When Josh and I started to divvy up the games at PAX that we were going to cover, the line between our interests and experience became very clear. I’ve always been on the action side of the spectrum, while Josh knows a lot more about strategy games and MMOs. For that reason, it might come to a surprise that Tera was my favorite game that I played at PAX. This Korean made MMO was passed into the hands of American developers for Western distribution and has the potential to be a serious contender with Guild Wars 2 and Old Republic. It’s beautiful to look at and the combat is full of action and fun. In fact, I’m certain Tera will pull in gamers like me who aren’t attracted to the typical MMO targeting combat system. And, no one is more surprised about that than me.
My first introduction to Tera came in the form of a youtube video, where a representative at GamesCon made a big deal about being able to see up a character’s skirt as she’s running around. Personally, skimpy clothing and questionable methods of reaching a target audience doesn’t offend me at all. I see a lot of it in comic books and it’s never seriously taken away from the value of the material. My problem is that this guy made it sound like it was a feature in the game that had the developers really excited. Past bad press and alienating gamers, a heavy focus on sexy outfits simply does not make a good game. And, in the MMO genre which is currently dominated by the big WoW, a company has to be successfully innovative if they expect anyone to play.
With this in mind, I was hesitant to even check Tera out. With the intent of hanging back while Josh played, I couldn’t help but ask some of the people who were working on the game if they had seen the youtube video in question. Everyone seemed to be just as unhappy with it as I was and promised that skimpy outfits were just a side note. Even if they were just playing nice and pretending like they didn’t love seeing half naked women run around, it became very clear that it didn’t really matter. Every person I spoke to really loved the game and put a lot of themselves into making Tera a workable and fun MMO. They had put energy into making sure grinding was at a minimum, that the combat was fun and the story was interesting enough to feel immersed. Those are the things I want to hear from a game developer and any concerns about skimpy clothes are moot if the game is good.
Now, remember MMOs are just not my cup of tea. My gaming history is primarily in action based combat and the more visceral it is, the better. I don’t get that from your typical MMO targeting system and have always grown tired of it quickly. Luckily, there’s a lot of focus on dodging and aiming in Tera. If you swing your sword and miss an enemy, the game won’t be forgiving. On the other hand, there’s lots of opportunities to dodge and roll away from serious damage.
There are eight different classes, most of which are melee based along with a couple spell casters and an archer. The developers obviously put a lot of time balancing the classes and giving them very specific and unique features. The lancer, for example, is responsible for holding the line and using a massive shield to protect others. I also liked how typical classes such as the healer and warrior were given a new spin. The healer is expected to be pretty close to the fight in order to keep others alive and the warrior’s focus is more on agility and swift combo attacks than ‘tanking’.
I played a warrior for the low level demo and found myself bouncing around while dealing some great combo attacks. The class had some cool skills on the side like a concussion radius that stunned enemies and a leaping attack to catch monsters unaware. The enemies all typically have specific attacks that are unique to their type and will give signals before dealing out a lot of damage. This means a more experienced player will not only have better gear and skills, but will be able to read enemies better than a new player. That’s a really basic feature I love to see and I hope it’s implemented smoothly when the game is released.
We didn’t manage to get into the advanced demo that day, but Josh signed me up for it on Sunday morning. With my distinct lack of MMO and raid scenario experience, I was nervous and sure I would epically mess up. It didn’t help that I ran into a member of the dev team on the convention floor who readily told me that the last group wiped in the worst way. Suddenly, I wished there was a magical device that could convert all my hundreds of hours in Team Fortress 2 into something more useful (But, not really. Hundreds of hours of WoW sounds like a great reason to quit gaming forever). In my mind, it didn’t matter how experienced I was at action games, my newbish levels at MMOs would destroy me and my team.
I was put in a small, dark box with three serious business looking young chaps and two excitable Tera developers. We were given a scenario where a bad ass group of fighters were sent to take down a troublesome cult. Other players were given believable characters like Rufus, but I was handed the role of Bob. Bob the knitting enthusiast who had a habit of dying a lot. He was a huge sword wielding type who was surprisingly vulnerable. In Team Fortress 2 terms, it’s like they mixed the health of a Scout with the build of a Pyro. It took me a little while to get used to running into battle, doing some damage and then getting the hell out (and I did go down once, I will admit). But, since the combat was action based I didn’t feel completely out of my element. By the end of the raid, I felt comfortable in Bob’s shoes and we actually were the twentieth group that weekend to make it through the entire demo.
I will say that playing the advanced demo, I realized that the game is always at its very core a MMO. You have to keep an eye on the rest of your party and always have an idea of how much health the enemy has. In multiplayer, common sense and staying mindful of teammates are your best tools. I hope that Tera makes working as a team very important and vital to succeeding. I also hope it has the basic things that MMO fans need from that genre, so us action-based outsiders aren’t the only ones playing. I think I’ve been hyping this game so much partially because the idea of two very different groups of gamers coming together to play is thrilling. Of course, we all don’t put all our game genre eggs in one basket, but the idea of a WoW veteran and a Left 4 Dead enthusiast doing a raid together is so cool.
A horrible, railroading, stupid, contrived, and painfully ill-conceived roleplaying campaign. All in good fun.
A programming project where I set out to make a Minecraft-style world so I can experiment with Octree data.
The Best of 2011
My picks for what was important, awesome, or worth talking about in 2011.
The game was a dud, and I'm convinced a big part of that is due to the way the game leaned into its story. Its terrible, cringe-inducing story.
Joker's Last Laugh
Did you anticipate the big plot twist of Batman: Arkham City? Here's all the ways the game hid that secret from you while also rubbing your nose in it.