) After that it will run on a monthly subscription for $14.99/mo. This is almost entirely a standard fare for the entire pay-to-play MMO industry.
There’s a twist, however, but as this isn’t confirmed it’s just speculation. There have been rumors that TERA will go the same route as EVE Online and offer a type of in-game item that acts as a time extension. In EVE this item is called a PLEX and when used it adds one month of subscription time to a character and can be bought with money, also because it’s an in-game item, it can be traded and sold on the auction house in game. For TERA this may be a Chronoscroll.
As a result, if a player makes enough money in game, they could conceivably purchase a Chronoscroll from the auction house (or another player) for in game currency and only pay the initial box fee in order to continue to play the game. This would mean a great deal of time must be spent making money in the game to purchase more time.
Conclusion: TERA Online makes action-combat the key to gameplay in very good pay-to-play MMO
Bluehole Studio has done an excellent job of making a brilliant and beautiful game. As I mentioned, at first its obvious that TERA has a strong Eastern culture aesthetic which can feel a little bit off to anyone who is used to playing games with a very Western aesthetic—but it does a good job of not making it overbearing. It’s a standard fantasy-esque MMORPG with a lot of excellent qualities.
The action-combat oriented elements of the game give it an edge that isn’t seen in many of its current competitors and should give players a reason to flock to it.
If the population in the beta and the pre-access weekend has been any bellwether, TERA Online is set to be a very popular game.