TERA strives to be a different kind of MMORPG, one that replaces the genre's passive style of combat for one that more closely resembles that of an action game. Does it succeed in its goal of shaking up the genre? And, more importantly, is the action-oriented combat enough of a change to warrant committing your time to a new MMORPG?
Before you consider diving into TERA, you need to determine your tolerance for Final Fantasy style graphics. The lands of TERA are beautiful to behold. They're richly colored and detailed, and splendidly imagined; TERA is a fantasy world just begging to be explored. However, that world is inhabited by doe-eyed talking critters, Bieber-esque men with swords twice their weight and height, and buxom women in perpetual danger of a wardrobe malfunction. If that's your style you'll be in heaven, but if you're looking for a fantasy world with a harder, grittier edge you should steer well clear of TERA.
Central to TERA's claim to be a different kind of MMORPG is its take on combat. The battles in TERA aren't exercises in button-presses as you cycle through the same sequence of attacks paying more attention to cool-down intervals than the action on the screen. You need to actively dodge, weave, and roll to avoid enemy attacks, while watching for patterns in their attacks and looking for openings to take advantage of to strike. And striking requires more than that button press - you need to actively aim your attacks with the mouse cursor. Further enhancing the action game feel of the battles is the ability to chain a couple of abilities together into custom combos - successfully perform the first ability and the second can be immediately executed. You're still tied to things like action bar buttons, cool-down periods, mana/rage/etc., and the like, but you don't feel as tied down as you do in many MMORPGs.
Another spin on the combat comes from the game's BAMs - the 'B' is for 'big' and the 'M' is for 'monster', you can probably figure out the rest. These monsters do indeed live up to the 'B', dwarfing the players trying to take them down. While it is possible to handle one solo with a lot of patience and a lot of time spent dodging attacks, they're really meant to be taken on by groups of players. While some of the BAMs are tied to quest lines or serve as dungeon bosses, there also a number of them simply wandering around the environment. It can be a lot of fun to serendipitously come across a few players engaged in battle with a BAM and then jump into the fray to help take it down.
For all of its effort to make itself a different kind of MMORPG, TERA falls decidedly flat in other areas. First and foremost are the quests, an overwhelming number of generic and utterly forgettable kill X of that creature and go talk to NPC #9821 quests. Quests are so plentiful in the game that you'll have more active quests than you can count, and you can pretty much be assured that anything that you happen across can be killed to make progress on one of your quests. Granted there's not much in the way of out and out grinding in the game, but that's because the quest lines are all grinds themselves.
Each quest is accompanied by a few paragraphs of text to provide some sort of justification for doing the same thing over and over again, but none of it is really at all interesting and trying to keep track of the narrative threads between the quest lines is near impossible. When you do hit a story-based cutscene it will look wonderful and be well-acted, but from a narrative perspective it will either be eminently forgettable or feel like a singular disjoint episode. It's probably for these reasons that the game cycles all players though the same story and areas throughout the game no matter their chosen race or class - the story is so disjoint and forgettable you won't really notice the story repetition when starting an alt character. I can remember key story elements and memorable moments from a half dozen MMORPGs that I've played over the past several years, but after playing TERA I can't point to anything as being particularly memorable or recall any noteworthy events in the story arc.
TERA is also different from other MMORPGs in that there's only a single player faction, so everyone is essentially on the same side. While there are PvP servers, there's not much in the way of PvP that's actually built into the game. You can enter into mutually agreed upon duels, either one on one or group versus group, but there are no battlegrounds or faction wars, and no compelling or narrative-driven reasons to enter into PvP other than as something to alleviate the tedium of the game's quests.
TERA set out to change a few things about MMORPGs that have become clich�d and stale, but outside of the couple of things that it got right it manages to amplify every other aspect of MMORPGs that most gamers have become completely tired of. The action-based combat can be fun, but it's not enough to save an otherwise mundane and generic MMORPG experience. And besides, there are plenty of action games available for you to enjoy active battles with that don't charge you a monthly subscription fee.
Final Rating: 68%. Action-oriented combat and interesting graphics aren't enough to overcome what is overall a rather bland experience.