The years 2011 and 2012 ushered in an Age of Innovation for the MMORPG. Players had long grown tired of the endless march of WoW clones, and critics bemoaned the end of the subscription model, and possibly the genre, as more and more cookie cutter free-to-play titles were imported from Asia. Companies, desperate to reinvigorate the marketplace, began incorporating dynamic events, multiple choice dialogue, massive open worlds, and “action combat.” It was this newer style of combat, which uses a third-person shooter style versus the old tab-targeting style, that TERA boasted when it first premiered in South Korea on January 25, 2011. With its free-to-play model, involved combat, and a devoted fan base, the now-expanded game TERA: Fate of Arun has proven its staying power among a sea of me-too MMOs.
The 1 Hour Review
The opening cinematics don’t start things off on the right foot, with poor English dubbing souring the first impression. Mouth movements didn’t match the voice work at all, often ending long before the actor or actress was finished talking. This may be a play off of the old joke about the poor dubbing in old Kung Fu movies, but if it is it’s a bit stale and not funny. It just makes the dubbing look incompetent.
As with most MMORPGs, I started with character creation where the race, class, and appearance of the character are chosen. For race, I chose High Elf since I enjoy the aesthetics of the angelic pretty boy character design. Unfortunately the voices available were either too low or too high for the character I was making. No sultry male voices here! I was also going to go with my old standby of the sword and board tank. However, the sword-based classes all had a higher rating concerning player skill, so I wound up going with the easier, more agile Archer class. Character customization was pretty basic with a few facial presets and colors to choose from. I avoided using the sliders, as I actually really liked the preset face with shoulder length wavy hair. I named him Eddyn and based him in the newest PVE server, Highwatch.
A series of short traveling quests between NPCs, guided by a little green fairy that serves as a “help” option, led me up the road to my first chance at combat. The game stutters a bit and the animations are stiff, but fighting is still satisfying with the Archer’s most basic attacks taking out enemies one right after another. Occasionally during combat, the player will be prompted to hit the spacebar in addition to the hotbar key for a combo attack. As for defensive options, my character can quickly spin out of the way of oncoming attacks with a click of the right mouse button.
Eventually I met my first mini-boss, Vekas, and struggled to get a shot on him amongst the competition of other players. I was disappointed that he didn’t drop anything I needed, but I moved on anyway. Finally I hit a larger camp filled with tutorial quests ranging from bomb throwing, to restoring stamina, and gathering crafting supplies.
I then found out a friend of mine was playing on the Celestial Hills Roleplay server, which was blocked from the free server transfers being offered. Hastily, I rerolled my Archer and joined his Ellin Sorcerer for the last couple of quests on the Island of the Dawn. In the case of a high population farming the area, changing instances was as easy as clicking through a drop-down menu labeled “Channel” near the radar. In a different channel, there no longer was a queue to kill the Kugai miniboss and things went much more smoothly than on the popular Highwatch channels.
Karascha the Dark Wing Vulcan served as a final boss for the island. The fight with Karascha was pretty intense as my crits hit him hard, drawing his attention almost immediately. It was particularly difficult to run away from him because one of the limitations of ranged classes is that they have to stop dead to fire their weapons. Eventually, we defeated him without dying. Before setting off to the major city of Velika on Arun, my friend proved that you could do some meaningful exploring on Island of the Dawn. Apparently there is a small valley outside of the map boundaries in the south where ore, plants, and other crafting items can be harvested, along with some mountaintop ruins that give a great view of the hovering castles overhead.
The 5 Hour Review
The large city of Velika offered a free expansion to an already generous inventory, a tutorial quest on duels, access to the trade broker, and further storyline quests. Also, as my friend warned, a lot of Erotic Role Play guilds advertising in world chat. For the most part, the community seemed jovial and good natured.
I had never seen this type of bonus given in an MMO before.
In Lumbertown I gained a horse, which is quite generous since MMORPGs are notorious for charging a lot — either in-game or real world currency — for even basic mounts. I also made it a habit to gather raw materials for crafting, the act of which gave some great little buffs called “Gathering”. These buffs are useful even outside of gathering/crafting, granting abilities like increased HP/MP regen and movement speed. These buffs could also stack three to four times. When stacks were full, additional gathering reset the count down on the buffs, encouraging you to take a break from combat and vary up your activities. I had never seen this type of bonus given in an MMO before and found it a nice change from the usual buffs simply used to find gathering nodes.
As I explored, one of the truest tests I do with graphics is whether the water is realistic or not. TERA excels at this. Further inspection of a forest river with a crystal clear bottom revealed small stones and fallen leaves shimmering under my feet. A waterfall gracefully rushes over a cliff edge, flowing naturally and inviting a moment to take in the ambiance.
The trees, however, were less impressive. They would occasionally clip through cliff faces and many of the fallen trees were not collision controlled to be scalable. Fortunately, there were plenty of ramps disguised as river banks leading up to higher ground. Even with its limitations, TERA: Fate of Arun succeeds at making good looking environments.
The area of Fey Forest ratcheted up the difficulty with scores of enemies all over the road leading to the next quest hub. Quests come in the usual MMO variety of killing monsters, delivering mail or items to NPCs, or interacting with clickable areas of the environment. TERA does try to add some flavor to them by having a good supply of puns and humor. After completing some quests, the NPCs simply disappear in a flash of light, which took me aback a little. Where did they go to? Why did they have to disappear and not simply walk out of sight like in many MMOs? I suppose, since we are fighting against the Fey in this area, it’s not uncalled for enemies and NPCs to magically vanish.
The 10 Hour Review
After experiencing a variety of quests, I encountered some snags in the system. For example, it was to my dismay that I found out some escort quest mobs could be stolen by other players if I failed to claim them by clicking on them again after targeting. These mobs were hostile if the player got too close, and a few people managed to train the escort mobs right up to final location before claiming them, which I admit was pretty smart.
Around level 13, I was gifted enhancement crystals to put into armor and weapons. I had already bought a crystal to enhance my crit damage, but the extras would really come in handy — especially since crystals can be destroyed upon death. Crystals can also be fused into random crystals of the same level and upgraded using another item called a crystal structure. This was some of the small bit of crafting I could do as I learned that tradeskills were locked until level 15. So, I wound up storing most of my recipes for a later date. As a first character, it would be better to store and sell raw materials for in-game money anyway. Around this time I started feeling that the inventory was too small, so I went back to the main town to buy a couple of inventory upgrades. Unfortunately the pegasus flight travel, while enchanting at first, takes a long time as the animal must fly over a large area before even entering the portal to my destination.
Once I unlocked tradeskills I visited the crafting halls in Velika, which are color coded and arranged for easy access. The opening crafting quest is very easy with most contacts located in the same room. I received a design for a bow and crafting materials for my efforts, which I didn’t really bother crafting. I was working on getting the supplies I needed to get my legendary bow.
Soon after this I found myself with the ability to teleport to the Vanguard missions. These were singular missions to kill 30 monsters, in this case Devans, which were repeatable for rewards like potions, charms, and higher amounts of XP than other quests. I ended up running these quests quite a lot, since unlike other repeatable quests, they had an overarching storyline which made them more immersive.
Towards the end of the ten hour mark, I began to feel more involved with the plot and more interested in solving the mystery of exactly what was agitating the creatures of this forest. Combat became almost second nature and I enjoyed using my Rapid Fire arrow to beat back enemies as if it were a machine gun.
A few navigational issues did frustrate me occassionally. My main problem was being either teleported to the Vanguard missions in Blood Run or being directed from an unclaimed quest in Lumbertown to a ranch in Titan Hills, when I hadn’t even finished the quest hub in Crescentia yet.
The 15 Hour Review
I don’t mind a bit of grinding in games. The mainstay of MMORPG gameplay is almost always the “kill X number of monsters” quest. In smaller doses mixed in with crafting and other types of quests like delivery runs and storyline instances, it can be relaxing and help you advance your combat skills. If you are over powered and over leveled though, killing things without much effort can become tedious. By the time I had finished the first tier of Vanguard quests, I had become bored of repeatedly running through the same maze of trees.
Before finally getting into dungeon crawling, I had a couple of missions to kill Basilisks, one of the open world BAMs, or Big Ass Monsters. Without my Avatar weapon, BAMs were much harder. With a variety of attacks to counter, I was spinning around to avoid them without running into and aggroing the neighboring mob.
I also was heavily reliant on charm buffs, campfires, and healing potions, none of which seemed powerful enough to keep up with the attacks. After killing only three of these beasts with a bit of effort, I decided to call it a day. Unfortunately I had not gotten enough materials for my Avatar bow to hunt them. My solution was to press on to the next zone and hopefully get some relic shards from killing mobs there or elsewhere in the open world.
The 20 Hour Review
Instead of staying to grind in the level 19 zone, I decided to turn back and finish what I’d started in the Valley of Titans — obtaining my Avatar weapon. Soon I had all the relic pieces I needed to claim my Avatar bow. I then enchanted it up to +3 using a combination of feedstock from broken down weapons, armor, and Isren weapon shards and another ingredient called Alkahest.
The feeling of increased power was immediate. This new weapon made things much easier, and with the addition of three uncommon tier 1 crystals, I was one-shotting groups of up to ten enemies without any difficulty.
I proceeded through the valley and finally completed the quest line leading up to the first dungeon of the game, the Bastion of Lok (BoL). I searched the trade broker for any upgrades in armor. Then I returned to Crescentia to pick up an NPC’s lead into the dungeon and finish off the Basilisks.
Now I felt ready to enter the dungeon. There are instances for solo and group play, and I decided to see if any teams were running the five man instance. After waiting for five minutes in the dungeon finder window, I noticed the post of a fellow Archer, Broonk, looking for someone to run him through BoL. Another player named Assassin.King volunteered to run him through it in a minute, and I chimed in that I needed the dungeon run too. He said I could come along as well and should meet them inside.
Once inside, I followed the breadcrumbs of item drops into the next couple of rooms where Assassin and Broonk were already making quick work of the enemies. We finally came upon the room of the first BAM, a Soulcrusher golem led by the sorceress Tetra Aniask.
By the time Broonk and I made our way to the room, Tetra is down and the cinematic for the golem’s entrance is underway. The golem spits fire at us from the opening in its chest and leaps at me with pounding fists, but I manage to keep out of its way for the most part. It goes down fairly quickly and we take a moment to collect our loot.
Afterwards, we turn back up the pathway and continue clearing large mobs of minion type enemies along with a few heavy hitting bruiser types. I notice our stamina levels are getting low and Assassin.King is at about a third of heal, so I drop a campfire to help us recharge. As we wait to recover, Broonk offers to invite us to his guild “Invernalia”. Assassin.King and I accept the invite to the guild and we move on. The Bloodbound Vulcan towers over us, but we waste no time in our attack.
The Vulcan leaps and smashes the ground around us, and for a moment I’m pinned against a wall. I realize there’s an energy shield around me and try to scramble out of the way. The beast’s master, Murdranak, appears and we quickly make him and what’s left of his pet monster disappear.
Overall, the dungeon crawl of the Bastion of Lok was a positive experience, if not the most exciting since we tore through it so quickly. Unlike some of the high level dungeons, there is no “Hard” mode for BoL. It featured common enemies from the open world like the Devans and Lokians and some that I hadn’t seen yet like the Imps. While the Soulcrusher had a somewhat unique design, the Vulcan was very similar to the BAM I faced at the end of Island of the Dawn. It also tied into the overall story of Oblivion Woods and Titan Valley well. I was able to roll on and win a bow that had more damage than my Avatar bow, but was lacking in several other stats and couldn’t be enchanted. Even though I missed picking up a lot of items and gold, I still feel like I grabbed a lot of decent loot.
Here’s where my adventure in TERA ends for now, but it’s an MMO experience that I’ll definitely keep my mind on. Even though the game’s North American release was lost in the chaos of 2012, it has proved worthy of standing up to its competition. With engrossing combat, fantastic graphics, and a community that doesn’t take itself too seriously, TERA: Fate of Arun should be around long enough for you to try, too.