Tera Review (An MMO with spunk!)

A giant beast swinging his arms. Hoping to make contact with my fragile but agile body. He's a big obstacle standing in my way of fame and glory, but still my determination will overcome. All had been going well, that is, until he made that devastating blow where I now lay motionless upon the soil. Many would cry foul, that this beast cheated to have taken so much of my strength away from me, but only the smart know that war has no rules. I get back up as quickly as I fell. Bloody, bruised, aching to my core, yet I stand ready to die. I won't allow this thing, this crime against nature to see me cower in defeat. No, I will die with sword in hand.

Tera, a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, or MMORPG for short, is yet another fantasy MMO from Korea. Many had written this game off for the simple fact of it being "just another Korean MMO", but the few who kept interest found a somewhat diamond in the rough. Could this be a truly unique MMO that steers clear from all the other tropes of the genre? Well, yes and no.

One thing Tera doesn't steer away from is the mold of none co-operative play. Meaning if two people see the same enemy, only the player that strikes the enemy first will rip the benefits of the kill, making this a very friendly solo MMO. Though that doesn't mean you won't find gamers out there that won't help others. An example: I was fighting this giant beast monster, what the first paragraph is about. I was having my ass handed to me, with this being my third attempt. All seemed lost, and the only thought in my head was frustration and a hell of a lot of grinding in the future, that is until a complete stranger started attacking the beast from behind. They kept the monster's attention so that I could finish it off and earn my mission completion prompt. So in turn, when the beast re-spawned, I stuck around to help him kill it. Though he died before the monster was officially killed, I continued the attack until that fateful blow hit and the monster lay dead and the experience transferred to my new friend. We spoke not a word to one another, but I'm sure they knew as I that we were glad to have met each other. Little experiences like that go a long way in my eyes as a player.

Mission structure is pretty much what you'd expect from any MMO on the market. You have story quests that lead your character along a linear path to an end game, while side quests are plentiful and are really meant for leveling. What really brings Tera down to the level of the ordinary fit of MMOs already released is that most, if not all, side quests are nothing but grind-fests. Go here, kill ten of this, 20 of this, come back. Go here, pick up 5 of these, 6 of these, and come back. You'll never really find much interest in anything side quests have to offer. That is until you scroll down to see the rewards. I constantly found myself opened jawed at the amount of experience I'd receive from certain missions, that I'd quickly run out of quests to do in certain regions because I'd done them all. Also, missions are colored coated based on difficulty, and the game gives a very useful indicator on when a mission is team-based, and even gives a rough estimate on how many players the mission will take to complete. A very useful tool for those only wishing to play alone.

From the areas I've seen and traversed through, most of the game is bright and beautiful. There were certain times that it seemed as if I some how was transported onto the cover of a nine year old girls school folder, only there were no unicorns. All jokes aside, this is probably the best looking MMO I've seen...besides Guild Wars 2. The best example I can give is The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, and its lush landscape.

Never before have I played such a game that currency is so flooded onto players. Sure I spoke of The Old Republic handing out credits left and right, but Tera does it in such a way that I was gaining more coin from fallen enemies than the mission they were based on. And the way currency drops is so random. One enemy I fought and killed, dropped 10 copper coins, the smallest value coin in the game, while another enemy five feet away dropped 81 sliver coins, the equivalent of 8100 copper coins. And most games level out the currency with prices in the shops, but I've found that if I couldn't buy a certain item that it wasn't because I couldn't afford it but because the item was level locked.

Enemies that make up the game world are incredibly unique to the regions you'll find them in. Sure there are few here and there with maybe a slight difference, but the majority of the enemies you see and fight will be different from region to region. Also, I was incredible surprised at the amount of thought that went into the design of each enemy. Most games I've played have the same ole cookie cutter enemy layout, that Tera is a nice change from the mundane.

Where the game truly takes a turn for the different is combat. In most MMOs, combat is basically run toward an enemy, click their body and your character begins to attack automatically while the control is taken away from the gamer. Tera controls much like a regular third-person game, where the W,A,S,D keys control character movement, the mouse controls the camera angle. And for those asking, the ALT key releases the mouse so that the player can control the mouse pointer on-screen. In fact, combat never feels tired or tedious. The gamer still has abilities to unleash, but Tera gives more control at dishing out pain. And what really makes the combat so much more different is that there isn't a math problem going on the background of combat. Where the players mouse reticle is, is where the attack will take place. There are no dodging or miss prompts to float above the enemies head.

Like many RPGs, Tera also has the small jobs hiding in the background of game-play. Though I haven't studied any of them thoroughly, I do know that there is enchanting for weapons and armor to add bonuses, crafting for creating weapons, armor, and potions. I can really only speak of enchanting, since I enchanted one sword. First you need the item you want enchanted, then the materials that encase the enchantment effect, and lastly you'll need another of the same item that will be destroyed. So in my case, I needed two swords, one to be enchanted and the other to be lost forever, with the item that gave better attack power, an increase in mana, and the ability to have my character run faster. Even though I haven't dove deep into the recess of enchanting and crafting, it definitely is something of interest for any gamer, and adds hours onto game-play.

Another factor with enchanting and crafting is the materials you need. Around the world you'll find ore pockets and plants to be harvested, each having a level of difficulty. With each successful harvest, your character levels in gathering. The higher the players gathering skill, the greater chance at success at harvesting materials.

I might actually be in the minority in this view, but every female class in this game is a bit tasteless. Gamers literally have to try extensively hard to craft a female character with the appropriate amount of clothing to be considered "covered up", while male characters have a wide arrange of body types to pick from. Also, every human character suffers from pretty people syndrome, as each one, even ones with scars, look like models in a beauty magazine. A small complaint from me, but I'm sure there are people out there that find this a bit offensive...thankfully I'm not easily offended.

Like I said before, Tera has abilities that players can use in a strategic way to have an upper hand in combat, but where I believe Tera does things different, is that players can purchase glyphs that add special attributes to each skill. For an example, if I can remember correctly, I have a skill that if I'm knocked down in combat, I can use a specific skill that allows me to jump back up and immediately attack. With a specific added glyph, I have a 50% chance that when I use that skill my cool-down time will be exempt. Little added bonuses such as that add a bit of spice to the mix of the game, and with many skills having many different sockets for glyphs, then the player is given more customization and added freedom to truly create a unique character.

If you've played any MMO before, you may have run into the problem of constantly hitting the wrong numbered keys which house specific skils. Tera adds a bit of twist in this area. Players can now chain skills together in a very long line of murder and destruction. An example: I have a chained set of skills that poisons an enemy, unleashes a large line of attacks, rolls in the direction I hit the movement key, and then does a spinning sword attack. That's four skills I've chained together, which the game automatically configured for me. The game allows for chained customization as well, so if one set of chained skills don't work, then the player can mix and match to their hearts content. Basically once you use the first linked skill then the player will see a prompt on screen showing the next skill, if the player decides to continue on with the chain then they simply press the spacebar.

Another small difference that makes Tera unique is the introduction of campfires. These little bonfires are used to quickly regenerate mana, but also gives a very useful rested bonus which the game calls stamina. Stand next to a campfire long enough and the player gains a huge jump in health and mana. Though the more you fight, the quicker the bonus drops, but with a handful of campfires in your inventory, or even finding another player who has set up a campfire, you'll never lose this bonus.

One of my favorite hobbies growing up was searching soda machines and payphones for loose change. Nothing felt greater at age six like finding a quarter that someone left behind. In Tera I constantly find loot that others players forgot to pick up. The way the game handles this is there is a draw distance, that if a player walks away from their loot, at a certain distance that loot is up for grabs by any player. I've picked up crafting supplies, high level armor and weapons, and even an abundance of currency. Don't worry though, the draw distance spans a large area, so the only way you'd leave loot behind is if you truly didn't see it in the first place.

My truly favorite thing about Tera is the introduction of channels. Each server has anywhere between 4-6 different channels that act as crowd control. If you find yourself and ten other complete strangers doing the exact same quests, that it is becoming increasingly difficult in furthering your progress, then all you need to do is switch to another channel with a smaller population and viola, you can continue murdering and collecting with no other soul to bother you. Also, if you can't find that last plant or enemy, and don't want to wait for them to re-spawn, then you can again switch channels and that plant or enemy will be there waiting for you. Keep in mind though, switching channels take a little time to complete, nothing huge but don't expect it to be instantaneous.

Party and guild systems are much like other MMOs. You can join up with others for a brief amount of time or join a more permanent group where the bonuses are a shared bank, and fond memories of playing a game with other gamers.

The story, from what I can tell, isn't all that interesting. Two gods fell asleep and dreamed up the world in which you find yourself. Suddenly a mysterious island appears out of nowhere, and you and the rest of the world is sent to investigate. Though I haven't gotten very far with my level 27 warrior, I can't see the story leaping into the amazing anytime soon.

I know a lot of people have heard me complain that games don't give a lot in the form of tutorials, and if they do then the game does more hand holding then what I find tolerable. I know there is a balance that maybe game developers have a hard time hitting, but I can honestly say that Tera comes very close. You actually start the game off as a level 20 character with a good amount of skills. This addition gives players a glance into the future of whether or not the class they picked will be fun for them without needing to play countless hours. And at anytime during the game there is a help function that automatically pops up in the corner of the screen, complete with pictures, that the player can bring back up through the settings tab, which holds the hands of players that actually need it.

Teleporting in many games is set to a waypoint type system of finding a cities marker. Tera works in much the same way, but also gives players the ability to find or purchase scrolls that have the ability to automatically teleport them to the nearest city. From there the player can head over to the NPC labeled the 'teleport master' to search the world for the next destination they wish to go. This helps players from constantly needing to trek through the environments, and is a huge time saver.

The score that makes up the game is tantalizing and enjoyable to listen to, but don't be surprised if listening to the same music becomes tiring. Of course one could always fix this by muting the sound and listening to their favorite band or podcast. Trust me, muting the game isn't going to make the player miss much.

I'm not a huge fan of subscription based video games. In my head I already paid for the game, why should I have to continuously pay to play? But with Tera's amazing environments, friendly population, overly different and fun combat, and well rewarded mission structure, I can recommend Tera to any RPG gamer looking for something to sink their teeth into. And even though Tera doesn't sway too much from the MMO mold, it is different enough for many MMO veterans while also catering to any newcomers of the genre. So if you're looking for a huge playground to have a little fun in, and the possibility to meet new people with the same interest, then I highly recommend you give Tera a go. Do keep in mind though that this game has a monthly subscription of $15 a month, but comes with a free month of game time.

A few tips: For those easily offended, stay away from Tera. There is a race in the game that is nothing but little girls in somewhat skimpy clothing. The Internets are all ablaze on the subject, which with just a little research any soul could investigate. To me they look like anime children, but whatever. Don't worry about harvesting every single thing you find in the game, the world is filled with so much to harvest that you could literally find yourself doing nothing but that for hours. If you come across an enemy with a skull next to their name, stay far away, those enemies are meant to be defeated in a group and will murder anyone going in solo. If you do decide to tackle one of these hellish creature, do so responsibly, make sure you're several levels higher than it and have a lot of time to kill...they don't go down quickly or easily. Always look for loose loot, the game will let you know if that player is around somewhere, so don't worry about picking up someone else loot that might be close by. You obtain your first mount at level 11, roughly three hours of game-play, so don't worry if you find the speed at which your character moves a problem. Always, always, always pick up quests. Doesn't matter if you're never going to do them, the game has exclamation points over 90% of mission specific content. Don't be afraid to experiment all the game has to offer, sometimes it takes a small change to make the greatest character in the game. If you find yourself in need of help, or just want to complete quests that require more than one person, don't be afraid to ask those around you. Always carry campfires and teleporting scrolls, they give a much needed boost and save a lot of time in the long run. Up your inventory as soon as possible. Merchants can only be found in cities, so selling gear only happens every now and then, plus the first few inventory expansions are pretty cheap.


Two sides of the same issue.

 After so much reading over this whole Sony PSN mess, and shacking my head over some of the opinions and responses some people have. 

I've seen people totally up in arms over how they feel betrayed and back-stabbed or whatever.  I've seen people speak of selling their PS3s, never using PSN again and even go so far as to say they would never buy another Sony product again.  They act as if Sony were their best friend and Sony stole their girlfriend.  Newsflash people, Sony is a company like any other.  No security is 100% secure and if you thought PSN was then you have other issues to deal with than worrying about your personal information stolen.  And just so I'm clear, I'm not defending Sony.  In all honesty, they should have contacted every customer day one when they learned that personal information could have been stolen (I'm under the assumption that they knew a few days prior).  My only irritation comes from when people start bad mouthing and then by some chance of a miracle Xbox Live gets mentioned as a better option.  If anyone thinks Xbox Live can't be hacked then wow, simply wow.  Like I said before, no security system is 100% secure, not the Playstation network, not Xbox Live, hell not even the US government. 

On the other side you have people telling others that they shouldn't blame Sony.  The only problem I have with this, is that even though it isn't well known whether or not the hackers stole anyone's information, that if they did then they've had it for a good while.  Coming from someone who has had their Credit Card number stolen at least ones, I don't want to have to go through that process again, and I truly believe that Sony should've given the consumer a heads up at the first sign that their information was in the hands of a stranger.  No I don't blame Sony for the hack or hacks themselves but I believe they could've handled this better than they have.

This whole situation is a bit of a hassle, I won't deny that.  But people need to learn shit like this happens, and the only real way to never be a victim is to never be apart of society.  It sucks to think of it like that but the truth hurts.


This and that

2011 has really turning out to be a great year in music.  Bands like ...And you will know us by the Trail of Dead and Cut // Copy coming out with new albums in the coming week, with Morning After Girls, White Lies, Tapes 'n Tapes, Company, Smith Westerns, and the Get Up Kids to name just a few with albums already out.  Festivals with line ups that are, in my opinion, some of the greatest I've seen in years.  I believe this year will captivate all music fans, regardless of what favorite genre some prefer. 
I've had a gaming itch for a good while and haven't been able to scratch it.  I've went back to Fallout New Vegas, but had some frame rate issues so I stopped.  Got LittleBigPlanet 2 and quickly became tired of it.  Started playing Minecraft again, but I think I've done everything I wanted.  I even installed and started playing Oblivion again.  Nothing seems to be working.  I have a feeling that I'm so impatient for games like RAGE and Skyrim that I want to play them now and there seems to be no substitute.  I'm thinking of playing Dead Space 2 but I've never played the first...I wanted to in the past but I believe my attention was else where.  I may try to play through the first and then move on to the second in the coming month.   
I've started work on my next book and I must say, I'm flying through concepts and ideas like they were nothing.  Hopefully six months will be the necessary time it'll take for me to finish but I'll stick with a year...hopefully by then I'll find a publisher. 


Thoughts over time past.

I've been on a nostalgic kick for the last few days.  Trying to play all the classics I could get my hands on, watching videos of people playing games I would like to play but having to deal with just watching.  I played Super Mario World, Tecmo Bowl, and becoming equally frustrated today as I was back then while playing Punchout and Kid Icarus.  I even watched the entire play through of Super Mario Brothers 3 and Legend of Zelda: A link to the past. 
I bring all this up because I got to thinking, while I was pining over my youthful years and all the good times I had with my favorite games, I can't help but feel like I came from a golden era.  If you look at the old NES, SNES, and Genesis days, those games still hold up pretty well.  They are still hard, and their graphics don't confuse you as to what you're looking at.  But after watching and playing a few old 3-D games, the same can't be said.  I played Golden Eye, like many others, but trying to play it today isn't like what it was back then.  When I played it for the first time the graphics were mind blowing, I had never seen anything like it but today with the ever constant rise in graphics it's hard to relive that moment again.  Where back then I was blown away, today I just get a head ache.  Will the gamers that first grew up in the era of early 3-D graphics grow up with the same nostalgia I feel for my 8 and 16 bit games?  Could someone like me who has never played Ocarina of Time, play it and still come out with the same level of fulfillment as someone who played it so many years ago?    


Game Prices

I've been seeing a lot of people whining lately over the pricing of games.  One of the games I've been hearing about is Mass Effect 2 for the PS3.  Why do people think that since a game has been out for over a year that it shouldn't be priced at $59.99?  Did that whole year lower the quality of the game?  Are people today not going to enjoy it as much as someone who played it in early 2010?  This is a Game of the Year title we're talking about, not a crappy movie tie-in.  I think we have an uncontrollable mindset that time has some factor in the amount we are willing to spend on any game, when in reality we should be looking at what we get for the amount of money they're asking for.   
Another complaint I've been hearing is PC games getting jacked to the now console game price of $59.99.  Does no one remember the days of the Nintendo 64?  Did no one pay $80 for a cartridge game on that system?  I get it though, people don't like spending more money on a hobby when they've been set in their ways for so long.  Personally though, I kind of envy the PC gamer and would be one if I didn't have a dependency on the controller and my sheer laziness of upgrading my PC.  But look at all the stuff PC gamers get that console gamers only dream of.  Look at all the mods, the better graphics, the better precision for some with the mouse.   
I just wish people would look at the quality of a game before deciding whether or not to start a thread on how outraged they are by the price.  Why shouldn't we spend the high price tag on games that come from developers such as Bio-ware or Bethesda?  If you ask me I think a lot of games are undersold.


Game wishes!

I felt like my last blog was full of hate and other such dark matters, so I've decided to make yet another, this time speaking of things I wish were real and not just a figment of my imagination. 

Ever have a game concept, or idea you wish were implemented?  I guess you could say that Red Dead Redemption fueled my need for a open world western game, but I had always wanted a game that made me feel like part of the old west.  Call me greedy but I also want the same for a survival game.  Now before anyone talks to me about the Fallout series let me explain my views on the survival idea.  I just got done reading The Road and I thought to myself, I would love to play a character (without the whiny kid) who wanders the wasteland, searching into abandoned houses and deserted markets looking for anything of use.  Feeling lucky when your search for water is a success, knowing that anything can be useful.  No super mutants or giant bugs but the common man pitted against you for the same goal at finding the next meal.  Trying to live day to day in harsh conditions.  Me typing the idea doesn't do justice to what I see in my head.  I know this probably will never happen but one can dream I suppose. 

Now let me just make it clear to everyone that I did play New Vegas on Survival Mode, and I did enjoy it, but I just feel like it isn't enough for me.  Maybe it was the mutated creatures but I never felt like I was part of the world itself.  No idea what others feel about this idea, but felt like sharing.


One of many!

My first blog on the mighty Giant Bomb site!  How exciting!   

Sadly the first thing I will be talking about is my pure hatred toward Microsoft, for good reason I might add...and no this isn't a fanboy rant where I spew how much my PS3 gets more love or whatever rambling nonsense others speak of.  I just get so tired of how they do business.  Like for instance, you have to call a 1-800 number to cancel your Live account, doesn't seem to bad until you factory in the people with cell phones as their primary means of communication.  Now lets add in the fact that they put you on hold to "look over your account" not to verify but look over.  I was on hold for a little over 7 minutes.  The entire call, which should have only lasted 5 minutes, went a little over 15 minutes for me to complete.  
I started thinking about my entire time with the 360 and I'll admit there have been some good times but when I factor in all the bad I can't help but think that they should fire their entire staff and start from scratch, or at least get rid of most of the high ranking people at the top.  The system was a rushed mess when launched, they treated the first people that got the RROD like crap, because they didn't want to admit having such a high rate of failure.  And then people began praising them after they offered the extended three year warranty, granted that was nice of them but it wouldn't have been necessary if they stayed into development a little longer and didn't try and beat Sony.  If you wanted to extend your hard drive space, you had to buy their overpriced hard drives.  If you found yourself in need to get online wirelessly, you had to buy their adapter, which cost the same as certain expensive routers.     
In all honesty, the new 360 is the console that should've shipped day one.  But I believe Microsoft is that little kid that won't listen to others that have good advice to share, because they think they know it all.  They refused to implement HD-DVD as their format, which I believe would have given Blu ray a run for its money, but instead stuck with the now almost outdated DVD-9.  I can only hope that someone listens somewhere in their little corporation when someone tells them that need a new format to place games on, but I'm afraid they won't because more than likely their only option is blu ray at this time...unless they can create their own, which probably won't happen. 
Now, don't get wrong, I do enjoy the games, I'm not complaining about the games or the developers.  I just really think Microsoft needs to rethink their entire business strategy, because at the moment they seem like the bully at school who holds the little kid by the ankle to shake all the money from their pockets.  I'll definitely be waiting when the next console hits store shelves, and chances are I may not even buy one.  This entire generations has flipped for me, where the original xbox gave me no hassles, but I constantly had issues with my PS2 and so I waited, now I've been through four or five (can't remember) 360s but I still have an original 60gig PS3.   
Sorry for the rant, but I truly believe that even though all companies are out to make money, Microsoft does it on a whole new level of greed.  I mean sure everyone wants to make money but at the same time make your customers feel important.  Don't make them buy only your peripherals, give them a few options or at least make them affordable.  I do like how Xbox Live is and the two different methods of online, but don't make it difficult to cancel just because you want to keep them as a Gold member.  
Well, that's it.  My next one will be more chipper, I promise.