It's GDC 2010 in San Francisco, and that means lots of game companies are showing off new and upcoming games like TERA: The Exiled Realm of Arborea. The name is a mouthful, and so are the names of the game's playable fantasy races and its unusual fantasy monsters. It's being developed with a ton of lore and backstory written by developer Bluehole Games (the original developer of the Asian smash-hit Lineage series).
Surprisingly, even though everyone has a fancy name in the game, the actual gameplay itself will be simple enough to pick up and play because it'll essentially play out as either a third-person shooter or a third-person action game (depending on whether you decide to play a ranged character or a melee character). It can also be played either with a mouse and keyboard or with an Xbox 360 controller.
The game's interface won't even have a cursor--you can jump to your inventory by pulling it up with hotkeys and navigating it with simple arrow key or controller taps. It will also have a radial menu for chat shortcuts. Producer Brian Knox suggests that the game is easy enough to play on a controller for combat and travel, while the keyboard and mouse come in handy in the game's social hub towns, where in-depth chatting is more appropriate.
In any case, TERA will let you start the game as a character from one of six races, including humans, high elves, and four totally new races unique to the game. These include the demonic castanics; the savage aman; the hulking baraka; and the animal-like popori. Once you've chosen your race, you can choose to play as one of eight professions, which include four melee classes in the warrior, lancer, berserker, and slayer, as well as four ranged classes in the sorcerer, archer, priest, and mystic. While the game will have all the trappings of a traditional massively multiplayer game, such as quests, crafting, and competitive player-versus-player battles, the actual combat will be about pointing and shooting (or swinging your weapon) in real time. While it'll definitely help to wear the best armor available, your best defense will be to actively dodge incoming blows. Many enemies will telegraph their attacks in advance, giving you a chance to duck out of the way or raise your shield if you have one.
While the game will take place in a huge, colorful world complete with larger hub towns for the game's different races (the current plan is to launch with two or three, then add more over time) and offer PVP, oddly enough, TERA's focus will be on player-versus-environment gameplay, such as fighting monsters and performing quests. This is surprising coming from a developer from Asia (a territory where competitive PVP tends to be most popular), but perhaps it's good news for massively multiplayer fans looking to play a game with the kind of colorful artwork and complex lore typical of games out of Asia, without the heavy focus on sieging some other player's castle.
TERA is currently in a testing state in Asia, while the North American version is being subjected to numerous internal tests with several hundred people and will likely launch early next year as a boxed retail product with a monthly subscription fee comparable to that of other premium subscription games.