Wednesday, April 18, 2018.
by Adam Dileva

TERA Box art While there are a handful available, consoles generally don’t have a wide selection of MMORPG’s to choose from, for numerous reasons. One such game is TERA. It was released on PC back in 2012, but here we are, 6 years later, finally able to explore the world of Arborea on consoles. So, while TERA is old in terms of an MMO in age, it’s brand new for the Xbox One, and given the updates the game has received over the years, and the unique console friendly gameplay, I was more than excited to get back into the world I left so many years ago on PC. Oh, and it’s also free to play.

As the case with nearly any MMO, you’ll have an endless amount of quests to complete as you level up, become more powerful, and earn new skills and abilities as you progress through your journey. As typical to most in the genre, you’ll be able to create your character to your liking, first choosing a race and then a class. It should be noted that not all races have access to each class, and even further, some classes are not only forced to a race, but also the sex as well. For example, if you want to be a brawler, as of writing this review, you are forced to play as a female version. This will get changed in the future with an upcoming patch, but more on that later. There are some interesting races, like the Popori that resemble animals or the Elin which is a small dainty looking type of race.

What separates TERA from most other MMO’s is its ‘True Action Combat’. Instead of queuing up a bunch of skills and auto attacking, you have to fight in real time, almost like a hack and slash. You’ll need to avoid or block attack from enemies and bosses while using your abilities to deal damage and stay alive. During massive boss fights, it doesn’t feel like a typical MMO at all, but more like a Platinum developed game or Capcom's Devil May Cry of sorts, as you need to be on your game, constantly maneuvering and countering boss abilities with your own. The transition from keyboard and mouse feels natural for the most part, when it comes to the combat portion anyway.

I wasn’t new to TERA, but it’s been quite some time since I played, so I was surprised with how much things have changed over the years. Controls are as you’d expect, with movement and camera tied to the sticks, and all of your abilities on the face buttons, bumpers and triggers. Holding the Left Bumper will also allow you to use the abilities set in another bank of menus, all of which can be customized to your preference of course. It’s awkward at first, but once you’ve spent some time with it, it becomes second nature.

I decided I wanted to play a tank for my group of friends, the class that stands in front of the enemies and takes all the damage. I made an adorable Popori cat looking creature and fell in love with being able to hold my shield up and block nearly any damage that came my way. Of course to balance this I don’t do nearly the damage other classes do, but I enjoyed it and stuck with it. My blocking drains an endurance gauge, and to refill it in combat I need to use my abilities that take mana. To refill my mana I need to use my standard weapon attack, so there’s a lot of thought that goes into a good damage rotation, as I needed to constantly think of each of my bars. There are a number of classes, each unique in their own way with their own specific purpose, so make sure you experiment and find the classes that speaks to your playstyle best.

Every MMO values different types of play. Some value questing, while others cater to dungeons and grinding. TERA seems to implement a value on each of these, as you’ll be questing and exploring dungeons throughout your TERA career. Quests will guide you from zone to zone in a progressive path, though once you learn that dungeon runs and PvP earn you a vast more amount of experience (XP) and rewards, there’s no real point to do much questing aside from some basic rewards and story reasons. You’ll be constantly upgrading your weapons and gear, becoming more powerful, and when you reach endgame, you’ll be grinding hard if you want to improve your gear to +9 and +12, each of which takes serious dedication. The only downside to this setup is that you’re so hastily rushed through levels that you don’t get to experience much of the world itself, as it’s simply not time efficient to do so.

Dungeons are where the fun of TERA really begins to shine, as does the difficulty, because this is where you’ll start to see that combat is very much skill (and gear) based more than just mashing some buttons. TERA utilizes the classic holy trinity for party makeups: Tank, Healer and DPS, and this rule-set will have to be followed when matchmaking for dungeons as well. The earlier dungeons will introduce you to some of the boss mechanics that you’ll encounter later on, as many bosses are reused throughout the higher level dungeons, but they become more difficult and they get added abilities to their arsenal every time you encounter them, especially once you reach the Hard Mode's top tier.

Dungeons are very diverse, though they usually have you fighting a gauntlet of bosses with trash mobs to clear in between. Some of the boss fights become incredibly technical, forcing you to pay attention to not only their attack patterns, but other events that can happen, like electrified water that covers half of the usable area, or rush attacks from adds that need to be killed before they reach the boss. Sure, once you learn the mechanics it becomes much simpler, but there’s also a gear check that takes place before you even enter a dungeon. Each dungeon requires you to be in a very specific level range, but also be above a specific gear score or else you won’t be able to queue up for runs. When you do die, you’re able to be resurrected by the healer if able, but you can also spend some of your hard earned gold to resurrect yourself in a pinch as well, which becomes quite costly later on.

Gear is not only granted to you via quests and drops, but you’ll also have access to Avatar Weapons every handful of levels. When you reach a specific level, you’ll start to see bosses drop relic shards, which when you collect enough, will unlock your best in slot weapon for that level range. Since levels come so quickly, you’ll constantly be upgrading, though you’re going to want to enchant those weapons as soon as possible. When specific tiered items are acquired from enemy drops, you can upgrade your gear to +9, adding many more stats and enhancements. The hardest part to enchanting is simply getting all of the materials you need to do so, and once you reach endgame, you can bring your gear to +12 with much more expensive materials. This is the treadmill you’ll constantly be working towards as you farm dungeons and missions for materials.

If PvP is more of your thing, then you’ll be happy to know that there are PvP servers, though you can only participate when you’ve reached max level, and there are also PvP events that anyone can queue up for. There’s a standard Team Deathmatch that’s included, but very few people seem to play this mode simply because the rewards for the other mode is vastly inflated, and sadly, one of the best ways to level. Kumas Royale is one of the most odd, and worst, PvP modes I’ve ever played in any game, yet rewards you immensely if you’ve able to win a match doing so.

Kumas Royale replaces your character with a default fat baby monster wearing a diaper and pacifier. Yes, you read that right. Everyone has the same static abilities and there’s a singular boss Kumas on each team. The goal to this mode is to damage the other team’s boss, and the boss who has the most amount of health at the end of each five minute round wins. This is where the problems begin for this mode, as whoever gets to the enemy's boss first gets to control them, for better or worse. Bosses have a bunch of abilities, but if you try and play offensively and use them, you’re going to lose, guaranteed.

You see, the goal of everyone on the team, save for the boss, is to try and damage the enemy boss, and once their health is lower than yours, you simply play defense, blocking and killing all of the other players trying to damage your boss. The problem is the abilities you have are terribly inaccurate and you move at an incredibly slow pace with no way to speed up. This is only part of the frustration though, as many players seemingly don’t know how to properly play and will lose matches seemingly from the get go by trying to play offensively with the boss and taking tons of damage.

I can handle losing matches, it's no big deal, but the problem with that is how the rewards are set up. You get some massive XP boosts and rewards for winning, making it totally worth the 10-15 minute matches (best of 3), but the problem is that should you lose, you get nothing. Not even half the amount of XP or rewards; absolutely nothing. You can imagine how losing a few matches in a row and getting nothing for it after a few hours can become frustrating. If the gameplay itself was fun it could be overlooked, but it’s not in any way at all.

Now given that TERA is free to play, there has to be a way for them to make money right? Well of course, and this is where the cash shop for EMP comes into play, as does Elite Status. There are many items in the TERA shop that you can buy with EMP, their own currency, which of course you purchase with real money. The majority of these are cosmetic costumes, mounts and other items, but you can also purchase extra bank slots, character slots and more should you wish. Can you get by without buying any EMP? Of course you can, but you won’t look as good doing so.

Elite Status on the other hand is also completely voluntary, though there are enough bonuses that make it completely worth it. Elite Status is $15 a month, as per most pay-to-play MMO’s, but gives you a ton of bonuses like 100% extra XP and gold, loot boxes you can open every day, and even the ability to teleport instantly to any main city or town. Normally you’d have to spend gold on a Pegasus flight or 'teleportal', so this makes it completely worth it. You also get to do double the amount of dungeons a day, so to me, someone that’s sinking many hours into it a day, is well worth it. Yes, you're capped with how many dungeons you can do in a day, but Elite status lets you double that.

Lastly, there are also Founder Packs currently on sale (but it’s not been said for how long). These range from from $30 (the pack we were given for review) all the way up to $150. Each one has their own special items and bonuses like Elite or specific amounts of EMP. While I don’t see the items offered as pay to win, you can purchase high end fashion items and sell them on the broker for in-game gold. To me, it feels they hit a great balance of time saving items, and of course cool fashion pieces, without reaching the dreaded pay-to-win that plagues other MMOs. TERA is completely playable as free to play, but if you want to save some gold and time, look into what’s offered with EMP and Elite.

Now, this is where things get a little tricky, as TERA is many years old on PC, but new on console. The console version is not up to date as the PC version is, and by most of the community’s guess, roughly a year or two behind on major patches and additions. Some of these exclusions are apparent, as we console players don’t have access to certain classes yet, like the Ninja, Valkyrie, Gunner and female Brawler. There’s also no ETA of when we can expect these additions that many players are yearning for. There’s always going to be a disparity between PC and console, and I’m hoping that we’re given a roadmap soon of what, and more importantly, when we can expect more up to date content.

I’ve truly enjoyed my time with TERA for the most part, but man, this was not ready for a full release yet. TERA is riddled with bugs, atrocious performance, multiple crashes and a slew of other issues, yet I keep finding myself logging on every night to run some dungeons with my friends. Luckily I have an Xbox One X, so I’ve not had to deal with the multitude of crashes and hard locks that many of my friends are experiencing, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see my fair share of performance hits. Certain areas and fights will cause framerates to dip into single digits, menus can become laggy and there’s a ton of bugs you can read about if you visit the official forums.

TERA has some massive issues, but it is playable, for the most part. When it’s working well, your group is making progress in a dungeon and everyone is playing their specific role, I could play for hours. That being said, when someone in the party keeps crashing to the Home Screen, forcing your group to wait before pulling a boss, it can become quite frustrating. There’s a ton of design flaws, yet the foundation is there to be a great MMO that feels natural on a console. While the launch is a bit rocky, I’m able to play with my friends every night as we go farm some dungeons to make the high end gear, allowing us to then attempt the Hard Mode dungeons and endgame raids. This is what keeps me playing.

Technical issues aside, TERA is a blast to play with friends if you have a perfect group composition to run endless dungeons. The combat is fast, exciting and skill based, so you better know your stuff and practice as much as possible. That being said, the bugs and flaws also can’t be completely ignored, as it’s rampant and incredibly unoptimized. If the developers had great communication with the community and at least appeased players by engaging in conversation of what to expect and when, for fixes and content additions, then it wouldn’t feel like they did the launch and forgot about us. At the same time, it’s completely free to play and you can play without spending a single dime should you wish to wait until it runs better and has more of the PC's content. For now I’ll be sticking with my Lancer, running with my friends through some dungeons and having a blast nightly, until we’re forced to wait for them to log back in from their crash.

Overall: 6.0 / 10
Gameplay: 5.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 5.0 / 10


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