Posted by Raine Hutchens on Apr 10, 2012

TERA Preview – Lost In A World Of Wonder And Beauty

For months upon months I’ve been itching to get into a new MMO that’s been making noise in the community. En Masse Entertainment and Bluehole have been working on TERA (The Exiled Realm of Arborea) – one of the most interesting and beautiful MMO titles I’ve yet seen in my entire gaming career. TERA is a game about true action combat, stunning visuals, and characters that shift the fantasy norm. I was lucky enough to get myself into the last running of the game’s closed beta this past weekend, and I wanted to share my thoughts to offer a preview of what players can look forward to experiencing when it releases. Let’s take a look at what En Masse has in store for us with TERA.

Visuals, Story, and Presentation

TERA is set with a thick plot line, as described by it’s official website:

About a millennia ago two omnipotent titans Arun and Shara entered into formless voids and for reasons we can only guess, fell asleep. The titans started to dream. Dream of a world that took form on their backs known as Tera. The first beings to call Tera home were twelve godlike beings dreamt up by the titans, but it wasn’t long before the gods started fighting. As the dream continued new creatures took place called mortals, they were less powerful but far more numerous. Arun dreamed of ambitious Elves, clever Humans, honor bound Amani, powerful Giants, scheming Devas, and mischievous Poporis. Shara dreamed of sly Sikandari, dark Gulas and Vampirs, fierce Wendigos, strange Faeries, and serpentine Nagas. The mortals were forced into the divine wars of the gods, which eventually left the gods dead, imprisoned, or otherwise diminished. The mortal races didn’t escape unscathed. Some—like the Sikandari, and most of the Giants—were wiped out but others rose from the wars such as the Barakas and Castanics. Now that the gods were gone the seven races; Amani, Barakas, Castanics, Elin, High Elves, Humans, and Poporis must band together to fend off a new enemy. A metallic race from the underworld called Argons; their goal is to take over Tera and wake the titans to end their dreams and destroy Tera.

When you jump into the game, you are thrown into an in-depth character creation screen at first. Now I’ve played more than a few MMOs in my day, but TERA is by far the most in-depth when it comes to creating your character. You can choose from The Aman – a race of draconian humanoids, The Baraka – an intelligent giant race, The Castanics – a race of demon-like humanoids, The Elins – an innocent nature loving race, The Humans, The High-Elves, and The Popori – a race of animal-like creatures who take the form of pandas, raccoons, and tigers.

The options available to you are near limitless, though sent through a preset system. You’ll be able to choose your face layout, voice sound, clothing, class, and a ton of details. For my character I chose a Castanic male Warrior. I got to choose the size and shape of his horns, each of his different facial features, eye color, hair color, and a starter outfit. All together the character creation took me around 20 minutes in and of itself, which goes to show how deep it really is. I didn’t find any qualms with this process, and it made me want to create more characters just to see how they could come it. This system really allows you to set each of your characters apart from one another.

After you’ve created your character, the intro scene begins. You, along with some other characters who turn out to be NPCs in the game going forward, enter the world upon giant flying pegasi. Some dialogue begins, showing off the game’s better-than-average voice acting. From what I could tell, the group of adventurers were set out for an island upon which they could seek glory, treasure, and help restore piece to their shattered world. Thus the game’s inner storyline begins to unfold.

Now let’s move on to presentation and graphics. When I first laid eyes on TERA, I was amazed. It reminded me somewhat of Vindictus at first, but with more detail and color. When you step into the boots of your character in TERA it’s like you’ve stepped into a living painting. The colors were bright, each living creature brought to life through vivid animation and detail. I was blown away. It’s honestly a game in which you’ll want to just stop and look at sometimes, taking in the scenery. You can easily tell that the artists at En Masse were used to the best of their abilities. There was always something to look at. Even the NPCs, while they seemed a chip from the same block, were each detailed in their own way. Each had a different and detailed outfit adorned, whether it be a large set of armor or a brazen robe. Each area felt new, to a certain extent, which helped to drive home just how big this game and its world is.

Combat, Questing, and Game Progression

Since TERA is an MMO, you’ll be doing the things you’ll expect to progress through the game. You’ll be gathering and completing quests, crafting items, exploring dungeons, and even engaging in some player-versus-player action. These are all aspects familiar to the MMO genre, but are each laid out in their own way.

Let’s take a look at questing. This is the main way to earn EXP and attain new levels for your character. Throughout the world you’ll encounter NPCs that will provide a multitude of quests to complete. Grabbing one is as easy as approaching said NPC, engaging them in conversation, and accepting the quest. Pretty simple, right? It is. These quests will see players defeating a plethora of enemies to pick up items that are needed for mundane tasks, clearing out an abundance of enemies, as well as exploring new areas in search for other NPCs to talk to. Even these types of quests are familiar in the genre, so they aren’t all that new. A few differences appear, however, for instance when you take a quest to kill enemies in order to pick up certain items, the way you go about it is different compared to other MMOs. Normally you’d defeat the enemy, they would drop the needed item, and you’d pick it right up. In TERA, this has been simplified. You now only need to defeat the required enemy to gain the item, as it happens automatically. You don’t need to pick up items individually. This helps for two reasons: first, you won’t leave needed items behind, and secondly you don’t have the instance where you kill five hundred enemies just to pick up two items. Also, the enemies who are being sought after each have exclamation marks above their heads, setting them apart from the crowd. This process is, simply, easier and allows you to complete quests much quicker.

I did, unfortunately, find something about questing that dug under my skin. When looking at an MMO, you’ll see that it has been developed for players to spend up to 100 hours plus playing the game. After all, if it’s a subscription-based game, there has to be enough to keep players coming back each week, right? This will cause quests to be repetitive and a bit daunting at times. With TERA, though, this effect was amplified tenfold. At almost every new turn you’ll be given a quest to kill the same groups of enemies you’ve just massacred ten minutes ago, only this time for a different item. This process will repeat over and over, making questing become very dull very quick. This bothered me a bit, but there was one defining factor that helped make it better – combat.

When it comes to the game’s combat system, it’s much different than any other MMO like it in existence today. The publisher for TERA calls it the “Non-Target Battle System,” and I think it’s a fitting name. Unlike other MMO titles where you’ll hit a button to target an enemy upon which you focus attacks, you instead have a set of crosshairs that serve as your targeting device. When approaching an enemy, you’ll use the mouse to face them and each of the left and right click buttons to use skills and attack. Each class behaves a bit differently, but the basis stays the same. With this system, evading enemy attacks and engaging for damage is a lot more fun and interesting. You’ll assign skills to the left and right mouse buttons, and execute them as you see fit. This allows for specific character layouts and playability. I honestly found each enemy encounter more fun than the last, which helped save some of the drab repetitiveness that was laid about the game through its quests. Each class played through the game in their own unique way, which made combat even more intuitive and exciting. Combat flows quickly and intensely as you apply slashes and evades, cast spells, and form strategies.

With combat acting as the game’s saving grace to break it from the mold, TERA still finds a way to be fun and interactive. While the quests seemed repetitive, this issue was worked out through the gameplay. There is, however, another issue with questing that bothered me a bit more. When you venture to accept a quest, it’s provided to you through a wall of text. When I was playing the game, this text was so small I couldn’t even read it. I tried leaning in to see the details, but it didn’t help. There wasn’t a setting to fix this, so I just ran with it. Ultimately, I was trodding through the game, not paying attention to the quests themselves, but the summaries on the side of the screen that told me, in a sentence, what I needed to do. There was no “why” to the questing other than the purpose to level. I had no clue what the storyline was doing to include me into the main plot, and I was left feeling lost. I felt like a very small speck in a world that was vast and expanding around me. Everything kind of blurred together and I was doing things just to do them. This really took away from the giant MMO experience and made things feel dull. I’m hoping that that the developers find a way to streamline these quests and make them easier to distinguish.


At first, I claimed that TERA would be the one game that killed World of Warcraft for me. While I still enjoyed the game while playing through it, and knowing I probably still will play it when it releases, I ended up wanting to return to WoW ultimately after playing. Maybe it’s because WoW is familiar? Maybe it’s the issues I had with the game? I don’t know exactly, but while I had tons of fun playing through TERA, slashing enemies to positive death, at the end of the night I just felt lost. I felt like some face in the crowd with nowhere to go. TERA does have a lot going for it. The character creation is deep, combat is fluid and exciting, and the world of Arborea is colorful and extremely vivid. Another thought to this is that since what I participated in was just the closed beta, it’s possible that a lot of what I had problems with can be ironed out before the game launches. What I did discover is that I will still play the game when it releases in May, and if you’re any sort of MMO fan than this is not something you’ll want to pass under your belt. TERA is tons of fun, and both En Masse and Bluehole are prepared to bring us an MMO that will be remembered for years to come.

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