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Monday
Jun182012

Tera impressions - A slick, sexy, pervy action MMO romp

If there even exists such a thing as a “review” of the ever-changing beast that is an MMO, I shall not be the one to write it. My patience for repetition grows thin long before I’ve reached any level cap. I’ve never raided, nor participated in the elusive “endgame” that keeps so many hooked on these addictive treadmills. The MMO for me is a passing fling, a brief fulfillment of base urges to collect shiny loot and level up. 

Tera, I would guess, will turn out no differently. It always begins with grand ambitions. I always think this will be the time I find “the one” that sticks. Around the time I slaughter my forty-zillionth evil, spell-flinging walrus the magic wears off and I move on. Inevitably, the draw of spiffy virtual hats ceases to be compelling reason to go through the same tired combat routine again and again and again.

Surely Tera has repetition to spare. Its tedious “kill everything always” fetch quests make the rote drudgery of The Old Republic feel like a field trip, to say nothing of World of Warcraft’s spate of interesting excursions as of the Cataclysm revamp. The utterly forgettable story piles on the “taking a step backwards” bandwagon and provides plenty of incentive to quickly skip every boring text box in the game as fast as your index finger will let you. 

But the modern modus operandi when it comes to MMOs is one step forward for every step back, which brings me nicely to the reasons I started playing Tera in the first place. Tera is a genuinely gorgeous PC game with fun combat, two things near unheard of in the MMO space. 

 

It’s impossible not to notice that, by MMO standards, Tera is a knockout. Truthfully you don’t even have to compare it to the muddy, outdated visuals of its genre brethren to be impressed - it holds up surprisingly well against traditional gaming fare as well. The art style reeks of Korean fantasy, but if you have a soft spot for such things you’ll find a lot to like here. Its virtual landscapes are lush and vibrant, if a bit empty. Its cities are large and imposing, as any good MMO city should be. The character and outfit design is wonderfully outlandish.

 

 

The one caveat is purely subjective. Fantasy art is rather notorious for its preference for skimpy clothing as it is, and the extremes Tera takes this to are downright absurd. You’ll either love or hate this and you likely already know which. I’m usually leery of such tendencies, but the elaborately ridiculous female costumes and gorgeous character models are impressive enough that I’ll admit I’m rather taken with them. If you’re going to be exploitative, you might as well be honest about it and have fun with it, right? That seems to have been Tera’s approach. I sort of appreciate that. Not everyone will agree. Just know what you’re getting into. 

Oh, and the less said about the Elin the better, though they are admittedly adorable when dressed in one of their few costumes that don’t make them look like slutty twelve-year-olds.

Tera’s real meat lies not on the women’s chests but in the combat. This is the selling point: real-time action combat in an MMO. Truly something worth suffering through loli cat-girls and tedious fetch missions to experience. In fact, the upshot to Tera’s lazy mission design is that it lets you experience more of its wonderful combat, though there’s still not enough encounter variety to avoid tedium, at least in the early stages. Perhaps this is alleviated with more powers, stronger enemies, dungeons, and the other elements higher level MMO play brings to the table. I have my doubts. My suspicion is that it remains rewarding but repetitive. 

The sensation of dodging an attack by actually physically moving your character out of its way is an immense novelty. It shouldn’t be but it is. The same goes for actually have to aim a spell with your cursor or properly aim a massive sword attack for it to connect. There is an immediacy and a skill element present in Tera’s battles that just isn’t there in any other game in the genre I’ve played. Hot bars and attack queues just don’t compare to the thrill of active combat that wouldn’t feel out of place in a hack-and-slash game. The fact that you can reasonably comfortably control the game with an Xbox 360 pad should tell you a lot. It’s not ideal, but it does work. And that’s amazing. 

If Tera were injected with more interesting missions it would practically be the perfect MMO. Well, save the abysmal story, but I’m still not convinced anyone cares about that in an MMO setting. If I, of all people, don’t, there’s not much hope for it. As is, it’s a hard sell in the modern marketplace for $50 and $15 a month. That stings in the era of free-to-play. If you have patience, free-to-play is where Tera is undoubtedly headed, so just wait it out and you’ll get your shot. If you’re more adventurous, this is the best looking and best playing MMO out there and well might be worth taking a risk on. I can’t say whether this is “the one”, but I can say I’ve been having a blast playing it.

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