The Average Gamer

E3 2011: TERA Preview (PC)

More and more frequently, I’ve been hearing that people no longer want to play dice-roll RPGs. Upcoming MMORPG TERA might well be your thing.

Late on a Tuesday afternoon last month I was escorted into a giant tree filled with technology to check out TERA from Bluehole Studio. Yes, it’s yet another fantasy MMO with buxom babes and humongous hunks. In this one you actually have to aim at your target and pushing a button causes your character to attack instantly instead of waiting for an invisible turn counter to tick over. Or something. I’m not entirely clear why there’s an important distinction between a game that uses random number generators to determine a hit and one that needs you to hold your mouse in the right place while standing within range but apparently some people object to the lock-on targeting in so many MMOs. To me, it just adds an unnecessary and rather tedious layer of complexity to the whole thing.

Seriously… learning to recognise the attack animations of a dozen different mobs, learning the counter-attacks to each of those attacks, paying attention to the aggro range of nearby targets and watching out for your team-mate’s health bar isn’t enough? You want me to constantly point my mouse at the target while dodging multiple enemies as well?

You people are masochists who have been confused by a childhood of twitch platformers into thinking that frustration equals pleasure. You have been ruined by first-person shooters into thinking that holding your mouse over something is a useful and practical skill that should be implemented as widely as possible. In short, you are insane ;)

Luckily for you, Bluehole Studios is building exactly what you’ve asked for. The section we played was a 4-person team mission to take out a large blue dragon. We rode out of town on our beautiful horses to hunt the dragon that was plaguing the nearby hills, or some such excuse. I played the assassin/rogue/DPS type, as I usually do, and boy was that a mistake. I have no doubt that some of my problems were down to unfamiliarity with my skills but take note: playing a low-defence melee class when up against an enemy that stacks area-of-effect (AoE) attacks puts you on a hiding to nothing. I spent the entire mission running in and out of the danger zone with barely enough time to do any damage and completely unable to see who I was dodging into because I had to keep my cursor over the damn target.

Now, let’s not be completely unfair and biased here. I have no doubt that my character is brilliant when up against an enemy who doesn’t rely on AoE attacks. You have your flanking bonuses that are typical for the class and the animations provide wonderful cues as to when you should dodge. When one of us did draw an additional mob into the fray, I had no trouble dispatching it while everyone else concentrated on the dragon. Those other classes did a great job of taking down our target. I was just squishy and frustratingly useless at range.

Aim-to-hit isn’t the only feature that TERA brings to the world of MMOs. Towns will be run by elected maximum-level players, ensuring that a beautifully complex meta-game will spring up around the political system and giving players something to do at endgame. There are two ways to come into power. You can either be at the top of your PvP game or you can win a popular vote among other gamers.

The incentives to aim for power look far more interesting than most MMOs, where power usually just means that you lead a guild with all the lovely people-management that entails. Most of us have jobs, thanks. We don’t need to deal with that crap in our leisure time too. In TERA you get to run the town. As the “Vanarch” you can raise or lower taxes, hold town events, put people in jail and choose what sort of shops are available to your people. Best of all (to my egocentric, self-promoting sensibilities) you will be literally on the map in your area. Everyone who ventures nearby will know that this is your town, goddammit and they better play nice if they know what’s good for them.

Here’s a video showcasing the combat from the E3 demo that I played.

We’re going to Gamescom next month so let me know if you have any questions on TERA. As always, drop them in the comment section and we’ll put them to the developers when we have the chance.

Edit: I should be clearer – I don’t really believe that people who dislike dice-roll combat are insane. I genuinely don’t understand the attraction. In any challenging PvP or PvE combat there’s so much to track that the aiming requirement seems more a hindrance than an advantage. As soon as you have more than 1 mob in a battle – and particularly with the amount of spell and skill animations lighting up the screen – it seems like it would be absolute mayhem trying to track your target, defend yourself, watch your team, watch for incoming, counter attacks AND do significant damage. Where’s the appeal in aiming and switching off auto-attack? I honestly would like to know as it feels like a step backwards to me.