After my first experience with TERA at gamescom a few weeks ago, I went from “meh” to “I wouldn’t mind playing this”. Read up on the core mechanics here if you missed it. To see how the game has progressed, I gave it another shot at PAX Prime. After all, I only played it with a mage-type character and only for about half an hour. Luckily, they had some more characters for me to choose from and more importantly: a wired 360 controller!
There is sadly no audio in this video, so don't bother fiddling with your speakers.
We started the session with a developer playing a healer who can cast area-of-effect healing spells. The spell lingers, so if you miss the initial cast, you can still walk into the spell effect and get a moderate amount of healing. That also takes care of the “do I have to point and heal?” issue some of you raised before. The Mystic class can also heal, although they aren’t fully disclosing information on that class until a later date. So: no shortage of healers.
Walking around with a controller felt familiar enough, so I decided to play it like an MMO version of Dynasty Warriors. While a developer directed our party over the headsets, it mostly involved the melee classes going in first and not dying. Easy enough, so I just ran in and mashed X for standard attacks and B for an overhead swing. Dealing melee damage increases a mana bar a la World of Warcraft’s Warrior rage bar, but TERA's bar contained more points and decreased at a slower rate.
For me, the basic gameplay in the play session consisted of filling this mana bar and then charging your power attack with the Right Trigger. However, sometimes you would still be in the swinging animation of an attack or the trigger wouldn’t instantly start the charge. Because you play it with a controller, it’s easy to want to mash buttons and then expect the trigger to work instantly. That didn’t exactly work here because you still have to take the time for each action into account.
Another issue was blocking. As a melee character you are supposed to block incoming attacks. The blocking sometimes didn’t register when pressing the Left Trigger. Or if you start blocking, it was sometimes a bit of a hassle to get out of the blocking mode. Once again that is probably something you can work your way around by playing it more, but it didn’t feel as responsive as something as, say, Devil May Cry. I couldn’t see what was actually an enemy’s attack or just a character or charging animation either. At least, not before I got hit. So I just decided not to block any smaller enemies and just to dish out damage like there was no tomorrow. I was probably the worst Berserker ever.
In fact, while it was easy enough to mob enemies and use the charge attack to demolish groups or single enemies from behind, I managed to die in the dungeon’s boss because of my console ways. Luckily the healer could resurrect me in battle and not all was lost. To be revived, I had to select 'Yes' in a “Do you want to be resurrected?” dialog box that appeared, which struck me as something that would be annoying if you are playing it on the couch with the controller. Or maybe that was just easier for him to do than to say: “Select Yes and press A”.
So in a way, in that particular setup, the game’s focus on making the action more immediate and feel more visceral distracts it from the traditional MMO roots of focusing on your skills while keeping the environment more in your peripheral vision. A customized interface that puts the important information around your character should easily overcome that issue though.
The dungeon we played at PAX Prime was part of a larger story quest, but one I of course couldn’t care too much about when you only play it for half an hour -- I suppose that is one of the results of having the attention span of a baby sloth. The relatively short dungeons also help if you don’t normally have the time to play MMOs after you get off work or something. Even in the overcrowded MMO market of 2011, I can still see TERA work well.