Digital Tabletop: 20 Levels of TERA
by Ashe Collins on May 9, 2012

One of the things that has impressed me about TERA, and not just the polish on it and how well combat moves, is how gorgeous the entire game looks and feels. When you’re up over looking a valley, or looking up at a giant tree, or even just admiring your character or an NPC, this game is stunning. That being said, the cloth armor and even some of the metal armor for any of the characters follows an anime or manga rule to them, meaning they’re pretty to look at, can mostly double for bedroom or fetish attire, and are completely and totally impractical for combat wear. I don’t demand realism, but a certain level of it is nice on occasion. I mean, my one outfit for my Elementalist in Guild Wars looks like a Harem Girl’s dancing outfit, but she’s a caster who gets tissue paper for armor anyway and most of her other armor looks, well, like armor.

The Castanic (a demon-like race) Priest I’m running in TERA, looks like she’s stepping into some guy’s bedroom for a night of frisky fun, and every bit of armor I’ve gotten for her, just completely reinforces that look and feel. If I leave my camera in the default position when I have her running, every other footstep provides a panty shot. Guys get this treatment as well, so It’s not just an exploit women type of thing. One of the demon boy NPCs I’ve come across was wearing metal armor, but from just under his chest to his waist was laid completely bare and he stood around displaying his well toned stomach for all to see.

There are a few races you can play that you’re guaranteed either fur or clothing, and the one race I’m sure was designed for people who like loli in mind (for those who don’t know what that is, don’t look it up at work). You actually start the game off in a prologue at level 20 for each class, right after the races have landed to try to take back an island. The landing didn’t go well, ships smashed upon the shores. It gives you a good idea right off the bat whether you’ll like the class or not as you have most of your abilities there and ready to go. Even though there’s a raging storm going on and its pouring out, even then the game shows you what you’re going to run into visually. I had the same reaction when I fired up Guild Wars for the first time as we moved through the starter area. Playing through you learn about the world, some of its history, and about the hero that disappears after a big battle that you’re going to spend lots of time hunting down. After the prologue, you’re dumped into the starting area at level 1, so you’re going to have to get used to not having many skills, and this was a little frustrating for me.

In Dungeons and Dragons Online, Guild Wars, and Star Wars The Old Republic, you’re given a few offensive skills to start and a few defensive ones. TERA gave me a healing spell which I didn’t need to use much at all, some passive skills that I don’t actually ever see working because they’re passive, and one real offensive spell to spam over and over again after having an array of spells to choose from. I knew I was going to get more later, but having all these options to having no options was entirely frustrating. A few levels into my Priest and I’ve got a few different spells to fire off and then combos, and now that I’m at level 20 again, I’ve actually got more choices than I know what to do with most of the time. Like Star Wars The Old Republic, some of your abilities level up as you do, so you’re not discarding them into uselessness along the way, which I like.

Combat is very fast paced and moving around is helpful. Dungeons and Dragons Online and Guild Wars both have a very similar feel to it as far as that goes. You can chain your skills together into a series of attacks that cause more damage. There are a variety of ranged and up close attacks at least as far as the Priest goes. Being able to jump back out of a melee fray or jump out of the fray after dropping the equivalent of a fire bomb is also very nice, but can get you in trouble if you’re not paying attention to where you’re going to be landing.

One of the things I think is interesting and a bit of a flaw, is the way it controls. It’s base set-up allows you to play with a controller, in my case the 360 controller, or a keyboard and mouse. The interesting thing about this set-up is that everything in combat, interacting with the world and even moving things around in the UI can be done with either. Flipping into the menu and chatting will obviously have to be done with the keyboard, and moving into the UI to do things is the same keystroke on the keyboard. I’ve actually been playing this with the 360 controller and not the keyboard. It’s not that the keyboard controls are bad or unresponsive, but all of the skills you have are tied to your hotbars which are mapped to keys on your keyboard, usually the number keys or the function keys. You’re stuck in mouselook mode unless you hit the key to jump into the UI mode but then combat is a bit problematic so you have to use the mapped keys for your skills. This is all well and good, but in most of my MMOs, I actually use the mouse to fire off skills or spells on my hotbar, so I’m using the controller because it’s more my playstyle and I haven’t figured out if there’s a way to change the settings or not. I have a few go to abilities tied to the first 6-10 skills on the hotbar for most games because I have a gaming keyboard that gives me quick access to those and I mouse the rest (yes I know that would seem to make me slower to respond in an MMO combat but I do it that way and am still one of the best damned raid healers on my server in DDO so suck it), but TERA I couldn’t remap those keys to work with that gaming keyboard so I gave in and tried the 360 controller and it’s a blast.

They tied the left and right top bumpers to accessing different parts of the skill bar and you can drop your skills where you want for ease of use. I set it up so that healing is tied to my left bumper, attack skills to my right and default, and when you press both bumpers it’s the skills I don’t use all that often, like my mount or resurrect. Within those menus you use the four face buttons and the bottom left and right bumpers to fire of your skills, jump, or interact with people in the world. The left analog lets you move around and the right moves the camera. I imagine I could get used to the way it handles with my mouse and keyboard, but for the first time in the last year or so, I don’t mind having that controller tied to a PC game at all. It’s smooth, not glitched, it’s my choice to use it and work as well as they keyboard and mouse. I also can’t accidentally use up a potion because it’s not on my bar.

Now, I have had a few issues with quests and some other game elements. TERA is not glitch free. One of my story quests I went in alone (I’ve actually played most of this game solo so far without a hitch), and you have to clear out a cave and then take out a big boss monster. I do this with the help of a Mercenary who is supposedly there to help me out or heal me. He did neither. I end up not getting credit for the kill. I try resetting the quest and going back in, hit the guy, deal most of the damage, and still no credit. I look it up on their web site and apparently you have to get first shot in and deal 51% of the damage or more to get credit. Considering I’d done that both previous times, actually dealing closer to 80% of the damage along with the first hit, I was more than a little annoyed. Third time was the charm, but I didn’t get any credit or experience for my first two run throughs which was equally annoying. The Prologue I’d been doing alone but had someone catch up to me and we weren’t partied up, so the big boss fight at the end we ended up with two sets of heroes fighting the big guy, and he dropped so fast, the important part of the scene at the end never fired off for me, just the following cutscene which left me a bit more than confused at first.

My other big annoyance is the chat window and the awkward way to get back into the menus and selling off junk. The chat window will lose a good chunk of previous chat history when you use the teleport. It’s not a big deal usually but if you were following a guild conversation or in general chat it can be frustrating. If you’re using the 360 controller and flip menus and use the controller in the menus instead of the mouse you could end up flipping through your chat channels and not realizing it. You can also only sell 8 things at a time. I’m used to being able to dump as much as I want onto a vendor and demand my payment, but here you have to do it in groups of 8 which can eat up some time if you’ve let your inventory fill up between town visits. Not a lot of time mind you as inventory is somewhat limited, but more time than you’d need elsewhere.

Overall I’m thoroughly enjoying this game and am contemplating how to divvy up my time between this, Guild Wars 2, Star Wars The Old Republic and Dungeons and Dragons Online. That’s a lot of MMO right there. The game is really a pleasure visually and is fun to play on top of it even when you’re grinding out mobs for a quest as they usually have a variety of them for you to mow through instead of just one type over and over again. Like when you have to hunt a type of demon, you usually have to go for the assassins, the robbers, and the arcane’s. They move in varied groups so you’re not taking out the same mob or having the same fight over and over again. More on this as I move through the game and of course a full review.



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