There’s been a lot of buzz about TERA in the MMO world recently; partly because it’s a beautiful looking game in a genre that relies on not scaring anybody away with high system requirements, and partly because it claims it’s a proper action game, allowing you to dodge attacks and find weak points as if you’re playing a game based on skill rather than superior levels and equipment. So sure are the developers that they’ve built a sturdy enough action game that they’ve gone as far as to add Xbox 360 controller support. Is TERA a chance for non-MMO gamers to take the plunge without playing something entirely different, or does it fail to live up to the hype?

The main thing worth mentioning is that TERA is an absolutely stunning looking game. MMOs, as I said earlier, tend to be nice looking, well designed, and colourful, but they don’t often make you stop and just look around. TERA, on the other hand, makes you say “wow!”. From the beautiful waterfalls to the rich foliage, TERA offers a world that’s shockingly nice to explore. The music as well is fantastically composed, and you can spend hours fighting monsters in the same area and not feel the grind fatigue you would in other titles. The music and visuals combine to create an excellent feeling that isn’t often found in gaming on the whole, not just in MMOs, and you feel you’re in a real world.

This is helped by the abundance of people actually playing. Now, it goes without saying that the TERA launch was only a few weeks ago, and we’re still really in that initial launch period; whether it’ll still be as popular in six months has yet to be seen, but for now, it’s fantastic. The game is presented in such a way that it’s easy to come across whole fields of monsters in battle with a whole range of players of different races and classes, something you don’t usually see in the early stages of an MMO unless it’s really popular or the world is really small. It’s nice and offers an instant feeling of community.

“the character and
enemy design is
top notch … that
can’t always be
taken for granted”

Fighting itself – the main hook of TERA for many, I’m sure – has been handled fairly well. It feels fluid enough that you can dodge enemy attacks, and you do feel that you’re far more a part of the battle than in other games. This results in the fighting being much more fun, but – and this is the key – don’t be fooled by the hype: this game is still very much using the general MMO skill system and you’ll still attack, dodge, and heal using shortcuts at the bottom of the screen (or mapped to your controller). It works well, but it’s not as open as perhaps you’ll have been led to believe.

Still, using the 360 remote does work well, although you’ll have to get used to controls that perhaps you wouldn’t find on a console game. Moving around is obviously a little more fluid on a controller than whilst using a keyboard, but you get less access to your various skills. In the opening portions of the game this isn’t a huge problem, but I imagine as time goes by and your character becomes more powerful, you’ll start to struggle to keep on top of everything you want to use. It’s not really a big problem, though, and the developers should be congratulated for even trying to make it controller-compatible.

And that’s where TERA’s originality ends: you’ll still find yourself performing endless, slightly meaningless quests, you’ll fight lots of monsters to level up (which will allow you to fight other monsters), and you’ll still need to play with equipment and skills if you want to survive. None of these are bad things – if they were the MMO genre would have died a long time ago – but for those who thought they were getting into something completely different, you may want to set your sights a little bit lower. TERA is an MMO first; the original features come second.

Thankfully, along with its graphics, the character and enemy design is top notch, and everything around you looks believable. Even the monsters, from giant walking trees to packs of fluffy little animals, look and move in a way that helps to make you believe in the world you’re in. The trees move heavily and attack by trying to crush you; they’re slow, and taking advantage of that is key to beating them. The horse-like creatures gallop quickly at you and try to attack with their head and front paws, meaning you have to adopt another strategy. It seems a simple feature but it’s something that can’t always be taken for granted in MMOs.There are several races and classes to choose from, meaning that in terms of longevity, you’ll be playing for quite some time to come. There are lots of quests, probably which you’ll get bored of in hours rather than days, but for people that find themselves happily moving through the game for a short time every week, there’s an awful lot to keep you playing. At a tenner a month, that’s a lot of game, but only if you can see your way past endless quests and occasionally repetitive gameplay.

The most important thing in an MMO has to be the multiplayer features and naturally, they’re there in abundance. As well as the communal feeling I wrote of earlier (something that isn’t to be underestimated in an online game), there are PvP areas in which to try your skills against other players, and a constant chatbox with which to spy on younger, more opinionated people. There’s enough to allow you to converse with others if you need or wish to, and I don’t suppose you can ask for more.

TERA is a fantastic game, a quality entry in a genre that doesn’t often do very much different. It’s subscription-based and has an initial fee to get into the game, which will probably put off some people straight away; with that said, I don’t think there’s anything on the free-to-play scene doing what TERA is doing, although its popularity means that somebody somewhere has inevitably started to work on it. For now, I’d say your entry fee and monthly subscription is money well spent – TERA might be one of the best MMO games on the market right now.