In the Northeast of the Old City in Shanghai lies a majestic
five-acre garden called the Yuyuan Garden. Built in 1577, the
enticing enclosure has served as inspiration to artists and poets for
centuries.  Today you can still walk the gardens and take in
the stimulating scene of the Grand Rockery, or catch a glimpse of
relics from the Ming Dynasty in Yuhua Hall. And after you're done
pondering the pavilion in the Inner Garden you can grab a Big Mac at
the McDonald's across the street.

Familiar elements in a distant location can be a welcome luxury when sensibly
offered , but at the same time too many creature comforts can
turn the experience from exotic to mundane. This was the haunting
thought that kept repeating itself in my head as I played through
Korean-gone-Western MMOG, TERA,
developed by Bluehole Studio, published in the US by En Masse
Entertainment, and published in Europe by Frogster.

TERA is a
game that certainly offers a fresh appeal on a maturing genre, but is there
quite enough "new" here to satisfy change-hungry MMO gamers?

Gameplay - 87 / 100

Picking up the game and diving in won't prove difficult for most
players particularly if they've played an MMO before. This doesn't mean
it won't take a few moments of adjustment, however. First and foremost
TERA was built from the ground up as an action-based MMO game. There's
simply not much action in the point and click controls of traditional
MMOs. So the first adaptation period comes right at the beginning with
the understanding that the mouse controls the camera and the mouse
buttons and numerical keys are combat actions. Alternatively, one may
opt to play with a controller instead which will offer quite a
different experience than most other MMO games.

Once acclimated the process of the actual gaming is conventional:
follow the trail of NPCs that offer quests, perform said quests,
continue to next area. This breadcrumbing has become a standard in
modern MMO games and there is plenty of it to be found in TERA. What
lies between the quest turn-ins is what elevates this game from the
unremarkable to the unordinary. And that is the combat.

If the questing in TERA is run-of-the-mill then the combat is a finely
tailored, distinguished commodity. It's elegant in its modesty and easy
to understand: point your crosshairs in the direction you want to
perform an ability and press the corresponding key. If playing a melee
character you can string maneuvers together in a graceful dance-like
chain of combos. Or, if ranged play is your fancy, take aim with almost
FPS precision and round out damage with a glorious blaze of spells and

These moves can take time to perfect but they separate the average
player from the excellent. Skill-based combat is rarely executed well
but TERA has managed to bring the concept into the realm of reality
with their system. Regrettably, I found I wasn't handicapped so much by
the game mechanics but rather by my own interface tools. Playing with a
mouse and keyboard wasn't nearly as effective and fluid as playing with
a controller until I tried it with my Razer Naga mouse. Once I had all
of my abilities hotkeyed to thumb buttons I felt empowered, in control,
and balletic in my bashing of baddie's brains.

Perhaps best of all is the streamlining of skills. In a case of
emphasis on player skill the adage of "less is more" holds true and
Bluehole seems to have understood that concept by a humble offering of
skills and abilities. As you level up you learn more skills, as is
again traditional, but never are there too many skills. My hotbars were
never teeming with abilities I would only use once per day. The
abilities are streamlined and purposeful without being superfluous. You
get what you need, and use what you get.

For all of its dazzle in providing a revitalizing approach to MMO combat, TERA does
exact a price on the social game. The combat is so involved that it
leaves one little room for much else. You won't be chatting with your
groupmates or guildies while killing the evils of Arborea. Typing text
while connecting combos is near impossible, though the game does offer
some quick macros that allow you basic responses like "follow me" or
"busy fighting" with the click of a button. It even takes a
considerable measure of dexterity to employ a push-to-talk key while
stringing attacks.

For the most part the inability to quickly communicate while fighting
isn't a gamebreaker, but it does become increasingly challenging if you
enter one of the game's instanced dungeons. Unless everyone in the
party knows the dungeon inside and out (which is unlikely in most
pickup groups) you'll need to take time to plan and discuss. Once
synchronous with your groupmates though, the instanced dungeons provide
challenging content and clever scripts that are rich in fun, even if a bit

As if in contradiction to the social drawbacks with the engaging
combat, another new element TERA brings to the MMO buffet is its
political system. These systems have been toyed with before in various
free-to-play titles and a smattering of Eastern MMO games but the
system in TERA is the first time the concept has been introduced to the
Western audience on such a large scale. The idea is relatively simple:
players level 20 and above vote once per month on their Vanarch.
Vanarchs are responsible for setting and collecting taxes from NPCs and
with the funding are able to open new merchant NPCs and fast travel
routes. The political system itself promotes a very social game, as
campaigning for votes plays a huge role in a candidate's success, as
does the guild the candidate leads. Yet, as in real life, the political game takes place at a remove from the core progression of the game for most players, and is (at least at the early stages) relegated to novelty feature status.

Graphics - 97 / 100

alt="Flying into Velika will leave you breathless" width="250">

At first glance TERA
may come off as a boilerplate for Asian character and video game
graphic design, and there is some of that. There are the big-eyed
anime-style child races along with the cutesy personified cuddly animal
races. There are the ladyboys and libidinous female models. But
stereotypes aside, the world is vivid and painted in rich deep tones
that seem to beckon you into the screen. The cell-shading is remarkably
theatrical which painted with the calculated palette makes each area of
the game enticing and exciting. Flying into the city of Velika for the
first time is nothing short of breathtaking. You'll almost want to
abandon reality to fully immerse yourself into the vibrant landscape.

Sound - 82 / 100

The musical score in TERA
is as animated as the characters themselves. Each theme
blends almost seamlessly into the next as you travel the world and
change environments. The composition is always appropriate and often
subtle which complements the delicate details in the artwork. You'll
often feel an emotion applicable to the setting and wonder where that
sensation was coming from exactly, until you notice the understated
musical score.

The sound effects are equally impressive. You may not immediately
notice the sound of your soft leather soles beating on pavement as you
run through the cobble streets of Velika, but you do notice when
they're not there. The same holds true for the well placed chirping of
birds, babbling of running waters, and flapping of Pegasus wings. The
soundscape is not overstated but done well.

The voice acting is a different story. While not terrible, the dialog
is underwhelming at best. This is an example of being slapped in the
face by something out of place.  Seemingly random quests will
split off into a cutscene that, for the most part, serves little
purpose. I didn't find any of the cutscenes entertaining or felt they
were of any extra value. If anything they broke the rhythm of the
gameplay and body-checked me out of my immersive experience and into
the cold boards of disjointed storytelling.

Value - 87 / 100

As far as regular pricing for modern MMOGs TERA has a
befitting price tag of $49.99. Included with the box purchase is the
first month of game play. To reach maximum level will require
anywhere between 60 and 100 hours of gameplay depending on the play
style.  During that time you will be able to experience most
of what the game has to offer. If you can cram all those hours into the
first month the value is quite good. Each additional month will cost
$14.99 if you pay by the month with discounts for longer subscription
terms (3, 6, and 12 month plans available).

Lasting Appeal - 70 / 100

By the very nature of MMOGs the game is what you make of it. If you
fully immerse yourself and get involved in all aspects of the game
including PvP and the Political System style="font-style: italic;">TERA can become a
social and competitive haven that could make for several months of

The tragedy of this game, though, is that the replay value is shallow. Once
a character progresses through the story path it's unlikely the
majority of players will want to do it all over again with different
characters. The experience in terms of story, quests, dungeons and
world exploration will be identical with the only variation coming from
the differing style of combat between classes. As such the world feels
finite after a relatively short time and the lasting appeal drops

For seasoned MMO players that appeal drops even further with the
already-tired linear breadcrumb quest grind. style="font-style: italic;">TERA's combat is
new and exhilarating, but leveling up is the same enterprise we've been
drudging through since 2004.

Pros and Cons

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- Inspiring environments and art work

- Arresting combat system

- Potentially profound political system

- Thoughtful streamlining of abilities

- Diverse class options to appeal to a variety of gaming styles

- Players' actual skill level is showcased as opposed to which macros
they've pasted in


- Spiritless linear quest grind

- In-game communication can be difficult during battle

- Humdrum story and lore

- Replay value limited by one story path for all classes and races

- Cutscenes feel more interruptive than immersive


If we could remove or revamp the quest grind in TERA and isolate
the immensely entertaining combat and the animated instances this game
would be a must-buy. Unfortunately, though, the leveling plot makes up
for such a huge portion of the game that it becomes irksome and
detracts from the enjoyment of the game's true strengths. It's like
trying to enjoy the Yuyuan Garden from the McDonald's across the
street. You can see the beauty right in front of you but you're stuck
under fluorescent lighting swallowing another Big Mac.  Sure,
you may like the occasional Big Mac but not when you want to be whisked
away on what could be an edifying journey.

Throw me into a dungeon crawl with some friends. Give me a hint of
something sinister lurking over the next hill and set me out to
explore. But please don't make me kill another boar to bring meat to
some bloke who wants to have a barbecue.

Overall 77/100 - Pretty Good


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

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016