TERA's release timing was arguably among the best in MMO history. As scores of online gamers are fresh from the first Guild Wars 2 beta weekend, MMO enthusiasm is probably as high as it's been since the SWTOR beta, and on top of that, college students are finishing up finals and looking for something to sate their summer gaming hunger.
As part of that incoming wave, I overcame the seemingly nonexistent queues and rolled a character. Finding a race with a low ladyboy quotient was a not-so-unexpected challenge. My first choice, Castanic, was an outright fail in this regard--the look screams Grease cast making a Twilight movie in a gay bar. I settled on Aman; though ripped abs are on display, but the rock hard abs at least look rocky.
My class choice was Berzerker, partly because I liked wielding something with heft-- the massive axe often becomes embedded in the ground and often delivers enough overswing to make a golf pro wince --and partly because the class got a 3/5 skill rating. I don't want to play the game on story mode (/cough archer), but I'm not looking to make a career out of TERA either.
Off I went into the game as a... level 20? I found myself in a brief tutorial with a heavy helping of story. This sequence wasn't in the beta but seems like a very favorable addition to the game. It's the first expedition to the Isle of Dawn, and nothing's going well. A simple fetch quest had me delivering supplies to burnt-out medics, simultaneously introducing me to movement controls and the all-important [F] utility key. I followed the human leader Elleon deep inland as he battled waves of demonic enemies. Fighing scores of disk reapers that I'd later fight as a level 11 made me feel badass, and the impending gloom of the setting and situation held its own kind of allure.
After the final boss fight against a World of Warcraftish abomination on steroids, a giant winged demon swept down on the scene and the screen faded to black. Um... what? Elleon's apparently disappeared, and I'm level 1 on a much sunnier, happier Isle of Dawn. Disjointed, yes, just like most of TERA's cut scenes. But at least my first impression of the launched game wasn't all sunshine and cute creatures to slay.
I won't delve too much into my experiences on what followed: the present day Isle of Dawn, the level 1-10 experience has been covered to pieces in Shay's beta preview. The cuteness of hoglings and terrons and the creepy crawlies I get from hearing the childlike Elin talk in their granny voices; these things are old hat by now, and outside of the prologue, nothing major seemed to be changed in the opening sequence since beta.
After a brief stopover in Velika, a massive "city of wheels" and the focal point of the game's conflict, it was on to Lumbertown. The sleepy woodsmen's town has been seeing an influx of refugees from invasions of Argon forces (the ultrabaddie in TERA, not the noble gas). Lumbertown was slightly less putesy (pukily cutesy) than Isle of Dawn, the principal difference being that the piglings wear armor and there are lots of centaur (which, thankfully, reside lower on the ladyboy scale than expected).
It's time to relate some first impressions. I admit I didn't put much stock in TERA's big selling point: action combat (thought I was going to say BAMs, didn't you?). The auto attack-avoidant combat is fun, but so was action combat in Auto Assault, Fury, and a score of other (cancelled) action combat MMOs. Action combat tends to be fun in small doses, but it's nothing to base a MMO on--at least not one you want to play for any length of time.
A strong story, social dynamism, or fulfilling PvP are much better bets, and I wasn't sure that TERA had any of these elements. I'm still not sure at level 20. But I will say that last night I logged in to check out something for the TERA tips article and ended up playing for three levels. Breadcrumb-trail quest lines still have their pull.
- Outside of a few raving caps-talkers, I found the community to be extremely helpful. TERA allows guilds of one, meaning solo players don't have to feel all untagged and alone and can easily invite potential guildmates on the fly.
- The User Interface, which is relatively minimalist but boasting a nice auto-zooming map. Better yet, the quest tracker can also tracks quest mobs on the minimap should you somehow find yourself temporarily targetless.
- Combat is fun and seems to become more distinctive in style between classes as you level up, especially for magic users.
- Have I mentioned how meh I am about effeminate looking male characters wearing crop tops?
- The cycle of fetch, delivery, and kill quests was tired seven years ago, and I'm beginning to get hints of a mid-level grind as I finish up my work in Lumbertown. You might experience it sooner.
- Too many mobs trying to kill me with cuteness. Worse, they're reused (and armored up) from area to area.
Early recommendation: If you enjoyed the visual stylings of [insert Asian import MMO here] and a slightly more twitchy take on Lineage 2's gameplay, TERA offers 30 days of free game time with the box purchase and should easily give you (at least) a very fun month of hogling splats.