A Weekend of TERA

I’ve spent most of the weekend playing TERA, in the last stages of the mmo’s closed beta stage.

TERA has been touted as a new breed of MMO, with enhanced combat and tactics, relying on timing and position, as well as aiming.  The game world is massive, with gorgeous graphics, and there are seven character races and eight classes to choose from.

TERA has been in the news for their races and clothing designs, though.. with the European version of the game having censored versions of some models.  I’ll come back to that..

The game also provides the ability to use either keyboard and mouse or console controller.  This sounded good.. more choice for the player.. but I think the attempt to make both work resulted in neither being quite right.

Using the keyboard and mouse means using the WASD keys for movement, with spells cast from the mouse buttons or the number keys as they correspond to the action bar.  The idea is that you assign your favourite spells to the mouse buttons, but to use more spells you would have to use the number buttons.  Keyboard turning felt slow, and I didn’t like having to stop moving to cast.. I found myself wishing for WoW’s controls, with movement available via the mouse.

So I tried the 360 controller.. and while this made movement easier, it made the navigation of dialogues and menus pretty horrible.  As for combat.. early on there were just a few spells, and they could be cast with the action buttons: A, B, and Y, with X to jump or cast a chained skill as it became available.  Later, though, there were more skills.. as well as items and potions.. and accessing them meant a variety of combos: RB + action buttons, LB + action buttons, RB or LB with triggers, or combined with the D-pad.

I ended up using the controller and keyboard and mouse.. the controller for movement and most of my combat, and the keyboard for dialogues, menus, and using items or potions.  Even after two days’ play, I’m not really comfortable with the controls.

The action combat is good, and I enjoyed it for a while.  Having to aim at targets was a nice change from clicking or tabbing onto them, though I would have liked awesome controls to go with this.  I also liked the differences between the mobs, and even in the starting area there were mobs that behaved differently.. with the tree-like Ghilliedhus slamming their branches down into the ground, and the Sporewalkers trying to crush players with rolling attacks.  Players can dodge and evade attacks, even striking the mob as it rolls past, or jumping in behind them as they land from a failed pounce. Maybe this is why the game felt easy to play: attacks can be easily avoided, so players take less damage and spend less time bandaging, healing or reviving.

I rolled a Sorcerer first, and loved the initial spells: Fireball and Flame Pillar.  I was also rather pleased when I got the Backstep spell, allowing me to jump away from my attackers.  The Sorcerer was less fragile than I had expected; not only dealing rather a lot of damage, but not actually taking all that much if caught up in melee.

What I didn’t like was the over-sexualisation of the female characters.  On the character creation screen, my Sorcerer looked ok.. I picked the Castanic for the devil horns.

Sadly, what I had thought was a choice of clothing was actually just previews of later-game gear: I entered the game in a tiny dress which rode up at the back so her knickers were on display.

Not ideal, but I could ignore it.. until I saw the running animation had her lean forward to fully present her backside to the camera.

I played another MMO a while back which had virtually naked females waving their backsides at the camera, and I felt the same way about it then: I’m obviously not the target market for this game.  The developers have gone for overtly sexual, squirming parodies of women.. to appeal to teenage boys, I guess.

I should probably have expected this from the promotional material for the game, featuring virtually naked females everywhere.. or from the character selection screen, on which the female avatars were wriggling hips and chest for all they were worth.  I thought there’d be more options, though, with only the particularly revealing outfits used for promotional screenshots and videos.. but most of the gear I found up till the point I stopped playing this character were simply recolours.

The in-game chat showed me a very split view on the design.. some loved the amount of underwear on show, while others hated it.  Of course, this is the internet, and people tend not to be able to calmly state their disagreements, and so those who said they didn’t like the nudity were told to GTFO and play something else then.. or roll a male character.

So, I could roll a male character.. but I usually play as a female, especially if I’m playing as a caster.. and I don’t see why I should have to base my character choice on which one has the least ridiculous appearance.  Even if I had rolled a male, I would still see all the female characters rolled for their lack of clothing.. and hear them and their near-orgasmic moaning sound effects on gathering.

Oh yes.. they moan and whimper as they gather flowers or ores.  I wonder how many people have been accused of watching porn when that came out their speakers 😉

Of course, TERA was in the news for their character designs, with complaints about the sexualised characters and in particular, sexualising children through the childlike Elin race.  The Elin clothing was subsequently censored in Europe: the tiny knickers were replaced with shorts and exposed bellies were covered up.  This led to even more complaints from those who thought the original outfits should have been left alone, from those who wanted the entire race removed or aged up, and from those who noted that the added shorts were simply copy-pasted across the different armour sets, and didn’t work with dyes like the rest of the clothing.  That last I can agree with: if you’re going to change something, at least make a decent job of it!

The Elin race was another hot topic which came up in the chat, with more abusive comments being thrown around, accusations of pedophilia, and leading on to claiming that those choosing Popori being furries.  Lots of abuse being thrown around in general.. the chat was fairly hostile for the majority of the time I had the General tab open.  I found myself switching over to the Combat tab to avoid it.  If that’s what it’s like now, I can’t see how this game will get anything other than a fragmented, hostile community at launch.

Next up, I rolled a Baraka Warrior.. a hulking brute who would wield two blades and crush all enemies!  Warriors in TERA are DPS or tank.. not that I expected to get involved in a group effort this weekend!  His moves were fairly straightforward attacks and rolls, with damage-reduction skills mixed in.  Surprisingly, the Warrior didn’t feel any more powerful than the Sorcerer.. I had expected to feel a lot more powerful.

I decided to try a Priest out next.  Like the Sorcerer, she was quite strong, with a good range of offensive spells but also the all-important heal.  I quite liked the Metamorphic Blast, which throws a damaging cone of energy out, great for small packs, and the Fiery Escape, which lets you jump backwards as with the Sorcerer’s Backstep, but adds a gout of flame to damage enemies at the same time!

As all players start from the same location, I was running through the same quests for the third time here.. and noticing the same sort of comments by other nearby players.. such as the common cry of: “Where’s the flower?”, and answering catcalls about reading the quest text.. or even the chat, where the location was being shouted over and over.

The quest causing all this fuss was a simple one.  Players are sent to check on a detector stone off to the east of the Tower Base, and while there, climb up to a small terrace and pick a Skyreach Flower.  When you reach the detector stone, there’s even another prompt to walk forward and interact with the vines, setting you off climbing them up to the top where there is nothing BUT the flower to pick up.. and yet players were somehow unable to find it.

There was a rather nice view from the terrace.. this game world really is pretty.

I enjoyed the first instanced quest: Sorcha’s Reckless Challenge, which had me teleported to the Tainted Gorge to help defend Sorcha for seven minutes against waves of enemies!  She has a couple of guardians, and she fights alongside you.  This was a fun quest, though a little easy..

This was followed by more kill and collect quests, up until the Dark Revelations quest sent me into the first dungeon: Karascha’s Lair! Karascha is a huge demon.. all the bosses are big in this game.. and it’s a five-man dungeon, but all the chatter had told me this dungeon could be soloed.

On arrival, I was met by a mercenary, though he wasn’t introduced to me at all: he just appeared and ran alongside me.  I liked the idea.. but we were both healers.  I couldn’t heal him with my newly-acquired Heal Other spell.. I couldn’t even tell whether he had a health pool for that matter, and so I got no experience of the healing role from him being there.

For any other class, I imagine he was great, allowing them to play as they would throughout the game, but for me, he was only a bonus heal while I stood near him, and a distraction for Karascha when I ran away to heal myself or regenerate mana.

Karascha hits hard, but not hard enough if a cloth-wearer can take a few hits from him and survive.  If I’d entered this with a group as recommended, I could imagine him being dead after casting only a few spells.. not really the epic fight I’d want.  I don’t know if the mobs are nerfed to help players get through the content during beta, but it feels like it.

Karascha’s Lair is pretty much the end of the starting area, so next is the trip to the city, Velika.  The cost of flying over there surprised me.. 1k gold from my 10k stack.  1/10 of my money just to get to the next area?

Professions can only be learned once you reach the city.  You can train in almost any profession, but for each you’ll need a recipe and materials.  As I arrived, I picked up quests to go and make some items.. reading only the text saying to make “a recruit’s staff” and “the recruit’s twin swords” and missing the little 1/25 marker indicating I’d have to burn some serious money to complete them all.

As an example, the alchemy quest “Doing it for Yourself” asks you to make 25 Eggshell Powders. The NPC gives you the recipe and the Basilisk Eggshells, and you have to buy the rest of the ingredients: 5x Nagollic Catalyst (at 450 gold each) and 5x Ore grinder (at 477 gold each).. so 4,635 gold.

That’s 4,635 gold to make one, and you need 25 in total, for a quest reward of 100 gold, 1,000 xp!

I had come across the extracting skill earlier.. you need to buy the skills before you can use them, and you need to buy the upgraded levels too, as there is no skill up through actually performing the extractions.  I extracted a lot of Vedracloth from unwanted gear drops, but I didn’t have the money to burn through levels of crafting in hopes of finding a recipe to use it.  From this little look around it became very clear that you need a lot of gold to do anything with the professions.. which I suspect means that any crafted item will be expensive as people will want to make back the money they spent on getting their skills up in the first place!

Annoyingly, I found that I had to fly again to get out of Velika for my next quest: and with another 1050 gold to pay, I was left with just 47 gold!

The next areas were huge.. and I was glad I’d been given a mount.  Without the horse, this would have been slow and painful.

The story here was about refugees, illness, faieries going bad, something affecting the area.. but the quests were almost all just more of the same: kill five of these, fetch flowers, fetch mushrooms.. kill more of these.. I was starting to get bored.

The NPCs were grating on me by this point too.

Aside from the repetitive phrases I’d heard from many of the earlier NPCs, I had already come across a few stupidly-scripted female NPCs while playing on my female character.. one telling me not to stare, and that women fight too (er, duh!?) and one even saying “Pick your jaws off the floor, boys” to me!  I guess they were expecting a male player 😉

I was rather irritated at the tone of voice and attitudes used by so many of the NPCs.. even as I was being commended for my “great job” on the starter island, there were comments about “not getting too cocky, kid” and how “it smells of pigling in here”.

Other NPCs sighed at me, or cursed at me for interrupting them as I turned in my quests.  I’m killing your enemies and you’re speaking to me as though I’m something scraped off the underside of your shoe?  Why, of course I want to do another quest for you.. er, no, don’t think so!

Morrowind’s Ordinators annoyed me when they called me “scum”, and I had wanted to kill them off for it.  By the time I reached the Fey Forest I wanted to kill some of these NPCs, too!  I probably would have killed a few and then faced the wrath of the guards, but you can’t actually attack them.

I didn’t reach level cap, or even get anywhere near it.. but I feel as if I’m done with the game already.  The improved combat doesn’t make up for the fact that the over-sexualised content annoys me, the tradeskills seem like a money-pit rather than an expansion of the game, and that the NPCs distance me to the point I don’t really care about them.

TERA enters open beta this coming week, and if friends play then I may hop on to join them.. though I doubt anything could change my mind about the game at this point.

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