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Choose My Adventure: Chasing TERA's BAMs with Rielene

Eliot Lefebvre

Higiri will be delving further into the depths, seeking that fundamental alchemy that separates a generic implementation of mechanics from a standout one. I wish her luck, but this week doesn't focus on her adventures. No, it's time for Rielene to once more take center stage, complete with her twin blades and her dangerous game. Rielene's destiny was to hunt the great beasts of TERA, the monsters whose colossal stature relegates them to assault by groups or fearless individuals.

I speak, of course, of BAMs.

OK, for the epic names that could have been chosen for these creatures, that's probably not one of the better ones. But they're still pretty distinctive. They're these roaming monsters that don't just wing you a bit if they connect with a hit; they shred you to pieces. They're bosses that roam around, daring you to try and take them on alone. And I did just that, and I emerged victorious, and it was undeniably worth the price of admission.

Some of the incidental standing animations are kind of nice.  I mean... ridiculous in context, but...I mentioned in my last column that TERA doesn't do a great job integrating the lore with the quest text, but the fact that your largest opponents are called -- explicitly -- Big-Ass Monsters does not help. Maybe the team behind the game just wanted a name that could be abbreviated as a comic book sound effect. I can understand that some of the other options could be seen as a bit awkward for various reasons, mostly circling around the fact that "colossi" is taken, but seriously. It's one of those little terms that gets under my skin. It's a degradation of the setting being put into the game. When there's so much personality to the world, why undercut it?

Anyway, lore nerd rant out of the way. There's no point talking about the questing I did to get up to my first hunt for a Basilisk after I've talked about questing in depth twice now. No, the story with Rielene gets interesting when one of my favorite commenters asked whether I wanted some backup hunting Basilisks. I was only level 17 and fully expected to hit the ground in a fine red paste, but you only live as many times as you click "resurrect" in an MMO.

So off we rode, and I promptly hit the ground in a fine red paste.

Learning the fights in TERA is really the heart of the game. It's like learning a course in your racing game of choice. You have to learn when to dodge right, when to dodge left, which slight movements act as a tell for which attack, when it's worth using your evasive leap at the risk that it won't be up and you'll need it shortly thereafter... you get the idea. Normally, missing the pattern on an enemy will result in a painful hit, but not a dangerous hit. It'll hurt, but you can power through several before you're in trouble.

Missing a dodge on a Basilisk, though, meant that half of my health bar vanished in an eyeblink. Standing in the wrong place meant that the darn thing would tear me to shreds or blast me with its eye-gaze attack or even just walk into me. You can say it's because I was underleveled (I was) or because I had poor gear (I did) or because it was two of us against a monster designed for a party (it was). None of that changes the fact that standing and slashing would get me killed in a few seconds, tops.

None of this is a complaint. These facts are absolutely awesome. Dorky name or no, fighting BAMs is when suddenly all of those reflexes come into play, when amateur hour ends without further warning. You either stand up and dance or you get flattened. There is no middle ground.

Rielene did die several times during the learning fights, yes. But between her and her berserk backup (mostly the latter), the Basilisks fell, slowly but surely, bringing along huge chunks of experience as they went down. It didn't take much to hit 19 from a few kills and a couple of quests, and that meant it was time for a break... to train up and get ready for the main event.

For reference, this is heavy plate.No backup, no healing, no safety net. Rielene against a Basilisk by her lonesome.

But first, a confession. The other things that I've been unenthusiastic about when it comes to TERA aren't enough to keep me from playing the game. But the things it does have also aren't enough to convince me to play. In questing and in dungeons, I had seen nothing unique to this game, just a lot of elements that were very familiar from other games. BAMs might basically be world bosses by any other name, but darn it, they're distinct in this game, and I'd heard tell that fighting them was one of the big draws.

And if I put aside everything else, all the other frivolous concerns that clutter things up, the question is whether or not BAMs are actually fun -- whether they're unique and enjoyable and a fun thing to handle on my own.

The answer is an unqualified yes.

I came close to death a few times fighting the blasted things off, but each time it was because of a clear mistake on my part. I should have dodged when I didn't, I dodged too early, or I stood in place for too long. Everything the monster could do had a counter, and the only question was whether or not I was going to counter correctly. I usually did. Occasionally I didn't, and that put me in a very dicey situation for a few moments as I tried to carefully sneak around and let my health regeneration from crystals slowly build me back up.

And it worked in a way that soloing in an MMO very rarely does. Usually, trying to solo something difficult is a matter of having the right sort of character with the right build and abilities. Here, it's a matter of having the skill and knowing the monster's patterns. That's a refreshing change, it's fun, and it impressed me a great deal.

We've got two more weeks to the column, which means one more Higiri column next week and a double feature to cap things off. Obviously, I've been enjoying running around and slaying Basilisks, and I'm sure I can chop out another couple of levels with Rielene through that alone. Still, she gets one last poll, so I'm curious as to what you'd like to see me do for the next week. Cast your votes, head on back next week for more dungeon crawling, and then come back the week after for the finale!
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!

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