TERA Review

By Kevin Tavore, 3 months ago
In the early 2010's, World of Warcraft was coming off its "Wrath of the Lich King" expansion and the newest, "Cataclysm," was not quite as well received. That gaming monolith was shedding millions of subscribers who were looking for the next big thing, and developers were lining up to deliver it. The time was fertile ground for MMOs promising new gameplay and wonderful experiences. Since there's a good chance you've heard of very few of them, it's apparent that they didn't quite hit the mark. TERA is one of those games, and it set itself apart by offering real-time action combat based on combos — sounds like a perfect fit for console, doesn't it? Fans have been asking for a port for ages and that time has finally come.

TERA

As a premiere MMO, TERA launched with all the trappings you would have expected in 2012. The zones are large and varied. You'll see green forests, icy mountains, molten canyons and just about every other stereotype you can think of. Each zone feels unique and exciting to visit just like those of an MMO should, and they're big enough to make the world feel massive compared to something like Neverwinter, which uses small, instanced zones instead of a larger open world. TERA claims to have over 80 zones, though many of these are more like sub-zones within larger, connected territories.

As you might expect, the giant world is full of quests to complete, often capped off with a dungeon run at the end of each zone. The zone-based story and dungeon structure is the bread and butter of many MMOs and TERA does not do much to change things up. Each zone has its own story that's connected to the overall lore of the game. You'll interact with pirates, soldiers and mages among others who you'll need to help by killing, killing to loot objects, gathering, escorting . . . yeah, it's an MMO that's doing nothing new. Some may forgive this, but modern day World of Warcraft has shown that you can create interesting and varied gameplay scenarios that keep the questing experience fresh for dozens of hours. TERA doesn't, so what's left is forgettable and almost boring.

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But you can breathe a sigh of relief — you won't be doing much questing in TERA. While the game was once designed as a complete experience that would take days of playtime to hit the level cap, changing to free to play altered many aspects of the game. You'll use Vanguard quests, which are basically daily challenges such as completing a quest line, a battleground, dungeon or killing certain enemies, to get huge experience boosts. Combining those with the Elite subscription that multiplies experience among other bonuses and you'll be flying past levels far faster than you can complete relevant quests. That's unfortunate because it means that all those beautiful zones and quest lines will go unseen unless you've got a strong desire to spend your time earning meager experience points for content you vastly outlevel.

To make matters worse, despite the quests being forgettable and boring, they are far and away better than the alternative. The best ways to get experience are grinding random enemies, dungeon runs and the battleground Kumas Royale. Grinding enemies will obviously be a drag, but unfortunately so are dungeons. The dungeons that comprise the leveling experience are poorly balanced and take far too long unless you're running with an elite group of TERA veterans. It's a regular occurrence to have bosses that take upwards of 10 minutes to kill, with some even taking 20 minutes if the group is poor. These fights do not have stages — you'll dodge the same attacks over and over again (or not, and just pay gold to resurrect for a minimal penalty in the middle of combat) while you use the few simple combos you've learned. It's simply no fun at all, but again it's better than the most efficient leveling experience.


The most efficient leveling experience is Kumas Royale. I urge you strongly to take a look at the game clip above — it speaks for itself. Efficient leveling involves spamming queues for Kumas Royale until you're screaming in fury at the incompetence of your allies who've just thrown a winning game. Let's lay it out properly: TERA is a game where you have a character with cool abilities and gear in a fantasy world. Kumas Royale replaces the world with a cartoon playroom for children and replaces your character with a really fat baby with static abilities and an inability to move fast. Each team has a Boss Kumas that one player, whoever is quickest, can get in and the objective is to do the most damage to the enemy Boss over five minutes in a best of three format. Everyone else is outrageously slow, does very high damage to enemy players, and are otherwise full of despair to be playing the mode. To be clear, this is the single worst PVP experience I have ever had in any game in any genre.

Kumas Royale is incredibly high stakes because winning over the 20 or so minutes a game will take earns you a gigantic bounty of experience, often giving you a full level or close to it all the way up to the level cap, as well as high quality gear and experience boosts. Losing earns you nothing but wasted time. You get nothing if you lose. When you first play, you'll be confused about what's going on and why this bad minigame is worth so much experience. You'll slowly learn how to play and what strategies work for you. Then you'll begin to get frustrated as players who are obviously newer take command of the Boss and proceed to immediately ruin the round as they quickly take catastrophic damage. You see, the Boss Kumas has tons of cool abilities and a good player won't use any of them because if you do, you'll take too much damage before you kill the enemy. Eventually, crippling frustration towards those who are understandably inexperienced will take control and you'll focus on excellence to ensure a win. Then you'll open the Xbox guide, the game will freeze, and you'll get a deserter penalty to go with your loss and enduring stress. More on that in a bit.

TERA's PVE end game is standard fare and dedicated to people who enjoy eye candy. You'll run dungeons with a core group and ultimately gear up to clear harder and harder content. This harder content introduces new abilities and additional damage to normal dungeons and makes them at least moderately enjoyable. Once you're finally geared out, which won't take long for good players with a solid group, many players will opt to grind for fashion vouchers. These vouchers can be turned in for absolutely scandalous costumes for either gender, including the race that looks like a little girl. Other than that, there's the PVP mode other than Kumas Royale which lets you actually use your character and little else to occupy you. MMOs like World of Warcraft are popular because there's always something to do when you log in. Unfortunately, TERA doesn't scratch that same itch.

Not shown: lingerie options that are actually available in-game.Not shown: lingerie options that are actually available in-game.

TERA's saving grace is its action combat system based on combos and freeform targeting. It's intended to feel like playing something like Devil May Cry and it mostly works — it's really quite fun. As you level, you'll get new abilities and when in combat, you'll get prompts right next to your character showing you what abilities are available next in your combo so that maximizing flare and damage is relatively easy. Digging deeper into the game, you'll need to carefully time dodges to ensure you avoid damage without breaking your combo. The entire experience feels fresh and altogether completely unlike any other MMO available on console and most available on PC. Likewise, the different classes have roles that they perform in combat following the standard MMO trinity of tanking, healing and DPS. These roles work wonderfully with TERA's system and can breathe life into a stale genre for veterans of other MMOs.

Despite its numerous design flaws and inadequacies, that combat could have propelled TERA above the rest to be one of the best console MMOs. It's too bad that the performance is atrocious. Framerate regularly drops to single digits, breaking combos or causing you to miss a dodge. Draw distance for enemies and objects is outrageously small, which can be frustrating. But worst of all are numerous bugs that cause loss of control of your character. In a dungeon or battleground, if you press the Xbox guide button (such as to see if a friend is online, send a message or accept a party invite), the entire game will become completely non-responsive. Then you'll need to quit out of the game and reload very slowly to get back into the game. If you're too slow — and I was never fast enough in a battleground despite having the game on a solid state drive connected to an Xbox One X — you'll be removed from the group and given a deserter penalty which prevents you from finding a new group for 15 minutes. Since opening the guide is second nature to many of us, this is entirely unacceptable.

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Thankfully for completionists, the achievements in TERA are quite easy. You'll need to complete the base level for each dungeon, level up to the level cap of 65 and hunt about 30 rare enemies in the world. Hunting rare enemies is quick and fairly easy, as is leveling up, so that leaves only the dungeons as a minor grind. The completion can likely be earned in less than 40 hours, which is excellent for an MMO. Of course, that assumes all the achievements unlock. At the time of this review, it is currently possible for any of the achievements to randomly fail to unlock with no apparent remedy.

Check out our The Best Xbox RPGs Available in 2017 article for a compilation of other great games in this genre.

Summary

TERA could have been a great MMO. The world is large, beautiful and full of content. The gameplay itself is exciting and fresh, with plenty to offer in terms of depth and accessibility. But TERA on Xbox is not a great MMO. In its current state, it's not even a good one. The leveling experience is awful, funneling players away from the open world and into instanced dungeons and battlegrounds to level efficiently. The dungeons themselves are poorly balanced, offering enemies of little difficulty but high time to kill. But worst of all is Kumas Royale, which the game forces you into despite the mode offering no redeeming qualities. When you finally hit the cap, you'll find challenging content and disturbingly sexual costumes, but it's after far too long leveling up in ways that simply aren't fun. Even forgiving all that though, performance issues and a bounty of bugs will ensure the gameplay experience never runs smoothly. In a few patches, TERA might be good. As it is, any other MMO on the marketplace will offer a better experience.
2 / 5
Positives
  • Combat is exciting and entirely fresh
  • Plenty of different dungeons to play through
Negatives
  • Leveling experience is unbalanced and encourages you to never adventure in the world
  • Severe performance issues and gamebreaking bugs are a regular occurrence
  • Kumas Royale is the absolute worst PVP experience in any MMO
  • Leveling dungeons are unbalanced and take far too long with random groups
  • Not much to do at the end game once you clear the higher content
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent approximately 24 hours leveling two characters, completing dungeons, pretending to be a fat baby and relogging after crashes. Along the way he earned 12 of 25 achievements for 440 Gamerscore. A download code for the game was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review. The reviewer played the game on an Xbox One X.
Kevin Tavore
Written by Kevin Tavore
Kevin is a lover of all types of media, especially any type of long form story. The American equivalent of Aristotle, he'll write about anything and everything and you'll usually see him as the purveyor of news, reviews and the occasional op-ed. He's happy with any game that's not point and click or puzzling, but would always rather be outdoors in nature.