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Choose My Adventure: A last round of TERA dungeons with Higiri

Eliot Lefebvre

Some things are really just acquired tastes. At first they seem lackluster or even outright bad, but that's mostly because you need to adjust a bit more. If you give it some time and practice, all of the difficulties fade away. As it turns out, what seemed unpleasant at first becomes enjoyable, and what you mistook as irritation was really just confusion. And so you can tell others that even if this seems a bit bad at first, stick with it because it gets better.

TERA's dungeons apparently do not fall under that category.

This week was another week with Higiri, exploring the depths of TERA's dungeons, trying my hand at more tanking, and seeing whether I warmed up a little more to the experience now that I knew something of what to expect. And I definitely had a better picture of what was going on in the dungeon from start to finish, so that was excellent. Unfortunately, it didn't really win me over.

Okay, Hipster Amani are pretty amusing.There were a few things that struck me as I ran back through the dungeon a few more times, starting with the fact that this is not an efficient way to level. Considering how long a standard dungeon run is, I submit that there are much faster options out there -- chiefly, grinding on BAMs and taking care of quest-related business. I don't demand that every moment of my game be as efficient as possible, but it seems that the runs through the dungeon were almost painfully slow.

To the credit of the designers, there's another surprising addition: Nearly everything dropped in Bastion of Lok is bind-on-equip rather than bind-on-pickup. The bright side to this is that even items no one can use wind up having some use beyond just being sold to vendors, and players will sometimes donate several items to anyone just outside of the dungeon entrance. Making gear a little more accessible strikes me as being just plain worthy, so I'm all in favor of that attribute of design.

But none of this changes the central element of the dungeon itself, and even with more practice, it just doesn't hold up. The game's design is in some sort of confused midpoint between traditional holy trinity gameplay and a more dynamic system, and it doesn't ever really escape from that mire.

I don't mind, for instance, that the game expects everyone to pay attention to the fight and dodge various things as they come up. That's a component of active combat, certainly, although you'd be hard-pressed to find a boss fight in any game that didn't require the full group to be aware and active. But there comes a certain point when you're dodging and darting around so much that you might as well be tanking because the net goal is the same. Don't get hurt, don't get hit, and don't let it catch you.

That's a perfectly viable design, and it's the sort of design that games like Guild Wars 2 use. Drop the holy trinity and opt for a different set of player roles. It's valid, and it feels like the game got halfway there... and then it built in mechanics that really do require a tank to stand on the front lines and take the hits. You need to maintain aggro on a boss, but you have to keep blocking too, and the whole thing becomes screamingly frustrating instead of empowering.

I can't think of anything to add to this.Part of this is just the way Lancer is built. I know that the developers are planning to address Lancer mobility in a future patch, and that's good because the class sorely needs something other than "stand in place and watch your MP drop." But we're dealing with the right now, and as it stands, tanking with a Lancer leaves something to be desired. Having to make a tactical decision is one thing, but half the time the decision is made for you. Until you've died a few times, it's never really clear whether you should be guarding more or just absorbing more. Actually getting and maintaining aggro is an unnecessarily obnoxious process.

By contrast, most of the games that have gone with the holy trinity model over the past several years recognize that tanking is stressful enough without making it outright annoying. Just throwing that one out there.

This isn't to say that dungeons are a complete mess, just that dungeons are based a bit too heavily on concepts that the game doesn't need. I fully believe that there's space to develop the holy trinity concept, but TERA isn't exploring it so much as trying to mash some round pegs into excessively square holes. And more time really did nothing to change that feeling on my part.

I did take part in a bit more beyond just dungeon running, mostly to help boost my levels a bit and to see a bit more of the game with Higiri. Unfortunately, none of it was all that interesting to talk about beyond what I've already mentioned. The quests and BAMs were all more or less the same, with the usual caveat that I seem to enjoy Warrior a fair bit more than Lancer. Later quests seem to be actively inimical to solo play as a Lancer, since most of them feature multiple enemies that a Lancer has trouble dealing with, but that's a matter of practice rather than game design.

Next week is the capstone of this TERA-flavored series of Choose My Adventure, so I'll be taking a look back at both characters and the game as a whole. There's still a poll, though, in case you'd like me to try something else with Higiri before I move on. So tune in next week for the spectacular finale, one last poll, and of course, the usual retrospective.
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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