PAX 2011: Hands-on with TERA

Screenshot -- TERA
At this year's PAX, I had the distinct pleasure of being able to get a hands-on preview of TERA at En Masse's own studio (which has the most amazing view I've ever seen, by the way). After a short presentation featuring TERA's healer trailer, we (Rubi, another journalist, and I) were tossed into the boots of a variety of DPS characters. I took on the role of the Sorceress, with Rubi with me on the back lines as an Archer.

The devs told us we'd be facing a pair of BAMs as a 5-man group. After a good deal of japes regarding whose fault it is in the case of a wipe (for the record, it's totally the healer's), we jumped right into the dungeon. And then, chaos. I had hardly any time to read my abilities' tooltips, so for the first couple of pulls I was just spamming buttons and praying for the best. How did the rest of the dungeon play out for my poor, inexperienced self? Follow me after the cut and I'll tell you allllll about it.

Before we get right into the thick of things, let me just say this: The game is absolutely gorgeous. The environments are beautiful and well-designed, and the character models move smoothly and look great. Ability animations are mostly quite distinctive, and beyond that they just look awesome. In the midst of combat, with fireballs soaring, arrows raining down, and swords flashing left and right, it's hard not to get caught up in the beauty of the game itself. Graphically speaking, I didn't notice any glaring flaws in the game's artwork, and that really helped to anchor me in the game's world. The UI is also very unobtrusive, reserving most of the screen's real estate for the action of the game itself.

Now then, on to the combat. When En Masse says that the game is all about movement, placement, and aiming, the company is absolutely not kidding. It took me a bit to get used to actually having to reposition myself regularly and dodge out of the way of the occasional attack. I found myself standing there, taking a bunch of spells to the face before I remembered, "Oh yeah, I can move." Once I cemented that thought in my mind, things flowed much better for me. I still didn't know what half of the spells I cast were doing, but at least they were hitting fairly regularly.

After the first couple of pulls, I begged for a breather so I could read my abilities. The Sorceress had a good mix of abilities, including some PBAoE, ranged AoE, a good deal of direct-damage abilities, a shield, and a bit of crowd control. The crowd control was unnecessary given the ease of the trash pulls, but I can't say for certain whether that was because we were overpowered for the instance or the trash pulls simply don't require CC. At any rate, it wasn't long before we were face to face with the first BAM of the demo.

Screenshot -- TERA: Kaidun
Kaidun is a member of the big antagonist group of the game known as the Argons. Argons, as they were explained to us, are a race of metallic, eldritch creatures that use a mixture of technology and magic in order to terraform the world of TERA to their liking. They also possess the power of necromancy, enabling them to turn fallen enemies into mindless soldiers for their cause.

Kaidun was a fairly simple boss, one that required an ample amount of group coordination to bring down. Kaidun's abilities included a knockback and an enrage, and he would also occasionally charge a random player for a quick swipe with his incredibly large sword. Overcompensating much? At any rate, overall he was a simple tank-and-spank fight, and we downed him without incident.

I found combat throughout the fight to be exciting and engaging. Not once did I find myself standing in one spot just mashing a rotation. I had to constantly be on the move, dodging out of the way of his sword attacks and adjusting my placement to make the most of my abilities. I did have a bit of difficulty gauging where attacks would land, especially in the case of my AoE attacks, which would place a glyph on the ground and explode after a couple of seconds. I'll chalk that up to the learning curve, however, as I imagine an experienced player would have no difficulty knowing where a spell will land after a few levels of consistent use.

Screenshot -- TERA
The second boss, whose name I cannot remember for the life of me, is apparently the big bad in charge of Kaidun, and he proved to be a more difficult fight than his underling. In addition to his randomly charging about the room to take swipes at players, about halfway through the fight a bunch of adds spawned around the perimeter of the room we were fighting in, and getting too close to said adds would result in a sizeable amount of damage being dealt to the player. As the fight progressed, these adds would also spawn randomly throughout the room, thereby limiting the group's range of movement. As the ranged DPS of the group, Rubi and I were responsible for taking down the adds before too many appeared and zapped us to death for invading their personal space. We did a smashing job of it, if I do say so myself, and we managed to make it through the fight without a single death (a feat that we were notified had not been accomplished so far that day).

All-in-all, I found my time with TERA to be rather enjoyable, if limited. I'm very excited about combat, but it's somewhat difficult to gauge how exciting and engaging combat truly is when you're a DPS character in a dungeon group. I would have much preferred a bit of solo time as well, or perhaps some hands-on with PvP. But alas, that was not in the cards for us that day, and beggars can't be choosers. As a result of the hands-on, I will say that the game is firmly on my radar. If any of this sounds appealing to you, too, remember that TERA will be launching in the spring of 2012, with beta scheduled for early next year.

Pros:
  • Action-based combat is dynamic and engaging.
  • Group coordination is rewarded and quite essential.
  • The graphics. Good heavens, the graphics.
  • The few sounds I could hear over the shouts of "OH GOD MOVE" were quite well-done.
  • Controls were tight, intuitive, and responsive.
Cons:
  • Attack range can be difficult to determine.
  • Likewise, it can be difficult to know if an attack has landed successfully.
  • I had to stop playing.
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This article was originally published on Massively.