Review: Can T.E.R.A Topple World of Warcraft?

Having debuted in South Korea in early 2011, 18 months later TERA is the latest RPG experience trailing in the dust of Star Wars The Old Republic, to challenge World of Warcraft to it’s seemingly unassailable position at the top of the MMO tree.

On the surface, there appears very little to set-apart TERA from WoW and it’s ilk and the lack of originality in certain aspects of the game is astonishing at times – The inventory, quest givers, action bars, map icons and text boxes seem to have been replicated almost identically from Blizzard’s MMO. One could argue why change a winning formula but how about a little imagination? I’d give anything not to see another quest giver illuminated by a bouncing yellow exclamation mark over their head, and it just comes across as lazy from the developers Bluehole Studios.

While the above are all minor irritations, the real kicker comes in the bog-standard quests you’re forced to endure to level up – bland, dull and painfully lacking in creativity are the kindest, non-expletive words I can offer to the bulk of the missions you’ll be under-taking, with most amounting to ’travel here’ ‘kill these creatures’ ‘collect this’ – the standard formula you’ll be trudging through, regardless of your location. The folk that inhabit TERA may well have been in desperate need of my assistance, but I stopped bothering to read quest descriptions after level 3 – the arbitrary nature of so many of the quests, means you are never invested in what you’re doing. The worst examples are several quests where you simply shuffle back and forth between two NPC’s standing not more than 10 yards away delivering snippets of information. I’m not paying my subscription fee to be a damn delivery boy! Let me go and kill some ugly, evil monsters!

There is a story of some kind buried here stringing the action along – The entire world was apparently dreamt into existence by two omnipotent beings (a bizarrely inept narrative choice for a game supposed to be based around fantasy), and is now, as standard, being invaded by evil demons that have united the various factions to bring peace to the world and….well that‘s about as far as my understanding goes as there is so much text to wade through, I found myself skipping most of the descriptions of what’s going on, and coupled with the bland questing leaves you feeling completely uninvested in the story, or caring about the welfare of the world you’ve heroically chosen to defend. As standard, you’ll improve you’re gear and stats as you level up, and the game does a relatively good job of introducing new moves and abilities at a steady pace, although you’ll find yourself relying on a core of three or four key moves for the majority of your time in combat, and purchasing glyphs can augment these abilities even further.

The combat is where TERA really starts to shine, no longer is fighting an enemy simply a matter of pushing button x, y, z in a certain order – you actually need skill, timing and tenacity to survive TERA’s harsh terrain. And it’s the dynamism and fluidity of battling and levelling up with your character that drags TERA up from the crowded wreckage previous MMO also-ran’s and shine out from the crowd. I chose to play as a Slayer, a melee DPS based character, wielding a colossal double edged sword and sporting light armour for increased speed, allowing you to steam in and deal out heavy punishment to your enemies, before nimbly dodging out of the way of any counter-attacks. The timing of every single movement and attack is critical, as well as your reflexes to ensure you emerge victorious – if you do die, you know that it was due to a mistake you made, an attack timed wrongly or poor positioning, and not unfairness from the game. You feel involved in the fight, rather than an observer clicking on buttons to make certain animations appear on the screen as WoW had the tendency to do.

The most enjoyable times in the game comes from facing the BAM’s (Big Ass Monsters) – which you can find roaming around most of TERA’s regions, and usually require a group to take down. Their attacks and animations look spectacular, and there’s a real sense of achievement when you bring one of these behemoth’s down for the first time. The group dungeons are also excellently designed, with impressive boss battles throughout and a much grander sense of scale than WoW managed in many of it’s early instances. This is where TERA excels, and I found myself hurriedly rushing through the dull quests just to level up enough to access the next dungeon and find what’s lurking inside.

The world of TERA is also beautiful to look at from murky swamplands, plush, leafy jungles and barren, arid deserts, it’s clear a lot of attention has been put into making the game shine, and the cartoony art-style compliments this superbly. It can be a real pleasure when you’re flying from town to town to simply take in the sumptuous views on offer, and the world itself is certainly big enough to give it the ‘epic’ feel the developers were clearly going for.

It may be because TERA is still taking it’s first baby steps as an MMO, but you certainly get the sense that the in-game community is much friendlier, more welcoming and generally more mature then in games like WoW – there’s much less emphasis on ‘me me me’ and getting the best possible gear. As long as you’re polite and courteous, you’ll have no problem in getting assistance from other players or getting a group together to take down BAMs or run dungeons. Several times I needed help in finishing a quest or killing an enemy, and I was pleasantly surprised to find people were willing to travel (up to half an hour on one occasion) from all corners of the world to lend assistance.

Overall, if you’re looking for a new MMO experience, TERA is worth your time – you’ll need a lot of patience, as the games takes a good 5-6 hours to really get going, and the lack of originality and imagination in questing and how the game pushes you forward is hugely disappointing, but the thrill of knowing that your skill and ability played as big a role as your level gear in bringing down the gargantuan boss lying at your feet, helps TERA to suck you in and keep you coming back for more.

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