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E3 2010: TERA Hands On

Developer: Bluehole Studio | Publisher: En Masse Entertainment
Players: 1+ Player Game | Genre: MMO

Release Date: TBA

Somewhere in the world of TERA, a heroic party of adventurers arrive on a coastal shore. The group is composed a Berserker, Sorcerer, Mystic, Warrior and a slayer. After defeating on a Red Lash Dreadnaught (ie giant crab) during their beach landing, they begin to enter the jungle in search of the vile Captain Marduk.

At this point in TERA’s E3 demo, there isn’t much to suggest it won’t be just another MMO hell-bent on replicating the accomplishments of World of Warcraft, only to die a slow death of depopulation.

All this sounds like a reasonable assumption until TERA’s combat gets underway, an aspect the developers at Bluehole Studio hope will set it apart from the only other MMORPG to find success. Of course they wouldn’t mind replicating Blizzard’s revenue stream.

The world of TERA is made up of two continents (Arun and Shara), who according to legend were once great titans that laid down and fell asleep, thus creating the realm players will visit. There are the standard races: Human, High Elves and Castanics, but our favourite so far has to be the Popori. A dark magic wielder disguised as a cuddly little bear. We were told that while the Popori may look cute, they certainly don’t act like it.

For the demo, we played in a party with three other members of the press and a representative from En Masse Entertainment (publisher of TERA). We took control of a sorcerer, whose strengths lay in ranged combat, and were told to keep our distance from enemies while fighters with close-quarters talents took them head on.

Unlike other MMO’s, TERA gives the user an aiming crosshair and the ability to jump and dodge enemy attacks, similar to a third person shooter. All of the RPG essentials are still present though, such as status bars, and hotkeys for special moves. If you’ve ever played an action game it’s quite easy to pick up TERA’s mechanics. This accessibility is something the developers say they want every player to experience, as some MMO games can be rather intimidating to new players. The one part about the controls which did separate Tera from a fast-paced action game was the inability to run and shoot at the same time, slamming the brakes on the intended speed of the gameplay.

After making our way through the jungle we came across a golden temple, with the four legged monstrosity known as Captain Marduk waiting in front of it. Your attacks might be quick, but large adversaries like Marduk will still take a lot of damage and teamwork to be killed. As a sorcerer, we pelted him with fire blasts and a charged energy balls. After a few needed heals from our En Masse accomplice, who was playing as a mystic, the group finally defeated Marduk.

TERA might be labelling itself as an inviting action experience, but it will still have the larger social implications every MMO needs. A complex economic and political system is planned, including an innovative end game where players can run for a role of leadership over various realms, with real power over other players, such as taxation. We asked if players could overthrow their rulers if the bills got too outrageous, but En Masse doesn’t want to get into specifics since the system is still in the planning phase.

It’s no secret that TERA has a difficult journey ahead of it, both pre and post launch. Those behind it say the reason many other MMO’s flounder is because they fail to respect their player base, and don’t build an ample community for them to interact in. If TERA’s political system lives up to current concepts, it might avoid the same fate.

TERA’s goal to bring an action game to the MMORPG space seems noble, but we wonder how many fantasy fans are really thirsty for a game with less complexity than World of Warcraft. Expect to learn more when beta testing gets underway later this year. The game is currently scheduled to launch sometime in 2011.

By Mark Melnychuk - 07/03/10

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