A Tale of Two TERAs – A Hands-On Look at TERA’s Group Play

this summer I had my
first opportunity to get some hands-on
time with TERA
at E3. While I wasn’t part of Ten Ton
Hammer’s team that got to sit in on one of the group demo
sessions, I still managed to spend a solid block of time playing the
game as a Sorceress out on the show floor. I recall being instantly
drawn in not just by the incredibly detailed graphics, but by the
interesting blend of fast paced action with golden age MMOG concepts
like being able to kite mobs as a spell caster.

But as much fun as I had
watching the sensual swaying of my female high
elf character’s hips when casting charged spells, after
reading Ben’s full report on the group experience at E3 I
knew I’d want to be checking out that aspect of the game as
soon as possible.

As luck would have it, I was
given the chance to do exactly that last
month at gamescom, and then again this past week at PAX Prime.
Interestingly enough, the two demo sessions proved to be radically
different experiences. One of them left an incredibly positive
impression while the other proved to be so chaotic that our group
didn’t just wipe, but were given the great (dis)honor of
earning a tally mark under the “fail” column on a
whiteboard before being shown the exit with a handshake and a smile.
But before getting too deeply into the details on how all of that
transpired, let me take two steps back to share my impressions of the
group play Ben and I were able to experience
at gamescom.

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For that event, our group
consisted of 3 members with me once again
stepping into a DPS role as a sorcerer, only this time as a sexy female
Castanic character. Since I’d had the chance to muck around
with the different skills for that class at E3, it didn’t
take me all that long to get the hang of mixing instant-cast fire
spells while on the move with a more powerful, charged electric spell.
Another key ability in my arsenal allowed me to rapidly regain mana,
though doing so would be interrupted by movement which meant I had to
remain constantly aware of my position during combat.

The same holds true of really
all of the sorcerer’s
abilities. While some can be fired off while on the move, the charged
spell would move towards my target a bit slower so it was critical that
I was not only aiming properly, but that I did so within close
proximity to our group’s healer in case I pulled agro while
Ben, our group’s tank, was busy shaking off stuns.

The dungeon we ran through was
relatively short, but we were told that
it was an open world zone that anyone could go into and explore at any
time. The gameplay consisted of a series of encounters that scaled up
in difficulty, from a smaller group of normal mobs leading up to a
climactic boss fight. Even being short by one player in our group, we
still managed to take down all the bad guys with relatively few deaths,
and I was pretty much sold on the idea that grouping in TERA
was just
as epic as Ben had claimed it to be based on his experiences at E3.

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This was in the back of my mind
when Ethec and I stepped into the demo
space for TERA
this past weekend at PAX Prime. This time around we were
also joined by members of the Lorehound team, rounding out a full group
of five including our group’s healer which was played by one
of the TERA

To begin the presentation, we
were each introduced to our characters
and their core combat abilities as well as given some of the background
for the area called the Vale of Fang which we were about to enter.
Apparently Ethec’s character, Bob,
had died numerous times
prior to our demo which may or may not have been a foreshadowing of
things to come.

This time around I played Zeke,
a human archer. My main bow attack
could be fired off rapidly with a simple left mouse click, and then I
also had access to a powerful AoE attack that would rain a volley of
arrows down on my foes. Each class present also had access to a special
defensive ability that could be quickly accessed by pressing the C key,
and in the case of my archer I would fire off a powerful bow attack,
the force of which would send me flying backwards out of melee range of
my attackers.

A last thing we were asked to
direct our attention to before getting
started on our demo was a whiteboard hanging on the wall of the
presentation space. Apparently the TERA
team at PAX had been keeping a
runny tally of the wins and failures of the various groups that had
participated in the group demo so far that weekend. At that point there
were 8 wins and 3 fails listed, and we were encouraged to aim for
becoming win number nine for the week.

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Stepping into the first massive
room of the dungeon, we were confronted
by a much larger group of mobs than I had expected, and while the fight
was fairly chaotic we still managed to survive the encounter in spite
of not really having a full grasp on the strengths and weaknesses of
our individual characters. All the while we were also given plenty of
tips and pointers on which abilities we should focus on using, and
reminders to remain constantly aware of our surroundings. I also
discovered that my AoE attack seemed to be a channeled, point-blank
attack, or if not I never did quite figure out how to direct it further
away from my character.

The oddness of firing off a
massive volley of arrows down on my own
head aside, in the end it seemed as though our group just might survive
long enough to face one of the massive bosses. Then again, maybe I was
simply being overly optimistic.

By the time we entered the
third large room, the difficulty had scaled
so rapidly that I could barely keep track of where my team members were
during the fight let alone find a good position to plunk arrows from to
avoid drawing agro from a good half dozen mobs at a time. One by one
our group started to fall, and by the time our healer died the writing
was already on the wall. Literally if you consider that we’d
just earned ourselves the fourth tally mark under the
“fail” column.

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And just like that, our demo
session was
over. Call it what you will,
but after being thrown in at the deep end and getting our asses handed
to us by encounters no doubt intended for advanced group play, I
wasn’t left with quite the same positive vibe I’d
had at both E3 and gamescom earlier in the summer.

Don’t get me wrong,
the game is still incredibly fun to play
and I can see a lot of potential for both the solo and group aspects of
the active combat system. Maybe I’m just a sore loser, but
being labeled as such on a whiteboard and sent packing simply
wasn’t the epic group experience I had hoped for this time
around. Still, I’ll be keeping a close watch on TERA
I genuinely enjoy MMO gameplay that challenges your abilities and
doesn’t simply hand you rewards on a silver platter with
little or no real effort involved. And group play in TERA
is certainly
a challenging and rewarding experience which I look forward to
experiencing again. Only next time, hopefully I won’t be
taking such a swift dirt nap.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our TERA: Rising Game Page.

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About The Author

Reuben "Sardu" Waters has been writing professionally about the MMOG industry for eight years, and is the current Editor-in-Chief and Director of Development for Ten Ton Hammer.

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