So my recent 10-day trial of WoW had ended without me wishing to renew my subscription. Part of it is because I am cheap, and the other part is that I really had no want to continue. Sure it was nice to have quests, and a polished UI and dungeons and gear and loot and mounts – but something wasn’t there. It could have been the graphics, or the game play, or the story – but something just wasn’t there. So I tried TERA again, since it was just sitting on my shelf staring at me. I heard recently it was going to be Free to Play starting February 5th, and with that being a few days from now I wanted to get a head start.
I played TERA a few months ago, and I had heard great things about its combat system. But after playing for a few days and finishing out the first area, it just felt too tired, so similar to WOW, and too hard to get into. One thing I hate about an MMORPG is having to read all sorts of text walls to find out where I am going and what I am doing. Dialogue boxes and cut scenes and instances are one thing – but running around from point to point on the map reading walls of text from stiff and lifeless NPC’s with no story behind them are not my idea of fun. And sadly TERA is full of this kind of non-fun.
Another thing I did not like about TERA is that it is not solo-friendly. The community is noob friendly (which is a blessing), but not solo friendly. Difficulty while solo isn’t the issue, just that playing solo is very slow and tedious and boring. WoW was more solo friendly because no matter what you were doing, you could see on the horizon what was next, where you had to eventually go, and how much further you had to level to get there. In WOW there were also several options on where you could go. In TERA, the gameplay seems very linear, like getting pushed through an assembly line. It may have just been that I was on the noob island and training in the first few missions was built this way – but as far as an introduction to a game, this is not how getting used to the gameplay should be. I’m more for a game showing it’s full appeal starting out, rather than the worst it has to offer. All the promises I got from other players that “It will get better” didn’t hold much merit when I’ve been playing for several hours and it’s been more and more of the same.
However, TERA does have some saving points that make it worth playing. Compared to the claustrophobic and segregated feel of WOW (which wasn’t so bad, but still noticeable), the world of TERA feels like it is open and beautiful. The character creation system allowed for a variety of different game play styles and customization options that made the world come alive. There are character options ranging from hulk-like players who want to show off how tough they are, to more commonly used human-type/elf-type races that make up the majority of players seen in-world, as well as some cute races like the Popori who are fat little animal creatures that can take up the same weapons and skills as their humanoid counterparts. This variety of hardcore and cute player choices make for a dynamic world and can add a touch of humor in player interaction – especially in parties and otherwise serious-feeling dungeons and mob-invested areas.
The combat system in TERA does not disappoint either. It takes a while to tweak the UI and controls in a way that works best, but once you’re comfortable working with them, you start to gain an appreciation for the new play style. To me it feels like playing Skyrim in third-person. the mouse is used to look and turn, while the WASD keys are used for moving and strafing. I picked a sorcerer-type class and was able to do circles around an enemy while timing long-range fireballs as well as sneaking up behind the enemy and doing close-range burning attacks. Having a jump feature combined with some combat skills to do a dodge roll, a jump-back, or some quick side-steps really makes the combat feel real and fun. Abilities and items can be mapped to the numbered keys on the keyboard, but there is also the option to map more commonly-used attacks to the mouse left and right keys. The mouse keys aren’t necessary, but some abilities really work best when being able to keep an eye on the enemy, so this is where it comes in handy.
The number one feature that will keep me playing in the coming days though is the community. Somehow, among the mass of people coming and going from this game and the lack of success it has seen on a subscription-based model I found one of the best gaming communities I’ve seen since FFXIV. Everyone in the local chat was friendly and had a good sense of humor around them. On the starter island, there was a good mix of veteran players creating new characters who were more than willing to take me under their wing and show me things. I’ve played twice, and made a new friend each time who was willing to help me out in combat and provide me company. This is where TERA shines through the most so far. Just having players who care enough to look out for the little guy and are in in for fun more than competition.
Since I really have nothing going on until Beta of FFXIV 2.0, I think I will stay in this TERA world and see if I can figure it out. There might be something underneath that is shiny and fun under all the generic wow-style muck. I don’t hate WOW, but I hate clones of WOW. There is an entire crafting system and rune-augmentation system for equipment I need to explore, and a whole world I’ve not set foot in. In the end, I am not sure if I will come out of this game glad to have known it, or glad to have gotten away. But for the next 10 days or so, I’m going to try my best to enjoy the game.