There’s a reason Tera still hasn’t come out: it’s complicated. It seems like En Masse has spent the last year almost exclusively adding new systems on top of the usual tweaks and fine-tuning. They run the gamut from mundane to interesting, covering everything from new forums to different currency types and an overhauled brokerage system.
To wit: there’s new achievements and controller support. The level cap has been bumped from 58 to 60. You can earn rare items by participating in quests using a new public event system. A barter system will basically let you buy subscription time in real life and trade it for gold, useful for people who don’t have time to play as much. The first 10 minutes of my appointment was just listening to the En Masse guys rattle off new features. At this point I’m almost surprised it doesn’t do your taxes.
Tera isn’t necessarily an easy game to demo for that reason. How do you boil down a universe as complex as a living world? Well, you don’t. At least En Masse doesn’t.
So the hands-on part of the demo was focused on what Tera is know for--its borderline real-time combat. The scenario I played was a group battle that takes places near the endgame. It was a horde mode instance that my T&A berserker (a clear derivative of SoulCalibur’s Ivy, mostly)’s axe took on with gusto.
The odds weren’t great. The hordes would rage through in waves for 20 minutes. All we had to do is survive. We almost made it. We survived through to the 10 minute mark, at which point access was granted to rechargeable environmental traps that could be triggered at intervals. The hordes were too much. How horde mode works in Tera isn’t any different from any other game that uses it, and eventually the screen was pretty much engulfed in enemy character models.
Tera’s combat almost feels like playing an action-RPG on a console. My berserker had a couple of regular melee strikes (which I may have spammed a bit) as well as a number of special MP-based character bolstering abilities and more powerful attacks to keep the sword clashing from feeling too monotonous.
It’s not quite like a hack and slash, insofar as you have to wait for your magical abilities to recharge, as in a BioWare RPG. This takes a bit of getting used to, and it wasn’t something I’d noticed during previous demos sessions.
That said, switching back and forth between power strikes and regular attacks, particularly when using a controller, feels consistent with the action-heavy agenda Tera seems to purport with its battle mechanics. There’s even a charge-up mode of attack that deals more damage the longer you gather power before release--to the detrimental effect of sacrificing chunks of your own HP, if you so choose.
The gist that En Masse was going for seems to be giving an example of a typical high-level quest. There were a few stipulations with this one--a kill-count provided milestone rewards like healing the relic and boosting player stats, for example.
The relic really took a beating, ultimately. I lost count of the hordes, which multiplied from the just a few crystalline-looking robot types to rows of skittering lizard things and endless lines of girthy gorilla men.
The party’s circuitous rotation of drawing enemies away from the relic, healing, setting traps, and bloodletting became a fog. Just when the action on-screen became so crowded almost all logical stopped applying--we had a minute left to survive and the hordes had descended in two parties on opposing sides of the relic--it was all over. The final kill count was less than 300.
It’s just a snapshot of Tera’s combat, though you’re free to rule over parts of the game realm (well, you’re free to start your own campaign to, anyway) with the in-game political system or make use of its world economics, if you’re more the business type. Maybe if En Masse can stop vying for EVE Online’s spot as most complicated MMO, they can hit their projected launch date in May.