TERA is going to be out soon; May 1st, to be exact. The game will feature action-based combat instead of the usual die-roll system used by most MMOs. I'm all for an MMO that uses engaging combat and tries to do something different. At PAX this past weekend En Masse Entertainment was showing off some open areas of the game and one of the end-game instances, Twilight Valley. I was able to run it with a five-man group, and I was actually surprised at what I played.
Just about every MMO that comes out makes claims to have a revolutionary combat system, but we usually always get the same routine of locking a target and playing whack-a-mole with spells as they become available. TERA's combat is set up so that if you want to hit something, you'll have to do it yourself the hard way.
I played as the sorcerer in our group, and most of my spells were handled as ranged attacks. There is a crosshair in the middle of the screen, and spells have to be targeted correctly if they are going to do any damage. There is no "spell hit chance." Either the spell hits because the player aimed correctly, or it misses because they were off target. Some spells move slowly and you have to lead the target. Other spells are area of affect and are controlled by either pointing your crosshair at the creature you want in the middle of it, or by simply pointing at a spot on the ground.
TERA has a large assortment of unique spells and abilities -- almost too much. Personally, I like it when MMOs give you less skills that mean more. When you have three or four area-of-effect spells, each one means less. I'd rather have a choice of which spell of each type to use on my character and just keep it simple. More is less sometimes. TERA is not as bad as EverQuest, but it is a bit cluttered looking. Granted, I played with a high-level character that I didn't grind myself so it was a little overwhelming, but I don't really see the point in having 30 different spells available to me. I stuck with about five of them and kept using those because they seemed to be the most effective.
The monsters that you fight can sometimes be very large. So large, in fact, that they are officially called Big Ass Monsters (BAMs). They can stomp players into the ground, smash them around, and are really fun to watch walk around. The boss that we fought was a really huge dude, and this gave the encounter an epic feeling as a result.
The party roles are par for the course in an MMO: tank, healer, ranged DPS, and melee DPS. Graphically it looks nice, but nothing too fancy. The action controls handle well, and it's possible to play with a controller (our healer used one in our run). TERA works to remove the boring button-pushing routines of most MMOs, but it still feels very much like a traditional MMO.
It's hard to form an opinion of an MMO in 30 minutes, but I am least intrigued by this one. It might be good, or it might just become another one of the many MMOs that are forgotten in a year. It's $49.99, plus there's a $14.99-per-month subscription fee. It's difficult for me to get too excited about another subscription-based MMO these days, but they did manage to sell out of physical copies of the Deluxe Edition pre-order on their website, so someone out there must be excited about it. Hopefully, TERA will find a solid group of players to keep it afloat for a while.