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Grouping Made Epic - Hands on with TERA Group Play at E3 2010

Posted Fri, Jun 18, 2010 by B. de la Durantaye

When I first saw TERA at GDC this year I was impressed. The idea of an action combat MMORPG was refreshing and exciting. I was able to play a small portion of it at that show and it left me wanting to play more. Even so, I wasn’t prepared for the TERA experience I was about to enjoy at E3 this year.

Stacy “Martuk” Jones and I stepped up to the TERA booth to meet the En Masse folks for some hands on with the game. For us they had set up five PCs with headsets. Each computer was displaying a different class on the screen. As our host, En Masse Entertainment’s Sam Kim, asked us and two other media members to sit down we knew what we were about to do. We were going to play TERA as a group.

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Sam gave us a quick overview of the controls we’d need to use during our adventure through the game. In our party we had a Berserker, Slayer, Sorceror, Warrior, and Priest. I was playing the Slayer while Martuk jumped on the Sorceror. Each of us made our choice to either play with a controller or a keyboard and mouse combo.

If the single player game I had played at GDC was good, the group play of TERA was awesome. Shortly after loading into the game and grouping up we were running down a pier heading into our first group combat experience. Even though our group was composed completely of pure TERA newbies, it didn’t take long before we found our niche. The classes all played differently, but everyone seemed to be able to grasp both the role and the controls of their character quickly. It also helped that our En Masse hosts were guiding us along as we played.

The Berserker was the tank of the group, getting aggro and mitigating damage with her attacks and abilities. My role, along with the warrior, was one of melee DPS. The sorcerer was taking care of ranged DPS and the priest, of course, healed. Once we fell into our roles the real fun began.

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The first battle was against a giant crab-like creature. The size of the monster really made the battle feel epic. The Berserker was trying to keep its attention while the warrior and I rolled around between its gargantuan legs. Popping up behind it, we’d execute our combos. I’d swing my massive sword, and the warrior would flail madly with his weapons. It was easy to get caught up in the excitement and I soon found myself getting a little too ambitious. I would swing the heavy blade before lining up my aiming reticule and I missed the monster entirely. Since I attempted a quick combo after that, I raised my sword after the swing and slammed it down into the ground, catching nothing but dirt. The force was extraordinary. My character heaved on the sword, body expressing its enormous weight, and I groaned. I had lost a lot of time from that mistake. I vowed to keep focused so the rest of my strikes would be true.

The amount of coordination and control needed in the game is unlike anything we’ve previously seen in an MMOG. The combos and abilities are fun, and can be deadly, but as illustrated above, if you’re not on your game things can take a turn downwards.

Healing looked to be a challenge in the game. Area of Effect heals displayed a circle on the ground. If party members were in that circle they’d get healed. Otherwise they’d have to do without. Alternatively healers can cast direct heals but the target needs to be still or the priest can easily miss them with their targeting reticule.

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The battles are intense and involving. They feel heroic and you quickly learn that you rely on your group and they rely on you. There’s little room for a lazy player in this game, at least from the group content we saw. There’s far too much that needs attention for a group member or two to just coast by. The mobs have special power attacks and the group needs to be prepared to deal with them. For instance, one encounter was a centaur-like beast. When it reared up on its hind legs, you knew it was about to do a ground stomp AoE. If you didn’t get out of the way you’d take some serious damage. Luckily both the melee damage classes in our group had roll abilities that allowed us to quickly get out of the way when we saw the tell. The Berserker had extra abilities to mitigate more damage when a heavy attack was about to come in.

One of the more fun group combos, at least for me, was a combo that I could do with the Warrior. The Warrior had a stun attack that could knock our enemies down briefly. If successful, as a Slayer, I could then leap into the air and drive my sword down into the fallen beast. The combos took team effort and coordination, but when executed they were extremely amusing, bringing huge grins to myself and the Warrior.

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In this respect TERA may be a double edged sword. The group gameplay emphasizes teamwork, which is rewarding, but it could potentially become frustrating to players who have a streak of bad luck and end up with groups that don’t work well together. In some games a disjointed group may be frustrating, but often you can flub your way through the content. I’m not sure if that will be possible with TERA. If that turns out to be the case it could become too frustrating for many players to even bother grouping, leaving them out of the most rich aspect of the game we’ve seen so far.

On the other hand, if you have friends who can carry their own, or make some new friends with skilful alert gamers, you’ll have what could quite possibly be the best group MMOGing experience you’ve ever encountered.

TERA continues to impress and amaze. It has become one of those rare games that I can’t wait to see (and play!) again at the next convention.

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