I went into this game expecting something substantially similar to TERA, and mainly hoping for more gamepad-friendly controls. The art style is similar, but that's about where the similarities end. The most comparable game that comes to mind is actually Spiral Knights.
Combat is heavily based on the skill of the player. Most attacks will briefly stun most mobs, though some bosses are sometimes immune to stuns. That means that if you're fighting a non-boss mob 1 on 1, you can just keep attacking and keep it permanently stunned until it dies.
While you have a basic attack, it doesn't do very much damage. You'll mostly rely on skills that use mana and have cooldowns for dealing damage. You generally won't run out of mana unless you're gratuitously wasteful or take on something way too hard for how your character is built, so that mobs take far too many hits to die.
The challenge comes in that, most of the time, you're fighting against several mobs. If you can line things up to keep them all stunned, you're golden. Trying to get mobs to group together--and stay grouped together--is a major part of the strategy. But if you're fighting against 5 mobs and have three stunned, the other two can still hit you.
Mobs tend to move and attack slowly, with some exceptions for bosses. So it's not that hard to not get hit all that often. But when mobs do hit you, they hit hard. If you land 10 hits for every one you take, you'll die in a hurry. Landing 100 hits for every one you take could still get you killed.
Or perhaps I should say, you can optionally make it so that mobs hit really hard. Most content has four difficulty levels available: easy, normal, hard, and insane. Some games allow you to scale up the difficulty but with on real incentive to do so, as it's more risk and more time for the same rewards. Some make it so that in order to get much of a challenge, you have to skip a bunch of content to go after the higher level content.
Not so with Kritika. Rather, starting at level 5, if you want to ramp up the difficulty to Insane, go ahead. Higher difficulty brings higher rewards, as the difficulty levels offer 1x, 4x, 6x, and 8x experience; 1x, 1.5x, 2x, and 2.5x gold; and +0, +1, +2, and +2 extra boss drops.
Easy and normal are really only there to let you have a stroll in the park and figure out the strategy of a danger zone. Hard isn't really that hard, but insane kind of is. In one case, a boss took 83% of my life in a single hit--at level 9, while fighting a zone recommended for my level. More typical for same-level zones on hard difficulty is for a hit to take off 20% of your life. Hence the title of this thread.
This doesn't lead to having to sit down and wait for your health to regenerate between battles as it would in some other games. Rather, there is no out of combat regeneration at all. There are consumables, but the main ways you regenerate is that you get a full refill upon finishing a level, and there are a few places scattered across a danger zone where there are some heals that will refill 50% of your maximum health and mana.
Players do have ways to avoid getting hit. It's not just stuns. You can also run around, and have a dash skill to get you out of danger in a hurry. If you're good, you can sometimes clear entire danger zones without ever getting hit. This is something that the developers anticipated, as the game has a combo kill counter that tracks the number of mobs you've killed since the last time you got hit. It also counts and displays for you how many times you've gotten hit in the current danger zone.
While the game has a third-person camera that is decently common for MMORPGs, it also allows you to run around without the camera rotating with you. While you can expect to see your character's back quite a bit, you'll also see his sides and front a lot, too.
For attacking, there are two main options. One is the FPS-style shoot in the direction of the camera. This is soft targeting, so if you're kind of close, you'll still hit. The other is attacking in the direction you're facing, and not necessarily in the direction of the camera. I use the latter, as it's a lot more gamepad-friendly, and an option that I wish more MMORPGs would offer. This does still require you to rotate the camera now and then, but it it doesn't require precise movements with a thumbstick the way that firing in the direction of the camera usually would.
So is it an MMORPG? Kind of, though some people would reasonably say no. It has shared town instances, but combat is instanced. The game is heavy on instancing, and the model is similar to Guild Wars 1.
There is crafting and questing with quest hubs. But the developers consciously made the game almost entirely about combat. If you don't like the combat, you're not going to like the game, and it's that simple. But if you do like the combat, the game won't make you spend a bunch of time doing stupid stuff to prepare for combat.
While there are quest hubs, there is little running around to pick up quests and no running around to return them. Any quests that you complete in an instance can be turned in to an NPC that shows up after you kill the boss, regardless of who you got the quests from. The instance completion NPC also gives you follow-ups to a lot of quests.
The business model is basically that it's an optional subscription game with an item mall that you don't otherwise need to use. The "subscription" is "elite" status, where $15 gets you an account-wide subscription that offers a variety of buffs, including extra experience, extra drops, a free skill respec per day, and a variety of other things. Elite status does make you substantially stronger than not having it, but it isn't the sort of flagrantly "pay to win" game that you have to throw hundreds of dollars at to be competitive.
The game is fairly alt-friendly, offering 8 character slots for free, as compared to 6 base classes, and the option to buy more. There's also a shared bank to allow transferring items between alts, and some things become account bound on use, not character bound.
The game offers little in the way of visual customization, however. Classes aren't merely gender-locked; it's something much stronger than that. Different classes have wildly different models, but there's only really one model for each class. Character creation mostly consists of recoloring your character's clothing.
You can buy costumes which will allow you to look different for 125 "kred" per component, where you can buy 100 kred for $1. Elite status grants you 30 kred per day, which comes to 900 per month, in addition to the main benefits of it, so a subscriber can basically get a full new costume per month without paying anything beyond the subscription.
Really, though, Kritika is all about combat. If you're looking for side frills or want to dress up your character differently, this isn't the game for you. But if you want challenging PVE almost right from the start, and combat that depends very heavily on the skill of the player, there really aren't very many MMORPG alternatives for that. Kritika does those well, however.