World of Warcraft is no stranger to MMO launches, like the recent launch of The Exiled Realm of Arboreai or TERA. TERA, for those not in the know, is an eastern MMO developed by Bluehole Studio and brought to North American by En Masse Entertainment. It was released originally on January 25th, 2011 in South Korea and was released here stateside on May 1st, 2012. Like with any game launch, trade chat ignites into a flame war with players rallying the cry to leave WoW en masse because x, y, or z game is obviously superior.
Then again, if that was true, trade chat would long be a dust bowl and the streets of Azeroth empty. Yet, does that mean that TERA, yet another WoW clone, shouldn’t get the chance to impress those interested in a change of scenery between now and MoP? Should we just throw away a game because we’ve “been there and done that?”
Probably, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make an exception. Especially for TERA, an MMO that brings something new to the table. It’s the first big title to feature action combat in a persistent world. Gone are the auto-targeting, players in TERA need to use skill and crafty mouse/controller work to line up their punches. Is this mechanic enough to earn the exception or should we all turn our heads and sigh? Well, let’s see.
Comparing Red Apples and Blue Apples
Let’s face it, like Rift, AION, Warhammer Online, and the leagues of other popular titles that have launched through the years, TERA is a direct clone of WoW. Imagine WoW with a better graphics engine, a political system, eastern inspired graphics, and a different combat system and you have TERA. We have to be honest with ourselves, TERA isn’t Guild Wars 2 and it doesn’t bother to dive too from the status quo.
Yet, I consider that a good thing. Why buck what works? Why not just iterate on it to make something better? That is where we get to TERA’s main selling point: combat. That’s where WoW and TERA differ by leagues. Why you ask? What’s the big deal? Well, in WoW you click on an enemy and use your skills to attack it. In TERA, you click on the screen and attack like in Space Marine, Fable, or Skyrim. You can use a plethora of skills, but you’ll need to use a targeting reticle to land them.
The difference is so big that I would say that it’s the biggest change a “WoW clone” has made in many years. Is it a good change though? In my recent GW2 vs. SWTOR article, I make reference to how players don’t like change. They like what they’re used to and anything with a learning curve is “icky.” We’ve seen a lot of neat games with cool mechanics saunter away into the sunset because players didn’t “get” the game. Multiple MMOs have been swatted down like flies because they tried to move away from class archetypes or classes or removed major mechanics to be different.
Yet, combat in TERA isn’t some harebrained scheme crafted by a group of hipsters bent on changing what we see as mainstream. The combat is satisfying to everyone because it’s easy to get into, you simply point and click. Skills are easy to use with a bit of practice, simply aim in the general direction that you want to melt faces and use your skill for maximum face melting power. I’ve played through a few classes and I can tell you, no matter what you play, the battle system is tons of fun. A lot of people on the Internet agree.
Of course, the battle system has a learning curve. If a monster is bashing you in the face then you are playing the game wrong, to use gamer speak. A lot of players coming from WoW complain that health regen is too low, a hallmark of eastern MMOs, when the point of the game is to not take health damage unless you’re a tank (currently the Lancer).
Overall, combat is the biggest difference and the biggest selling point to me. It’s what makes me want to say that everyone should give the game a chance, but at the same time, it may or may not be enough to keep players stuck to the game for more than the first month.
Visually Stunning Breadcrumbs
There is more to TERA than the combat though. One of the reasons I picked TERA up, beyond my enthusiasm for MMOs, was the graphics. The zones are not only huge, but populated with large explorable complexes scattered in the distance. If you see a tower on the horizon then odds are you can climb that tower and adventure within it. You’ll be hard pressed to find an MMO with better graphics and you can truly see how dated WoW’s graphics are whenever you switch between the two.
This is one area where TERA dominates WoW, because not only are the graphics appealing, but the game runs smooth as butter on older machines. A quick test on my netbook showed the game running about the same as WoW and I’ve had no lag problems to report, even on my dated machine. TERA proves that you can get efficiency and graphics to coexist.
Yet, this isn’t enough to scream “victory” for TERA, by no means. RIFT and AION were very pretty as well, although I don’t believe as pretty as TERA, but WoW has had a lot in the graphics contenders in the past few years. SWTOR is another game where I can easily say the graphics, especially in some zones, knock WoW out of the arena. Yet, WoW’s graphics are familiar, warm, and appealing years and years after launch. So we’re not exploring new territory here.
Questing and adventuring are the same ‘ol same ‘ol. You go to a quest NPC, chat for a bit, and then rush off to fight. Cutscenes exist and are pretty neat, but that’s standard fare for modern MMOs. The only thing that stuck in my mind was the ability to try your class a level 20 in the prologue, removing that “buyer’s remorse” of picking a class, playing it 10 or 20 levels, and then wanting to be something different.
On the social side, I do have to give the nod to WoW as the glorious winner in MMO combat. TERA has launched with a group finder, something SWTOR won’t receive until patch 1.3. However, TERA suffers from one huge problem: there is one tank. Lancers are the only class that can queue as tank and they’re also one of the slowest classes to level with. Finding a tank is hard enough in WoW, with Death Knights, Druids, Paladins, and Warriors capable of queuing as a tank.
Then there is the politics system, which I find to be nothing new. ArchLord had something similar to the Vanarch back in 2006 and that system wasn’t that thrilling to me. It’s like someone running for the president, none of us mere mortals will have the chance to reign as the Vanarch, so who cares? I think systems like this is neat, but they need to have a lot more roles and let the common player duke it out for a small fiefdom, instead of having handful who can rule the whole world.Â Exarchs are rulers of smaller areas, but my understanding is that you’ll need to be Vanarch before you can run for Exarch, which strengthens my point. The system is neat, but I'm not sure it's for me.
TERA also requires a lot of grouping in order to get through the game quicker. Since Lancers are in high demand and Warriors are hard to play, tanks are hard to get and healers are about as rare. Luckily, since TERA focuses on avoidance instead of mitigation, groups of random classes can take on BAMs (big a$* monsters) and other tasks with ease, but grouping is still important.
I’m currently playing both TERA, WoW, and SWTOR at the same time and loving all three games. That’s just me, though. I think TERA has a lot of charm, but ultimately won’t beat WoW’s age or polish anytime soon. That’s not to say you should turn away from considering it, but your average WoW player will probably be happier with WoW once TERA’s combat system’s freshness wears off.
What do you think? Do you think TERA is awesome or do you think it’s another MMO in the long pile of available titles? Let us know in the comments section below.