At each industry event that I attend at least those with playable versions
of MMOGs to check out there ends up being one title that I find myself going
back to play whenever I can manage to squeeze in a few extra minutes between
appointments. That affords me the opportunity to get a broader perspective on
what an in-development game has to offer, as well as the chance to gauge general
attendee reactions to the show floor demo.
Mostly though, Ill make a point of going back to play the games that I consider to be flat
out fun experiences, and E3 2011 was certainly no exception.
Ive had the chance to play TERA at numerous industry events now, but something
about the game truly resonated with me this time around. The fact
that this is the first time I had the chance to play not just one, but two of
TERAs melee classes, the Warrior and the Berserker, no doubt contributed.
The TERA Demo Strikes Back
For those of you who may have read through my hands-on experiences from PAX Prime 2010, youll recall that I loved the gameplay but felt as though our
demo group had been thrown in at the deep end before getting a chance to learn
how to swim. We wiped within minutes, had our loss marked up on a
white board for all to see, and were sent on your merry way. Not only did it
taint my overall impressions of group combat situations, but I barely felt I had
a grasp on TERAs unique approach to combat before my character took an everlasting dirt
Thankfully, the group demo at E3 this year not only went much, much smoother,
but it was a downright blast to play. Our group was pitted against one of TERAs
many BAMs (otherwise known as Big Ass Monsters) to help showcase one of the
types of quests available to players as part of the newly unveiled political
For my role in our group, I ended up playing the Warrior. The warrior is one of
the games two tanking classes, though unlike the main tank for our group a
Lancer the warrior wields two swords and relies more on avoiding damage rather
than absorbing it.
The avoidance factor became readily apparent with a quick tap of the C key
which would let my character dive out of the way of incoming attacks. Between
dodging the special abilities of the BAM we were up against (in this case a
giant dragon) and scurrying around the immediate vicinity to peel adds off our
groups archer and casters, it was a breath of fresh air to play a tanking class that felt
agile and able to do more than simply stand rooted in place going through a
boring skill rotation.
An interesting takeaway from playing the warrior in particular is that it also
punctuated how critical communication is for TERAs group encounters. Since
healers in TERA dont simply stand in a corner playing a yawn-fest game of
health bar whack-a-mole, that meant I had to pay close attention to when and where I
was leaping and diving. On the one hand, it was critical to dive out of the way
of incoming AoE attacks, but on the other you had to pay equally close attention to
where AoE heals were being placed so that you didnt completely avoid those as
Overall, our group encounter was one of the most satisfying Ive had in ages.
The fight itself was pretty intense from start to finish, but I was having so
much fun the entire time that it seemed to pass by in a flash. By the time our
appointment came to its inevitable conclusion, I was already trying to figure
out when I would have room in my schedule to go back and play the game again on
one of the show floor demo stations.
And as soon as I had a small block of free time, thats exactly what I did.
Rage Against the Skull Thumpers
For my solo experiences with TERA this time around, I lucked into playing the
Berserker class. I say lucked, because I have a natural tendency to play casters
when given the choice. But, much like my group experiences playing the warrior,
spending some time with the berserker gave me an all new appreciation for what
melee combat could and perhaps should feel like in an MMOG.
The berserker is one of TERAs DPS classes and is instantly recognizable by the
massive two-handed axes they wield. In sharp contrast to the warrior, the pace
of the berserkers combat style is much slower and more calculated. However,
dont take that to mean its any less engaging overall.
One of my favorite aspects of combat with the berserker is that, through clever
use of animations paired with the sheer size of the weapon I had equipped, every
swing of my axe felt genuine. In most MMOGs, a slower, heavier weapon basically
means you auto attack less often but you never get the sense that your character
is hefting around a massive chunk of metal. Not so in TERA.
Instead, each attack gave me a real sense that my character was exerting itself
in direct proportion to the size and weight of the weapon it was wielding. The
overall effect was that the berserkers combat pacing may be a bit slower, but
each and every attack felt nothing less than brutal, and I loved it.
Another key difference in combat was that the C key allowed me to plant my axe
in front of me to block attacks rather than dodge them. Since all enemies in
TERA have a tell (this even includes other players in PvP settings) when
theyre about to unleash a larger attack, timing blocks played a critical role
A proper block would also stun my attacker briefly, making it much easier to
follow up with a slower overhead attack, knocking my target to the ground in the
process. It took a little bit to get used to timing my attacks vs. blocks, but
in the meantime that also helped me get a feel for one of my favorite
retaliation skills for the berserker.
Certain enemy attacks would send me flying
back and leave me prone to follow-up attacks while pulling myself up off my
butt. However, the game will also present you with contextually appropriate skills
that can be used simply by tapping the space bar. In this case, my retaliation
attack would send me leaping through the air and smacking my target over the
head, turning the tables on them by planting them on their own ass instead.
A Brief Aside on Character Creation
Before wrapping things up, I did take a little bit of time to check out the
options currently available during character creation. If youve been paying
attention to TERA at all, then I probably dont need to tell you just how
expertly crafted the character models are in the game. Youll have plenty of
presets to choose from once youve selected a class and race, but the usual
plethora of sliders is available for the obsessive eyebrow tweakers out there.
An interesting inclusion in the creation process that caught my eye though, is
the rating system assigned to each class in the game. Each class is assigned
between one and five stars to give you an idea of relative difficulty associated
with its unique play style.
To give you an idea of what that means, Ill use TERAs two healing classes as
an example. Since healing in the game is just as rooted in the action combat
the title is known for, the Priest receives a four star rating in terms of
overall skill needed to excel at playing the class.
By comparison, the Mystic receives a five star rating. As I learned from one of
the many helpful devs from En Masse out on the show floor, this is due to the
fact that mystics can also summon pets, so it adds another layer of depth to a
class archetype thats most commonly associated with drooling into a cup while
watching little red bars go up and down.
Thankfully, TERA isnt that kind of MMOG so expect your skills to truly be put
to the test when opting to play either of the available healing classes.
We still dont have a confirmed release date for TERA, but given the complexity
of the newly unveiled political system Im more than happy to wait a bit longer
to play the live game if that means TERAs metagame turns out to be just as
compelling as its combat system.
Still, even after being one of my most played (and enjoyable) MMOG experiences
at this years E3, the game has definitely got its hooks in me, and I cant
wait for my next chance to play it. In fact, TERA is my personal pick for Best MMOG at E3, and that says a lot considering the calibur or titles being shown at this year's event.
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