TERA embarks on a quest to stand out in the crowded online gaming field.
Korea has been at the forefront of online gaming for years, thanks in large part to the popularity of Internet cafes and the country’s status as one of the most broadband-connected populations on the planet. Korean developer Bluehole Studios spent over three years developing TERA — The Exiled Realm of Arborea — a recently launched massively-multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) that producer Sam Kim believes will change the genre.
“TERA brings true action to MMOs,” Kim says. “It’s 2012 and we’re still seeing games coming to market with the same old gameplay. MMOs have been stuck in the Stone Age. When they decide to focus on action, they lack depth, and when they focus on depth, players lose out on quality combat.”
It’s TERA’s action combat system that separates this game from the pack. Console gamers accustomed to action-packed RPGs such as Bethesda Studios’ Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim will find that style of combat redefining the MMO genre. Kim says TERA has everything you’d expect from a traditional MMO as well as everything you’d want from a console action game.
“We’re doing away with the one-click monster attacks that plague MMO combat,” Kim says. “This isn’t a game you can play with a sandwich in your hand. You have to aim your attacks when casting spells and swinging your sword or weapon during combat. It’s not an automatic hit, either. Where you aim is where you strike. There are also melee and range attacks, complete with targeting reticules right out of a first-person shooter. And dodging, parrying and blocking play an important role during combat.”
In fact, the game’s combat is so fast and fluid that the developer has added controller support for this PC game. The cornerstone of the game’s combat is the large enemies. Throughout the world there are BAM (big ass monsters). Players have to join up to take on giant enemies like basilisks, fire destroyers and infernal beasts. Kim and his team have designed the BAM artificial intelligence (AI) to ensure this gameplay breaks from the “tank and spank” mold that plagues most MMOs.
“When you go toe-to-toe against BAM it’s all about timing, placement and coordinating as a team,” Kim explains. “Formations matter against BAM. Different classes of characters will take on different roles as teammates join forces to take down these enemies. As an example, Lancers can create a shield wall for protection against incoming fire and teammates can fire over that shield. Clerics can heal teammates during combat, especially Berserkers, who can go in and cut enemies apart, but take a lot of damage doing so.”
There’s more to TERA than just combat, though. The game employs a deeply robust political system, for those who just can’t get enough politics in the real world. As a player rises to power in the world of Arborea and becomes a hero, there are many decisions to make. A player can wield his power in the political scene and use his leadership and charisma to mold the world as he sees fit — for good or for evil. The game has been designed so that characters can write their own stories and develop relationships with other characters (real and virtual) as they progress through the world. Each character can end up becoming a foe or ally in the political scene, so every decision matters.
The game’s world, which Kim said drew inspiration from fantasy lore like J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” and Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft, looks beautiful, thanks to Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 3 technology. The world is both huge and diverse. There are three entire continents, each with 15 to 25 zones to explore. The game offers depth through multiplayer options such as five-player PVP (player vs. player) combat and battleground exploration for five to 10 people per party.
There’s deep customization in the game, including thousands of different weapons and equipment for players to use in combat. There are seven races and eight classes to choose from as players join in an alliance to save the world from bloodthirsty armies of monsters who threaten to destroy the very gods who hold their world together. In creating characters, players can select from details such as face, hair, voice and clothing for each race. Additional details such as skin color, hair color, tattoos and accessories are provided through material parameter adjustments. When given the chance to create avatars, the female Castanic warrior was the most popular race and character class combination during the game’s beta.
Those looking for a different fantasy online experience can check out TERA, which is one of the few subscription-based games out there. More online games have gone free-to-play. With Blizzard Entertainment losing players to BioWare’s Star Wars: The Old Republic, another subscription game, TERA could also lure gamers away from the reigning king.