There should be more to an MMORPG than fast-action combat

User Rating: 6 | TERA PC
TERA is hyped up as an action-packed MMORPG. It might live up to that particular hype, but it fails in about every other sector. MMORPGs are more than action games - they are worlds upon which a gameplay is brought, carefully crafted worlds with their own identity. Or, at least, they should be. Sadly, with TERA, almost all that is an MMORPG has been forgotten, leaving only a reticular-based combat system full of non-interruptable animations try to make up for the lack of creative design.

As far as combat systems go, TERA is probably up to the expectations of those who are bored with the standard MMORPG target selection and hotkey mashing combat mechanism. It uses a reticular targeting system and active avoidance to spice things up - making the combat experience closer to what one would expect from a TPS or action game than from a typical MMO.

However, once that novelty has settled in, the drawbacks of the overall design creep up : the combat animations lock characters down almost all the time, making the combat experience an exercise in frustration as you try to dodge only to to be thwarted by the system because one of your combat animations is still going.

Playing TERA only reminded me how much better, more fluid, original and inspired the Chronicles of Spellborn combat system was. It was everything the TERA combat system was, and also everything it fails to be : much better use of command terminals (keyboard and mouse), much more fluid combat because most skills were actually instant-cast, much more original because of the stat system and the buff/debuff side effects of most skills, and much more tactical because you actually had to design your own skill deck and plan your combos and sequences ahead of time, thinking not only about optimum but also about contingencies. TERA provides none of the above, and only leaves you with reticular targeting and half-baked active avoidance (half-baked because of the animation lockdown), which makes it more frustrating than anything else.

And, besides combat, TERA does not have much to offer. Oh, sure, the graphics are nice and boob physics are plentiful. They are also beating Aion for the most unoriginal piece of artwork ever done. From buildings to character design to armor and clothing to environment, it's a full gallery of every single stereotype ever used for eastern MMORPGs, with a fresh coat of glitter to make it shinier. As a friend of mine put it, "the only thing that comes to mind when you have played TERA is that it is a korean MMORPG - and that is NOT what a MMORPG should be remembered for". The world simply has no soul of its own.

Forget about originality in lore and quest background, as well. I stopped caring about the scenery about half an hour after I started playing. I stopped reading the quest text about five *minutes* after entering the world. Once again, I do not know how much flimsier the veil over mob grind can become until it can be qualified as "mob bashing pornography", but TERA is cutting pretty close to the deal. Do yourself a favor and forget about reading the text pieces. Bash mobs all around until the quests update, then turn them in. You'll save both time and grey cells. It is already bad enough that the NPCs constantly break the fourth wall when they give instructions to your character, mixing *player* instructions in the middle of quest chat.

I did not delve heavily into crafting, but for the little I did, it looked suspiciously similar to the Aion system, down to the progression bar UI design. I was not a fan of the Aion system (in fact, I fairly despised it), so it's only fair that I do not like TERA's either. It did not detract from the grind and tedium, rather only added to it. Maybe it is a design feature rather than a flaw - if the head designers wanted players to focus on combat, making other systems sub-par would be an excellent way of ensuring that they were seldom used significantly.

All in all, my hours on TERA were long, uninspired, and fairly tedious hours. I tried three different classes (Archer, Warrior, Berserker), and saw my wife tried her hands at Sorcerer and Mystic. None of them could carry the game on their shoulders, none of them could make us go beyond the various flaws in the game design. It only made us more acutely aware of how good Spellborn could have been if it had actually been properly funded and promoted instead of being buried even before it was released.

There should be more to an MMORPG than a focus on combat. It would seem that TERA designers forgot about that, or thought people would be wooed by the nonstandard targeting system enough that they would bear with the substandard environment.

As you can guess from my review, I am not convinced.

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