Tera Online

One of my many addictions are MMORPGs, which, for the uninitiated, are online games that generally take place in a large virtual world that allow you to make a character, level that character, and play with other people. This is one that I’ve been looking forward to and I’d like to share along with the collector’s edition game box.

I’ve played nearly every major MMO release since Anarchy Online in 2001. I like many of them for different reasons. None of them are perfect, and Tera is no exception, but only a handful usually can keep me playing for months on end. Graphics, explorability, and gameplay are probably the top three things that I look at, which I’ll detail below, but first lets look at the collector’s edition box.

Collector’s Edition Box

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I love collector’s edition game boxes. They tend to vary greatly with what you get and the quality, but they typically also include some unique “in-game” items that you can’t get otherwise. For Tera they provide a fairly standard CE with some nice little touches.

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Inside the plastic case you have a nice brown box that opens to reveal a bevy of goodies. They even include a material “pull-tab” to help you get the items out. Nice touch. They include a “Letter of Marque”, which is a story-based letter as if it was given to a character in the game world, a map of the game world, a “Handbook” that gives some information about the game story and world, the game discs, which also include a soundtrack, and a real metal compass.

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The compass is a nice touch. The outside is nicely embossed with some simple aging effects.  While the quality is certainly not grand, the compass is actually housed in a plastic shell with a sticker bottom, it, along with the letter and map, kinda help to make the game world feel more authentic. As for functionality, I wouldn’t rely on it for a trip in the woods.

Overall it’s a “fair” collector’s edition. I’ve certainly seen better for the same price point, but I’ve also seen much worse.

However, the real reason to buy a collector’s edition is usually for the in-game items. While you will find the typical in-game accessories that your character will outgrow, the crowning item for this set is the Frostlion mount. A mount that is very unique to the typical horse mount in the game and it is also faster. I must say this mount is probably one of the most well made mounts I’ve seen in an MMO for a long time. It is superbly animated and modeled that really gives it a sense of life that is often missing from mounts. I think it is almost worth the cost of admission for the collector’s edition alone if you plan to play the game for some time. As with all of the bonus in-game items, they can be claimed by all of your characters.

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The Game

So why is Tera an MMO that I enjoy? In a nutshell it’s absolutely gorgeous, the world doesn’t restrict where you can go, and its action-based combat doesn’t get boring or tedious. Beyond that it is a very standard “post-WoW” MMO that is fairly feature rich from launch. So let’s talk in a bit more detail about this MMO while I share some of my own in-game screenshots.

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Graphics

The first thing that will stand out about Tera are the graphics. Even some of the more critical gamers will agree it is a beautiful game. Because it is built on the Unreal 3 engine it is also amazingly optimized, being fairly forgiving of computer specs. Since it was created in Korea a lot of the design choices are not what you typically find in a “western-styled” title, which tend to be more medieval in design. Tera is very much a “high fantasy” world. The environments range from idyllic islands to barren wastelands with everything in between. The creatures that inhabit the world are also varied from creepy little sprites with large heads that giggle at you to fierce and massive beasts that will scare the crap out of you when they jump in the air only to land on top of you.

The world is a place I feel you can get lost in and brings back that sense of “what’s around the corner” that has been missing from MMOs in recent years. While the gameplay (read “questing”)  may follow the traditional quest hub to quest hub style, Tera hasn’t forgotten that this is supposed to feel like a living world. Instead of finding a game world that is only purposefully designed to funnel the player from one area to the next, Tera actually has several areas that are just there for no other reason then to explore. There are several areas that are just open and empty. This may sound boring to some, but for me it’s nice to actually have areas that you can explore without dodging monsters at every step. For example, outside of the main human city there is a large area that has some ruins, mountains and a large beach. There’s nothing there, it’s just a nice open area.

This is not to say that the game world is absolutely perfect. While they do give you the freedom to explore nearly everywhere, you will find several “unfinished” areas if you poke around -too- much. Still, just the fact that they give you that freedom to look around is still nice.

Let’s talk about the cities in the game. Many MMOs seem to forget that the world is supposed to be filled with people, unless it’s some post-apocalyptic setting. Many cities in MMOs feel too small to hold a sizable population. Not in Tera. The cities feel massive. While you can’t explore every nook, they all have a large footprint on the land and feel layered. The game world overall does a great job of making your character feel small. There are three major cities and various towns and villages to explore. While I wouldn’t say that Tera has perfected the feeling of enough living areas to house a sizable world population, it does do a better job than most.

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Finally I’d like to mention the most important aspect of the game world, the races. You can pick from one of seven races, each are fairly unique and some even unique to the fantasy genre. The characters are probably my favorite part of the game, graphically. They simply look amazing and range from massive and aggressive looking Aman to the overly cute and semi-controversial Elin. Not all races have both male and female choices and there are no body sliders for customization, but what it lacks there it makes up for in the rest of the customization choices. They provide you with a sizable selection of hair styles, hair colors, faces, face details, face sliders, and even voices. If you want you character’s eyes to be always closed, you can do that. If you want them to smile more, you can choose that. The sliders give you enough control to twist the base faces so much to make you yell “QUICK, KILL IT!” While it may be extreme in some cases, having those options is still nice. It does lack some options, namely the choice of eye color, which is connected to face detail/makeup.

Each race has a very distinct personality in Tera. This is shown in their run, jump and emote animations as well as their combat animations. A larger race will wield a large sword with ease while a smaller one will show that extra weight as it swings. The armor is another one of my favorite graphical details. Each race and gender will look different in the same armor set. This is not just in shape but complete style. The same breastplate will look massive and bulky on a Baraka, but look, well, skimpy and erotic on a Castanic (my favorite race btw) each armor set is exquisitely modeled and textured to a level I’ve never seen in ANY game to date. This isn’t just simple textures on a character body, these are each uniquely modeled PER race and gender. Something you rarely ever see in MMOs. To top it off there is a dying system and remodeling system in the game so that you can be sure your character always looks how you want. They even went through the trouble to automatically tie up long hair when an armor piece has a high collar. Really nice attention to detail.

I’ll let the sceenshots I added here to speak for themselves. These have all been taken from my time in Tera with max graphic settings.

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Gameplay

With overall gameplay in Tera (I’ll get to combat below) you’ll find a fairly typical questing system, gathering and crafting system, and dungeons. They don’t break the mold here too much from other MMOs before it. All the quests are presented in a text-based format with a quest tracker. However, there are a couple different types of quests to help with organization and to give you a little bit of variety. First you have your basic random quests about the world. These range from kill quests to escorts. They offer experience and sometimes an item. The next type are story quests. These are unique since they tend to be chained in a series and often require a certain level or previous quest completion to be unlocked. They will also often lead to a dungeon at the end of a chain, usually requiring a group (five people) to complete. The game does include a dungeon and group finder to help with that. While I won’t say that the story is award-winning, it’s better than average MMOs, but most people will soon forget it or not even read it. It is also, at times, presented with per-rendered in-game cinematics to help move the story along. It has a repeating cast of characters that you follow all the way up as you level. Those are the two types of quests that will be your main bread and butter for leveling through the game, but they do offer some other options in the form of repeatable quests. The first is a regular repeatable quest that gives you experience and/or tokens that you can trade in for gear. The second is only available if you are in a guild. Guild quests are repeatable (level limited) quests that give you special tokens used to help level up the guild.

As a Korean made MMO, there is a stigma that Tera would be another “grinder”. Basically meaning, a game that requires you to either level soley by repeatedly killing the same monster in the same area for hours before getting a level, being so slow to level and tedious that you want to stab yourself, and/or requiring you to group all the time to make any progress at all. I can tell you that Tera is in fact none of those. It is very similar to WoW’s leveling speed, if not faster, and you will have solo quests, and sometimes too many, all the way to level cap. Of course this is considering that you don’t think questing is a “grind” as well.

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Outside of questing you have factions (at end-game) that you can gain reputation with to claim rare items, 5-man dungeons at various levels throughout the game, some of which come in a “hard-mode” flavor, a “soon to be added” Nexus system for end-game (think “Rifts”) and also “soon to be added” “revised” battlegrounds. There are two server types as well, PVE and PVP, for those that like to kill each other. Guilds can also wage war with other guilds (currently only on the PVP servers).

Of course, there is crafting. Unlike other MMOs, you can actually learn EVERY crafting skill on one character. Though, I wouldn’t recommend it as it can be extremely expensive. However, if you are hardcore enough, it is there. Crafting in Tera is fairly typical with gathering nodes around the game world and crafting areas/tables in the major cities. You will need to have the materials and then purchase items from a vendor to make an item. There are chance rolls while crafting that can gain you more crafted items etc. Some harder items may require an item from BAMs, which I’ll get into in a bit. There is also an item enchanting system that allows you to improve the power (stats) of a weapon or armor item. This is a random chance roll that requires another equal tier item and vendor material to accomplish. It can be pretty hard to get an item to +9 let alone +12 (the enchantment cap), but for those that do, they will have a certain edge.

Another unique feature to Tera is the “Vanarch” system. With this players are able to vie to be elected as “ruler” over certain regions in the game. With this power they can open up certain features in towns and cities, control taxes etc. While this may really only affect a small group of players, when you add the fact that this will require the help of a whole guild and guild alliances you may find a more vested interest in it if you are in one of these groups vying for Vanarch power. Even still, a political system like this just adds yet another layer of realism to the game overall. Just hearing others talk about political backstabbing etcetera around towns in the game should be something unique to Tera as a whole.

Finally there are BAMs. BAMs stands for Bad-Ass Monster, which are the closest equivalent to world bosses or elites in other MMOs, however, in Tera BAMs are a unique “beast” all their own. I’ll get into this more in the next section, but I will say that BAMs really help complete the Tera gameplay package, offering another fun challenge for solo or group players that you won’t often see in other MMOs.

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Combat

I left combat for last because many will agree that Tera’s combat is its primary “trump-card.” Combat in Tera is a real gem and a joy to play. If you’ve played other MMOs you will be used to the tried and true “tab-targeting” system where you “select” a monster (mob) to kill it, usually using a handful of static skills. By “static” I mean that your character will carry out an attack animation and your enemy will as well, often without much regard to each other. In the background the game is running random “dice rolls” to see who has successfully hit whom based on stats, skills and gear etcetera. This is NOT how Tera plays.

Tera takes a much more “action game” approach to combat and this isn’t some cheap gimmick either—this is a very refined and fluid system that is fairly balanced. In Tera you don’t select a target, you have a crosshair in the center of the screen, similar to an FPS (first-person shooter) game. You don’t click on your skills in Tera. Your mouse is locked to you camera and thus your crosshair. You can play with a controller (yes, a controller) or a mouse and keyboard. With a mouse, your left and right mouse buttons are for skills, usually a main attack and a dodge/block. From there you have to use whatever works best for you to execute your other skills, typically the 1-0 keys etc. If you are a melee class you would run up to your target, centering them with the crosshair, and swing your weapon with you left mouse button or use your other skills. If it is a group of monsters your swings will hit more than one around you depending on the weapon and skill. A ranged character would do similar, but at range (duh). It sounds simple, and in a way it is, which is the beauty of it. After playing Tera, tab-target-based games start to feel so clunky.

But there is more to it than just how you hit the target. Monsters in Tera are not dumb. While they they will sometimes do stupid things, they will also often surprise you. Monsters in Tera move, they will try to evade, they will “wind-up” to do a massive attack that if you don’t move out of the way will hurt. Dodging and blocking are another big part of Tera combat. You are no longer just standing in one place while you fight, you are MOVING, you are TARGETING, it is very active. The monsters have a wide range of actions that result in no two fights being exactly the same, even with the same type of monster. I’ve had monsters actually evade area attacks, snare me and run away. They will almost taunt you by using a variety of tactics. Some like to run at you hitting you as they pass so that they end up behind you. This causes you to have to constantly turn around and be aware of their next move. They may pause, giving you an opening, only to hit you with a massive attack.

This very active combat rarely allows you to just “zone out” as you play, you have to pay attention. While death isn’t harsh, regaining health can be slow, unless you’re a healer. A nice touch in Tera is that to regen health you need to be near a campfire, again, unless you’re a healer or have a healer with you. There are campfires in outposts around the game world, but there are also portable campfires that you tend to use often. The effect of a campfire can by used by anyone that stands near it almost creating a mini-meeting place for players. You can also use charms at a campfire to gain buffs.

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BAMs, I mentioned them a couple times before and now you might see how these guys really come into their own in Tera. BAMs are the kings of the monsters as far as challenge goes. Generally they are meant for a group, but with how Tera’s combat is designed, if you are skilled enough you can solo these beasts for a real challenge. Their attacks hit hard and can be difficult to predict, unless you fight them a lot. A couple of good hits by these guys will typically kill an equal level character. You’ll find your first BAMs around level 20, and while some at that point are fairly slow to attack, giving you a chance to hit them and move out of the way, others are fast and mean. Basilisks can jump in a wide pattern doing massive damage, or they may just swipe at you with their massive claws or do a breath attack. If you are not paying total attention you will die and fast. Groups obviously make this easier. From two people to five, you will easily notice how much easier they become with a group, but they are still always a challenge. And from level 20 onward they can be found all over. So there is no shortage.

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Believe it or not, but this was my attempt to keep this short. I can talk about MMOs for days. I glossed over a lot of details, but I hope you get a feel for the game overall. It’s not perfect, it has its flaws, and for some, the traditional text-based questing will be a turn-off, but I think the rest of the game is something of a gem in the MMO game space and worth a try. Many gamers I’ve seen said they never gave Tera a thought, whether it be because they thought it was just another “Korean grinder” or because the graphic style was a “turn-off”, but many that tried it said it really surprised them in the end. I think you can tell that I like it. Let me know what you think. Have you played Tera? Is there something about it you want to know? Have you played other MMOs? Let me know.

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Of course there’s nothing like seeing it in action. Here are some official trailers to wet your pallet. These are all using in-game graphics (minus custom cinematic animations). The game actually looks like this.

What are you waiting for? Do you have what it takes? http://tera.enmasse.com

 

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Desk Diary 1-6-2012

Can you believe it’s now 2012? This is a year marked with many expectations and there are several things I am looking forward to and have planned. There are a few incoming items from pre-orders I made last year. A couple MMOs are coming out that I’m looking forward to. And I hope to FINALLY get my new webcomic started! Oh, and the world is supposed to end or something…

While I wouldn’t say that all my goals were met last year, I did accomplish many things. Most notable was my move to drawing digitally with my Wacom Cintiq, a tool that has improved my illustration work. I bought my second resin BJD that I named Alexis. Then I had the uncanny luck of winning both of the Shining Hearts Dollfie Dreams, which lead to spending a lot of money on doll related items. A couple new figma were added to my slowly growing collection. Later in the year I had to, unexpectedly, replace my old computer monitor with a new 25″ LCD.

A couple friends sent gifts for the holidays, one of which you can see hanging on the wall in the above photo. It is the Danny Choo Mirai dakimakura (pillow case)! It was a nice surprise. So I have to thank my friend (again) for sending that to me.

I ended the year off by getting sucked into two new games, Skyrim and Star Wars: The Old Republic. This, of course, caused a large gap in updates to the blog and delayed starting on my webcomic.

Now we have a new year and a chance to try again with new and old goals!

To start the new year off I slowed down my gaming a little so that I could finally take some photos of my two Dollfie Dreams. Before taking photos of them, though, I had some remaining details that I wanted to add first—such as braiding a ribbon for Rika’s hair and making little charms for Yuri’s gun. Most importantly, though, I put together a setup that will hopefully allow me to take better photos. With several satin-like sheets, some PVC pipe, and many tripods, I’ve put together a little “photo studio”.

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I have several items coming in the first half of this year. There are two figmas that I pre-ordered last year still on the way. One is Black Rock Shooter from the the PSP game (which is coming to the US). The other is Black Rock Shooter Blade, which comes with an artbook by the BRS creator, Huke. These should be coming within the first couple months of 2012, but I expect some delays.

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I also JUST recently learned that one of my friends has secretly entered and won the lottery for a limited Dollfie Dream head for me! It is the finished makup version of the new DDH-06 head. I wasn’t planning to get another Dollfie Dream, but it seems I have an enabler helping me along. So I am now starting to think of items to buy for this new girl coming around April. I can’t thank my friend enough.

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Careful time management will also be needed this year. Last year was a slow year for games, which is probably why I was able to dedicate my attention to more personal goals and achievements, but this year has many possible gaming distractions. I currently already have Star Wars: The Old Republic on my plate and several single-player games (Skyrim, Arkham City), but later this year there are a couple MMOs coming out that I’ve been looking forward to.

One small possible gem for me is Tera. While this is likely not everyone’s cup of tea, Tera appears to be the spiritual successor to Lineage 2, at least in style and open world environment, which is a game that sucked away many hours of my life. This is slated to come out “this spring”.

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Then there is The Secret World. I’m still up in the air about this one. I’ve played Funcom’s other two MMOs with mixed feelings, so I’m still not sure what to think about this one, but it looks like it could have potential. This should come out around April.

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And of course there is the possibility that Guild Wars 2 could be released this year, the only other game hyped up as much as SW:TOR. I did spend a lot of time in the first Guild Wars, and the things they are bringing with this new title do sound really interesting. And, of course, there is no subscription fee, which is a nice plus.

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So as you can see there is already a LOT on my plate for this year. What are your goals for this year? Did you learn anything from last year? Will you do anything different this year? It’s important to constantly try to improve your situation or to reach your goals. Keep a todo list and make it a point to check it and modify it. The iPad has become a great assistant for keeping track of my goals and ideas, a notepad could be just as good. Do what you can to keep moving closer to those goals, even if they are small steps. Just don’t give up.

My primary personal goal is to get my new webcomic started this year. It has been too long since I’ve had a comic going and I feel that I need to get a new one started for myself. Keep checking back for updates on my progress.

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