If looks were everything, then TERA would certainly place as a finalist in the Miss Upcoming MMO Universe pageant. Yet as visually sumptuous as it may be, we're more interested in its personality. Can the brains match the beauty? So far, it looks promising. We've been locked on to TERA's unique brand of fantasy play since this year's E3 (and before), and as such, it's great to check back in with the title, take it out for a quiet romantic dinner, and see how it's shaping up.

We caught up with En Masse Entertainment at the 2010 San Diego Comic-Con and spent a half hour putting the game through its paces and chatting up with TERA's devs. While TERA's dev team is working with a more recent build of the game, our hands-on demo was the same build as the one we saw at E3. Even so, it's always worth spending a few more minutes with an upcoming MMO to see what new facts and impressions can be gleaned. Hit the jump to read more about classes, races and an idea about not getting hit that's so crazy, it just might work!
Just because you have to fight together doesn't mean you have to love each other

While there are six races to choose from, all of them have banded together to form the Valkyon Federation in order to fight a great evil. However, like brothers and sisters forced to play nice, they don't always like each other even so. The humans are the "glue" that holds the Federation together (isn't that always the case?), but they're seen as a little hyper and brash. Castanics have seen their fair share of persecution, so they've developed a strong "never say die" independent streak. As former slaves, the Aman have some severe trust issues with other races and the world in general, but strangely enough are quite trusted in return. The potpourri, er, Popori look all cute and cuddly, but under that adorable fur is a tight bond with the animal kingdom. If playing a gentle giant is more your style, then the Barakas' imposing physique and sharp minds may suit you well. And finally there are the High Elves, sporting a sleek coat of elegance and pride.

As far as class restriction for races is concerned, En Masse hasn't decided on that so far and is waiting on more testing before coming to a conclusion. There are eight classes in TERA, a respectable number that allows for a wide variety in combat styles. The warrior is less of an armored, slow-moving tank and more of a quick, nimble fighter with two swords. However, if a tank is more your thing, then the lancer has all the armor you could ever want and a long, sharp pointy thing that screams "This far and no farther!" It's interesting to note that because TERA features full collision, the lancer can use his abilities to physically block an enemy from getting past him to weaker teammates in the back. Slayers and berserkers are attached at the hip to their giant swords and big honking axes, respectively, and can use those weapons to block incoming attacks.

On the magical side of things, the sorcerer is your typical glass-cannon magic-wielder. She has a funky mystical disc that can suck up energies and unleash them in various elemental forms, such as an ice blast. Priests are encouraged to run into the fray and heal at point-blank range, occasionally unleashing an area-of-effect mending spell to bolster the party. Mystics are master buffers/debuffers, drawing energies from mobs and redirecting it to allies.

Finally, archers may have nothing more than sticks and strings on their side, but TERA is striving to make this the best sniping class, particularly when you start machine-gunning arrows at the enemy.

En Masse was pretty excited to show off the new UI and customization menu for players who want to fine-tune their play experience. The dev team has added several new sliders to customize your character's look, including tattoos and scars and hairstyles.

The art of war(rior)

"Position, timing and aiming are all relevant," came the instructions as we gave the warrior a spin. Combat in TERA is far from a mindless lock-on and auto-attack grind; on the contrary, you'll be moving around constantly and changing tactics depending on where the enemy is and what he is doing. Don't want to get hit? Then just move out of the way! It sounds simple, but this real-time combat flies against conventional MMO battles, where hits and misses tend to be the sole product of under-the-hood calculations. The warrior can use an evasive roll to increase his chances of surviving an attack.

We also saw the warrior unleashing a stun attack on multiple mobs, dazing them so that we could reposition for a better strike. The dexterity of the warrior was clearly his greatest asset -- after all, it doesn't matter how much armor you have or don't have when you don't get hit in the first place.

The sorcerer, a veritable armory of nuclear warheads waiting for a little direction, was next on deck for testing. While the targeting reticule is a bit bigger, most of the sorcerer's attacks take time to travel to the target, which means that it's entirely possible for a mob to move out of the way before it lands. A smart sorcerer will time an attack so that an enemy runs into the blast. If everything goes well, expect big numbers to be floating sky-high when spells connect with enemy flesh.

The cold, hard facts


TERA will launch with a level cap of 60, and players can expect to see both PvP and PvE servers when they first boot up the game. While En Masse hasn't finalized raids or raid sizes, it could tell us that groups were fixed at six players for more devilish challenges.

Crafting is also in the game, although the TERA developers are hard at work revamping the system after focus groups told them that it was too complicated. They want a "very healthy" crafting sphere in the game that allows for the creation of gear that's on par with -- although not quite as good as -- the best armor in the game.

TERA's looking at a 2011 launch, and while plans for closed beta are in the works, nothing has been finalized as of yet.

This article was originally published on Massively.