Of course, after this pretty engaging intro, you're sent to the No Real Danger Woods, by which I mean Arcadia, more specifically the Fey Forest. It's not a bad zone by any means, but it definitely has the feel of dropping you back to the training wheels of the game. The enemies are more aggressive, and there's a lot more ground to cover, but you're not up to the stage where everything is a hulking monster shooting fire everywhere.
I assume that's where the endgame winds up in TERA, but that's pure speculation right now.
Before I say anything else, I should mention the quest text. Some of it is on the bland side, but most of the quests really are well-written. There's a lot of subtle humor sprinkled in among the dry descriptions of what you have to do, and on the whole, the text is actually worth reading. More to the point, the things you're doing are generally framed so that your quest objectives for a given region do make sense. You aren't just slaughtering a bunch of wolves because, well, here we are and there are wolves around so bring me back some wolf meat.
Quests themselves are a bit more troublesome despite that. For all the solid grounding in lore and dialogue, the actual mechanics of the quests are downright uninspired. This isn't the fault of the writers, and they do excellent work in making the before and after text about going to kill 10 centaurs as engaging as it can possibly be.
That doesn't change the fact that you're going to kill 10 centaurs or slinking sabertooths or whatever. There's nothing novel actually being done with the quests. Considering that TERA's release is flanked by Star Wars: The Old Republic and Guild Wars 2, both of which are doing very different things with the quest format, I'd say that's something of an issue. It makes the game feel a bit more been-there-done-that, even with the very clever and lively quest text.
However, that wasn't enough to start raising my eyebrows. What accomplished that was a much more egregious flaw: the fact that even the lively combat of a Warrior started to be just a little bit stale.
Herein lies one of the problems with the way that TERA is structured. By and large, you're trying to dodge and avoid attacks as often as possible, since the game is built around your being nimble. Rielene can take a few hits before she's in danger, but if I just hack away and trust that I can weather whatever, I'll be nearly dead within moments. So there's a definite emphasis on mobility, on learning each enemy type's attack patterns and how to compensate. Don't stand directly behind centaurs or unicorns; they'll kick backward. Dodge when you see a red eye-flash. Keep kiting around.
Unfortunately, to facilitate this learning process, you're seeing a small group of enemy types in each area. Sabertoothed cats, centaurs, unicorns, and the occasional boar make up most of the first region in Arcadia. And the problem is that once you uncover the way each enemy group moves, combat winds up being as repetitive as you might imagine. Swing, swing, dodge leap away from the first attack. Swing, swing, strafe around toward the back. Red flash, leap to the back, use skill one. Swing, swing, dodge leap away...
I feel it's important to stress here that I'm not saying that combat is bad. But it's not inherently any less repetitive than the usual one-two-three rotation of more traditional MMO combat. There's nothing like terrain advantages or a broader skill roster to make it more diverse.
This may be entirely a function of the fact that I'm still not swimming in glyphs to custom-tune my abilities. Or it may simply be a function of where I am in the game; later content and levels might open up a whole new experience for me. As it currently stands, combat is still fun, but the novelty has worn off, and it's just feeling pretty rote.
I would also really enjoy it if I could get a pair of actual pants at some point. She's currently wearing a jumpsuit with a chest window and one leg cut out, and it really looks like one of the dumbest things to dress a female character in ever.
That makes this as good a time as any to discuss the female Castanic issue. I went with a female instead of a male because I figured it would make things more interesting -- it's the only way to see if they're as bad as they looked on the package, as it were. As it turns out... they are as bad as they look on the package, mostly. The armor is pretty ridiculous, especially in the plate department, but that's really the extent of it. It's objectifying as all heck, especially insofar as you get no alternatives, but the race animates reasonably and doesn't provoke a whole lot of comments.
It's still ridiculous, but at least it's kept consistent. The Castanics just apparently don't like clothes very much. It doesn't bother me as much as I'd expected, although I suspect that I'd be more annoyed by it if I were playing a character in heavier armor. After all, Rielene is supposed to be avoiding damage instead of suffering it, so being lightly armored makes some kind of sense.
There's more to be said on that. But not right now.
That's all for this week, but it's time to send Rielene along on her path for next week. Of course, next week's column is going to be Higiri's turn to shine in the instanced world, but I'll still be adventuring with both of them in the interim. So go ahead and place your votes, and I'll see you back here in another week.
Eliot Lefebvre has been choosing his own adventures for three months, but now it's time for him to head back to the front lines of Choose My Adventure, the Massively column where you make the choices about what our writer will be doing each week. Come back each Wednesday for a new installment and a new set of choices!