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A couple of dislclaimers before I get started: I'm an unabashed themepark fan who currently plays TOR. Although I have some issues with that game, I still enjoy playing it. I also came into this CB5 weekend with basically zero interest in TERA. I've never been a fan of Asian-style game due to the art style, silly over-sized weapons, ridiculous-looking armor (or lack thereof), and the excessive grindiness. Now that I've gotten all of the asian-grindfest stereotypes out of my system, here is my admittedly very limited view based on 24 levels as a Priest and a pre-conceived dislike of the game to begin with:
Character Customization: 7/10. Fairly deep customization, facial templates and then numerous sliders to further customize eyes, nose, mouth, chin, cheeks, even eyebrows. Another postive is that all races can play any of the 8 classes. Two negatives were that all body types/sizes were the same for each race, and that 3 of the 7 races were gender locked (Popori, Elin, and Baraka, I believe). Other than that, very solid options.
Graphics/Sound: 8/10. The game really shines in the graphics/sound area. The graphics are very crisp, colors bright, and great music/ambient sounds while out in the world. The art design, although a bit on the cartoony side, fit the style of the game, and didn't come across as too "WOWish." There were some cutscenes and voiceover lines when speaking with questgivers, but I found these to be more intrusive than anything else. They really seemed to break up the flow of the game more than enhance it. However, in terms of graphics, this game is pretty damn impressive, particularly in regards to world design (below).
Gameplay: 7/10. This game plays like your basic themepark, quest-driven MMO, with two exceptions: One negative and one positive. The negative is that the questing in this game, is, well...mind-numbingly dull. Like, take all those boring "KIll X of Y" quests that you hate about WoW, and extrapolate those to 90% of the quests in TERA. There are the occasional escort quests or "find objective" quests, but for the most part, the developers of this game seem to want to show off their combat system, so naturally, they overload you with the killing quests. Unfortunately, you find yourself in too many situations where you kill a certain amount of mobs, turn the quest in, move on to the next zone, and kill the same type of mob, either renamed or slightly re-skinned. I was very disappointed in this aspect of it, but I'm hoping that improves as you get into more difficult content.
So why did I give the gameplay a 7/10 when the quests suck in this game? That's because there are other ways to enjoy this game beyond the usual quest grind. At around level 16 or so, I just said "Screw it" and decided to forego most of the side quests, and simply concentrate on the main story quests, while exploring around and grinding interesting-looking mobs. Then once I was in my 20's I was able to do some dungeons and grind out BAMs. I was only able to do one dungeon in this game during the weekend, but it was a big improvement over dungeons in other games. A lot of fun, extremely challenging, and based much more on twitch mechanics and reaction time than just a simple dps race or tank-and-spank until the boss is dead. And the BAMs? Great fun. Everything they are cracked up to be, and worth a lot of xp. The only issue is whether soloing them is efficient due to how long it takes to burn them down. So overall, this is the first game I've played in a while where the grinding of mobs seems to hold more enjoyment than just questing your way to the level cap. At least in the first half of the game.
World Design/Enviroment: 9.5/10. Quite frankly, this is the most impressive world that I've seen since LOTRO. And although this game gets (well-deserved) publicity due to its combat system, the world is where this game truly shines. I had more than a few jaw-dropping moments this weekend where I came into a new area and just panned my camera around to take it all in. I don't get to do this nearly enough in MMOs these days. The world is MASSIVE. From what I counted, there were 19 or so zones (with some zones unnamed that possibly will be there for the last 20 or so levels of the game?), and each of the zones were split up into these sub-zones (5-6 of these smaller sub-zones). Not only is it massive, it's wide open, seamless, and explorable.
Once you leave the starter area, you can go off exploring, and very few places are off limits to you. The only issue you'd run into is the obvious level of the mobs as you explore. On more than a few occasions, I would pinpoint a mountain in the distance that I wanted to check out, just to see if I could, and I'd make my way over to it. To my surprise, most of these mountains had ways for me to access them and get up to the top. In many games these mountains serve as zone boundries, but in TERA, many of them are explorable parts of the zones, which I absolutely love.
Not only is the world massive, open, and seamless, but it's also ALIVE. It's got a great energy to it. From the music playing when you enter a town, to npcs that roam around, to the mobs out in the plains that not only roam in a patrol, but will actually break into sprints or attack town guards from time to time. The mobs don't just stand there waiting for someone to come up and attack them. They MOVE. I can't stress enough how alive and immersive this world feels. They really did a wonderful job with it. And this is the exact reason why I could forget about doing many of the quests and just go out exploring and killing my way through the levels, rather than taking the guided, hand-held themepark tour that we call "questing."
Combat: 9/10. It's pretty much as good as it's been advertised to be. The combat is responsive and quick-paced once you get a full assortment of abilities. I was skeptical of the rooting effect while attacking or casting, but found that it really didn't bother me too much, and being as how nearly all the skills are insta-cast, it made sense for the sake of balance. The combat animations are impressive, the mob AI's and attacks are really fun, and they really did find a way to prevent me from staring at my action bar for cooldowns. This is the first MMO I've played where I found myself studying the movements of the mob more than my action bar, trying to time their attacks based on their "tells." Skill cooldowns are not a hinderance in this game. They either don't exist, or they are so short that it doesn't matter. Casting times are rare for combat abilities. What all this means is that instead of checking your action bar during combat, you are actually looking at the action unfolding in front of you and reacting to it.
My one complaint, and it's a very minor one, is that it can get a bit tedious at times while you are grinding regular quest mobs, because you don't one or two-shot mobs in this game. You have to wear them down bit by bit, using aim, reaction time, the right attacks, and in the case of my priest, a shit load of kiting.
Speaking of my priest, I was interested to play a healer because I was wondering how they'd handle the "aim and fire" combat with a healer. Surely they weren't going to make healers aim for their targets, were they? That has to be a nightmare. Well, they do make you aim, and believe it or not, it's fun as hell. And not nearly as difficult as I thought it would be.
From the small amount I played (24 levels), I had one "single target" heal that actually healed two targets of your choice within 18 meters of you (3 glyped). What you did was click the heal, and then "paint" the first target by hovering your aiming reticule over the first ally. This then auto-locks the target for you. Then you hover the reticule over the second ally you'd like to heal, and it locks them as well. Now you either click the spell button one more time, or just click your mouse button, and both targets are healed for a big amount. I was also given a couple of nice AoE HoTs to use as well. So, in this game, like the rest of combat, healing isn't just a matter of standing in one spot and watching for low health bars. It's also about movement, positioning, and reaction time. And it's very fun.
Crafting/PvP: Didn't partake in too much of either, so I won't give a score. I'll say that the PvP combat felt very good, and was very reactive and twitch-based. I have heard from some players that the open world PvP still leaves a bit to be desired, and that battlegrounds are non-existent. This game screams PvP, so I hope they make whatever changes they need to to make it successful.
Crafting doesn't look very impressive. I didn't score it because I only crafted a few things, but from what I've heard, most of the crafting while levelling revolves around making useless tier items that you combine with dropped tier items of the same kind for enchanting. I hope they expand and improve upon this. I do like the fact that you can do any or all of the crafting and gathering professions that you want, however.
Polish: 7.5/10. Pretty polished game. Noticed a few bugs and glitches, like occasionally on my horse, his feet didn't appear to be firmly on the ground, as it looked like he was hovering a few feet off the surface when running. Also had an issue where the game would temporarily freeze up on me for a few seconds while standing still. Never happened during combat, though. Another thing I'd like to see is them to improve upon the crispness of the graphics and textures of distant objects. Whereas most games, when you see mountains and scenery in the background, it seems a bit faded to represent it's distance from you, in TERA instead of just faded, it seems a bit blurry as well.
Fun Factor: 8/10. Like I said, even grinding in this game is fun, despite the quests being dull. I think a lot of developers tend to forget about how important world design and environments can be in making an MMO fun for players (I'm looking at you, BioWare), and how it can frequently overcome other shortcomings of the game. Maybe I place more of an emphasis on the way a world LOOKS than others do, but for me personally, I had a blast just exploring this massive world. On more than a few occasions I found myself uttering, "Wow, look at that!"
Replaybility/Longevity: 7/10. I took points off here due to the drab questing, and I fear that many impatient MMO players will not give this game the chance it deserves because they'll come in with the themepark mentality that they've got to grind through all the quests. This will bore many of them and I'm worried that some won't even make it past the starter area. Which is shame, because this game really is a fun game with a great design. I do think that they are going to need to add more "themepark" content (dungeons, raids, battlegrounds), but I'd also like to see them add some other open world, non-instanced features like GM events, improvements in open world PvP, maybe some sieges and things down the road. This game has a ton of potential, and they've nailed the "basics" so far. Now they just need to add to it.
tl;dr Overall, I give it a solid 8 out of 10, but that is strictly based on what I experienced first hand this weekend, which isn't even half the content of the game. It's an incredibly fun game, and one of those world environments that I'm actually going to MISS. That speaks volumes about how much fun I had. It was a very pleasant surprise, and a much better game then I expected. Is it worth paying a subscription for? Yes, I really do think it is. But they'll need to continue to add content on a regular basis to ensure they keep those subscriptions.
Thanks for reading, and feel free to correct me on any misinformation in my post, as I've not been following this game very long.