MMORPGs have long been proven as an important genre to the multiplayer focused gamers out there, but it’s only been in the current generation of consoles in which the genre has really spilled out from the PC side of the garden. Most of the titles that have come to console have been in a free-to-play fashion, with Neverwinter and Warframe proving to be hugely popular hits, but now it’s time for another to join the fray as players can finally get hands on with TERA – previously known as TERA Online. Is it all too late though, after so many years on PC? Or is TERA another free-to-play adventure to arrive on console that we should all be shouting about?
If you’re a fan of MMORPGs, there’s every chance you’ve probably already heard of TERA – short for The Exiled Realm of Arborea – especially given the fact that it initially released on PC all the way back in 2011. Since that time, TERA has undergone many transformations including an early transition to free-to-play from a paid membership, along with multiple name changes. With so many years passed since the PC release though, you’d expect the console version to at least arrive with all the bells and whistles that has kept players coming back for more. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case though and disappointingly the console version is almost an entire year behind the current PC version with a notable difference seeing five of the 13 classes missing. That sees us given eight to choose from and with plenty of other updates not yet implemented, it’s not exactly the full experience. Just because it’s not quite up to date however, that doesn’t automatically mean it’s a bad game and there are many good things worthy of note.
One thing that truly shines above the rest of the experience with TERA is the combat. In most MMORPG titles, this is usually the area that stands out straight away as something that needs improvement, but it seems TERA has taken the route of providing us with some high-octane action-packed combat we have all been hoping for in an MMORPG experience. Every battle against the game’s BAMs (Big Ass Monster) or even more mundane enemies is a fantastic experience that feels fluid and dangerous, yet highly rewarding.
For example, stand in the same position for too long and instead of eventually taking down the enemy, you’ll find yourself on the end of a fleet-footed attack ensuring the larger than life foe you were trying to tackle makes for a different experience from the usual MMO combat style we’ve gotten used to over the years. Of course, you have the usual MMO features such as upgrade-able weapons, rarer gear that will help you out along the way, and a ton of skills and abilities to go along with the general experience, but the fighting and combat really stands out as an impressive feature.
Besides hunting BAMs, which is where the combat excels, there are also a number of increasingly difficult dungeons to clear – in typical MMORPG fashion – all of which showcase the quality combat seen within TERA.
The other positives to be found are within the audio and visual department with an incredible soundtrack easing you through each battle, area and quest, whilst some rather eye-catching visuals help to bring the feel of a modern experience to a game that originally arrived in 2011.
Sadly, that’s as far as I can go with the positives, as whilst the visuals, sound and combat are rather stunning, everything else is nothing more than mediocre and instead brings the experience crashing down.
One example of this would be the story. As is usual for most MMORPG experiences, TERA is another game that contains a lengthy and in-depth story throughout its main quests, side-quests and NPC tasks. The main questline presents a rather interesting tale of two incredible titans with unimaginable power, and how the world of the Exiled Realm of Arborea began to grow around them whilst they slept, and how their dreams came to life.
For me personally, that’s the type of story I look for in an MMORPG experience – it’s fantasy, it’s unique and it has the potential to branch in any direction. Throughout the game there are certainly some unexpected twists and turns that keep things interesting. The let-down however comes in the form of poor story pacing as well as some of the dullest NPC characters we’ve seen in a long time.
See, the pacing is like that in most MMO titles; levelling your character has a big part on the difficulty of future missions or quests. In TERA, levelling isn’t a difficult or lengthy process in the slightest and with the majority of missions proving to be nothing more than a run from A-to-B to kill certain enemies before reporting back, it doesn’t take long before you start to zone out to what’s actually going on. What doesn’t help is that no matter what NPC you’re talking to, there isn’t really all that much of a difference between them. None feel well designed or memorable and it doesn’t take long before any amount of time in a conversation has you ready to fall asleep.
It’s a shame really, as the story behind the quest of some characters can actually be quite interesting, but thanks to the dull tone and lack of emotion or expression they show, the stories are easily lost, especially when that boring conversation leads to a very slight variation of every other mission you’ve already been doing for the past few hours.
Another major disappointment is just how poorly the game runs. Battles are rather smooth and gracious – a necessity for any game trying to bring the quality of combat seen in TERA – but any time spent in populated PvE areas with other players see things drop to a near unplayable state for a few moments with jolting and freezing proving a constant stumbling block… and this is whilst playing on an Xbox One X. It’s not all the time of course, but it certainly takes away from the engagement when you are sat hoping to get to your mount without it freezing just so you can get out of the area.
PvP isn’t as bad though, but anyone hoping for any huge battleground style fights will be disappointed as at present the only PvP comes down to rather limited open-world skirmish battles.
I don’t like to end on a negative though and if there is one thing that is slightly surprising then it has to be just how much fun can be had when tracking down the games BAMs or clearing the multiple dungeons with a group of friends or even strangers. Should you manage to get yourself a group together, especially one that has players utilising the many different classes available, taking on BAMs is a lot of fun. Whilst the general move and attack pattern is always the way you’ll be fighting to net those valuable rewards, it’s great to see each character come to life with their unique abilities, attacks, weapons and gear. When you finally figure out how best to use the skills on offer, group play is by far the best way to play, if you can persuade friends to team up.
Sadly though, despite that, the fantastic combat, luscious visuals and encapsulating audio, the repetitive quests, boring NPCs and poorly paced story means TERA is yet another MMORPG adventure that will be easily forgotten. With the majority of the game able to be pushed through without paying any real attention, there’s not enough on show to keep players engaged for long periods. It may scratch that initial MMORPG itch if you’ve already tired of games such as Elder Scrolls: Online, however there isn’t much else on offer to ensure you enjoy your time within The Exiled Realms of Arborea besides hunting down multiple BAMs and crawling various dungeons.